This year has been a triumphant one when it comes to video games, as we’ve seen our fair share of stellar AAA and indie titles hit the market, along with a great line-up for the Nintendo Switch in its first year of release.
But it’s also been a depressing year when it comes to the number of lackluster decisions affecting the gaming world as a whole, from EA’s questionable new business model to the closure and shutdown of some much beloved properties and companies.
Let’s break down some of this year’s biggest disappointments – and we don’t mean any particular games (that’s coming for a later time), but rather things that left us wondering just what the hell is going on.
We’re not sure what Ajit Pai’s motives are when it comes to messing with Net Neutrality. Maybe he wants to line his pockets with money coming from big Internet providers, or maybe he’s just being a big douchenugget in general, drinking from his oversized Reese’s coffee mug.
Whatever the case, he’s guided the FCC into the first steps in removing Net Neutrality, and though it’s still got a ways to go to officially happen, it won’t look good for the gaming industry.
Not only will gamers probably have to pay a higher price to take part in their online sessions of Overwatch (Xfinity is already reportedly preparing price hikes), but this could also spell doom for a few indie developers, who utilize online tools to put their games together.
Our one hope is that the Senate shuts down this movement before it even starts. But then again, it’s the Senate, so that could be a big shrug from them as well. But 2018 could be the year that things change for online gaming – and not for the better.
Someone steal Pai’s Reese’s mug. Please.
We’re not sure what EA was thinking when it came to relying heavily on Microtransactions within games. Sure, we’ve seen other companies do it as well, like with WB Games’ Shadow of War, but it seems that Star Wars: Battlefront II has been the main topic of gamers’ ire when it comes to all things loot boxes.
In fact, many were holding off on buying the new Star Wars adventure because of that one factor alone, worried that they’d have to drain their wallets dry to get cool stuff within the game. It even got to the point where Disney had to step in and yell, “Hey, cut it out!” before EA managed to do anything about it – right up to the last second of the game’s release.
And Battlefront wasn’t the only game affected. Need For Speed Payback also relied heavily on that business model (grind and earn), and, as a result, it crashed and burned harder than anyone expected.
2018 needs to be the year where EA figures out another means to getting money. If that means reintroducing the Season Pass, so be it – at least it determines right off the bat what gamers are paying for, as much as they’re not pleased with it. The loot box system just isn’t working in anyone’s favor – okay, well, maybe Overwatch’s. But that’s because Blizzard isn’t beating anyone over the head with them, like Battlefront II clearly was going to.
Speaking of screw-ups by EA, we’re not quite sure what they were thinking when the publisher made the surprising move to cancel Visceral Games’ Star Wars project and close up the studio.
EA did note that it was going for more of an online model with its upcoming Star Wars game, making note that single player games just aren’t what they used to be. Bethesda and other publishers would disagree, though, as well as a vast majority of the gaming community.
Still, pour one out for what could’ve been with Amy Hennig and Visceral Games’ adventure. We expected a fine return to form for classic LucasArts-style games, and maybe something that went off the beaten path from the usual competitive bunch. Alas, we’ll never know at this point.
Plus, no more Dead Space. At least, not in the Visceral way. And that saddens us.
If any company had an up-and-down year with 2017, it’s definitely Microsoft. Here’s a company that was riding high off success in 2016, ready to take on the gaming world. But then it made some decisions that made us wonder what was going on.
For one, it cancelled Scalebound. Instead of working with Platinum Games and making a one-of-a-king thrill ride, it opted to turn its resources elsewhere, calling it a lost cause. The only bright side to all this is that it freed up the studio to announce Bayonetta 3 for Nintendo Switch.
Not to mention Fable Legends going the way of the dodo, along with Lionhead Studios. Why? Because it didn’t match up to past Fable games? It was meant to go in a new direction, and the fact it didn’t make it out and give fans something new to play is a big letdown, to say the least.
Then it delayed Crackdown 3, its intended hit for the holiday season, into 2018, leaving it with very little to utilize for the remaining months of the year. There’s the Xbox One X, sure, but not everyone was sold on 4K gaming at that point, nor willing to pay $500 for a slightly more powerful Xbox One console – and not even a perfect one, at that.
And finally, there was launching PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on its Game Preview program and advertising it as a full title. Many gamers were disappointed with the quality of the game, even after Bluehole cleaned it up a little bit with patches. It’s still selling well, as expected, but one can’t help if Microsoft couldn’t have planned that launch slightly better.
Our hope is that Microsoft has learned from some of its mistakes and has a much better game plan for the coming year. We’re talking a price drop on the Xbox One X, more games that take advantage of the hardware, and more advantages to its gaming audience – like the Game Pass. If it can shift in that direction, it could put this disastrous year behind it and actually make some progress.
At least it wasn’t entirely bad. We did get Forza Motorsport 7 and Cuphead. Finally.
Cross-platform play sounds like a universally solid decision, one in which players, no matter what system they own, can play alongside their friends in fine unity, scoring goals in Rocket League or having fun in another game.
And yet, there’s a spoilsport in this party – Sony. It seems that the company is still paranoid over its online network, especially after the big scuttlebug of 2011 that left it shut down for a long period of time. But that’s not enough reason to turn a cold shoulder on the idea of cross-platform play.
It’s definitely possible. At one point during its launch, Fortnite was operating just fine on full-on cross-platform play before it pulled the plug. Xbox One and PC owners still get that benefit, but not PS4 owners.
Sony just needs to relent. Will there be online connection snafus? Probably. Will there be slightly questionable risk? Of course. But the company is under heavy scrutiny under its decision, and it should just let developers give it the old college try and see what they come up with.
