Gaming is finally beginning to gain momentum in 2016 as some of the most anticipated games of the year receive their last bits of polish. No Man’s Sky, Uncharted 4, Dark Souls 3, Star Fox Zero, and more are slowly inching closer to the homes of gamers all over the world.
On top of all of the incoming software, there’s some new tech on the horizon as well. Oculus Rift, Vive, Hololens, PSVR, and a possible new hardware entry from the folks at Nintendo are in the pipeline for the coming months. Everyone is trying to stake their claim as being the best, most innovative company of the year.
Of course, with 9 long months still ahead of us, it would be impossible to crown a victor just yet, but we can take a look at who’s looking mighty strong in gaming so far.
Valve is still going strong with its PC gaming platform. Sales have been altered from their previous state, no longer offering the insane Flash Sales that fans had come to both love and dread. In order to provide meaningful value to those gamers that can’t always make it to a computer to purchase the games they want, the sale stood the same throughout the event and offered other incentives. Steam users could look through games to earn free Steam Cards, so it was a win-win.
This actually worked out pretty well for Valve, making the recent Winter Sale quite successful. Valve focusing on the consumer, rather than short spurts of super saving to draw in those with an itchy buying finger, helped out quite a bit.
On the tech side of things, the looming launch of several VR headsets is a big deal. New tech is an interesting beast, and with PC getting first dibs this month, Valve is sure to prosper from the advancements. The company even has its hands in one of them, the HTC Vive, so you can expect interesting things from them as soon as in a few weeks.
Valve does have one issue that constantly looms over its head, though. Fans eagerly await a third entry in any of its franchises, yet nothing has been announced. It’s not the be-all and end-all for the company, but fans will always bring it up.
Square Enix has seen a lot of ups and downs in recent years. The company’s flagship franchise, Final Fantasy is constantly in the headlines for numerous reasons, and Square Enix has gotten flack for what it’s done with other major releases. The temporary exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider upset many fans, and the episodic release of the latest Hitman proved to be a bit of a head-scratcher at first. Yet, instead of crawling into a hole of failure, Square Enix has been diligently pushing forward and earning a bit of praise along the way.
With the resurgence of Final Fantasy and all of the other projects being published by the company, Square Enix has a solid lineup coming our way. Final Fantasy XV is due this September and there’s a bona fide Final Fantasy VII remake in the works. Those alone have fans excited for the future, but it only gets better from there, especially for RPG fans. Nier: Automata, Kingdom Hearts III, Nosgoth, and Dragon Quest XI are all sitting prettily on the horizon.
In a way, it’s almost as if Square Enix is returning to form. Bringing back what made the company so popular in the 90s (stellar RPGs), and bolstering that lineup with games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Hitman. Square Enix has found its rhythm again, and although we’ll have to wait and see if these games manage to deliver, the future is looking bright.
Nintendo is in a very odd place in 2016. The gaming giant still has some stellar games lined up for the future, but its home console is struggling. Though it started with a healthy lead, the Wii U is well behind the other members of the Big 3 (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One). The console just isn’t selling even though Nintendo has released some of its greatest games in recent years.
Now the NX is in development, and although there’s been no official announcement, it’s looking like it may release later this year. This puts the Wii U in a tough position. How does Nintendo continue to support the young platform while also casting it aside for bigger and better things? With rumors pointing at “industry-leading chips,” Nintendo could just be delivering the deathblow to the Wii U.
Giving up on a platform never looks good, no matter what the reasoning is. But, it is understood that Nintendo needs to do something drastic if they hope to remain as a relevant contender in the console race. It makes it very difficult to say if Nintendo is winning anything because nobody has any clue what it’s actually doing. As it stands right now, the company is keeping its head down and releasing big games until it reveals its plans for the future.
Ubisoft is always in the news for one reason or other. Being as large a company as it has grown to be, many fans constantly have their eyes on its every move. Over the past few years, Ubisoft has delivered a mix of critically acclaimed games and forgettable releases. 2016, though, has been going pretty well for the company. This is due to a solid release and some smart decisions.
The Division came and took the gaming world by storm. Here is a game that borrows from the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Mass Effect, and, most notably, Destiny, and builds something unique and engaging. The living world, the endless loot streams, and the frantic firefights help Ubisoft to put a whole new feather in its cap. It’s something unexpected from the company, and something that they need to show a whole lot more of.
Of course, The Division alone wouldn’t mean such a big deal. Every company has been releasing solid experiences. It’s the background decisions that are helping to paint Ubisoft in a new, much more flattering, light. The decision to move away from an annual Assassin’s Creed schedules is easily the biggest of them all right now. Instead of using the series as a money machine, Ubisoft recognized that the games need more time in the oven so that they can deliver the top of the line experiences that fans have come to expect.
The Ubisoft teams have decided to be more thoughtful in their approach to the video games they make. This turning of a new leaf is definitely a big win for the company going forward.
Phil Spencer has worked wonders as the Head of Xbox. The Xbox One stumbled out of the launch gates after some PR blunders and miscommunication with its fan base. The competition, Sony, capitalized heavily on this and has not looked back since, as it leads by a wide margin on the worldwide scene. However, the Xbox One is now an impressive machine that can stand toe-to-toe with the best of them.
