As is tradition, I would like to do a post about gaming in 2017. I know 2017 was a rough year in reality. I would argue worse than 2016 in many ways. But we’re only gonna talk about gaming here and in that realm I would say though there were some definite low points, overall it wasn’t a horrible year. As I always say, I’m gonna do my best to sum up gaming this year but I’m only one man not being paid to do this so realistically I’m probably gonna miss a number of events and I’m only writing from one perspective. Also as we should be aware, I focus primarily, but not exclusively, on console gaming.
First, let me talk about how gaming was for me personally in 2017. It was a solid year. It wasn’t like 2016 where I was able to get through 52 games. But I was able to tackle an acceptable 22 titles. Of those 22, only two game were actually released in 2017. Those would be Mass Effect: Andromeda, which I will of course discuss later in this post, and StarFox 2 on the SNES Classic. In my opinion, the best game I completed in the last year was unquestionably Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Not only was it the best Uncharted game, but it was just genuinely one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. Naughty Dog just doesn’t disappoint.
As far as completing my gaming goals for 2017, I did ok. If you look at my list of 2017 gaming goals from the beginning of the year, I had 12 main goals and six bonus goals. Of those 12 main goals I managed to complete nine of them which is pretty good. But I will say that I did not complete, or even start, two of the most important ones. That is play The Witcher 2 (yes that is a 2) and play Final Fantasy VII. I am making these two games a priority in 2018, starting with FFVII. I’ve even set my desktop and mobile wallpapers to FFVII images in order to motivate myself to play the game. Of the six bonus goals, I completed four of them, which is also pretty good. That’s an overall completion rate of 72%. Not an amazing grade, but definitely passable. Now let’s talk about the highlights of 2017 for the rest of the gaming community. Events are in no particular order.
Indies Take the Reigns
This was an amazing year for indie games. We saw some phenomenal releases of games that were not only critically acclaimed, but financially successful in record time.
I haven’t personally played this game, but one cannot deny the success or importance of it. Not only has it broken records for Steam concurrent users but it’s also sold at record numbers and rushed out an XBOX ONE release last minute. I actually take a lot of issue with this game. The fact that people are so misguided in their judgement that a movement actually formed calling for an early access game with no single player campaign to be considered for game of the year is insane. It’s one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard. But it only shows just how successful the game is. It will be interesting to see what this means for AAA FPS games. If an indie studio can make a single mode FPS game with no campaign or serious production value and only charge $30 for it then how will companies like Activision continue their current COD business model?
I knew this game would be a success when it was first announced at E3 back in like 2013. I was actually the person who created the Cuphead wiki page on IGN when I worked for their E3 wiki team that year. It’s beautiful, different, retro, and has a very Disney style story based campaign. It’s already gone double platinum and has spawned various articles and fan creations.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
This game had basically no publisher and kind of came out of nowhere but they’ve already sold enough copies to be profitable. There was a lot of controversy at the beginning about saves possibly getting erased and really I think that ultimately helped the game. This is just another example of how large publishers like EA are blatantly lying to the public when they say single player campaigns are no longer viable and/or profitable because this game is objective proof against that statement. Hellblade also addresses mental illness as part of the gameplay and adds both an interesting perspective to gameplay and brings the conversation about mental illness to the forefront of the gaming community, both of which are good things.
A Hat in Time
This game hasn’t been out too long but it’s doing very well both critically and financially. People really seem to like it, which is great because we need more traditional single player platformers other than just Nintendo first party games and Ratchet & Clank. Hopefully the success of this game will inspire other larger studios to revisit the genre with more than just HD remakes of older games.
EA Screws Everything Up
I’m not going to say it hasn’t happened before, but I can’t recall any other year where EA screwed the pooch so big, so many times, so quickly. Like if you took away EA Sports from the equation, I wouldn’t be surprised if they folded next year after all the bullshit they tried to pull in 2017.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Now personally I didn’t hate this game, but it was no Mass Effect 3. There was a ton of negative press and public opinion because of graphical issues. The story was kind of flat in the end. No DLC was released even though some was promised originally. The game was clearly rushed out; which is sad because it had so much potential. And this really hurt BioWare, which sucks because they used to be one of my favorite studios. But it’s clear that most of these problems are the fault of EA management rather than bad work on the developer side. EA keeps shoehorning in multiplayer, loot boxes, and open world into games, forcing developers to work on too much too quickly and ultimately put out lackluster games, all while being forced to use an engine that’s really only good for one genre. But the worst part is that EA refuses to acknowledge this. They just keep blaming the studios for the failures. They even shuttered BioWare Montreal.
