2017 is finally behind us, and what a year it was. But now we have a full new year of excitement ahead of us. While it is impossible to tell with absolute certainty what awaits us, one could make a number of educated guesses as to some trends which may meet us this year.
6. Battle Royale peaks halfway through the year
There’s no denying that Battle Royale genre was 2017’s equivalent of “hero shooter” which bloomed in 2016 in the wake of Overwatch and Paladins.
Although the genre has been present for years, in the form of Arma mods, then a standalone H1Z1: King of the Kill, it wasn’t until PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS that seemingly everybody went crazy about it. Some other games followed suit, with Fortnite Battle Royale being probably the strongest contender.
With PUBG launched to Xbox One with overwhelming success (in terms of copies sold if nothing else) it is hard to imagine the genre crashing down on itself, but if the “hero shooters” are any indication (like survival games and MOBAs before them), the fad for the genre will pass, even as the big titles stay relatively popular. Genre exploitation is great, and when it sells, it sells, but with an oversaturation with games one shouldn’t expect the novelty genres to have the same staying power as specific titles.
5. Mobile AR resurgence
When Pokémon Go launched worldwide in 2016 it became perhaps the only mobile game to make the news in regional and nationwide channels. It rose to Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat levels of popularity, momentarily rising above Twitter in the number of daily users. And all of it thanks to the power of fictional beasts drawn with Japanese flair for creating things cute and disturbing in equal measures. Many people drained away from Pokémon GO due to its numerous problems across the timeline, but it’s still very popular, if less news-worthy.
In 2018 we can expect the next boom in mobile AR. This time Niantic, the developer of P.GO and an earlier project: Ingress, is set to launch an AR game set in J.K. Rowling’s incredibly popular Harry Potter franchise. We know precious little about the game’s mechanics, but it’s the power of the franchise that matters, and we can be certain there will be multiple amusing clones with terminology changed just so there can’t be any copyright lawsuit. Between a niche Ingress, famous Pokémon GO and inevitably popular Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Niantic has no competitors in AR, a situation which likely won’t last much longer. It’s worth watching the market to spot a potential contender.
4. VR branches out more
For a moment VR games were considered the cutting edge of entertainment technology, but that turned out to be a fad that got oddly quiet recently. Even the release of Fallout 4 VR didn’t change the fact that VR games are fun, but they aren’t the only, or the best, way to utilise the possibilities provided by a virtual reality. There are still VR games being made, of course, even if the widespread amazement is gone like Pokemon GO’s buzz.
The good part is that VR headsets are bound to start dropping in price significantly sometime soon, and the average power of hardware is bound to continue rising, making PCs capable of meeting the VR requirements more commonplace. With more affordable devices and PC and consoles powerful enough to handle the strain, VR may yet come back in force.
And that’s before one factors in the fact that VR has applications other than gaming. It is possible that in 2018 more developers decide to capitalize on this. 3D immersive environments can be great education tools, with some polish to motion controls can become engaging interfaces, or a way for people to feel like they participate in large scale events even if they can’t be physically present. There is a lot of things to cover, and with the buzz somewhat dropping from the pure entertainment, it is possible that VR will start being treated as something worth exploring for more serious uses.
VR for gaming probably won’t be fully feasible until we create a holodeck/Danger Room technologies anyway. Best to focus on something more useful.
3. Revised publisher strategies
2017 was a time of uproar among players. The prevalence of microtransactions finally came to a head in 2017. Major publishers found themselves in crossfire. Unfortunate phrasing of community managers trying to mollify the fuming playerbase only stoked the flames, culminating in Reddit’s most downvoted comment. Before the year ended, multiple political figures around the world have spoken up about exploitative mechanics of modern triple-A games, and just how much of a money sink they can be just to stay on a competitive level without spending inordinate amounts of time to gain the benefits easier accessible with a carefully priced bit of premium currency.
Between the gaming communities’ very vocal response to various attempts to drain their wallets and a noticeable drop in share prices for EA, 2018 is very likely to bring with it a revision of prolonged monetisation practices. It is too early to decide on the form it’s most likely to take: it could, feasibly, be dropping a bulk of MTX, or just reshaping them into something more subtle, and, hopefully, less balance-upsetting then some of those we got in 2017. One way or another, 2017 made it clear that there’s only so much gaming communities can take, and changing the current course is going to be necessary to stay on gamers’ good side. And with politicians keeping their eyes on the entire thing, we can safely assume things are going to improve for us this year.
2. More subscription services
Humble Monthly turned out to strike a good balance between its price and what’s covered by it. For 12 dollars per month each subscriber receives several high- and mid-profile games, as well as access to a DRM-free library of games created by independent developers. For a couple dollars Origin Access provides access to a rotation of games from Origin catalogue, as well as a chance to play certain games before their official launch. PS Plus does something similar, but for PlayStation users. Although this state of things continued for quite some time, it’s hard to imagine digital storefronts like Ubisoft’s Uplay or Bethesda Launcher not following suit, same with other distributors working in the same vein as Humble Bundle, for instance Bundle Stars (recently rebranded as Fanatic).
G2A itself is coming forward with two separate subscription services: one for Weekly Sale bringing better deals, and a brand new service called G2A Plus with benefits across the board.
It wouldn’t be unlikely for 2018 to be the year more gaming stores develop some form of subscription-reward system to cash in on this clearly popular and appreciated trend.
1. Sequels, reboots, remakes
2018 is set to host a lot of high-profile game releases, however a number of them isn’t going to be original work, but iteration of previously established franchises, several long-awaited titles among them.
At some point this year we will receive the sequel to Red Dead Redemption, one of Rockstar’s most fondly remembered games, launched back in 2010. Darksiders, a series with some odd luck for publishers and developers, comes back after six years since the last original release (remasters do not count), while Dynasty Warriors 9 adopts an open world structure after half a decade since the last original release of the core series.
Curiously, fans of classic cRPGs will likely be granted at least two treats this year. One in the form of InXile Entertainment’s The Bard’s Tale IV, a sequel to the original games, running from 1985 to 1991. A true blast from the past delivered by a very seasoned developer. The other treat is Obsidian Entertainment’s first shot at a sequel to their very own franchise: Pillars of Eternity II.
On the remake front many eagerly await the launch of Shadow of the Colossus Remastered, a cult classic rebuilt from the ground up to match modern standards of presentation.
And then there are reboots. God of War drops the classic gameplay and setting in favour of a TPP action and a Nordic theme, a soft reboot of the franchise: the story is consistent with Kratos’ previous exploits, but otherwise it’s something new. Spider-Man gets another lease on life with the help of developer Insomniac, and for once drops the teenage Peter Parker for a bit older, more experienced version of himself.
On the whole, for some 2018 may appear maybe a little less original, but a bit more nostalgic, for better or worse. There certainly remains some unannounced games yet, and some of them might be a sequel to something we never knew needed one.
Hopes and worries
The above are our predictions of what may happen on the gaming side of 2018, from developments in VR to fads we expect to rise and fall. However despite anyone’s best predictions we can all expect several interesting curveballs thrown at us by the industry and/or gamers in 2018 and if 2017 is any indication, they may turn out to be rather memorable.