The company is taking a much more different approach in 2016, though. Games are still the primary focus, but how consumers enjoy those games is being changed. In order to create a true Microsoft gaming ecosystem, the Xbox One and PC platforms are slowly merging to mixed reactions from fans. And while it may not seem like the best thing for Xbox right now, it shows that Microsoft is definitely looking towards the future.
Step one was making the Xbox One backwards compatible at the end of last year, but it seems as if the next move is future-proofing the ever-expanding library. By making Windows 10 the platform and Xbox One just a more affordable way to access the platform’s content, Microsoft is thinking big. When you throw the potential of HoloLens into the mix, the company has a lot going on in the tech front.
The Xbox One also has some big exclusives coming into play this year along with some major third-party support. DLC first for The Division may not sound like a big deal, but it worked wonders for the PS4 and Destiny. Quantum Break and Gears 4, along with Halo Wars 2 are big names as well. The beginning of 2016 has worked out well for the green machine, even if there’s still a lot of worry surrounding Windows 10. The future is certainly looking interesting for this company.
Activision Blizzard is one of those odd companies that’s difficult to judge. Both Activision and Blizzard deal with properties that have been around for a very long time. World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Call of Duty, Skylanders, Diablo, and a few others. That shouldn’t be counted against the giant though, especially with the fact that both members of the duo have been trying new and exciting things.
Blizzard’s upcoming, team-based, first-person shooter, Overwatch, is already turning heads for its engaging gameplay and stunning visuals. It’s different from what the developer has been doing lately, and it’s showing a lot of versatility in a genre that has been approaching staleness over the past few years. The developer also has a huge expansion coming to Hearthstone. Using the extensive lore of World of Warcraft, Blizzard has managed to create a stunning trading card game that allows for anyone to jump in and have fun while also providing a challenge for players who want something more strategic.
Activision’s latest iteration of Call of Duty, Black Ops III, is still going strong. The next entry may be pushing the envelope even more, meaning the cookie cutter entries to the series may be behind us. Of course, that’s only a rumor for now, but perhaps it is confirmation that some more creativity is going into development. Destiny is also stirring things up again with an upcoming update that’s sure to breathe some life back into the game. A brand new update will introduce new activities, new weapons, new armor, and new story tidbits.
Activision Blizzard is definitely looking to pull a lot of attention in the coming months.
Sony has been basking in the warm glow of gaming’s love ever since it launched the PlayStation 4. To be honest, the first year win might as well have been handed to Sony on a platter. They didn’t really need to do anything to come out on top, with Microsoft’s previous Xbox execs botching what should’ve been an easy launch. The company dominated in the first year with a solid lineup of games and smart advertising campaigns. Things were going so well that Sony was able to rely almost entirely on third-party support in 2015 so that it could get ready for 2016 in earnest.
So far the year has been going pretty well for Sony and the PlayStation 4. The Witness proved to be a solid exclusive, hype is building up for Uncharted 4 along with the strong lineup due later in the year. Street Fighter V is in a tough spot, to say the least, but it’s being worked on, so time will tell how that plays out. Yet, even with that smudge on 2016 for the platform, the future lineup is looking impressive.
Sony also has the upcoming PlayStation VR this October, and the tech has proven to be something worth looking forward to. A strong lineup and over 100 games in development for PSVR means the company is taking it very seriously.
Sony has made an effort this year to show that it isn’t resting on its laurels. 2015 may have shown a more lax approach, but it was all to prepare for an astounding 2016.
Bethesda is one of those companies that doesn’t release games too often because it takes its time. Each game that leaves one of its studios is large and immersive, leading players to pour hundreds of hours into them. Take Fallout 4 for example. The vast landscape of the Boston Wasteland is filled with locations and secrets to keep players engaged.
The start of 2016 brought more of that into the fold in the form of Automatron. Bethesda once again showed how great it is at creating immersive narratives and worlds, and now fans are busy creating millions of mechanical companions. The Elder Scrolls Online also got a new expansion that brought in some much-loved factions. Bethesda has been quite busy in giving its fans reasons to come back.
There are new things in the works as well. DOOM, whose Beta is underway, is bringing back the grandfather of FPS gaming. The high speed, demonic gameplay is generating quite a bit of hype as fans look to the past to reinvigorate the shooter scene. Dishonored 2 is also currently under development. Though not much information has been shared as of yet, fans of the first await news with bated breath.
While many companies are focusing on new, Bethesda is one of the few who is winning by showing that they can still pull off the old tricks.
So Who’s Winning?
Each company is making some seriously big moves. All platforms have big games headed their way, and looking at it that way you’ll have to go with your video game preference to decide who’s winning. Sony has some big action games as well as RPGs in the PlayStation 4’s future, PC and Xbox One are starting to share big releases, and Nintendo has classic franchises returning. There’s something for everyone.
Some of the big developers are also making big moves as they expand upon their existing properties and look to impress in new ways. To see Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and Bethesda make such a mark early on is definitely worthy of attention.
But on the tech side, and looking to the future, Microsoft is looking pretty good. Yes, right now it seems like they’re removing everything that makes the Xbox One worthy of owning, but when you really think about it, they’re trying to make the Xbox One forever. They’re removing the wonder of if the next Microsoft console will support older games. The company is already working on that reality right now by making the library completely future proof for all new consoles and PC.
Of course, the year is still at its beginning, and we have E3 in the not too distant future. We’ll see how the board changes then.