2014 hasn’t been a great year for video games. Sure, there’ve been some outstanding video games, mostly from Nintendo, but, on the whole, this has been a year full of crushing disappointments in the AAA sector. For many, 2014 has been a disillusioning year. Gamers, more than ever, are starting to feel like they are being outright lied to by publishers and video game journalists, and it isn’t difficult to see why. After all, far too many highly anticipated AAA games released in 2014 let people down. Most years have their flops – just look at 2013’s Aliens Colonial Marines – however, 2014 seemed to let gamers down in ways that just plain didn’t sit right with many. Today, I want to look over the past year, and try to shed some light on why exactly it was so disappointing.
The lies really bugged gamers. And gamers were lied to. Perhaps not on the same level of the aforementioned Colonial Marines, but gamers were still being given grade A crap from publishers and expected to smile and eat it up. The most obvious example of this was Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. This was a game that stole the show back when it was revealed at E3. Then it got delayed. Then the next time it resurfaced, the game looked nothing like what had been presented. We’ve all seen this before. Killzone 2’s initial E3 trailer showed footage that was later admitted to have not been in-game footage despite that being said. However, Ubisoft’s lies with Watch Dogs really bothered people, which compounded when Ubisoft started talking about never making a game they couldn’t make into a series.
Then, of course, there was Destiny. Bungie, of Halo fame, hyped this game up so hard that you’d think it was going to cure cancer. It didn’t help that they convinced Sony to partner with them, and Sony joined the hype train in full force. Destiny was hyped as something unique, something that would change the face of gaming. What Destiny was, however, was a mechanically sound game full of really bad ideas and criminally little content, with more on the way that Bungie would be glad to sell to you.
The fact that developers were selling incomplete products and then patching them, or worse – selling content back to consumers – came to a head, when Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed Unity. To call Assassin’s Creed Unity an incomplete game would be an insult to incomplete games everywhere. Ubisoft knowingly released a completely unpolished game, one that had the gall to attack you with microtransactions every five seconds. Because gamers need to spend more money on the worst gaming has to offer, right?
But three high profile disappointments shouldn’t be enough to condemn a year of gaming. Unfortunately, it isn’t just those three games. Over the last year, we’ve had to deal with the growing pains of two brand new consoles. Last console cycle was the longest in history, so many people forget what it’s like at the beginning – bad. Developers haven’t really figured out how to use the hardware yet, nor have they had enough time to properly build a game. Accordingly, most games released within the first year of a console cycle aren’t very good. Driveclub was not ready for distribution. Nor was the Master Chief Collection. Little Big Planet 3 didn’t pop the way it should have, and Titanfall didn’t change anyone’s mind. Hell, even Sunset Overdrive isn’t that great. And these are some of the best the new consoles have to offer.
And exclusives aren’t the only games that are affected by new console launches. Publishers and developers don’t want to lose out on last gen’s volume, so they design most of their multiplatform games to work on both current and last gen consoles, as well as PCs. What this means is that a game is only as strong as its weakest link, and PS4, Xbox One, and PC games are still being held back by the PS3 and Xbox 360. Sure, they play and look better, but nobody is making something that simply couldn’t be possible on previous gen hardware. And that doesn’t sit well with people who wanted games to be elevated as a medium upon the generation switch.
All of that being said, 2014 was a phenomenal year in two regards. Firstly, Nintendo hit gamers with broadside after broadside. Mario Kart 9, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Bayonetta 2 – these were all highly anticipated games, and Nintendo, unlike pretty much every other developer this year, delivered on their promises. Secondly, there’s the indie circuit. Indies, this year, showed the world why console developers are starting to pay very close attention to them. Games like Rogue’s Legacy, the Binding of Isaac Rebirth, and Shovel Knight, provided experiences far above what their AAA cousins could.
2014 may have been a disappointing year, but there’s no reason to think that 2015 will follow suit. The new consoles are starting to find their legs, excellent games such as the Witcher 3, Bloodborne, Persona 5 and Xenoblade Chronicles X are scheduled for next year, and it’s possible that publishers may have learned to be less greedy and more honest. Just kidding about the last one. Expect Ubisoft, EA, and Activision to consistently remind us all how out of touch video game publishers can be with the video gaming public.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer