It’s been an eventful year- let’s take a look back at it.
Ours is a very interesting industry. Every year, there are new development, shocking missteps, impressive growths, or things that none of us could have even predicted that, at least for some days throughout the year, is the one things everyone is talking about. 2018 was no different in that regard- to say the least, it has been an eventful year. Here, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most interesting and/or surprising events and news stories that we’ve witnessed in our industry throughout the year, both good and bad, before talking about the one we think takes the cake, for better or for worse.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
There was a healthy amount of skepticism surrounding Fallout 76 prior to its launch, but no one could have predicted the dumpster fire that the game would turn out to be. But not only was the game itself terrible, it seemed everything even remotely related to it was cursed. From issues with the game itself, to high prices for in-game microtransactions, to server issues, to abnormally huge patches that seemed to do nothing, to the duffel bag controversy that implied not only miscommunication on Bethesda’s part, but also something as serious as false advertisement, it’s just been a string of one miserable failure after another for Fallout 76.
SONY ALLOWS CROSS-PLAY
Sony’s infamously stubborn stance on cross-platform play was something they’d been coming under a lot of fire for over the past year or so, which was compounded not only by Nintendo and Microsoft’s decision to enable it on their own systems, but also by Sony’s tone-deaf subsequent responses. But Fortnite came to the rescue, and pretty much forced Sony’s hand, as they brought down the walls to enable cross-play for Epic’s game with all other systems. It was a great step forward not just for PlayStation, but for the entire industry at large.
NO PSX AND E3 FOR SONY
For as long as E3 has existed, Sony has been at a huge presence at the show, to the extent that barring a few years where they missed the mark, they’ve made an artform out of crafting the perfect E3 press conferences. So when they announced that they would be sitting out E3 2019, it came as a shock to the entire industry. It was even more of a shock because previously they’d announced that they wouldn’t be hosting their annual PlayStation Experience event in December of 2018, so expectations surrounding what announcements they were saving for E3 2019 were pretty high. It’s clear by now that they’re gearing up to make huge reveals later on in 2019, but even so, their absence a E3 next year will be keenly felt.
Attempting to cash in on the success Nintendo has enjoyed with their NES and SNES mini-consoles, Sony tried to ride the nostalgia wave with their own PlayStation Classic, a mini-console that comes pre-loaded with twenty games from the original console’s vast and revered library. Sadly, it turned out to be a poor cashgrab more than anything else. The library of 20 games that the system came with was far from representative of the PS1 and its legacy- there were a few good games on it, sure, but the vast majority of it was stuff no one really wanted or asked for. On top of that, the games that it did come with were poorly emulated, while the mini-console itself was sorely lacking not just in extra features, but even in basic things you’d expect from things such as saving options.
BETTER TOGETHER AT THE GAME AWARDS
The very premise of console wars is a little stupid, but they’re a harsh reality of our industry, one that has existed for as long as consoles themselves have been around. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony are looked at as bitter rivals of each other, which is why when Reggie Fils-Aime (head of Nintendo America), Shawn Layden (head of PlayStation) and Phil Spencer (head of Xbox) came together on the same stage at The Game Awards to talk about the strengths of the medium that unites them, and about being stronger together, was such a special moment.
STREAMER BREAKS ANTHEM ALPHA’S NDA
Given Anthem’s nature as a shared-world shooter, BioWare and EA understandably want to hold several playtests for the game, to make sure that the basic infrastructure they’re making for the online experience works as intended when the game released. The alpha for the game held in December was the first of these tests. Players who were selected following registration to be part of the alpha test had to sign a routine NDA that stipulated the painfully obvious- don’t stream footage or share details from the alpha test of a game that is months away from release. Twitch streamer “smokethrone”, however, didn’t seem to think it was that obvious. They attempted to stream gameplay from the alpha, but were booted from the session almost as soon as the stream started, following which their entire Origin library was deleted by EA.
EPIC GAMES STORE
Steam has had a monopoly over PC gaming for so long now, we don’t even stop to think about it. Steam is pretty much synonymous with PC gaming. Epic Games, however, are looking to threaten that monopoly. Armed with the massive fortune they’ve amassed thanks to the ridiculous success of Fortnite, they’ve launched the Epic Games Store, a digital storefront that offers much larger revenue shares to developers than Steam does, and as such might potentially end up attracting more developers and publishers, thus pulling them away from Steam. It’s already started showing signs of that, in fact- the likes of Ashen, Supergiant’s new game Hades, the upcoming PC port of Journey, Super Meat Boy Forever, World War Z, and of course, Epic’s own Fortnite, are all exclusive to the Epic Games Store, some for timed periods, others forever. The struggle between it and Steam is certainly going to be something to keep an eye on.
Blizzard has always been known as a company that understands exactly what its fans want, and continues to deliver on those expectations constantly, so their announcement of Diablo Immortal, and the way they handled it, came as a massive surprise to their huge fanbase. To say nothing of the expectations surrounding a long-overdue Diablo 4 announcement, and the dearth of content that Diablo 3 players have had to endure over the last few years, the plain and simple fact that Blizzard thought it’d be a good idea to place the announcement for a mobile exclusive title in a series that has traditionally been PC oriented at the end of their BlizzCon presentation – a slot that is typically reserved for the biggest and best reveals – spoke volumes about how uncharacteristically out of touch they were here with what their community expected of them.
