Letters From the Console Warfront: 2014

While we certainly already covered much of this past year in the last , considering that the majority of both the PS4 and Xbox One’s life spans thus far have taken place in 2014, but there’s still plenty of discussion to be had about the games themselves that came out this year. So without further ado, let’s go over the major trends and happening over this past year, in the hope that the future will learn from its mistake or whatever. There were many fruits and juices that blended together to make the stale smoothie that was 2014, here’s what the juice shop delivered:

Smoothies - TRAVIS - 1

Flavor 1: Bitter Disappointment

Bitter Fruit - TRAVIS - 1

This year began with a number of large, innovative, and exciting new IPs on the horizon that seemed like they would beckon a new era of design, taking full advantage of the new hardware. There’s always a period of time at the beginning of a console generation when publishers attempt to fill the vacuum with new ideas in an attempt to show off the new hardware. Last generation, this was the period of time that brought us Assassin’s Creed, Dead Space, and Mirror’s Edge.

Now all of those games (save for Dead Space perhaps) were mildly disappointing and weren’t ultimately the top examples of the generation’s array of games. And in the case of both Dead Space and Assassin’s Creed, were ultimately improved upon by their sequels. Now that season also saw the release of the incredible Bioshock and Mass Effect. This year, we saw our equivalent of the first three games, which from my perspective is Titanfall, Destiny, and Watch_Dogs, but no equivalences to the second two.

And that’s not to say that those games are bad; I hear Titanfall is quite fun and I had enjoyed myself quite a bit with Destiny for a while. What I’m saying is that all three games were expected to change the course of games, to be far, far bigger and impactful than they ended up being. Critically, they were middling, and while sales were generally high, it’s likely that we won’t see a truly successful entry in any three series until sequels begin to get made. Who knows, maybe we’ll like Watch_Dogs 2 as much as we liked Assassin’s Creed 2.

Flavor 2: Rehashed and Revisited

Smoothies - TRAVIS - 2

Of course, we did get some great games this year. Far Cry 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U were all a hoot. But the problem there is that these are all sequels. While I suppose there will always be a place for sequels, since certain game series fulfill specific needs, but it’s strange that we seem to be inundated by them.

That could be a natural occurrence, however, since I’m assuming that the consoles have created far larger pools of ready consumers at this point than anyone expected, and most publishers planned their portfolios defensively. The rabid success of the consoles has surely changed the release horizon substantially, and we’re already seeing some interesting stuff coming in the future.

GIVE

GIVE

But even still, this has been a tough year for new ideas. Just look at the major bundles sold this Black Friday. The Xbox One came with two Assassin’s Creed games and the PS4 was even more nefarious with two rereleases of last gen games included. Is this really the best we have?

Flavor 3: Rotten on Arrival

Rotten Fruit - TRAVIS - 1

While the above flavors may seem negative, they’re joyful compared to the following trend: major publishers releasing broken, glitched, and faulty products with the vague promise of later patches. Here’s the deal: this year we saw Assassin’s Creed Unity, The Master Chief Collection, and Drive Club all launch with multiplayer functionality and some major elements of their singleplayer experiences in various states of disrepair.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened in short succession, as I’m sure we all still have painful memories from the faceplant releases of Diablo 3 and SimCity not too long ago. But those were isolated instances where we now have a tidal wave, and it seems that companies are all too willing to release products to us without proper testing, server architecture, and bug fixing. We shouldn’t have to wait weeks for our $60 purchases to work properly.

Flavor 4: The Nintendo Surprise

Iwata - TRAVIS - 1

On a warmer note, this has been a surprisingly good year for Nintendo games. While the 3DS wasn’t quite the monster is was last year, we did see a number of high quality games on the Wii U. Mario Kart 8, while a predictable success, but a success nonetheless, and we now have the awesome Bayonetta 2 and the infinitely enjoyable Super Smash Bros. to further justify the existence of that struggling machine.

And the news gets better, as we still have all of the ground-shaking games from their legendary E3 direct this year to look forward to, and if the latest footage of the newest Zelda game is any sign of its release quality, that’ll be quite a brilliant game as well. Sure, quality on the Wii U comes in short patches with long voids inbetween. I would say they haven’t seen consistent quality release schedules on their home consoles since the SNES.

Followed by the drought of '96

Followed by the drought of ’96

And the great thing is that those games have all released in working order with a high level of polish that makes some PS4 and XBone titles look shoddy in comparison. Nintendo may still be fighting an uphill battle in getting their console to prominence, but it’s an uphill battle they seem to be winning, much to the surprise of everyone.

Of course there’s still plenty we could discuss, but these are, from my perspective at least, the major trends that will define 2014 in games. In general, it wasn’t a fantastic year, but certainly not the worst. Curious what my favorite games were? I’d have to say it’s a toss up between Bravely Default and Super Smash Bros., but there’s still a few titles from the year that I have yet to try. What are your thoughts on 2014? Was it a better year than I give it credit for? Let me know in the comments below!

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One Comment:

  1. It was a good year if you have all the platforms. Not such a good year if you have only one or two of them. The problem is that some of these platforms (PC, Xbox and PS4) are redundant in technology – it feels like you should be able to buy a digital license for a cross-platform game (like Ubisoft and EA’s releases) and then download it on each of these platforms, rather than buy it again. The versions are essentially identical, with the PC versions often kept in line with the console ones to reach parity. So that sounds like a crazy idea, I know, but it’s a trend in other areas of our entertainment, like movies and UltraViolet or being able to “throw” the content of your tablet to your TV screen.

    I also think game discs could be made cross-platform. It used to be that with PC software it would include installers for both Windows and Mac and you could insert it into either one, even when they were using different architecture. That said, Nintendo offers a definite difference in hardware with their systems and it’s much less reasonable to expect cross-platform licenses with their systems.

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