2016 is coming to a close- it’s been an eventful year for gaming. This was the year that we had three new VR headset launches. This was the year we learned about the next wave of gaming consoles, from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo (and the year that one of them even launched). This was the year where a whole lot of big budget games released and, in a dramatic break from tradition, didn’t disappoint- the year of Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, Uncharted 4, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, and DOOM all actually living up to the hype. This was the year when Overwatch exploded on to the scene. The year when long awaited games such as The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy 15 actually truly released. The year of Pokemon, with Nintendo celebrating the franchise’s 20th anniversary, releasing Pokemon GO for smartphones, causing a second explosion of popularity for the series, and then capping it all off with Pokemon Sun/Moon for Nintendo 3DS.
At the same time, this was also a year of mistakes- disappointing games like No Man’s Sky and Street Fighter 5, from Nintendo’s poor handling of the NES Classic Mini, from delays into next year, and so much missed potential. Like with everything else, games in 2016 had the good, the bad, and the ugly sides- and while we are mostly going to be celebrating the good here, with this editorial, we will also point out some mistakes made, in the hopes that going into 2017, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft refrain from repeating these mistakes.
"Like with everything else, games in 2016 had the good, the bad, and the ugly sides."
GOOD: THE GAMES
Sony may have seen the delay of Horizon: Zero Dawn and Gran Turismo Sport into next year, but the games they did manage to get out this year were exemplary nonetheless. They started the year by releasing two back to back, great exclusives for the PS4- Ratchet and Clank, a reimagining of the original PS2 classic that started it all, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the conclusion to the Uncharted saga, and possibly one of the best games of the year. Things got a bit dry there for a while after that, but right around the end of the year, Sony rallied by releasing another great exclusive- the improbably good The Last Guardian, which somehow managed to get through a very troubled development and deliver a touching, moving, impactful experience. If Sony can maintain this kind of quality of games with their lineup of exclusives for next year, then the PS4 will truly be unbeatable in the market.
GOOD: PLAYSTATION VR
While Sony introduced a lot of new hardware in 2016, the PlayStation VR is probably their best- it is the one with the least amount of flaws, the one with the best singular focus, and the one with the best execution of its core idea. The PlayStation VR manages to deliver a high end, compelling VR experience to you, at the low price of $399- and all you need is a PS4 system to run it, rather than the high end PCs that Oculus and Vive mandate. If you have a PS4 Pro, the PSVR becomes even better. While the games lineup for the device isn’t terribly compelling yet, it’s early days- and with games like Resident Evil 7, Ace Combat 7, and Gran Turismo Sport on the horizon, that could change yet.
"Sony may have seen the delay of Horizon: Zero Dawn and Gran Turismo Sport into next year, but the games they did manage to get out this year were exemplary nonetheless."
NOT SO GOOD: THEIR MESSAGING OF THE PS4 PRO
The PS4 Pro is actually a pretty good machine for what it does- it’s a powerful system (the most powerful console on the market right now), and it runs existing PS4 games better. So marketing this thing should be easy, but Sony have consistently fumbled the ball. They associate the system with 4K, when it lacks true native 4K capability for most games, and lacks a UHD drive to play physical 4K media. They associate it with HDR, and HDR is available on all PS4 systems on the market, not just the Pro ones. Even their assertion that the PS4 Pro plays PS4 games better doesn’t always hold true, as the countless reports of PS4 Pro versions of games running worse (before they are patched anyway) can testify to. The PS4 Pro is not a bad machine at all- but you wouldn’t know it from the way Sony has handled it.
GOOD: XBOX ONE S
The original Xbox One is an inelegant, bulky system that is thoroughly visually unappealing. So the best decision Microsoft made was jettisoning it and replacing it with the sleek, elegant, gorgeous, and svelte Xbox One S, which probably holds the mantle of the greatest mid cycle console revision ever. It’s smaller, quieter, gorgeous looking, comes with a UHD Blu Ray drive, is HDR compatible, and actually is a little bit more powerful than standard Xbox One systems too. The Xbox One S sort of does away with the bad juju surrounding the Xbox One- that’s why Microsoft saw their sales go up as sharply as they did right after its launch. Because now, the brand was associated with a thoroughly appealing product again.
