2017 was a huge year for gaming. We had an unprecedented number of legendary games, multiple hardware launches, some long-awaited shifts in industry mindset, as well as some pretty disappointing moments. Let’s go over a big year of moments in gaming. If we missed any, hop into the comments and let us know what we overlooked!
Red Dead, Metroid, and Pokemon announced
As gamers, we know what we want. Game companies think they know what we’ll buy. That sometimes results in a divide that has us begging for games for years while publishers shrug their shoulders at us. This year, we finally got some concrete promises from a few of our favorite developers that those long-awaited games were coming. No, not Half-Life 3. That ain’t happening.
Biggest of all, Rockstar finally unveiled the first trailers for Red Dead Redemption 2, the sequel – or more accurately the prequel – to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption. Gamers in general have been waiting for this one with bated breath for years, but we here at TechnoBuffalo have been salivating over the possibility for years, hoping with each E3 that well get an announcement. This year, it finally came, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.
But that’s not all.
Also on that long-awaited list were two huge Nintendo titles. As part of its E3 show, Nintendo announced that a Metroid Prime game and a Pokemon game are both in development for the Nintendo Switch. This marks the first totally new Metroid game in seven years and the first return to Metroid Prime in over a decade. And Pokemon on Switch is huge. Nintendo has thus far resisted putting a core Pokemon game on home consoles, preferring to keep it to handhelds. Then the company went and released a console-handheld hybrid, kind of backing themselves into a corner.
We know barely a thing about either of those games other than that they exist, but that’s kind of enough to keep us going for a while.
In the meantime, Red Dead Redemption 2 is set to hit sometime in spring 2018 after a delay out of this fall.
Tons of Awesome Gaming Hardware
If your love of gaming often leans toward the hardware side, 2017 was unquestionably one of the best years in recent memory.
Nintendo holds the prestige of having the two most anticipated releases in the Nintendo Switch and the Super NES Classic mini-console. The former launched this March to almost universal acclaim, fueled in part by the instant classic that is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Switch put Nintendo back on the map as a player in modern hardware and blurred the lines between what a handheld and home console could be.
The SNES Classic isn’t nearly the revolution that the Switch was, but the anticipation for it was nearly as high before launch. Here in the TechnoBuffalo offices, we were making plans for how we’d get our hands on them. Thanks to Nintendo handling the launch better than it did the NES Classic, not nearly as many gamers went home disappointed, but it was still a tough system to find almost immediately after it launched in September. Despite the system continuing to lack some must-have features like a home button and appropriately-long controller cords, Nintendo made good on most of the system’s promises, giving us a solid collection of games and a simple, fun way to play them.
But the year didn’t belong to Nintendo completely. Microsoft’s Xbox One X was announced as Project Scorpio at E3 last year, and we saw it in its final form this year. It finally hit in November and it was even better than many of us expected. The system delivers on the promise of 4K gaming better than any similarly-priced PC could hope to, in a compact, attractive package. It’s expensive to be sure, at $500, but it makes a good case for itself as not only the most powerful console yet but also as the best place to play Xbox 360 and Xbox games, too, with some games even getting Xbox One X-specific enhancements.
Nintendo bones up the NES Classic
While we definitely have to give credit to Nintendo for the excellent Nintendo Switch and SNES Classic, hardware supply was a consistent problem for the company. The Switch and SNES both suffered to some degree or another from hardware shortages. The defining moment, though, was with 2016’s NES Classic.
Despite the system selling like crazy right from its launch last fall, Nintendo made the decision to discontinue the incredibly popular hardware back in April with the excuse being that the company doesn’t have unlimited resources. There were likely some very real business decisions that forced the issue, but an answer like that rings hollow when we’re standing outside, as in this documentary photo taken from a Nintendo event, clutching bills:
Nintendo has hardware-supply issues since the days of the original Wii, and it’s something we’ve almost come to expect from the company, but the NES discontinuation was perhaps more painful because we already know what we’re missing – some of the best games in console-gaming history, all brought together in one package.
Nintendo wised up a bit, and plans to bring the mini-console back in 2018, but we’re still not 100% sure if they’ll actually meet demand or if they’ll just use it as another excuse to say their stuff is selling out.
I’m not bitter, why do you ask?
Mass Effect Andromeda Bombs Hard
After the Mass Effect trilogy finished, BioWare was insistent that it would bring the series back for another go. We wondered where they would take it, and just how amazing it would be.
Woof, that didn’t go as planned.
Instead of a huge moment for EA and RPG fans, we ended up with one of the biggest blowouts in gaming history, where expectations and reality were perhaps further apart than anyone could’ve anticipated. At least, anyone outside BioWare Montreal.
When Andromeda finally released, what we ended up with was a game buggy enough to make Skyrim developer Bethesda giggle-snort, with visuals that made the original Mass Effect series – released in 2007 – look pretty good by comparison. Awkward animation took away from voice acting even when the animation worked, but it’s easier to find videos of poorly-rigged, busted animation in Andromeda than it is to find just regular, acceptable animation.
As you might expect, the people making the game weren’t totally caught by surprise. Shifting design documents, staffing changes, and technical issues made for what sounds like one of the most tumultuous development periods in gaming.
