2016 was a great year for gaming for a variety of reasons. We saw some solid efforts from indie developers, a slew of fantastic AAA games, and rampant price drops. All of these made it a year for gamers the world over. However 2017 may just be just the opposite of that for a host of reasons. Surprised? Here’s why.
Always online single-player is the future no one asked for
E3 2016 saw Titanfall 2 developer Respawn proudly tout the game’s single-player mode as being offline. By the end of the year, we’ve seen Battleborn and Steep all forsake offline campaigns, instead forcing you to have an Internet connection at all times. It doesn’t help matters that Nintendo decided to apply the same approach to Super Mario Run, due to “security” concerns. In Battleborn’s case it was all about “maintaining data integrity”, and “online gameplay permits player’s data to be accessible, even after experiencing a hardware malfunction or purchasing a new console.”
Regardless of the reason, it all leads to this — you never quite own the $60/ Rs. 3,499 game you bought, and it feels as if some companies prefer treating customers like thieves, even after paying for a game. With Ubisoft’s For Honor being always online, even when you’re playing the single-player story mode, it appears that we’ll be seeing more of this disturbing trend in 2017. Evidently Diablo 3’s Error 37 woes didn’t teach the games industry anything.
The Patch Culture Menace
Lots of game studios have developed a nasty habit of shipping games in a fashion that’s far from complete. We’ve seen it with Quantum Break, for which developer Remedy thought it was a good idea to make specific narrative elements, namely the game’s live-action TV episodes, available to stream on the PC and download on the Xbox One, instead of being on disc. We’ve seen the likes of Doom and Hitman get massive double digit gigabyte patches with documentation alluding to ‘bugs’ and ‘fixes’ and little else. Dishonored 2 received a patch for New Game Plus — a mode that lets you go through the game again with select items you gained from your first play through.
The biggest offender? Final Fantasy XV. The game’s been on the shelves for about a month and creator Square Enix is already talking up a patch that will fundamentally change the story — which made us think of how George Lucas tried to change the Star Wars series.
A game is bought with the expectation that it will be in a playable state. Moves like this simply show that they’re far from that at launch. In 2017, trust game companies to abuse your Internet connection, making you wonder why you even bothered buying a brand new game on launch day to begin with.
Old games, remastered DLC
One of the biggest trends of this generation was the seemingly endless number of remasters and re-releases of past successes. From the likes the Uncharted trilogy to Metro 2033, a ton of games have been released to keep PS4 and Xbox One owners satiated until big budget current generation games are available. For most part, these remasters not only included a visual upgrade but all the downloadable content that was originally released for the game, giving you a bigger incentive to jump back in. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, however, takes a step in a direction that’s extremely regressive. No, this has nothing to do with it being available as a part of the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare special editions. Rather, it has to do with publisher Activision bunging in micro transactions to the game post-release.
Why is this a problem? For one, Modern Warfare is almost a decade old, initially released at a time before microtransactions were a part of AAA games. Secondly, it's a reasonable guess that resources which could have been used to make the game better, were diverted to add in-app purchases, showing where priorities really lie. Finally, if it takes off (which it will, because the Call of Duty franchise is still the biggest seller) expect every publisher to follow suit.
Steam’s 2017 resolution: more indie games, less quality
Steam has a stranglehold on PC game distribution, and over time, this is not looking so good anymore. Valve has curated its platform so that one-man games can share the same space as mammoth, sprawling titles developed by a team of over 300. This would be a good thing if the quality of both games could be seen as equal, but Valve has been rather lax about this. Games made with little effort, amounting to nothing more than being constructed from assets bought from the Unity Store are filling up Steam, and developers suing Steam users for leaving bad reviews. It's becoming clear that Steam is in dire need of a reboot.
On the other hand, Valve does get a cut from every game sold and more games means a greater chance of profiting, so an actual fix is looking as likely as a firm release date for Half-Life 3.
This is not to say that 2017 won’t have any good games. In fact there are a fair few to look forward to, such as Yakuza 0, Resident Evil 7, and Horizon Zero Dawn. But what’s important is to see how far developers and publishers try to corrode consumer rights, in order to make a quick buck.