2016 was a great year for games for a variety of reasons. We’ve seen strong efforts from indie developers, a slew of fantastic AAA games, and rampant price drops. All of this has made it a year for gamers everywhere. However, 2017 could be quite the opposite for a host of reasons. Surprised? Here’s why.
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Always-on solo is the future no one asked for
E3 2016 saw Titanfall 2 developer Respawn proudly tout the game’s single-player mode as offline. At the end of the year, we saw Battleborn and Steep drop offline campaigns, instead requiring you to have an internet connection at all times. It doesn’t help that Nintendo decided to apply the same approach to Super Mario Run, due to “security” concerns. In Battleborn’s case, this was to “maintain data integrity”, and “online play allows player data to be accessible, even after experiencing a hardware malfunction or purchasing a new console”.
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Whatever the reason, it all leads to this – you never quite own the $60/Rs. 3,499 games you bought, and it feels like some companies prefer to treat customers like thieves, even after paying for a game. With Ubisoft’s For Honor always online, even when playing the single-player story mode, it looks like we’ll see more of this disturbing trend in 2017. Obviously, the issues with Error 37 from Diablo 3 haven’t taught the game industry anything.
The menace of the patch culture
Many game studios have developed a bad habit of shipping games in a way that is far from complete. We saw this with Quantum Break, for which developer Remedy thought it was a good idea to make specific narrative elements, namely live TV episodes of the game, available to stream on the PC and downloaded to 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 hinting at “bugs” and “fixes” and little else. Dishonored 2 has received a patch for New Game Plus – a mode that lets you restart the game with certain items you’ve earned on your first playthrough.
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Biggest offender? Final Fantasy XV. The game has been on the shelves for about a month, and creator Square Enix is already talking about a patch that will fundamentally change the story – which got us thinking about how George Lucas tried to change the Star Wars series.
A game is purchased with the expectation that it will be in playable condition. Moves like this just show they’re nowhere near that at launch. In 2017, gaming companies are trusted to abuse your internet connection, which makes you wonder why you even bother 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 reissues of past hits. From the Uncharted Trilogy to Metro 2033, a ton of games have been released to keep PS4 and Xbox One owners happy until big budget current-gen games are available. For the most part, these remasters included not just a visual upgrade, but all of the DLC originally released for the game, giving you more of an incentive to go back. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, however, takes a step in a direction that’s extremely regressive. No, it has nothing to do with it being available as part of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Special Editions. Rather, it has to do with publisher Activision adding micro-transactions to the game after release.
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Why is it a problem? For one thing, Modern Warfare is almost a decade old, originally released in a time before microtransactions were a part of AAA games. Second, it’s reasonable to assume that resources that could have been used to improve the game have been diverted to add in-app purchases, showing where the priorities really lie. Finally, if it takes off (which it will, as 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 it just doesn’t seem so good anymore. Valve has organized its platform so that individual games can share the same space as the gigantic, sprawling titles developed by a team of over 300. It would be good if the quality of the two games could be considered equal, but Valve has been pretty lax on this. Games made with little effort, amounting to nothing more than being built from assets purchased from the Unity Store, fill Steam, and developers are suing Steam users for leaving bad reviews. It becomes clear that Steam is in desperate need of a restart.
I have over 300 games on Steam and I’m leaving it all behind for GOG Galaxy
On the other hand, Valve gets a cut of every game sold and more games mean a bigger chance to profit, so an actual fix seems as likely as a firm release date for Half-Life 3.
That’s not to say 2017 won’t have some great games. In fact, there are quite a 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.