When we get down to it, Andromeda isn’t the worst game ever. When you’re expecting the best game ever, though, “just okay” sure seems rough.
Microsoft is in it for the gamers
Had E3 2013 and the console race that ensued gone differently, I don’t know that Microsoft would be where it is right now. For that, I’m grateful. Sony might be trouncing Microsoft at the cash register, but the company’s hunger for financial success and community acceptance has led to one of the most gamer-friendly company philosophies out there, with Microsoft making one move after another that puts the gamer ahead of the company.
The company’s backwards compatibility program surpassed 400 Xbox 360 titles this year, and many of the most beloved titles are available for play. All you need is the disc. On top of that, the company added 13 original Xbox games, including classics like Crimson Skies and Ninja Gaiden Black, the latter of which it turns out I’m extremely bad at, now. As I mentioned before, Microsoft has even gone so far as to enhance a few Xbox 360 games to improve how they look and feel on the Xbox One X. Even the aforementioned Ninja Gaiden got a 500MB patch that lets it display at native 4K and 60FPS. That’s a 13-year-old console game, you guys.
Another move worth calling out is the Xbox Game Pass. Gaming is an extraordinarily expensive habit. You need literally hundreds of dollars just to get in the door. Or do you? Between the Xbox Game Pass and EA Access, Microsoft is lowering the financial bar. Being able to download the games is still a limiting factor for some, but unlike Sony’s PlayStation Now service, the very real latency issues aren’t. Microsoft’s games play locally, making it a more viable service.
Microsoft is even working on tech intended to make game downloads smaller in this 4K-gaming-with-bandwidth-caps world.
The biggest move, though, deserves its own section.
The push for cross-platform multiplayer
One of the questions we have to ask ourselves when we’re deciding to buy a console is, “which system is my social group buying?” Wherever your friends are going, you’ll go. But that’s finally starting to change.
Microsoft, Nintendo, Mojang, Psyonix and Epic Games have all made moves this year that are pushing that idea of a walled garden into the past.
Two of the biggest moves came during E3 this year. Microsoft’s Minecraft is one of the most popular games of all time, crossing demographics like few other games can. Adults, children, young kids and old kids, we all play it. And now, we can play it together. The latest update for the game unifies the base engine for the Xbox One, Windows 10, Nintendo Switch, and Android/iOS versions of the game, allowing people from all five platforms to play together.
Psyonix did the same with Rocket League, allowing the Switch version to play with the Xbox One and PC versions. On the game’s first day on the new system, tens of thousands of players were able to play seamlessly with each other across the three platforms.
You may have noticed so far that the PlayStation 4 is missing. Well, Epic Games had something to say about that. For a hot moment this fall, the company’s free-to-play game Fortnite was confirmed to be letting PlayStation and Xbox players play together. It was fixed as a glitch, but that’s not the kind of glitch that just happens. Someone built the functionality in, even if they didn’t mean for it to go live.
Despite Microsoft and Nintendo’s moves to make cross-platform multiplayer a thing, Sony has resisted thus far, citing first its shareholders and then its need to be “mindful of our responsibility to our install base” as excuses why they’re too cool for the party everyone else is hanging out at.
The ball is firmly in Sony’s court at this point – the family-friendly Nintendo is in, Microsoft’s gaming boss Phil Spencer has said that he wants it to happen. Epic made it happen. That it even happened at all, though, was huge, and signals just how much gaming is changing.
While it’s been a great year for games in general, it’s been a rough year for the business, at least in terms of customer perception. There were tons of studio closures, including EA’s Visceral, Marvel Heroes dev Gazillions, Torchlight developer Runic, and Gigantic developer Motiga.
Perhaps the biggest moment, though, was Lootboxgate. Or should we call it the Lootboxalypse? If there’s two things gamers love, it’s Star Wars, and shooting things. Star Wars Battlefront II is basically a slam dunk. Let people shoot at stuff, give them lots of stuff to shoot at, and they’ll come.
But EA decided to load one of the biggest games of the year down with what felt like predatory microtransactions. You could unlock Darth Vader, sure, but that’ll take you forty hours. With Luke Skywalker taking another work week’s worth. EA has toned things down since then, but the welt is still far from healing. A defense of the action from EA resulted in over 675,000 downvotes, almost 30 times as many downvotes as the next-most downvoted comment. Even worse, though, the drama has led to very real proposals for legislation against lootboxes as a gambling element in games. This is the most significant game-related legislation since the game violence hearings in the 1990s that started up because of Doom, Mortal Kombat, and all-time smash Sega CD-classic Night Trap.
If lootbox legislation passes, it would be the first game regulation, and could lead to more (and more severe) game regulation. Even things like collectible card games could end up affected directly by such legislation. It’s hard not to talk about it without sounding alarmist, but the possibility is really out there.
We can’t hit every big moment. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds hitting Xbox One is huge. A new Mario and Zelda game hitting in the same year is big news. Microsoft’s decisions to cancel Scalebound and delay Crackdown were certainly notable (and questionable). But these were some of our biggest moments. What did we miss? What moments meant the most to you? Jump into the comments and let us know.