The Movers And Shakers of 2017
While it is all too easy to become distracted by all the heated discussions, bubbling away in the pot of 2017, we must bear in mind that it was one hell of a year for noteworthy game releases. It was the one year in recent memory that offered truly standout experiences for gamers, not just reserved to particular platforms but across the board. For PlayStation owners, we were treated early on in the year by the masterpiece of design and originality that was Horizon: Zero Dawn. A little later in the year, we would learn just how good Persona 5 really was. To top it all off, PlayStation owners would cotton onto the masterpiece that was Nier:Automata well after its release. It suffered a slow start in sales but we soon learned it had one of the best soundtracks ever made for a game and fluid intuitive combat not soon forgotten.
On the PC, the master race enjoyed two games this year that would reaffirm them as real competition to the games consoles. Divinity Original Sin 2 offered the perfect top-down RPG that Diablo fans has been aching for since its messy release. Then, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, while messy and buggy as hell, offered a fresh multiplayer format that could not be denied. So much so, that GTAV Online would go on to try and copycat the format in the light of its clearly profitable potential. PUBG would also go on to amplify the still growing E-Sports scene.
Nintendo fans enjoyed a brilliant return to form upon the release of the Switch this year in March. While many remained sceptical, the Switch has returned Nintendo to glory after the utterly commercial failure that was the Wii U. It released with a much anticipated title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. A title many are claiming to be the best game of 2017. Later in the year, another heavy hitter would bolster the Switch’s sales. In the first week of Super Mario: Odyssey’s arrival, it is reported to have sold close to five hundred copies per minute worldwide. It’s clear to see there’s still a lot of love for the Italian plumber.
While the XboxOne suffered the least stand out titles of all the platforms this year, it would be the first console to receive Elite: Dangerous, ahead of the PS4. Later in the year, its strongest contender would arrive in the form of Cuphead. The Xbox One console exclusive didn’t take long to wow critics with its distinctive art style and unforgettable soundtrack. Cuphead is widely appreciated by the gaming community due to its elitist level of difficulty and has sold a crazy amount of copies since release. Later in the year, Xbox fans would enjoy the arrival of the most powerful console on the market, the Xbox One X.
Worthy of a special mention this year is without a doubt, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Not just because of the game itself but because of its developers. Released in August, during a time where the heated debates surrounding lootbox controversy were at their hottest, Hellblade showed us a commercially healthy alternative was possible. Releasing at a lower price of $30, Hellblade not only delivered a AAA standard indie experience, Ninja Theory also dealt with the sensitive subject of mental illness with maturity and poise. As a result, Hellblade was not just a great game but also the most important one of the year. Soon after, in September, Echo would release under a similar marketing plan.
The Year of Unbridled Controversy
In the history of videogames, we’ve been able to sit relatively comfortable as gamers. We’ve been able to look to the near future of our hobby and understand that the future will be better. The graphics will improve alongside the power of our gaming machines. In turn, our gameplay mechanics would improve and developers would continue to dip into a pool of innovation. 2017 was the first year that shook our confidence in this to the extent that it did.
It all started with the troubled marketing cycle prior to Shadow of War’s release (it could be argued that it started with the idea of DLC when post release monetisation became a thing). Firstly, Monolith believed it was a good idea to release an edgy video about “How To Forge Your Army With The In Game Economy”… ie – lootboxes. Needless to say, gamers did not take lightly to this. Things only got worse when a crucial developer on the Monolith team, Michael Forgey, sadly passed away after a battle with cancer, only for Warner Bros to make an attempt to profit from his death with the DLC, Forthog Orc Slayer. While the questionable practice was eventually overturned, it didn’t stop many a discussion surrounding boycotts. Leading to many wondering just how well Shadow of War sold in its opening week.
By the time November rolled around, heated discussions on lootbox economy were still plenty hot for the arrival of the further greedy Battlefront II. While the game itself was sound, there was no question in the lead up to its release that it would be pay to win. A couple of days after its release, Black Friday would bring a stark realisation for EA that sales figures were nowhere near the expected mark . After a Reddit explosion, it became clear to gamers and developers alike that the language of greed within videogames would be tolerated no longer. Tweaks were made and the game was demonetised. But it was too little too late.
While November was undoubtedly the most heated time of the year for gaming (as it usually is), there was also an interesting discussion surrounding single player. It was widely considered that Visceral Studios and their Star Wars project was shut down by EA due to its single player nature. EA would later release a statement informing us that, apparently we’re no longer interested in single player games. It only bolstered theories that loot box economy cannot be placed into single player titles and therefor such titles are of no interest to EA. Later in the year, Bethesda would release a video fighting for the single player title, apparently in rebuttal to EA’s earlier statement. After all, popular single player shooter Wolfenstein II would go on to win Best Action Adventure Award in December’s game awards. Goes to show how much EA knows… In a bit of good news, at least Bethesda repealed their controversial review copies policy.
Return To The Old School
After the rip roaring sales success of a reinvigorated Ratchet & Clank, it was clear to the games industry just how profitable leveraging our nostalgia could be. June was a great month for us to enjoy this fact. On June 7th, PlayStation owners saw the return of Wipeout in the form of the Omega Collection, bringing together the original Wipeout and two more classic titles from the franchise. It handled wonderfully and even introduced the now rarely found split screen co-op. Later in the month, Crash returned in all his glory for the N-Sane Trilogy, receiving similar love with glorious new pixels. In his brand new clothes, Crash returned to delight existing and new fans alike.
Nintendo also recognised the call to the old days… Or perhaps they didn't. Many retro game fans were delighted to learn Nintendo would be manufacturing the Super Nintendo Classic. It would come with twenty SNES classics along with the never before released Starfox 2! It was a big deal and Nintendo fans reached for their wallets eagerly. That is, until they discovered Nintendo just hadn't made enough of them. Many placed orders only to later find disappointment with Nintendo's stock issues. It all felt like a sequel to Sony's PlayStation VR headset stock issues near the start of 2017.
This Is Just The Tip Of The 2017 Iceberg
In the interest of not writing a book on the subject, let's draw a conclusion on 2017. If previous years in gaming have been relatively smooth sailing, many would agree 2017 has been one stormy year. Indeed, we've had our ups and downs. It's becoming clearer to see that developers across the world are itching to deliver well to their fanbases. In some cases, this has shown wonderfully in titles like Breath of The Wild and Hellblade. Yet, all the while, certain publishers seem hellbent on ruining gamer experiences in the name of corporate greed and investor satisfaction. In either case, we have borne witness to such heights.
We've also had great events this year proving we have yet to look forward to so many more delights. Paris Games Week unveiled The Last of Us: Part II and we finally learned a little more about what to expect from Creative Director, Neil Druckmann when he returned at PSX later in the year. On top of that, Suckerpunch finally broke silence at PGW when we learned about the upcoming Ghost of Tsushima. We had a great E3 this year too and who can forget that incredible Death Stranding trailer at the Game Awards? Gaming gets some love from Netflix too as we've already had an animated Castlevania show and a Witcher series is also on the way. Stay tuned with KeenGamer for our collective thoughts on what to look forward to in 2018 – what will surely be a great year in gaming.