The 8 Ball 12.24.13: Top 8 News Stories of 2013
Posted by Marc Morrison on 12.24.2013
From the Xbox One and PS4 announcements and Steam making their own console to the death of THQ, EA's SimCity woes and more, 411's Marc Morrison counts down the top 8 video game news stories of 2013!
Welcome all to another edition of the 8 Ball. 2013 was a big year for games, with new consoles being released, companies shutting down, and hardware being announced. I tried to cull some of the bigger stories of the year from the world of games into this list. The only thing I didn't really touch on was specific games being announced or delayed (like Watch Dogs). Enjoy:
8. Gamespy/1up Close Down
Both gaming sites had been around for a decade (Gamespy a few years more), both sites had decent followings on the internet, and both sites were shuttered this year by the same parent company. That's what you call "irony". I wasn't a huge fan of either site, GS had a wonky review system and 1up's layout bordered on the insane, but I appreciated what they did try to offer. It was news because it was just added more to the doom and gloom effect that people think is always happening. It is a bummer that two old, fairly well-respected sites went down, but like the mighty hydra, for every site that shuts down, two will grow in its place.
7. Xbox One/PS4 Announcements
Both the Xbox One and the PS4 were announced and then later released during 2013. I'll talk more about Microsoft specifically further down, but both consoles heralded the dawn of the new console generation (the Wii U doesn't count), and hopefully lead to new games series, new game ideas and the seismic shift people have been waiting a few years for. That hasn't quite happened yet, both consoles have somewhat middling launches, exacerbated by hardware failures and some tepid first party stuff. Still, the new age is upon us and new things are to come soon.
6. THQ Goes Down
This is a news item that started in 2012 and finally ended in 2013. The bankruptcy of THQ (in 2012) and subsequent breaking up of the parts of THQ in 2013 is still fairly depressing. For a lot of years THQ wasn't a great studio. They released mediocre games buoyed by terrible licensed property games and kept plugging away. The 360/PS3 era did start to bring a change in the company though. They were trying different/better games like Saints Row, Space Marine, Red Faction: Guerrilla and Darksiders. Sadly, the weight of the uDraw largely pulled THQ under, as well as the Homefront debacle. While Saints Row is alive and kicking, Darksiders isn't, and that is wholly depressing.
5. Steam OS/Steam Box
The Steam Box was kicking around since 2012, but 2013 is when Valve decided to get real and actually announce the damn thing. Along with that, they announced their own specialized Linux version, SteamOS, which was a step forward for Valve. Whether or not either thing will do what it's promised (more the OS than the box) remains to be seen, still, it is Valve taking chances which is good of them to do. It'll be interesting to see if the SteamOS stuff can actually work or not for non-Linux users, or if it will be the same mess Linux has always been for most people. Ah well, at least there is a goofy new controller for PC players to use someday.
4. Double Fine Asks For More Money….Twice
I am growing personally kind of annoyed with what Double Fine did this year. While I'm not the biggest fan of theirs, I love Psychonauts and enjoyed Costume Quest fully. The less said about The Cave or Brutal Legend, the better. They've done two questionable things in 2013 that have me concerned. The first is their mea culpa about Broken Age essentially running out of money due to their expanded dreams…or whatever. No one asked the obvious question of "If you scaled up so much that the original idea's budget is 8 times what it was and now you don't have enough, have you considered scaling back down to what the original idea was?" Nope, no one asked that. They simply said they'll throw it up on Steam Early Access to help continue funding the second part of the game, assuming it ever comes out. The second blunder was them having the gall to go back to Kickstarter to ask for more money for a new game. Now look, if Broken Age was two weeks away from being done, and they went to KS to get something else going, that's one thing. But by current estimates, the second KS game (Massive Chalice) might actually beat out the Broken Age to being a completed game released. That is pure crazy. Get your act together, Double Fine.
3. Microsoft Reverses Course
Both consoles being announced/launching this year was big news. The bigger news was Microsoft's complete about-face regarding most of the stupid features the Xbox One contained. Mainly the lack of used games being on the system, the 24 hour online check in, the mandatory Kinect being plugged in. All things were facts laid out by Microsoft during their disastrous E3 conference/event, and all things were reversed months later, the damage already been done to a lot of the brand. The sad thing is, on some level I can almost see what they were going for. Being able to share games with your family (or friends) was a noble idea. But Microsoft's anti-consumer policies put the kibosh on that. Fortunately, Valve picked up on that idea, fixed it, and now it's in an open beta on Steam.
2. SimCity and other EA Troubles
While Microsoft might have bungled their E3 lineup, EA really seemed to foul most of this year up with some of their shenanigans. Where to start, Dead Space 3's F2P content, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel being pushed out to die, Plants vs. Zombies 2's F2P content (again), Need for Speed Rivals having a wonky online mode, Battlefield 4's continuing massive problems and NBA Live 14 being seen as an embarrassment by most people. This year hasn't been kind to EA. The coup de grâce though continues to be SimCity even to this day. Even if the myriad technical/server problems of that game were fixed (and they aren't), that game is still just fundamentally poorly designed. The city sizes are too small, the way buildings evolve is not handled well, the road system appears to be creative but has some issues, the social/trading mechanic just feels dumb, and so on and so on. The game came out March 5th, and not two weeks later (March 18th), John Riccitiello decides to step down. That was huge. At least due to the whole SimCity debacle, I was able to get Mass Effect 3 for free. And that was pretty decent.
1. Ryan Davis Passes Away
Like almost everyone else, I found out about this immensely sad news on July 8th of this year. I had a few friends who knew about it sooner, but they didn't tell me what occurred. I was playing Forza with one of them on July 6th and he seemed especially down. One of his comments as we played was, "I almost forgot how to laugh, thanks for bringing a little happiness in my life." Not knowing what he meant, I kind of passed it off, but when the announcement was broadcast, I knew exactly what he meant. Losing Ryan was a blow to his fans, a loss to his friends, family & new wife, and cast a dark cloud over the rest of the year. I often think about events that have happened in the game industry since his death (mainly Saints Row 4), and what he would've thought about that game, and all of the craziness that has happened since then. He will be missed by everyone who was able to experience what kind of person he was, whether or not they actually knew him, and it was a tragedy of 2013.
The Better Half with Liana K
Sadly, no Liana list this week. There was a big ice storm in Toronto a few days ago, and she (like a lot of people) lost power. Look for her list next week, assuming she gets power back.
There was a lot of news this year, but most of it centered either on new consoles, or game delays/announcements. Stuff like the Ouya, the 2DS, Watch Dogs getting delayed, John Carmack leaving ID, and so on. Leave a comment with what you think was the biggest news of 2013.
The General Roundup
The biggest surprising comment(s) from last week were the number of people actually defending Alpha Protocol. The shooting in the game just doesn't work that well. Fallout 3 almost had a similar issue, but it was mitigated by your ability to use VATS. That immensely helped in the game. Plus, I think damage is the only dice-roll happening when you shoot. If your reticle is red, that means you will hit, it just depends on how much damage there is. Yeah, State of Emergency also had incredibly shallow gameplay, but it was still fun.