Another year has hastily flew past us and the video game industry has experienced its fair share of big stories in 2014. Sony and Microsoft battled it out with their new consoles while Nintendo stood by and released hotly anticipated titles like the new Super Smash bros. on 3DS and Wii-U. Indie games continued to bring out fresh ideas and scandals revolving around sexism and journalism captured the attention of everyone. 2014 certainly brought forward its fair share of positive and negative news and we at Controller Crusade cannot wait to see what’s in store for 2015. Rather than replicate a flashback episode and simply look back at what happened this year, let’s analyse three significant events that took place this year and determine how it will affect the industry in 2015:
Remakes will never be the same again
2014 was the first year everyone experienced a new generation of video game consoles. Developers heavily focused on creating new games usually revisit and re-release older titles. Halo, The Last of Us, Injustice and many more games are currently available on Xbox One and PS4 and we’re expecting to see more titles like Devil May Cry, Saints Row IV and Resident Evil coming out in 2015. Players often feel it’s unnecessary to repurchase a game that they have already owned and completed unless there’s something new that would entice them to revisit the game. Various developers often resort to updating the graphics or including game add-ons that were once only available as DLC. But one particular game completely set the bar for what we should expect from future remakes. Grand Theft Auto V was released one year ago on last gen consoles with high praise and for its re-release on the Xbox One and PS4 we all expected the same game with updated graphics and better use of the powerful hardware. The reality was that Rockstar North went beyond expectations and presented a remake that completely revolutionized the way we played Grand Theft Auto. As well as improving the graphics and adding new content, Rockstar North introduced a First Person View camera option that seamlessly enabled players to play the game from a new viewpoint. Every mission, every scenario, every gun battle was exactly the same as before yet, by simply introducing a new camera perspective, it was as if players were engaging in a completely different game and through the FPS mode you had to re-think the way you played the game.
In my opinion, I was astonished at how Rockstar North redefined the way remakes are made and other game developers need to take note and ensure that if they wish to re-release an existing game then they must accomplish far more than simply polish the graphics and include existing DLC add-ons. Introducing a refreshingly different way to play the game will definitely encourage gamers to double dip and re-purchase and replay a game that they already owned.
Broken games on release day are still surprisingly broken
Games that reach stores with inconvenient bugs has become commonplace these days. Whether it’s the inability to connect to the server or a tiny glitch that affects gameplay, most developers immediately release patches to swiftly overcome the issues. Ubisoft caused a major uproar back in November when they released their eagerly anticipated game Assassin’s Creed Unity in a state that was almost virtually unplayable. Several videos and screenshots hilariously displayed glitches so severe that people wondered if any QA testing was conducted at all. Missing an opportunity to release the game before Christmas might have affected sale numbers but, for a successful franchise that is adored by players around the world, it was simply inexcusable for Ubisoft to release a broken game. Whether the player fell through floors or sat through cutscenes with character’s faces blatantly missing, the glitches affected the gameplay and altered the experience for gamers. Additionally, the amount of press coverate that circulated about the bugs was so high and frequent that it completely overshadowed the game and perhaps tarnished the Assassins Creed franchise altogether. It certainly comes as no surprise that the game was already discounted and Ubisoft promised free upcoming downloadable content as an apology. Had it not been for players expressing their grief on social media Ubisoft may not have even acknowledged the game’s obvious faults.
Thanks to downloadable patches available on day one, it is permissible for publishers to release a game with minor bugs, but broken games that have not passed through any forms of meticulous quality assurance testing cannot be released to the public, and in 2015 we hope that game companies will learn from Ubisoft’s mishaps and make sure players receive a completely functioning game the second the disc is inserted into a console.
The love and hate relationship with third-party exclusives
For us, it seems that the majority of third-party titles released are widely available on so many platforms, and console manufacturers have focused on marketing their devices based on hardware performance. Experienced video game players can perhaps identify which console can perform better with today’s games but to the average consumer, who can easily point out that their favourite games are available on any consoles, the price will always be the main decision factor. Superb exclusive titles are still a great and effective way to make your video game consoles stand out and it’s obvious that first party titles shape the identity and determine the player demographic of the console. Halo became synonymous with Xbox, and Uncharted with the Playstation. In an attempt to sell as many copies as possible, third-party publishers and developers tend to create cross-platform titles that are widely available on many systems.
Yet in today’s world, the once clear concept of video game exclusives has been clouded with confusion and mystery as publishers and developers feel it is in their best interest to either opt for their upcoming new title to be a timed exclusive, or simply be ambiguous about it in the hope that they’d be able to re-release their game on other platforms in the future. This was prevalent when Square Enix surprised the world last August by announcing that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be an Xbox One/Xbox 360 exclusive. The conflicting language used by Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics, however, left journalists and fans baffled as to whether the game was only going to be available on Microsoft’s console or if this was simply another timed exclusive that will eventually see light on the PS4, PS3 and PC. To the average video game consumer, timed exclusives are seen as an inconvenience but the idea that another console has to be purchased to simply play one game that’s locked to it is simply not worth it. Fortunately, we understand the necessity of why exclusives matter for if there were no game exclusivity on consoles then the industry would dramatically suffer with lack of fierce business competition and the quality of products and games would significantly decrease, not to mention increase code development and workload for developers. It is often established that first party games will rarely ever see the light of day on other consoles but third-party exclusives is where things tend to get messy between fans and developers especially with popular game franchises. Numerous online PS4 owners were disgruntled that the once multi-platform game series Tomb Raider suddenly became an exclusive on a console that they didn’t own. Likewise, Sony’s announcement that the next installment in Capcom’s popular Street Fighter franchise would be exclusive only on the PS4 and PC alienated fighting game fans who happened to own Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles. Ideally we’d love to have access to all games on one console but we also understand that exclusive money deals is just how the video game business works. The industry needs to clearly communicate with fans about their favourite games without any possibilities of misunderstanding and false information to spread. We, as fans of the video game medium, at least deserve that.