The Legend Award
This January saw the death of an industry titan: Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco. The NAkamura Manufacturing COmpany had its origins in mechanical rides for children, before in the 1970s Nakamura got the company involved in the increasingly popular arcade sector. Among his most lasting achievements was hiring Toru Iwatani, giving him the time and space to design a new kind of arcade game, and even coming up with the name Pac-Man (a contraction of the 'pukku' sound it made when eating dots).
The success of arcade games like Galaxian and Pac-Man saw Namco become a major player in the video game market, and perhaps Sony’s single most important partner for the launch of the Playstation (with Ridge Racer and Tekken). Nakamura stepped down in 2002 and enjoyed a long retirement, although he continued to hold a ceremonial role with Bandai Namco. Nakamura died on January 22 2017 at the age of 91. Without his many contributions this industry would look very different indeed, and be a lot less fun. Everyone who loves video games should raise their glass to Masaya Nakamura this new year’s eve, though popping pills is at your own discretion.
The Reverse Ferret Award
Winner: Electronic Arts for Battlefront II
I sensed a great disturbance in the Force… as if dozens of executives cried out all at once in agony – and were suddenly silenced. Yes it’s the award for the biggest, fastest, most shameless U-turn of the year, and the recipient could only be Electronic Arts. The truth with Battlefront II will eventually come out, but the publisher clearly pushed microtransactions hard in this game, and crashed straight into a rising tide of player resentment against loot boxes in games they’d already paid a lot of money for.
Much like Brave Sir Robin, when danger reared its ugly head EA bravely turned its tail and fled. Shortly after release the premium currency was removed entirely, though the system itself remains in operation, and at the time of writing there’s no reverse-reverse-ferret in sight – just a decent game buried under a hellish microtransaction structure, but without the microtransactions. As we said at the time, the Farce is strong with this one.
Best PR Stunt
Devolver Digital E3
We’re not just saying this because they let us in under the ropes, or offered us free alcohol, because Devolver Digital’s E3 strategy is a beaut: it makes a blood-drenched comedy video mocking how every other publisher on the globe presents their games. After which, Devolver hires a car park across the road from the LA convention centre, and then has a massive party. There are developers showing off their games, sure, but there’s also some dude from Nine Inch Nails battering out guitar solos on a tiny stage while the company’s PRs dance and the beer flows. Even the cops seemed to enjoy themselves. We’re sure E3 will work out some way to stop this in future, but hopefully not – because every year it just gets funnier.
The ‘Told You So’ Award
Winner: Nintendo fans
Yes indeedily-do, we’ve been telling the world for years that Nintendo was the hotness. But those PC-bumming grumblers grumble away, groan groan groan, we like 4K and the big monsters innit. There is another way, a purer path to joy than this life of teraflops and toaster-worship.
I have given a name to this reign: Nintendo Switch.
Yes, this could just have easily been the ‘greatest comeback’ award, because early 2017 saw both the global launch of Switch and the ceasing of Wii U production. Nintendo’s always fluctuated between hits and misses but this hardware concept has looked like a gamechanger from day one – and the subsequent year of software has shown that both developers and players have a big appetite for the hybrid wonder.
All credit, of course, goes to the Kyoto wizards. But the true fans always knew that Nintendo is the coolest.
The ‘Didn’t The Boy Do Well’ Award
Winner: Peter Moore
Sentient cheesy grin Peter Moore left the games industry this year after nearly two decades riding high at SEGA, Xbox and finally Electronic Arts. Who could forget the Halo tattoo? The easy charisma of his stage presence? That time when he turned down my interview request in the gents?
But hey, Moore’s done it all. And so it was quite sweet to see him leave the games industry in order to take up a role at his boyhood team, Liverpool F.C., where he’s since been busy putting a much more human face on the club. At the end of the storm, there is indeed a golden sky, the sweet silver song of a lark – and a genuine happy ending.
The WTF Award
Winner: Telltale Games
Mistakes happen when you’re trying to make something as complex as a videogame. But there are mistakes and then there are fuck-ups on such an order of magnitude that you can’t quite wrap your head around how it ever got out the door.
Telltale’s Batman mishap, sadly, is from the latter category. Our full report on its twists and turns is here, but in summarised form the developer shipped a game containing a photograph of a man’s body shortly after his assassination. The event had occurred less than a year before the game’s release. Subsequent to this affair, Telltale Games has gone through layoffs and restructuring and – while the timeframe makes a causative link unlikely – this mess suggested its old production method was at breaking point.
Best Anthropomorphic Character
Winner: Rabbid Peach
I don’t care what anyone else in the Kotaku UK office says, Rabbid Peach was the greatest new video game character introduced to the world this year. She’s a little clumsy, a little snooty, and very proud of her appearance. She has a lackadaisical attitude towards fighting, and makes everything she does seem simultaneously effortless and a huge chore to pull off. That combination of juxtaposed traits would make for an interesting character normally, but exaggerating them to a ridiculous degree ends up making the seemingly contradictory nature of her traits all the more visible and amusing.
Any character with that much body confidence, taking selfies mid combat, was always going to walk away with a slice of my heart.
Best Worst Game
Winner: Sonic Forces
This award goes to the game this year that, while technically kind of bad, still managed to win over our hearts. It’s a bad game, but it’s still kind of great. This year’s winner is Sonic Forces because, while it’s mechanically and structurally flawed from start to finish, the hamfisted wedging in of a Sonic character creator system that allows you to be the hero and save the day really helps add an endearing charm to an otherwise bad game.
I didn’t enjoy playing the actual levels all that much, but I loved watching my Mary Sue of a character, Laura the Hedgehog, rescuing Sonic from jail, standing up to the big bad, and running hand in hand through levels with all her friends. When the plot tended towards the needlessly grimdark, the silly forcing in of my original character really helped make everything become a little less serious.
Winner: Breath of the Wild’s Golden Turd
Look, I’m all for cramming a game with collectables, and rewarding you with ultimately useless tat for finding it all, but Breath of the Wild’s golden turd takes the cake, bakes the cake, eats the cake and then egests the cake in a certain form. It is by far the weirdest in-game item you could earn through extreme amounts of collecting and scavenging.
After bagging around 700 Korok seeds, hidden up trees and under rocks and behind constantly moving flowers, you get rewarded with a gold coil of faeces. It serves no functional purpose besides reminding you of how much time you put into scouring that game world, and every time I see it I feel a little bit of shame knowing I am the reason Link now has to carry it around all day, every day.
I’m so sorry Link. I hope it doesn’t smell too bad.