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 411mania » Games » Columns

The 8 Ball 01.28.14: Top 8 Predictions for 2014
Posted by Marc Morrison on 01.28.2014

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball, where Liana and I are going to talk about some predictions for the year. The past few years haven't been especially kind, so my list will take a slightly more negative look at the year. Obvious stuff like "Yo, there will be an Assassin's Creed 5 and/or pirate-themed spin-off" aren't really on my list. I'm more talking about the bigger picture of the gaming world, not listing game sequels I know are going to happen. With that being said, let's begin:

8. Steam machines will come out and generally be worthless

 photo Alienware_zpsb01ba25a.jpg

After seeing all the news about the Steam Machines, I still do not understand the concept of them. Wasn't all of this territory kind of explored a decade ago by Infinium Labs? There are a few general problems with the idea of a Steam Machine (or at least how Valve is trying to position it). 1. On most of the first run machines, parts aren't replaceable. This isn't a huge factor now, but in three or four years when PC specs will be higher, it will be an issue. 2. There's seemingly no standard between machines. There needs to be a hard grouping of systems like, low, medium, or high quality that gives consumers a baseline for the performance of the announced machines. 3. Doesn't the Steam In-Home Streaming feature make the whole notion of a gaming PC in the living room a bit moot? Having a Steam Machine that can only receive this stream is one thing (and might be viable), but having a $1,000+ box that can only run Steam stuff is ridiculous. 4. Linux is a joke. There's a few other points I could make also, but for now, this idea seems a bit destined for failure. The controller seems pretty well reviewed though.

7. Elder Scrolls Online won't be a big hit
 photo ElderScrollsOnline_zps2be259eb.jpg

Speaking of ideas destined for failure, we come to Elder Scrolls Online. Like with The Old Republic a few years ago, the question of "Why is this happening?" keeps repeating in my head, whenever they talk about this game. The gaming market right now isn't exactly clamoring for a new MMO to sweep people off their feet. While WoW is still relatively popular, and Guild Wars 2, TOR (now), and others are doing ok, the genre isn't exactly thriving. I completely fear that ESO is making the exact same mistakes as Old Republic did, almost to a tee. A lot of people will likely buy it, play it for a month or two, then stop playing/subscribing to it. I fully expect that by April 2015 (ESO's one year anniversary), that the game will either be free to play already, or there will be an announcement saying when the game is going F2P.

6. Microtransactions will be even more prominent

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With the rush to F2P gaming, microtransactions have followed suit, hand in hand. It's not just with F2P games though, a lot of retail products in 2013 (and before) came with microtransactions baked in. A large minority of the Xbox One's launch lineup had games with these transactions baked in, and it's only likely to get worse as the years go on. Microtransactions by themselves aren't evil, but when they unnecessarily gate your progress in a game, or cut off certain areas in a quick cash grab, than "yes", that is a problem. I foresee that this notion is only going to grow and grow, hell it's what EA has based most of their business on, but the market will crash soon enough when people wake up and stop buying this stuff.

5. Bandwidth caps will really begin to push against the new consoles

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13gb for a Dead Rising 3 patch? Really? It's ironic now because in the 360 vs. PS3 fight, the 360 was more known for having drastically smaller patches (as mandated by Microsoft) than the PS3. Microsoft's original vision for the Xbox One was of an all (or mostly) digital future, where you could sell games to people on a marketplace, and have your library in a digital format. It, predictably, fell flat on its face, because the concept in today's climate is kind of laughable. If you live in a high tech city like Seattle, San Francisco, or Austen that's one thing, but a majority of people don't. If you have a bandwidth cap of let's say 100gb a month, and you download that DR3 patch, that is 13% of your bandwidth for the month. If you then download a 20gb game, a 25gb game, and watch a few Netflix movies, you are going to be in some serious trouble. With the recent strike down of Net Neutrality this is going to become a larger problem soon (pray that it isn't), but for a lot of Americans, let alone people in different countries (Canada, England, etc.) the national infrastructure isn't currently in place to support all of the traffic that both consoles will be generating.