EA shutdown Visceral Games, the studio that brought you Dead Space. But what was really bad about this was when, why, and how they did it. The studio was in the midst of creating a single player, linear, story focused Star Wars game. Also known as exactly the type of game real Star Wars fans have been waiting for since like The Force Unleashed II. Then when asked about it, EA made a statement that sounded like they were declaring an end to single player, linear campaigns. They then came back and said that’s not what they meant, but it just goes to show you that EA can’t be trusted because they refuse to just give a straight answer about any topic. And that policy of using marketing speak instead of concrete words is finally coming back to bite them in the ass. And it absolutely did not help them that they were releasing a Star Wars themed multiplayer shooter with a joke of a campaign just a few months after closing down Visceral Games and stating that they were not killing but were changing the scope of their project considerably. Read my full thoughts on the closing of Visceral Games here.
Star Wars Battlefront II and the Loot Boxes
Star Wars Battlefront II is the sequel no one really asked for. It was a cash grab game made to symbiotically increase sales and popularity of the Star Wars IP with Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. The true irony being that both works garnered a ton of controversy and negativity among the populous. The film did at least make money though.
Because of a combination of predatory business practices, bad blood over the Visceral Games Star Wars game, and an unacceptably long series of social faux pas, Battlefront II has done terribly. Its sales were considerably lower than its predecessor out of the gate. Disney forced them to completely remove microtransactions from the game until further notice, but they are supposed to be returning at some point. It was reported that EA’s stock value dropped by about $3 Billion because of this whole travesty of a game release. And the company is now responsible for the most downvoted comment in Reddit history.
The most important thing about this entire series of events is that it showed that we as a group actually do have real power over the gaming industry. Our comments, tweets, Reddit posts, and angry YouTube videos do make a difference when we work as a single unit with a common goal. This whole ordeal proved that if we would just get organized we could truly change things. And things are changing. Apple now requires all mobile apps with loot boxes to display the possible win percentages. And politicians in the United States and other countries are starting to discuss legislation about stopping predatory monetization practices in games. You can read my full account of the Star Wars Battlefront II controversy and timeline here.
Nintendo Owns It Hard
Nintendo has the odd habit of doing everything the public says they shouldn’t and then making a killing in sales and approval, both critical and public, and no one can ever seem to understand why or how they make this work. They’re just a magical company that shits gold time and time again. Here are some of their highlights for 2017.
They released a new console that people weren’t sure about and that many said would cannibalize their own handheld market. The console is doing very well and has already outsold the Wii U by leaps and bounds. Not to mention, the top two contested games of the year were both first party Switch games (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild / Super Mario Odyssey). I wasn’t even planning on buying a Switch this year, but they finally got me with Odyssey.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Everyone said it was impossible to make Rabbids not the most annoying thing ever. I too was one of those people. The idea of a turn based RPG starring Mario and Rabbids sounded ridiculous. In fact it still does. But ultimately it won best strategy game at The Game Awards 2017.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Objectively speaking this was the best game of 2017. It won the Golden Joystick Awards. It won The Game Awards. It made the Switch a financial success much sooner than expected. It’s being called by many the greatest Zelda game ever made, which is a bold statement to even consider making. This is like the new Final Fantasy VII. I haven’t personally played it yet, but from what I understand your children’s children will still be talking about this game.
The best way to make money is to do so without doing anything you haven’t already done before. Nintendo exercises this statement boldly with the SNES Classic and the NES Classic before it. It’s another amazing trip down memory lane, they’re sold out everywhere, and scalpers are making a killing reselling them. Because Nintendo refuses to manufacture enough of them in order to artificially keep demand high. I actually was able to get one and I have to say that it’s an amazing console.
The idea of Nintendo getting into mobile games was offensive and worrisome. They already control the handheld market. How would they possibly participate in both markets without quality lacking somewhere? I still don’t really know how to answer that question. But I do know that Super Mario Run was the most downloaded app at one point in 2017. And people seem to love Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.
The business of trailers seemed to stand out a lot in 2017. Three games stand out the most. By newsworthy I don’t mean the best looking or even most anticipated trailers. I mean trailers that garnered actual news stories other than just “check out this trailer”.
Death Stranding is the latest example of everything that’s wrong with celebrity game development. Just because a specific name, studio, or actor is tied to a game does not mean it will be good. We have seen no gameplay footage and gotten no concrete details but everyone is creaming their jeans over Death Stranding simply because it’s being made by Kojima. The latest trailer makes no sense, tells you nothing, and gives no sort of clues about the gameplay but everyone was losing their minds over it.
