This isn’t the first time we’re saying this, and it definitely won’t be the last- 2018 has been a stellar year for video games. After 2017, many expected that this year would be more of a breather as the console generation gathered itself and geared up for its final, frenetic stretch, but it’s just kept on going. We’ve been treated to a great many landmark releases, the indie industry is stronger than ever before, while VR has also started to show its true potential.
But while things have been getting better on a lot of fronts, there are some ways that the industry either hasn’t taken enough steps forward, or seems to have stagnated, at least for now. In this feature, we’ll take a look at fifteen such examples in 2018 from across the industry that, in spite of all the good stuff, have stuck out like a sore thumb.
Let’s get started.
Over the past few years, the industry has been adopting the trend of not announcing games too early. And though announcements of games that are only months away from launch have become more and more common these days, there are still instances of games that are announced way too early, or of games that have been announced for a long time, and yet, even with no confirmed release date in sight, continue to be hyped up by publishers. 2018 saw games such as Cyberpunk 2077, The Last of Us Part 2, and Death Stranding all being hyped up by their respective publishers, in spite of all of them being without any confirmed release dates, while the likes of The Elder Scrolls 6, Starfield, and Halo Infinite were also announced, with their launch dates presumably being years away from now.
The mobile industry has grown rapidly over the last decade or so, and while the once commonly held fear that it would somehow encroach on traditional gaming has died down, it still remains a popular and profitable venture among developers. This year, we saw many publishers and developers taking this route, with the two most high profile examples also being the ones that hurt the most. Command and Conquer Rivals and Diablo Immortal were both announced as mobile exclusive titles this year, and both belong to franchises that have traditionally catered to a hardcore PC audience.
Episodic releases of games have always been a bit of a sore spot for most audiences. Hitman (2016) saw a fair amount of criticism for adopting this approach in spite of being a great game, while Square Enix’s initial plans for releasing Final Fantasy 7 Remake as an episodic title were also met with backlash. This year, developers took that a step farther, and decided to make even DLCs episodic. Spider-Man, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Battlefield 5 are just a few of the most high profile examples of games that chose to stagger their DLCs as episodic releases, and though it’s easy to see why that was done – so that the games could keep their players engaged for a longer time, mostly – it’s still something that can a bit annoying, especially when the individual episodes of DLC themselves prove to be not that meaty.
AGGRESSIVE PRICING FOR DLCs
“How to price DLCs” is a question that has plagued publishers for the longest time, but unfortunately, 2018 saw them getting no closer to that answer. A few publishers’ pricing for DLCs this year has been more egregious than all others. Forsaken launched for Destiny 2, for instance, can only be played if you’ve completed both previous DLCs, both of which collectively cost nearly $40, with Forsaken itself launching for $40 by itself. Sure, things such as the Annual Pass and price cuts made things a bit easier to swallow, but it’s worth remembering that of those three DLCs, Forsaken is the only one that’s worth any money, with the other two being sour disappointments. Then there’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which will get five pieces of DLC across the beginning of 2019, for which Nintendo has announced that the price will be a collective $25. That’s $25 for five fighters- and sure, you get music tracks and five new stages with that as well, but that’s still not enough to warrant that high DLC price.
LEAKED ANNOUNCEMENTS RUINING SURPRISES
Walmart Canada? Walmart Canada.
Just Cause 4. RAGE 2. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Gears 5. Forza Horizon 4. Lego DC Super-Villains. These are just a few of the most high profile games that were leaked prior to their official announcements this year. And it’s not even like they were released months or years before- these leaks came very close to their announcements, which meant that all they essentially did was ruin the surprise. There was no other value to them.
2018 saw massive growth over 2017 with regards to microtransactions, to be fair. While last year we had aggressively anti-consumer monetization in games such as Forza Motorsport 7, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, NBA 2K18, and, of course, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, this years things were a lot calmer. And though there’s solace to be taken in the fact that we’re headed in the right direction, we’re never ones to shy away from complaining about microtransactions. The likes of NBA Live 19, NBA 2K19, FIFA 19, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey all came under fire for their use of microtransactions, while it has also been confirmed that upcoming 2019 titles such as Trials: Rising and Devil May Cry 5 are both going to have microtransactions as well. 2018 has been a bit of a step forward, so let’s hope the industry continues in this direction next year.
NINTENDO SWITCH ONLINE
Man, Nintendo just doesn’t get online, does it? After fumbling with their online service for years on end, they launched the Switch with very barebones online features, until finally, in the final months of 2018, they launched their own paid online service, Nintendo Switch Online. The issue is that it kinda sucks. Cloud saves, for instance, are not enabled on all Switch games (like Pokemon Let’s Go, for example), and where the likes of Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus offer free games to subscribers every month, Nintendo Switch offers a growing catalog of NES titles. And sure, there’s some value to that, but it’s just not enough- and it’s no Virtual Console. There’s also the fact that as far as Nintendo games are concerned, they almost always have online functionality that is decent at best and atrocious at worst (both Pokemon Let’s Go and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate have had bad online so far), so it’s not like the service we’re paying for is being properly used anyway.