GOOD: XBOX ANYWHERE
Xbox Anywhere is probably the most ambitious Cross Buy system ever in the history of the medium, and is right on par with Microsoft’s backwards compatibility initiative for the Xbox 360 as a powerful move that can win them goodwill. Essentially, all Microsoft games now come on PC and Xbox One, and buying one version gets you the other, with in built cross save and cross platform play functionality embedded into them, too. There are some who would argue that putting all your exclusives on the PC makes the console irrelevant- but given that Microsoft have seen Xbox One S sales rise after this initiative kicked off, and that eventually, we will move into a world where games are device agnostic, I’d say that those arguments don’t necessarily hold water.
"The best decision Microsoft made was jettisoning it and replacing it with the sleek, elegant, gorgeous, and svelte Xbox One S, which probably holds the mantle of the greatest mid cycle console revision ever."
BAD: GAMES THAT MISSED
Microsoft’s game output has definitely suffered this generation in comparison to the previous one, but even as they have tried to fix things, by diversifying their games and investing in new IP, they have had misfires. Microsoft’s biggest hits this year were Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3, and those were awesome, but on the other hand, their new IP fell flat on its face. Quantum Break turned out to be an overhyped, shallow shooter, and ReCore just couldn’t pull all its pieces together to make a good game. Going forward, let’s hope that new IP that Microsoft plans on launching – including Rare’s Sea of Thieves and Platinum’s Scalebound – fares better.
GOOD: NINTENDO SWITCH
We all were getting frustrated with how Nintendo were handling the NX, but it turns out they knew what they were doing. A quick reveal of the system and its concept back in October, where they managed to communicate what the system is and what it does with startling clarity was all that we needed. The Switch has a clear brand identity, a clear purpose, a clear selling point, and it manages to convey all of this remarkably well. It looks to be the most promising system Nintendo have made ever since the Gamecube, and we can’t wait to see where Nintendo take it from here- and all the credit must go to how well they have handled its reveal so far.
GOOD: NINTENDO 3DS
The 3DS is in its sixth year, and potentially due to be phased out in favor of the Switch next year, but you wouldn’t know it from the lineup of games it had this year. While we had some great third party efforts, such as Monster Hunter Generations, Yokai Watch 2, Dragon Quest 7, and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Nintendo’s own lineup on the system was stellar, too. Fire Emblem Fates kicked off the year in style, and Nintendo capped it all off with Pokemon Sun/Moon, which might be the best games in the series yet. All of this, and there are many more games to come- a new Pikmin, Super Mario Maker, Yoshi’s Woolly World, and more to come. We don’t know when the 3DS will be retired, but if it is any time soon, it will have had some of the best end of life support a Nintendo system has enjoyed since the original NES.
"The Switch has a clear brand identity, a clear purpose, a clear selling point, and it manages to convey all of this remarkably well."
BAD: SO MANY TERRIBLE GAMES
Nintendo are the best game developers in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from their lineup this year, especially on the Wii U. While Pokken and Twilight Princess HD were great, and the Atlus collaboration that resulted in Tokyo Mirage Sessions was alright, too, most of Nintendo’s own games this year were puzzlingly bad- Star Fox Zero on the Wii U was possibly the worst game that the series, which is full of bad games, has had so far, while Metroid Prime Federation Force was a far cry from what fans of the franchise had been asking for. Paper Mario Color Splash wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but again, it missed the point of what Nintendo fans want from the series completely. Even Mario Maker on 3DS is a puzzlingly limited product that misses the point of the Wii U original. The hope here is that these bad games are a symptom of most of Nintendo’s development having moved on to the Switch, leading to some quick, low tier efforts being put out on Wii U and to a lesser extent 3DS. Hopefully, Nintendo games can go back to being synonymous with excellence like they used to next year.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.