By Laura Kate Dale, Keza MacDonald and Rich Stanton
Now that we’ve looked back over 2017 celebrating the good, the underappreciated and the ridiculous of the year, it’s time to look ahead. 2017 saw the emergence or, more accurately, the culmination of some dispiriting trends in the video game world that cast doubt both on the sustainability of the current model for funding high-end games, and on the market's respect for the people who buy and play them. Meanwhile, with more and more games getting released every single year, finding an audience is becoming as difficult for some smaller developers as finding money for development. We’re hoping that 2018 shows a corrective effect, and here are some of the things we’d like to see.
A Responsible Approach to Microtransactions
One of the biggest areas of gaming discussion in 2017, particularly in the final 3-4 months of the year, has been the increasing prevalence of loot boxes and the predatory gamification mechanics that often accompany them. Star Wars Battlefront II nosedived at launch as a result of negative press around its in-game currency economy, and Destiny 2 got in trouble with fans for misleading players about how much progress they were making towards unlocking their random unlock boxes.
Publishers and developers have the opportunity to learn from the mess that was winter 2017 and, though microtransactions are here to stay in some form, 2018 will hopefully see further moves towards transparency. Making money is fine, but minimising harm to vulnerable players and maintaining game balance must be higher priorities.
Even more indie experiences finding a place on consoles
This year, we’ve seen a whole host of interesting indie games make their way over to consoles from the PC, from ports like Undertale to original titles like Golf Story. However, shorter indie experiences are still struggling to find a home on consoles: Twine games, visual novels, five-minute mechanics-focused experiences and personal experience driven narratives are still firmly housed on PC. It’d be fantastic to see these smaller games find more success and prominence on consoles, alongside the ever-broadening range of indie games on PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
More Rabbid Peach
Go on, tell me you don’t want Rabbid Peach to get her own series of games in 2018. I dare you. It can’t be done, you want it as much as we do. Rabbid Peach in Smash please, Nintendo. Rabbid Peach in Mario Kart. Rabbid Peach in Splatoon 2, Arms, absolutely everything. Make 2018 the year of Rabbid Peach!
The Nintendo Switch continuing to kick arse
The Nintendo Switch has had frankly one of the strongest launch years for any console ever. I mean, just look at the number of excellent games that have arrived month on month. This momentum has kept all of us here at Kotaku UK playing the system nearly constantly.
The biggest issue that many gamers have had with purchasing Nintendo hardware in the past is the knowledge that there will be maybe two or three first-party releases a year and not that much else to fill the gaps, but the Switch is bucking that trend. More please. It would be especially great to see some more of the Wii U’s best games released on Switch, as there are a whole lot of people out there who won’t have owned one. Oh, and a proper Virtual Console would be great too.
Xbox exclusives that take full advantage of the excellent hardware
The Xbox One X is an astonishing piece of technology. It makes games look and sound amazing, if you have the right television and sound system to show them off. The only problem with the Xbox One X’s lineup is the distinct lack of a new, exciting game. As beautiful as the PS4 Pro makes Uncharted: Lost Legacy look, nobody’s buying it because of the number of pixels – they’re buying it because the game is great, and the HDR-enabled 4K prettiness is a nice bonus.
Xbox has lost its way in recent years with its studio strategy. Decisions made years ago have resulted in the botched conversion of Fable into a games-as-service multiplayer game and the resultant closure of Lionhead, the average and rather characterless Dead Rising 4, and the odd melding of games and entertainment in Quantum Break. What the Microsoft strategy really needs is good studios working on things that they are passionate about – like Cuphead and Forza Horizon 3.
A really good Star Wars game
Battlefront 2 has been dogged by controversy - but besides all that, the single-player just isn’t as good as we’d been hoping for. The closure of Visceral Games and the loss of Amy Hennig’s amazing-sounding single-player Star Wars project was a real punch to the gut. There’s still space for a really good Star Wars game out there.
A responsible approach to players’ time and money
There are more and more games released every year; thousands of them, more than any one person could reasonably play. This competition for attention has led to some pretty shady practices; when player “engagement” is vital, some games build in compulsion loops that keep people coming back and putting hours and hours into the grind. Loot boxes have come under immense scrutiny towards the end of this year, but they are merely an extension of something insidious that’s been going on in games for a long time: encouraging (or demanding) more and more investment.
No wonder so many of us adore Switch.
It is important for so many reasons that games respect players’ time and money. Nobody forces anyone to spend too much in a game, in terms of either hours or pounds, but sometimes their systems are powerfully designed to hook people in – especially younger people, to whom something like the FIFA Weekend League might mean everything. Games should offer something enriching to a player; people should come away being glad that they played it, rather than feeling as if they’ve wasted part of their life. Games that actively demand enormous investments of time and money from people on an ongoing basis are fundamentally keeping them away from other things in life – and games should enrich real life, not replace it.