4. Kinect gaming will still be seen as a joke

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Yeah, you know that thing connected to your Xbox One that you yell at to change channels? That thing is actually supposed to be a part of the gaming experience. Don't laugh now, it's true! Honestly, aside from the Fantasia game from Harmonix (and that is iffy), the Kinect is one of the biggest laughing stocks since they released the first one 3 years ago. The new one might have more points of articulation, better facial tracking, and be able to create magical wishes if you sacrifice a goat in front of it, but honestly, no one cares about it as a gaming platform. Exercise, dance, and mini-game collections will continue to come out for the thing, but that is it. It's time Microsoft just dropped the charade of pretending to care, cuts its loses, and runs.

3. Square/Capcom will have no clue how to deal with diminishing franchises

 photo ResidentEvil6_zpsa37f9bb9.jpg

Both companies have had a few rough years between them. Square's sales have slid with Final Fantasy 13, and Final Fantasy 13-2 not exactly setting the world aflame. And while Final Fantasy 14 is doing well now, the money and time they spent to fix it, is kind of scary. Capcom is also going through these pains with Resident Evil 6 and Lost Planet 3 (published by them) failing to make any type of impact with the gaming world. Both companies seemingly spend way too much money on games where budgets could be smaller. Square has been in a quagmire with Final Fantasy since 7 was released, each game having a different battle system, sillier story, but kind of the same neo-futuristic/naturalistic aesthetic for the past 15 years. Capcom has zero clue what to do with the Resident Evil franchise, turning it from a beloved survival horror franchise into a bloated, disgusting, mess of a series. It's sad when "survival horror", what Capcom used to excel at, is now in the firm dominion of the indie PC developer. I'm not sure if either company can rescue their flagship franchises, and it might be more humane to let them go out as gracefully as possible. But they won't.

2. Wii U will continue its descent into obscurity

 photo WiiUGamepad_zpsd352f264.jpg

Slashing a sales prediction from 9 million to 2.8 million is what you would call "not good" by any stretch. I'm not completely full of doom and gloom saying "Nintendo won't exist by the end of next year", they simply have too much money for that scenario to happen. But, with the exception of the Virtual Boy, I think the Wii U is going to go down as one of Nintendo's most costly mistakes. They have the mentality that only their games can carry a system, and they can't. For one, most of their games are good, but formulaic as all hell (Zelda) and people are slowly realizing this. The other part is that they can't make games fast enough for this to be a viable strategy. If they busted out a Mario game every 3 months, that would work for 2 games, maybe 3, and then that would be it, people would stop caring at all. Nintendo needs to really wake up and realize that third part games are important, and try to either cultivate whoever is left on the system to make more, or start making some plans to kill the Wii U off quickly.

1. Half Life 3 will come out this year


1. EA's problems will continue to mount

 photo EALogo_zps4affd17d.jpg

Square, Capcom, even Nintendo all have their share of problems, but none can top EA and how important 2014 will be for the company. EA has had a fairly devastating year in 2013 with SimCity, Battlefield 4, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, NFS: Rivals, etc. While Titanfall may be an amazing game I have my doubts that it is going to be the "be all and end all" shooter that they think it will. It'll likely be good, but will it be able to topple Call of Duty from the FPS throne? Probably not. Dragon Age: Inquisition is hopefully going to be good also, but the fans of that series have been burned by DA2 somewhat. Mass Effect is taking a break, Dead Space is taking a break, Skate is dead, Crysis is (largely) dead, Skate is Dead, Burnout is dead, etc. Sims 4 is likely going to do well for them provided they can actually make a functional game. Given the numerous apologizes these past few months for the blunders of late 2013, it remains to be seen. EA needs to trim some of their own fat and actually work on the fundamentals of a game, rather than trying to cram it to the gills with microtransactions. Work on server stability, eliminate DRM (actually, just get rid of Origin), make sure the game is in an actual playable state before a game is released. They seemed incapable of that in 2013, and if they continue the trend in 2014, it will slowly doom them.

