It’s certainly been an interesting year. Among the many varying events in society, video games have only really experienced positive things this year. Nintendo are back, Microsoft have raised their standards, we even got a remastered Crash Bandicoot that reminded us how difficult those games are. These are just some of the things that went on in the past 365 days, so join us while we look at some of the key things to happen in the crazily beautiful world of video games in 2017.
6 - Microsoft’s Year – Xbox One X, Backwards Compatibility and Game PassMicrosoft haven’t had a revolutionary year, and have spent the majority of it trailing behind the success of Sony and the PS4. They have however, released a console that looks like it could surpass the PS4 Pro, expanded their backwards compatible library substantially, and created their own digital game rental subscription service.
The Xbox One X, AKA “The World’s most powerful console," delivers on its tagline, at least according to its specifications—12GB of RAM, 6 teraflops of graphical performance, 1 TB of storage, and lots more acronyms that equal more power than the infinity gauntlet. As much as this won’t mean a lot to most people, the Xbox One X is a sign that Microsoft is serious about taking the fight to Sony. Not one to neglect the past, they’ve stepped up their game (no pun intended) in the digital back catalog department, adding in a huge number of Xbox 360 titles as well as a few shining relics from the original Xbox. Thinking back to 2013, the Xbox One has come a long way from its “always online” architecture. Sitting comfortably next to the 360 library is Xbox Game Pass, the digital subscription service that allows users to play over one hundred games for a monthly fee.
Again, these are hardly ground-breaking concepts, but Microsoft are trying to make changes to landscape of gaming, showing deep potential for next year. Sony make great games and Nintendo innovate like no other, but Microsoft have their eyes firmly fixed on the future.
5 - Peter Moore Leaving EA for Liverpool
This year saw a fair few personnel changes. Both Jay Pinkerton and Chet Faliszek departed from Valve, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Andrew House stepped down, but probably the most unusual career move was EA Sports head honcho Peter Moore leaving to become CEO of Liverpool FC.
The gaming industry is a constantly evolving beast, with employees both high and low on the corporate ladder ever changing seats. This news, however, came straight out of left field. Normally people leave a developer for another developer or a kind of like for like vocational shift. It appears that Peter Moore ditched his work in the virtual beautiful game to pursue his dreams of being involved with his lifelong soccer team. He joined the club in June and has had plenty to do in the short time he’s been there, the bulk of his work being focused around the transfer drama of midfielder Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona.
As much as this wasn’t an Earth-shattering event for the video game world, it was one of the more weird and wonderful things that occurred this year. Given Moore’s previous employment history and outspoken love for the soccer club, it wasn’t shocking he ended up there, but it was a neat little footnote of the past twelve months.
4 - Battlefront II’s Loot Controversy
The underlying factors of this issue had been ferociously bubbling under the surface throughout the year, and Battlefront II bore the brunt of public outrage.
Microtransactions and loot boxes have always been a necessary evil within video games, perpetuating a more “dirty” or “unfair” form of multiplayer gaming. Over the past few years they’ve been gradually growing more substantial and having a greater presence in games where they arguably aren’t needed. This year saw a change (or at least a more vocal outcry) in fans saying “enough is enough." This uproar was sparked by EA’s decisions in one of the most anticipated multiplayer games of the year in the form of Star Wars Battlefront II. Initial news and beta gameplay saw the Heroes (pivotal and powerful characters from the franchise) priced up to 60,000 in-game credits. To give a timeframe of reference on how long it would take to get that much currency, players calculated it would take a full two days worth of solid play. People made their voices heard and EA responded by lowering the unlock thresholds as well as tweaking the crystals system, the other currency used to specifically buy loot boxes.
As much as this was just one incident, this is hopefully a sign that loot systems in gaming will treated with much more thought and sensitivity in the future, with Battlefront II serving as the lynchpin that will begin to shift the mentality of both publishers and developers. Couple this with various new laws possibly being brought in to classify loot boxes as gambling, making them adhere to stricter conduct, this could be an indication that better controls and regulations will come into effect in the future.