After all, Sony’s networks aren’t perfect. The Gran Turismo Sport servers mistakenly shut down around Christmas-time because it thought a threat was incoming. It turns out that it was just busier than expected. Lighten up, Sony.
This industry can be rough sometimes, with studios closing down and projects coming to a close. But no rougher move came than with Disney pulling the plug on Gazillion’s Marvel Heroes, and thus closing down the company as a whole.
There the game was, working like a charm and driving thousands of dollars worth of revenue based upon its free-to-play model, when the Marvel titan decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore. The next thing you know, the game stops working entirely, and Gazillion’s staff got laid off completely, without even so much as health benefit payouts or severance pay. Right before the holiday season, no less.
We get it, Disney isn’t a fan of the gaming industry – it shut down Disney Infinity with very little fanfare last year – but this move was just cheap and hurtful. It left those who spend big money on the game with very little to nothing to show for it, and left employees without anything to rely on for the next few months.
Hopefully, we’ll see these folks join bigger and better companies in 2018, if they haven’t already. They deserved so much better than what Disney gave them.
For a while there, Cliff Bleszinski trumpeted the arrival of LawBreakers like it was the next big thing. It’s true, the multiplayer-oriented shooter looked like it would be a lot of fun, and promised to innovate with modes like BlitzBall.
But Boss Key Games’ debut product didn’t really see great days upon its arrival. While the game sold decently at first, its Steam audience dwindled down to frighteningly low numbers. What’s more, even with free updates and free-to-play weekends, it didn’t really see much of an increase.
When asked about the future of the game, Bleszinski noted that it was still set to pick up a second wind somewhere down the road. But when asked about the media’s response to the game, Bleszinski simply noted “they can fuck off.”
We can understand Bleszinski and his squad being devoted to the game and its avid players, but, um, probably not the wisest move to shut out those that could provide you a bit of support, Cliffy. Just saying.
Will we see a turnaround for LawBreakers in 2018? It’s anyone’s guess, but unless it moves into the free-to-play realm or offers up substantial single player content, it’s hard to call.
Even though Mass Effect: Andromeda wasn’t nearly as bad as some people were letting it on to be (yes, even with the weird glitches), EA had written it off as a failure just months into its release. In fact, it got to the point where BioWare simply decided to scrap any future DLC plans that it had for the game, and shelved the franchise as a result.
Granted, maybe conceptually, Andromeda isn’t really what EA wanted. It provided a whole new take on the series, instead of turning to its usual hero – Commander Shepard, in either male or female form – but that was the idea. The team really wanted to strive out into a new galaxy instead of relying on the same old tropes.
Not to mention the fact that the game only had a third of the budget and the manpower of the original project team, since most people went off to work on Anthem. (It’s a syndrome that affected more than one studio – case in point, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.)
Still, with some questionable design decisions and the lack of familiar presences, EA felt that the game just didn’t live up to what it promised. And while it did find a pretty good amount of gamers being on board (especially with its debut on EA and Origin Access), the publisher’s decision was already made.
So have we seen the last of Mass Effect? BioWare doesn’t think so, and maybe in a few years we’ll see its return. But, for now, the series appears to be on hiatus as the developer moves on to the more ambitious Anthem.
Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of it – as we obviously have of Visceral’s Dead Space. Sigh.
We’re not sure what it is about streaming superstars letting their egos get ahead of themselves, but it’s a practice that could use a lot of modification – especially after this year.
Leading the way in controversy yet again was PewDiePie, who was dropped by Disney and YouTube Red following controversial videos with Nazi jokes and the use of a the “N” word on a stream, which he actually almost said twice in a week.
For that matter, JonTron didn’t do YouTubers any favors either, with his own rants that left him sitting in a controversial light. And a few folks on Twitch have behaved badly, including a gamer involved in a bout of domestic violence.
Streaming should still be a popular form going into next year, but don’t be surprised if both Twitch and YouTube look more carefully into the behavior of certain streamers, wondering if they’re affecting the system as a whole. After all, it should be about the games and having fun with them, and not creating a soapbox for yourself.
For years, fans have been waiting for Valve to introduce something new to the gaming fold, and when they were informed that it would be introducing a new DOTA property, they went nuts. DOTA 3, perhaps? Or a new add-on to DOTA 2? Whatever, they were more than ready.
And then…they were let down. During the #TI7 event that took place earlier this year, Valve finally revealed that it was a DOTA card game. Yes, like Elder Scrolls and Hearthstone before it, Valve was getting into the card business with Artifact. And it was the last thing the fanbase wanted.
Want proof of that? Just check out @nickisnixed’s tweet below, which shows the announcement at the end of the video, and the crowd letting out a collective negative sigh. Hey, we feel the same way.
Will we see something new from Valve in 2018? Hey, a new Left 4 Dead certainly wouldn’t hurt. Or, hey, maybe they’ll finally count to 3 with Half-Life.
Finally, a lot of things went right for Nintendo this year, thanks to the Nintendo Switch and a stellar line-up of AAA and indie games for thousands of gamers to enjoy. But one thing that didn't really pan out for the company was how to get voice chat working on its platform.
I mean, it should be simple, right? Load up a game, hook up with friends and let the party begin. But, alas, Nintendo has complicated it to no end, and now it's a matter of coordinating all your electronics and buying the proper headset to get things working even slightly correct.
Check out the diagram above. That's the current set-up for Splatoon 2, which requires a special converter, a phone with Nintendo's devoted app on it, and that weird looking headset. That's pretty much the only way you can chat with buddies in the game, and it's ludicrous.
Hopefully, once the company launches its online network sometime next year, we'll see some simplified solutions that'll make it easier to reach out to fans. But, then again, it is Nintendo, a company that's championed friend codes like they're going out of style. We just hope they get with the times -- especially once Smash Bros. rolls around.