Major developments dotted the year but controversy reigned supreme.
It wouldn’t have been a year in gaming without some controversies. After all, you don’t get to be one of the biggest entertainment mediums on the planet without ruffling a few feathers. Let’s take a look at the nominees for Biggest Controversy of 2017.
The Last of Us: Part 2 – Excessive Violence
Anyone who’s played the first game knows that this universe isn’t all hugs and happy feelings. However, it was hard not to be a little uncomfortable when The Last of Us: Part 2 was showcased at Paris Games Week with a woman having her arm broken and another being hanged. The trailer would attract controversy for its portrayal of violence against women but Sony’s Jim Ryan defended it, stating that the game was made by adults “to be played by adults.”
Detroit: Become Human – Domestic Abuse
As if offering a preview of the violence to come with The Last of Us: Part 2, Quantic Dream showcased Detroit: Become Human at the same conference. The demo itself saw a little girl being abused by her father (who can even kill her at one point), the inherent reveal of him killing her mother and Kara’s role to play in all this. Needless to say, it garnered tons of controversy for all kinds of reasons. Of course, creator David Cage defended the scene and really, you can go either way on the whole thing if you really wanted.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 – Pay To Win
Attempting to recap this whole saga of blunders would be even more painful than narrating the prequel trilogy. Basically, EA revealed that Star Cards could be acquired in Star Wars Battlefront 2 through loot boxes. Players were angry over the pay to win implications since loot boxes could be purchased with real money. Changes were made and the EA/Origin Access trial went live. The pay to win problems remained and on top of this, the rate for earning credits and unlocking heroes was far too high. EA made further changes. The backlash continued. EA disabled microtransactions for the time being. In short, this whole controversy capped off a horrible year for EA.
Forza Motorsport 7 – Loot Boxes
It wasn’t so much that Turn 10 Studios’ had implemented microtransactions at launch for Forza Motorsport 7. In fact, it hadn’t, though they could very well come later like with previous games. No, Forza Motorsport 7 drew controversy for its inclusion of loot boxes which could contain cars, cosmetics, race mods. It was still possible to earn cars with enough credits and XP but even that highlighted the VIP Pass changes which no longer conferred permanent double XP for each race or the lack of XP bonuses for higher Drivatar difficulties. The former was thankfully rectified by Turn 10 though the game remains controversial for its loot boxes.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War – Loot Boxes
If the loot box epidemic wasn’t enough, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War revealed that it would package Orc followers and gear in loot boxes. It’s worth noting that you can still level up, find loot and recruit followers by playing the game normally. However, when you reach the end-game Shadow Wars activity – which is the gate way to the true ending, mind you – those high tier followers and gear really become valuable. This further incentivizes either buying loot boxes or pouring hours of grinding into the game. And if gear and followers are abundant enough, why have loot boxes at all? It also doesn’t help that the Shadow Wars portion is monotonous as hell.
Visceral Games Shut Down
Electronic Arts hasn’t exactly had the best year but it did have some intriguing releases to look forward to, like Visceral Games’ untitled Star Wars title. With Uncharted series director and writer Amy Hennig at the helm, what could go wrong? As it turns out, everything as the announcement was made of the project being shifting to another EA studio and Visceral Games’ closure. Though many assumed that the shift was done to make it more of a “games as a service” title, reports from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier indicated that the game has had development problems for a while now. Either way, Visceral Games was no more and it sucked.
Mass Effect Andromeda’s Development Issues
Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware Montreal’s first full-fledged video game, was another EA disaster. Upon release, Andromeda was soundly mocked for its story-telling, glitches, quest design, world design, performance issues, awful multiplayer balancing and much, much more. However, once again thanks to Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, reports began to surface of development troubles. Along with problems working with Frostbite, the studio didn’t have a clear direction or premise. The game itself was put together within 19 months at best and unfortunately, it showed. Bioware Montreal is now more or less a skeleton studio while the Mass Effect franchise is on the back-burner.
Persona 5 Streaming Controversy
What’s the best way to avoid spoilers leaking for your huge new role playing game (which has been available in Japan for a while anyway)? Why, lay out guidelines for streamers and YouTubers to follow. If they fail to follow this, issue content strikes. This was the approach that Atlus took to avoid spoilers for Persona 5’s story being leaked. Needless to say, it backfired tremendously.
Sony’s Approach to Cross Play
We’ve been hearing about cross platform play for a while now especially as Microsoft announced its initiative for cross-play through Xbox Live. These goals would slowly become reality as cross-play with mobile, Nintendo Switch and Xbox users was announced for Minecraft. Sony wasn’t too interested to join the party and made several remarks disparaging the concept…despite having cross platform play with Rocket League on the PS4 and PC. While Sony haven’t backed down on the same, not going with cross-play hasn’t exactly harmed their bottom line either. It is what it is.
PUBG Dev Not Happy With Fortnite: Battle Royale
Imagine a relationship between Epic Games and Bluehole Studio, the latter having developed the monstrously successful PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Bluehole licensed Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games. Suddenly, Epic comes out with Fortnite: Battle Royale, it’s own spin on the genre and references PUBG in the marketing. Suffice to say, Bluehole wasn’t happy about the similarities. While it didn’t pursue any legal action, citing that it doesn’t mind other companies trying their own versions of Battle Royale, it’s certainly a little too protective of a concept that’s not wholly its own.
Winner: Star Wars Battlefront 2 – Pay to Win
The fact that EA shoehorned microtransactions into Star Wars Battlefront 2 to provide players with advantages in multiplayer was bad enough. The fact that the credit costs for heroes was so high because of a “sense of pride and accomplishment” was simply awe-inspiring in its lack of thought. However, the backlash continued after the microtransactions were removed because gating any kind of competitive progress behind loot boxes is preposterous. There’s also the fact that for all this talk of triple A games becoming more expensive to produce, Star Wars Battlefront 2 still had a number of problems. The single-player campaign was woefully short and awful, multiplayer was buggy and so many things – from hero battles to maps – needed more work.
Still, seeing this kind of sweeping change and pushback against loot boxes was simply unprecedented for the industry and a warning sign for numerous publishers. To that end, Star Wars Battlefront 2 and its pay to win trappings is the Biggest Controversy of 2017.
Note: GamingBolt’s Game of the Year categories, nominations and awards are selected via an internal nomination, voting and debate process. You can check the rest of categories and the respective winners here.