2017 has been such an incredible year for games and the industry- this is the year that the PS4 solidified its utter domination of the market, with a fourth year of sales growth, and an enviable slate of exclusives that widened its lead over the competition beyond all doubt; this was the year that Xbox struck back with the Xbox One X, the world’s most powerful console ever, which galvanized its fanbase, and had a very strong start; and this was the year that a resurgent Nintendo struck back with the Switch, its brand new system that managed to post astonishing numbers and commercial numbers beyond all expectation, and with a relentless stream of high quality industry-defining games the likes of which have not been seen since the N64 days.
So, yes, it was a fantastic year all around- it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you play on, by the end of 2017, you probably came away feeling pretty good about your platform of choice. And yet, even in a year as competitive and crowded as this, there is no doubt that one company managed to stand out over the other two- we’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to acknowledge how well the other two did, too.
"It was a fantastic year all around- it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you play on, by the end of 2017, you probably came away feeling pretty good about your platform of choice."
A large part of this year didn’t actually go all that well for Xbox- Microsoft started on the wrong foot by cancelling Scalebound earlier this year, and a very large part of the year has been marked by dreary, slowing sales for the Xbox (they slipped into third place on a monthly basis worldwide), and an utter paucity of exclusives. Their few major exclusives for the end of the year suffered a major blow when Crackdown 3 was delayed into 2018, and Forza Motorsport 7 found itself caught in the middle of a controversy because of its microtransactions and loot boxes. Honestly, I have said enough about Microsoft’s poor slate of games this year that I don’t want to retread old ground.
Things, however, did start to turn around for Xbox with the launch of Cuphead, the long awaited console exclusive action platformer that turned out to be every bit as utterly fantastic as the long wait would indicate, and which gave the Xbox the first major exclusive it got in its arsenal against the competition in a very long time. Followed by the launch of the Xbox One X, the world’s most powerful console ever, and an utterly fantastic work of engineering, as well as one that found great success upon launch (it propelled the Xbox One to second place in November during the all important Holiday shopping season in North America), and it’s clear Microsoft, while mostly fumbling for the year, managed to end things on a high note. The release of the console port of PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, exclusive to Xbox One, was another feather in their cap- though the quality of the port is hugely questionable, the game is off to a roaring start, with a million players already on Xbox.
"Things, however, did start to turn around for Xbox with the launch of Cuphead, the long awaited console exclusive action platformer that turned out to be every bit as utterly fantastic as the long wait would indicate."
Xbox, then, did well this year- but it largely could not keep up with the PS4, which unleashed a relentless onslaught of savvy moves that cemented its domination of the market beyond any reasonable doubt. The PS4 has had a hell of a year- its sales are highest this year than they have ever been any other yea, and this is a console in its fourth year on the market. This was accompanied by a resurgence for the PlayStation VR, which launched to muted reception last year, but started to find a wider audience this year.
But the PS4’s true victory this year was in the utterly flabbergastingly fantastic exclusives lineup it had this year- Yakuza 0, Tales of Berseria, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD, Gran Turismo Sport, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, Nioh, NieR Automata, Persona 5, and Horizon: Zero Dawn were all absolutely great games, that, if you are a console player, were only available on the PS4. Some of those games- Horizon, NieR, Persona– are, in fact, among the highest rated and most successful games of not just this year, but this generation. It was a stunningly strong showing, as Sony’s cultivated audience of international gamers and developers coincided to deliver a year unlike anything that a console has seen this generation so far.
And yet, as strong as Sony’s showing was, it, too ultimately plays second fiddle- because the true winner of 2017 was neither Microsoft nor Sony. It was Nintendo.
"The PS4 unleashed a relentless onslaught of savvy moves that cemented its domination of the market beyond any reasonable doubt."
It is amazing how much Nintendo managed to do in 12 months- at the beginning of the year, they were a largely irrelevant non-factor in the market, with the Switch widely expected to fail (especially after the price was announced), and the company expected to go third party in the near future. Not only did that not happen, but the Switch became Nintendo’s fastest selling device of all time. In fact, with 10 million units sold in nine months, the Switch is currently keeping pace with the PS4’s sales, launch aligned- without having a full Holiday season under its belt at that. The Switch has routinely been the top selling system worldwide since its launched on a monthly basis multiple times, it has been ranked as the top gadget of the year by prominent outlets such as TIME in a year that saw the launch of gadgets like the iPhone X, Xbox One X, and Samsung Galaxy S8, has seen fantastic marketing, and seen widescale adoption by third parties (including indie developers, Japanese developers, and AAA western publishers like Rockstar and Bethesda), who seem to be more enthusiastic about the Nintendo Switch than they have been for a Nintendo system in a very long time.
But all of that takes a backseat to the onslaught of fantastic games Nintendo launched this year- on the Switch, we got Pokken Tournament DX, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, not to mention Super Mario Odyssey and the world-changing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, two 10/10 games in the same year! And that’s not counting the 3DS, which saw Fire Emblem Echoes, Metroid: Samus Returns, Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World, and Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon– that’s a stunning lineup of games put out by one company in the span of twelve months, a company that not only single handedly managed to make the Switch as big of a success as it was, but also kept the 3DS relevant and successful in its seventh year.
"Nintendo utterly dominated the zeitgeist this year, they dominated mainstream consciousness and conversation, and, against all odds, they managed to rise above everyone else this year, including the attempted comeback of the Xbox, an the further domination of the PlayStation 4, to become the trending topic in gaming all year long, all by themselves. On the back of nothing but their fantastic games, and desirable hardware."
All of this doesn’t even go into all the other great things Nintendo did in 2017- their embracing of policies like cross platform play; their launch of the SNES Classic Mini, the New Nintendo 2DS XL, and of several mobile games, all of which ended up doing very well for them; the sheer amount of Game of the Year awards that Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey look set to win; their incredible E3 showing this year, which saw the announcement of games as fabled as Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon on Switch. Nintendo utterly dominated the zeitgeist this year, they dominated mainstream consciousness and conversation, and, against all odds, they managed to rise above everyone else this year, including the attempted comeback of the Xbox, an the further domination of the PlayStation 4, to become the trending topic in gaming all year long, all by themselves. On the back of nothing but their fantastic games, and desirable hardware.
That is commendable. 2017 was truly a great year, and it will go down in history as one of the best years for gaming of all time- and it was a year that Nintendo dominated. No matter what console you like, 2017 was good for you- PS4 and Xbox One both did really well. But above all, 2017 will go down as the Year of Nintendo, when all is said and done.