At the end of last year, we took a crack at predicting what the big gaming stories of 2016 would (or wouldn't) be. Now that we've come to the end of another year, let's see how we did. For starters, here's what we didn't predict:
- The No Man's Sky mess.
- The Universal Windows Platform backlash.
- That anyone would be mad about a butt.
- That there would be multiple games about Donald Trump on Steam.
- That the Cubs would win the World Series.
As for what we did predict, we were pretty close—although admittedly conservative in our guesses. Here's how our foresight fared.
What we said: 2016 won’t be the ‘year of VR’—it’s looking a bit too pricey to leap into mainstream gaming just yet—but the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will be out there. They’ll be at your friend’s house, or at your friend’s friend’s house, and there’s going to be that one game that you just have to try.
This wasn't exactly a bold prediction. We knew VR would be too expensive for mainstream adoption, and that was the case. Our coverage of VR games actually dropped off after the headsets became available, because interest in an exciting new technology was greater than interest in an out-of-reach product. When VR was a thing that was going to happen in the future, it lived in imagination and speculation, but now it's a $600 headset with VR Ping Pong.
There are some really good VR games—I loved Hover Junkers—but we were wrong that there would be one breakout game that everyone rushed to experience. I've heard five or six times that Google Earth VR is an amazing experience, but I still haven't bothered to re-calibrate my Vive to try it. It's a hard sell for a lot of reasons. Price aside, no matter how amazing the experience, the impulse to strap a headset to my face is almost always overridden by the impulse to launch Civ 6 or Overwatch or Darkest Dungeon. For a VR game to really drive adoption, it'll have to be even more spectacular than the best flatspace games.
I'm still excited about VR, but it's young, as Wes and Tuan discuss in our year-end recap of the technology. Better screens, better tracking, and cheaper, more comfortable headsets will come and I don't think the tech will fade away like it has so many times in the past. It really is amazing, even if hearing that over and over again doesn't inspire many to drop a grand on it. Give it a few years.
What we said: Doom can sell itself on marketing and pedigree, sure, but that doesn’t protect it from selling a bunch and then being abandoned—oh, sweet Evolve, how you tried. At least one [multiplayer shooter]—probably more—will flop against the dominance of CS:GO, TF2, and survival games like H1Z1 and Ark: Survival Evolved. Likewise, one of them’s going to get very big, and we’ll still be talking about it this time next year. My money’s on Overwatch.
We didn’t predict how well-received Doom’s single-player would be, but we called it on the multiplayer. Guessing that Overwatch would be popular wasn’t much of a leap—though I didn't actually expect it to be this popular—but we were right that there were too many competitive shooters for all of them to win. Battleborn hasn't been a huge success, and though it's one of our favorite games of the year, Titanfall 2 didn't blow up.
But carving out a player base is possible. Though it's derided as 'free-to-play Overwatch,' Paladins has captured a spot at the top of the Steam concurrent players list. There's still lots of room on the PC—as Evan said last year, there are a hell of a lot of games, but there aren't too many.
What we said: Even Microsoft is joining in, as we learned recently that ReCore, the MS published game from Keiji Inafune’s Comcept studio and Armature Studio, will make it over to Windows 10. We’ll be surprised if Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII remake doesn’t release on PC, too. The story, really, is that this is going to stop being a story: fewer fan petitions, more Japanese games as standard on PC.
More Japanese games are coming to PC, but we’re still waiting to find out if a PC release is in the cards for Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII Remake, and the same goes for the nonsense Kojima is up to with Sony.
Microsoft's promise to publish its games on Xbox One and PC has held (though ReCore wasn't very good anyway), and many Japanese publishers continue to embrace the PC . The JPRG tag on Steam is filling up as quickly as the others. Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada's next game, Birthdays: The Beginning, will come to PC , which he talks a little about in our interview with him and Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone. Though we're missing confirmations from some of the bigger players, like Square-Enix, the trend is not slowing.
What we said: The end of the year could be exciting. Once SteamVR is off the ground, the focus will be on maintaining a fresh stream of VR games and applications to keep early adopters feeling happy about their purchase. That’s when we could see a new game announcement. That’s right: RicochetVR.
Welp. Dota 2 players might say that it’s an exciting time for that game, but the rest of us are still waiting for Valve to announce something that isn’t a CS:GO or Dota 2 update or a VR headset. We did correctly guess that the Steam store would get a redesign, but that's not exactly a sign of supernatural ability.
What we said: Fantasy esports will explode, and gambling around esports will become increasingly common. There’ll be drama. That will never go away (it hasn’t gone away in traditional sports, anyhow), but there will also be a lot more scrutiny on the companies running events, and, I think, a lot of interest in how sports law applies to esports players.
Nothing ‘exploded’ so much as continued to exist and cause controversy. There were cheating and match-fixing scandals, massive ban waves, and a gambling lawsuit. In October, Valve was ordered to take steps to prevent CS:GO skin gambling using the Steam API. We reported on cheating and gambling more in 2016 that we have in any other year.
Meanwhile, Blizzard announced a new Overwatch league with a more traditional sports model, with teams that represent their cities, which will probably be a big topic for us in 2017. The unregulated nebula of organizations, sponsors, and teams that make up esports will continue to gain structure, and I don't expect 2017 to be a slow year for controversy as that happens.
We ended our 2016 predictions with some rapid-fire, and mostly stupider, guesses. But even our boldest predictions weren't all wrong.
What we said: The next Destiny game will dump old-gen consoles and come to PC.
I still think this is going to happen, even though it wasn't announced in 2016.
What we said: Rockstar will revisit a much loved classic from its back catalog.
Red Dead Redemption 2, baby. (Though it's still not confirmed for PC. Boo.)
What we said: We’ll all forget about that Twitch Bob Ross marathon, but it will again be the highlight of October.
Bob Ross was the highlight of every month.
What we said: Nvidia’s high-end graphics card will be the biggest performance leap in years, but cutting-edge production will mean low supply and prices that make the Oculus Rift look cheap.
The GTX Titan X is $1,200, and a GTX 1080 is $600 or more. 'Make the Oculus Rift look cheap' was a bit of an overstatement, but not by much.
What we said: Blizzard will make substantial changes to one of its most loved games.
I can't remember exactly what we were getting at here, but Hearthstone certainly underwent big changes.
What we said: Breaking the fourth wall will go out of style, then surge back into style in VR games. By 2018, 80 percent of games will be incessantly self-referential.
Pony Island was probably the most self-referential game of the year, but as we approach 2018 more will come. Don't try to brace yourself against the fourth wall, you'll fall right through it.