I actually really liked this trailer. It doesn’t show us any gameplay footage, but we can assume that because it’s a sequel the gameplay will at least be similar to the first game. What this trailer does show us is that in a Walking Dead style of narrative, zombies are not the biggest problem in the post apocalypse. It’s actually other people. We are shown that we can expect powerful, violent, uncomfortable scenes from the next installment of The Last of Us and that’s a good thing. But many people were angry about the fact that the trailer shows women being tortured. Personally I thought this entire debate was hypocritical bullshit because the women were being tortured by a woman so this can’t be misconstrued as some form of sexism or even objectification for the male gaze. But internet gonna internet so whatever.
Similar to the way people reacted to The Last of Us 2 trailer, a lot of people were really unhappy with the child abuse shown in the latest trailer for Detroit: Become Human. There was a lot of debate about whether or not this kind of thing was ok to show in the marketing of video games or be shown in video games at all. I think this is hypocritical because we wouldn’t be having that conversation when talking about film. Gaming is an entertainment medium with the largest population of users being legal adults. It is perfectly acceptable to address serious themes in such a medium in the same way that it’s socially acceptable to have such things depicted in movies.
To nobody intelligent’s surprise, Bungie and Activision did exactly what I expected of them. Destiny 2 used the same bullshit scheme of overpromising, under delivering, hiding all the content behind additional paywalls, and delivering no end game; and that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. But this time they screwed up and put a vanilla game trophy behind a DLC paywall when they released an expansion and that really hurt their reputation and supposedly their stock price, for at least a time.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Probably the best example of why EA is bullshit from 2017. Guerilla Games created a beautiful, big budget, story based single player game. And it sold like hot cakes. People loved it. Critics loved it. Sony loved it. They even released a large expansion and priced the whole game fairly with it. Many non-Nintendo gamers believed it should have been game of the year. I definitely think we’ll see a sequel to this game and I hope other studios/publishers take Horizon Zero Dawn as an example for future projects.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Most Socially Aware Marketing Campaign of all Time)
Bethesda makes good games. I don’t love all or even most of their stuff, but I have always respected them as a company. But this year what they showed more than anything else is that they do not function in a vacuum. The company makes marketing campaigns and quite possibly games based on current events and popular opinion. I’ve never played any of the Wolfenstein games, old or new. I’ve always known about the franchise but I’ve never been that interested. I took an interest in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus strictly because of the ad campaign. Trailers and banners with calls to action saying “Make America Nazi Free Again” hit so close to home in 2017. And this campaign wasn’t lost on anyone. Trump supporters were pissed about being called Nazis. Liberals thought it was hilarious and pre-ordered the game just to support the message. It was amazing marketing and ultimately I do think I’ll end up not only buying this game but also the previous titles to get the full story.
Bethesda didn’t stop with Wolfenstein. They also went after EA and launched a campaign to save single player games. Also a super relevant and socially aware ad campaign that absolutely increased sales.
XBOX ONE X Released
Microsoft released “the most powerful console on the market” and people still don’t know what the point of that is if you don’t have a healthy lineup of exclusive titles that you can’t play on a much better PC, which the console doesn’t. They claim this console is for the fans who want the best of the best but even those people are smart enough to build a PC when you look at the games available. And to top it all off, Microsoft keeps focusing on bringing back old titles which often don’t even look good in 4k. It’s like they’re trying to compete with Sony and Nintendo at the same time and failing on both fronts.
A few smaller things happened in 2017 that are not worth going over in detail but should be mentioned when grading the year in gaming as a whole.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back
This actually happened and that’s worth talking about in and of itself.
Nioh (PC Version)
This was entirely unexpected and while it’s pretty shitty for early adopters I think it ultimately was a good thing because it lowered the price on both platforms and made all the content easier to access for all late adopters.
This happened. Amazing concept to allow people to create their own Sonic characters, but the game itself is about what we’ve come to expect from modern Sonic the Hedgehog. I still bought it predicting that would be the case for some reason.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
Even on their worst day Naughty Dog only ever creates gold and this was far from their worst day.
Overall I’d say 2017 was a solid year for gaming. There were definitely some serious low points, most of which the fault of EA. But the high points outnumber them tenfold. I look forward to 2018 hoping for another year of excellent gaming but I’m curious to see what we get from Nintendo because they came out of the gate with some heavy hitters. I don’t want to see the Switch peter out after only a year.