EA PLAY 2018
E3 is a very exciting time for the industry, when all the best gaming companies gather at a single place to deliver some of the biggest announcements.
Oh, and EA is there also.
Time and time again, EA have miserably failed to deliver even halfway-decent E3 conferences. Their E3 2017 event, for instance, was an absolute disaster, and we didn’t think it could get any worse than that. We were wrong. EA’s E3 2018 conference was a boring, embarrassing show that delivered very little of consequence, and proved to be nothing but a colossal waste of our time.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 WORK HOURS
Over the last few years, there has been an increasing amount of awareness surrounding the issue of game developers being consistently overworked and not paid enough for the effort they put in. One of the most egregious examples of that came to light near the tail-end of the year, when it was revealed that thousands of employees across all nine Rockstar studios hadn’t enjoyed the best working conditions while working on Red Dead Redemption 2. It stared with an innocent quote from Dan Houser, head of the studio, about about 100 hour work weeks, and though he clarified that his statements applied to a select few members of the staff, subsequent exposés brought to light that though working conditions at Rockstar had certainly improved since the days of the first Red Dead Redemption, the studio was still mired in a culture of effectively mandatory overtime.
TELLTALE GAMES CLOSURE
Telltale Games had been around in the industry for a pretty long time, deliver a very particular style of games that a large number of people seemed to enjoy, but once they exploded onto the scene with The Walking Dead in 2012, it seemed like they were on course to becoming one of the industry’s behemoths. Certainly, looking at the sheer number of games they made in the following years, not to mention the massive licenses they picked up along the way, you would be forgiven for thinking that everything was peachy at the studio. Their closure earlier this year – due to mismanagement, among a host of other issues – was a shock for everyone, while subsequent reports about many Telltale staffers having been let go without pay also rocked the industry. On top of that, all of their highly anticipated upcoming projects, from The Wolf Among Us Season 2 to Stranger Things were cancelled, while even The Walking Dead was cut short halfway through its final season (though that, at least, was later picked up for completion by Skybound).
Here comes Insomniac, promising to deliver a high quality AAA Spider-Man game that not only seems to capture everything even the most veteran fans of the property could hope and dream for in a Spidey game, but also goes above and beyond to promise a game that will be an excellent experience in its own right. But people have to complain about something, don’t they? So what do they complain about? Freaking puddles.
Sure, that’s a little reductive, and those puddles were merely the poster boy of complaints surrounding visual downgrades- but it was still ludicrous, because as Insomniac (and the game itself) made abundantly clear, there were no visual downgrades. Out of all the things that we saw in the gaming industry this year, Puddlegate has to be among the most ridiculous.
SHADOW OF WAR REMOVES LOOTBOXES
Shadow of Mordor stirred a fair bit of controversy last year when it launched with microtransactions last year. Microtransactions are rarely ever deemed acceptable in games, but when they’re in full priced single player titles, they become even harder to swallow- especially when they come in the form of lootboxes, which is what happened in Shadow of War. This year, however, over a year after the game’s launch, loot boxes were completely removed from the game. Sure, some might say that they should never have been there to begin with, or that they should have been removed far sooner, but the game at least deserves some credit for removing them entirely, even if it took this long.
METAL GEAR SURVIVE- RENEGADE DEVELOPER
Metal Gear Survive was Konami’s attempt to cash in on a legendary brand after having thoroughly disrespected it in 2015 by not only forcing out a clearly unfinished game, but also treating its creator Hideo Kojima with utter disrespect, before the two parted ways. Fans were, understandably enough, outraged at Survive for many reasons- but it seems it wasn’t just the fans that were outraged. A disgruntled rogue Konami developer working on Survive hid secret messages in the game, where carefully arranged letters on a certain clipboard in the beginning of the game spelled out “KJP Forever”, while calling out figures leading up Survive, such as the director Yota Tsutsumizaki and the producer Yuji Korekado.
PUBG SUES EPIC
In a surprising turn of events earlier this year, PUBG Corp, developers of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, sued Epic Games, claiming that with Fortnite’s battle royale variant, they were infringing on their intellectual property- which is a ridiculous premise to begin with. You don’t see id Software suing anyone who makes a first person shooter, do you? About a month later, it seemed PUBG Corp finally came to their senses, and dropped the lawsuit they had initiated, bringing the bizarre legal battle to a premature end.
AND THE WINNER IS…
EA PLAY 2018
Taking Command and Conquer, a beloved PC strategy series that fans have been hoping to see more of for years, and turning that into a mobile title? Check. Presenting that mobile title through an overly long and not at all entertaining live stage match, accompanied with shoutcasting? Check. Focusing way too much on annual sport titles? Check. Haphazardly talking about games but failing to show any real gameplay footage for them? Check. Bringing out the developers of Anthem on stage for an awkward live interview rather than showing a meaty bit of gameplay, or revealing new details? Check. Harping on and on about “the joys of subscription”? Check. To say that EA’s E3 2018 press conference was an absolute disaster would be one of the biggest understatements of the year. It was so bad that we were left wondering, once again, why EA even bothers holding these events anymore.