The video game industry grew again in 2017, and fueling this growth was another great year for gamers, game-makers and the curious public. In this two-part look at 2017 in gaming, I’ll focus on the noteworthy and the notorious from the past year.
In part one, I looked at the platforms gamers use to play and cheer on others. For part two, I’ll take a look at the great games that were released throughout 2017, and what will keep gamers busy through 2018 and beyond.
Game(s) of the Year
The Game Awards recently crowned The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as Game of the Year, a title handed out by hundreds of websites, magazines, vloggers and Twitter users. While there is no universal declaration of the year’s best game, The Game Awards is the closest thing to the Oscars for video games. While I won’t declare a Game of the Year, I will admit that Breath of the Wild, a Nintendo console exclusive, was my favourite game this year – reinventing a 30-year-old action-adventure franchise with new ideas and some seriously great ingenuity. Other great games this year (which have also received “Game of the Year” honours from others) include visually-stunning PlayStation 4 action-adventure Horizon: Zero Dawn, classic animation inspired (and incredibly difficult) action platformer Cuphead, supernatural Japanese role playing game Persona 5, beautiful 3D platformer Super Mario Odyssey and the genre-bending Nier: Automata.
PC games also took their time in the limelight in 2017. This year brought us Divinity: Original Sin 2, probably the most enjoyable local co-op gaming experience I’ve ever had, a nearly-perfect role playing game where you can solve any problem with almost any solution. One of the most interesting aspects of this years’ best games were their exclusivity – most are only available on one or two platforms, be it PS4, PC or Nintendo’s Wii U or Switch (sorry Xbox One, there’s no such thing as an exclusive for you anymore since all your games are also available on PC). It’s hard to say what games will be the best of the year in 2018, but look for hotly-anticipated titles including Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War, Sea of Thieves, a new Yoshi title and maybe even Kingdom Hearts III.
Ports and Portability
As a way to fill release schedules and also bring games to a new audience, ports are older games upgraded and transferred over to play on new systems. One of the most ported games of the decade is Skyrim, an action-role playing game released this year on VR and the Switch. Some of this year’s best ports bring already-great games to new systems, including LA Noire, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Smartphones also benefit from great ports of classics (spanning Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series and many of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog hits), but especially focus on the portability of the platform for quick hits of gameplay and unique experiences. In 2018, look for more enhanced ports of classic games (like Shadow of the Colossus) to draw just as much attention as new titles, while smartphones (and especially the Nintendo Switch), offer greater opportunity for high quality on-the-go gaming.
As I touched on in Part One, some of the biggest games out there operate as services and platforms on their own. These include massive multiplayer games like League of Legends, Final Fantasy XIV and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. None of these are new games, but every year, they draw millions of dollars in revenue in slight upgrades, new items and more through micro-transactions. Two big titles from 2017 drew considerable ire from gamers with their cash-grabbing antics, essentially requiring people to pay for the full price of a game ($80 in Canada, most of the time), plus a lot more to get access to everything, from characters to downloadable content. These are Destiny 2, which released a downloadable pack that locked away existing content that players originally had, and Star Wars Battlefront II, which essentially required gamers to play hundreds of hours or pay a fortune just to unlock certain characters (of course everyone wanted to play as unlockable Darth Vader). Needless to say, players were not impressed and companies behind both games backtracked – but the challenges with games-as-a-service are present, since the cost of upkeep can’t be met by game sales on their won. In 2018, expect new games-as-a-service games to arrive, but offering more clear and upfront intentions (usually when you see “free-to-play,” expect to still have to pay something). Big games in this sub-genre next year include Anthem and stable releases of PlayerUnknown’s Battlerounds.
Independent game developers, publishers and studios have found growing success in the last decade with access to all major consoles, smartphones and PC gaming. Indie games are usually made on smaller budgets, by fewer people and without the marketing might of some of gaming’s biggest companies like EA, Ubisoft and Bethesda. This year brought Cuphead, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Get Over It, among many, many others. Each of these games are wildly different, from frantic action games to bizarre, sparsely animated experiments and everything in between. Indie developers are able to make unique experiences without the trappings of corporate expectations or meddling, which can lead to big success just as easily as drowning under the many other options in each platform’s online store. Most indies aren’t announced far in advance like games from big developers, but in 2018, look for fun and interesting experiences, along with games and ideas you’ve never thought of, to show up in one place or another.
A lot of amazing games came out in 2017, far too many to mention here. If you’re new to gaming, then this is a great year to see what different genres have to offer. If you’re a lifelong gamer like me, then you can appreciate the depth and variety of the new worlds that await in every game. Look for more hot takes on gaming throughout 2018!