SPECIAL EDITION EARLY ACCESS
This is something that has become more and more prevalent as time has gone by, and in 2018, it’s more common than ever before. Basically, publishers tell you to shell out extra money to pre-order the game’s costlier special edition, and in exchange, you get to play the full game a few days before everyone who’s buying the normal version of the game. Battlefield 5, FIFA 19, Hitman 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are just some of the games in 2018 that have adopted such a practice. It’s scummy, because if the game is ready to be played, there’s no reason to hold it back from those who’re not paying more money. You want more money, publishers? Give us extra goodies in those special editions, rather than holding back the release of a game when clearly it’s in completely finished stage and can be played by players.
METAL GEAR SURVIVE
It had become pretty clear that the Metal Gear franchise would never be the same again after Hideo Kojima left Konami- it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. But no one could have predicted that Konami would waste no time in butchering it the way they did with Metal Gear Survive this year. Well, maybe we could have predicted it, but just didn’t want to believe that it’d actually happen. Metal Gear Survive is an unorigoinal, boring, and grindy game that is nothing at all like what we expect to see from this series. It actually brings shame to the Metal Gear moniker, and it’s shocking that Konami thought it would be a good idea to cash in on the series’ name with… whatever the hell this was.
In one fell swoop, Bethesda lost about half the goodwill they’d accrued with so much hard work over the past few years. Seen as a purveyor of single player titles, developers of massive and immersive games, and a very consumer-friendly company until very recently, suddenly they’re misguided, tone-deaf, and some might even say flat-out anti-consumer. How? It took just one game- Fallout 76. But looking at how bad Fallout 76 is, it’s not all that surprising. Because really, that’s how bad it is. It’s not just disappointing. To call it a disappointment would be to call a mountain an anthill. Fallout 76 is, plain and simple, a bad game- one of the very worst of 2018, in fact.
THAT FREAKING FALLOUT 76 BAG
Everything that has touched Fallout 76 since its launch has been a dumpster fire. Prior to its launch, Bethesda announced a $200 Power Armor Edition for the game, which would include collectibles such as a Power Armor helmet, and what was clearly advertised as a bag made from canvas material. When this was shipped, consumers weren’t happy to find out that he bag was instead made of cheap nylon. In an effort to placate fans, Bethesda offered those who purchased the edition 500 in-game Atoms, which is roughly $5. After a series of what Bethesda quickly labeled as communication errors from merely a contracted party rather than an actual employee, the publisher stated that they had to switch to nylon production due to a shortage of canvas material. After even more backlash, there was coincidentally a windfall of canvas in the world, and Bethesda could start production of the canvas bags again, promising consumers that their nylon bags would be replaced. Only, when consumers sent in their receipts to Bethesda for said replacements, their private information somehow got leaked publicly.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to just make a canvas bag to begin with, Bethesda?
TELLTALE GAMES CLOSURE
Telltale Games had been huge in the industry for many, many years. Ever since they launched the first season of their episodic graphic adventure adaptation of The Walking Dead, they were showing no signs of slowing down, acquiring one licenses for major property after another, outputting games at an alarming rate. Sadly, it turned out they bit off more than they could chew, and due to poor management, the company shut down under a dark cloud of controversy. It’s really sad, because not only has Telltale made some great games in the past, but also because recent titles such as Batman: The Enemy Within had been excellent, while they had games such as The Wolf Among Us: Season 2 and Stranger Things coming out. The Walking Dead’s final season was also cut off halfway through due to their closure (though thankfully it will be finished by Skybound).
Patches have become a reality of our industry that we’ve all come to accept by now, and for the most part, they’re actually a great thing. Thanks to patches, games that are released with bugs, both big and small, don’t have to remain broken forever, and even the seemingly most unsalvageable titles can be redeemed with continuous updates. That said, in 2018 we saw the sizes of patches increasing beyond the acceptable level. Just as an example, Fallout 76 received two patches back to back that was each bigger than the base game itself, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 also received a similarly gargantuan patch at launch.
HUGE INSTAL SIZES
Much for the same reasons as massive patches, huge instal sizes for games can also be pretty annoying, and they’ve never been as large as they were for games in 2018. We’re not even talking about the ridiculous storage space that the Xbox One X enhancements of several older games required- no, even if we only look at new releases this year, there have still been enough examples. Both the aforementioned Fallout 76 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, for instance, required massive downloads at launch for players to be able to play thanks to their huge day one patches. Then there was Red Dead Redemption 2, which even without patches was a nearly 90 GB game.
LIVE ACTION TRAILERS FOR GAMES
When you’re watching a trailer for a game, you expect to see gameplay, or, at the very least, in-engine footage. Live action trailers for games have no meaning, and no value beyond occasionally being entertaining on rare occasions, because they’re not representative of what the product that they’re advertising will be like. This is something that has been an issue in this industry for a long time, and though it’s not nearly as much of an issue these days as it has been in the past, major releases like Just Cause 4 and, surprise, Fallout 76 still chose to pull this stunt.