I’ve already done the predictions review, but this is more of an all around year review.
I think the general consensus is that this was a ho-hum year at best, if not a negative one overall. WoW lost over 50% of the player base, ESO and Wildstar both went free to play (or buy to play I guess), SOE turned into Daybreak and didn’t launch anything but “classic servers” of 10 year+ old games.
There are highlights I suppose. FF14’s expansion is top-quality but also clearly shows the failings of a themepark MMO in today’s space. (side note, I did reach max our my White Mage enough to raid but gave up at that point.) GW2 launched its expansion, moving into the horizontal progression even further, with some appeal. SWTOR just threw out any MMO conception at all and relaunched as KOTOR3, just in time for the new Star Wars movie.
I’ll have a predictions post in the new year but I’m not convinced that 2016 is going to be much better.
If you were to look at the app store on iOS or Android, the top games today are nearly the same as they were last year, or the year before. You think MMOs lack innovation? How many CoC clones or Candy Crush clones can there be?
Monument Valley is the only standout I can think of. Fallout Shelter hit a nerve in the gaming clans but that faded rather quickly. Telltale games are good, and one of the few series where it seems a worthwhile investment. Overall though, I think it’s fair to say the mobile scape is saturated and the bottom is being scraped.
On the flipside, everyone seems to be playing some mobile game and this has turned into a baseline of sorts. Meaning, all games need to be bite-sized and easily consumable. It’s great that CoC has strategy at TH8+ but the game doesn’t keep getting downloads because people want to invest 2 years to get there.
This is certainly the new wave of games, where from mobile we have large games made up of small chunks. While you certainly can sit down for a couple hours, instead of doing 1 thing, you’re able to do 20. Simplified FPS and MOBAs (HotS this year) are popping up all over the place. Fallout 4, for all it’s amazingness, is really exemplified by the small discoveries made along the way. We’ve gone full circle back to the days of Civilization and “just one more turn”.
Sure, there are people who are willing to invest piles of time in a game to do a small thing but they are such a small (dedicated) minority that most game companies simply ignore them. This has created a niche market (again), which allows people to try out new ideas.
Being Social Sucks
If people have learned anything, it’s that being social blows chunks. You get the same bang for your buck by treating other players like NPCs as if you did invest any quality time with them. Odds are, you’re never going to see them again anyways – at least in a large MMO game. Why risk getting yelled out when you can just enjoy the ride instead?
And that’s really quite sad. It only takes 1 asshole to ruin 50 people’s game and until devs properly figure out how to treat these folks, they are going to be forced to recycle content and launch expansions at a faster pace. And I’m not talking about a Hello Kitty friendly environment, I’m just talking about people typing out words they wouldn’t have an issue saying in front of real live people.
Actually, this list is kind of crap compared to other years. Let’s just look at some nominees:
- Fallout 4
- Pillars of Eternity
- Witcher 3
- Ori and the Blind Forest
- MSG 5
- Mario Maker
Since I don’t own a current gen console, I only played the top 4. And of all of them, only Ori is a new IP – and a damn good one at that. Everything else is either a remake or a sequel.
Steam certainly had some interesting games come out this year: Grim Dawn, Darkest Dungeon, Hard West, Satellite Reign, Undertale, Ark, and Victor Vran among others. You’ll notice that most of those are RPGs of sorts, some with action bits, others with strategic bits. All of them playable in small chunks.
Media & Culture
I really should take the time to mention that Joystiq went away, along with all its sister sites (WoW Insider and Massively). While there’s certainly a market for that type of content, it’s rather clear the market was full of it and that it wasn’t viewed as being terribly “market favorable”. It’s great that Blizzard Watch and MassivelyOP were able to crowd fund to restart. Even better that they are still going on today.
It should be rather clear that the gaming boom is over though. Most bloggers have seen traffic drop, and while Pewdiepie still makes money, it’s Twitch that’s running the show. Live gaming content means that gaming as a whole has passed that “only geeks do that” to the “this is near on level with sports”. It’s almost easier to assume someone plays games rather than doesn’t. Who’d of thought that 10 years ago?
I think 2015 was a bridge year. One where not a lot of big things happened but where we really started to see a shift in gaming overall. We’re 2 years into the new console age, so devs know what they are doing. Steam, GMG and GoG have a solid footing on games, sales and pushing products. It would seem that games are mainstream enough now that it’s less about th rare snowflake and more about finding that needle in the haystack.
Here are some links to other blogs looking back at the year. There are certainly more, but I’m bad at links.