3 - ZeniMax’s Lawsuit Against Oculus
A slightly messy and sour situation, February of this year saw ZeniMax receive a $500 million reward in a lawsuit against Palmer Luckey, and by extension Oculus, for failing to comply with a non-disclosure agreement.
In short, John Carmack, while working for iD Software (a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media), made contributions and modifications to Oculus Rift VR Headset back in 2012. In the development time that followed, Carmack left iD to become Chief Tech Officer at Oculus. ZeniMax argued that any work Carmack carried out while working on the project and under their employ was their intellectual property. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus muddied the waters further and tangled the wires into more perplexing knots, and reports suggest that ZeniMax did try and pursue other resolutions such as equity ownership, but Oculus deny this. With seemingly no means left to get their desired outcome, ZeniMax filed a formal lawsuit against Oculus back in 2014 and the trial began in January of this year. A case that saw Mark Zuckerberg testify, the verdict was reached in less than a month, with the judge ruling in favor of ZeniMax.
While legal battles are usually only destructive in relationships between businesses and people alike, these events can be as important as they are ugly. This was a noted event on the 2017 calendar and whether the decision was right or wrong, it was a major date in the gaming world this year.
2 - The International 2017
An event more on the down low for people not in the eSports loop, The International 2017 was this year’s tournament for DOTA 2, hosted by beloved gaming titan Valve. Many eSport events took place this year, but The International was a standout in the showcasing the exponential progress eSports as a whole has made.
The main and most obvious factor was the pool prize money, amassing to $24 million, breaking the record set by the previous year and becoming the biggest pool in eSports history. The tournament was won by Team Liquid, defeating Chinese contenders Newbee, netting them nearly $11 million, with runners-up Newbee taking home just shy of $4 million. Not bad for second place, huh? The tournament was a success as it is most years, but as much as the prize money is fantastic for the teams involved, it holds greater significance as a beacon of how far eSports has come from its formative years at internet cafes and LAN events. Events like The International serve the industry in a circular fashion, all feeding in to and promoting other aspects of the landscape of video games. The competition was streamed on Twitch.tv, a documentary about one of the teams was made, a cosplay competition held, and Valve showed off a new card game Artifact.
I’m sure next year the record will be broken yet again, and that’s only a good thing for that pattern to replicate itself.
Nintendo’s Resurgence – Switch and the SNES Classic
In the past few years or so (around the inception of the Wii U), Nintendo has fallen out of favor with a good chunk of the gaming crowd, from a financial standpoint at the very least. Yes they’ve still released amazing first party titles, but even the most diehard Nintendo supporter can’t deny Microsoft and Sony’s mainstream dominance. This year saw the reveal and release of the Switch, a new Mario and Zelda, and the SNES Classic.
While Microsoft have had some high points this year and Sony have maintained solid sales numbers, Nintendo’s phoenix has risen from the ashes of the previous generation, a fire first ignited by the tremendous success of the NES Classic, something that seemed to take the company itself by surprise. The reveal of the Switch in January with the almost immediate release date in March was a bit of a shock, but sales and pre-orders were bolstered by the inclusion of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which unsurprisingly became one of the games of the year (and took home our Game of the Year award). Mario and Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Arms, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey all followed with great success, with the addition of third party games like Skyrim and FIFA all adding to an ever expanding pot of economic growth. Along comes September and the SNES Classic arrives in stores, the NES Classic’s retro and nostalgic appeal still fresh in the minds of fans, a collection of old school games continuing the success of its dedicated successor.
All in all, it’s been a great year for Nintendo with them showing no sign of slowing down. I for one hope their rise continues, and they put out more award winning titles in the future. Bring on 2018!
Those have been some of our favorite moments from 2017. Let us know some of your standout moments in the comments.