The Better Half with Liana K


Top 8 Gaming Predictions For 2014

Firstly, Marc and I were thrilled by the number of people who shared their own lists last week! Hopefully that's something you guys will keep doing! We only have eight spots each, so I love seeing other people's favorites!

Turning our attention to this week's topic, predicting the future in the world of video games is like predicting the lottery: everyone picks numbers that mean something to them, that then turn out to be wrong... but we do it anyway. One thing I try to avoid in these forward-looking pieces is predicting doom for companies or unfairly trashing people or products just to grab clicks. Unfortunately, some people become symbols for trends, so the fastest way to get my point across was to single out a poster child of some sort. I feel bad about that, because everyone's just trying to make a living, but sometimes being a provocateur is the lesser of evils. So here's my look into the Crystal 8 Ball for the coming year. (Note: I am crazy sick, hence the lack of pictures and possibly more run-on sentences than usual)

8: A Major Hack

 photo ps3-jailbreak_zps5095c6c8.jpg

It seems to be a regular thing now, and with the new systems out, there are new digital Everests to climb. The hacker that cracks the Xbox One or the PS4 will get a lot of attention, which is reason enough for far too many people to try. If they can't hack the consoles, they'll look for something else. Hell, people are hacking smart appliances these days. Hackers have become like those dogs that hump everyone's leg... which on some days is my dog, so I can't be too high and mighty.

7: Some big new Console Exclusive IP

 photo halo_zpsc1f2622c.jpg

I'm expecting some big announcement for Q4 that's a calculated surprise. Developers have shown they can keep secrets before, and with the Xbox One and PS4 running neck and neck, expect a three ring circus in the coming year, as the two companies compete for eyeballs and dollars. The pressure is especially on Xbox to produce here, since it has far fewer exclusive franchises, having sacrificed so many in the previous generation on the altar of Halo.

6: Something Something Kratos. Something Something Naughty Dog

 photo kratos5_zpsb15e4c58.jpg

New numbered God of War games tend to show up right when a new Playstation needs a game that will sell systems. Ascension didn't set the world on fire because it was the third prequel in the franchise, but there's still life in Kratos: he helms one of a handful of IPs that really knows how to show off what the Playstation hardware can do. Ditto for Naughty Dog's offerings, and their signal that they're wrapping up development on The Last of Us DLC can only mean that something new is imminently in the works.

5: Dragon Age: Inquisition will be amazing!

I'm not totally convinced that Dragon Age: Inquisition will be out in 2014, but when it does come out, it will be more of a return to Origins form, and will blow me away despite the dialogue wheel. I hate the dialogue wheel. Unlike Mass Effect 3, there's no character arc to finish, meaning fresh stories as well as learning more about existing characters, and I am hoping for 100% more Flemeth! I love Flemeth. There will likely be the expected backlash against the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters, but that's part of the joy of Bioware games for me. I enjoy watching people reveal themselves to be idiots by completely missing a point over and over and over again. Okay, fangirl moment over. Back to cynicism.

4: Changes at Nintendo

 photo WiiU_zps4eb22366.jpg

The Wii-U is officially a dud, meaning Nintendo either has to pull a rabbit out of Mario's moustache or get out of the console business. With their handheld division eroded by smartphones, kids games becoming the territory of third-party companies, and consumers flocking to other consoles, it's adapt or perish time for the House of Miyamoto. But Nintendo has had consoles that didn't set the world on fire before and they've recovered, so things could go either way. Whichever way fortunes turn, Nintendo won't be able to stay its current course for much longer. It needs to grab a red mushroom and go big, because its princess is in another castle.

3: Eroding Net Neutrality Impacts Direct Download Services

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Gamers are considered "bandwidth hogs" to ISPs, and recent anti-net neutrality rulings are sure to have an impact on game download services, especially smaller alternative services specializing in DRM-free products. I play a lot of games, and I love steam sales, because they save me a ton of money, even if it does take me five hours to download a game on my lousy internet. But if I have to cave in and spend more on internet services, or worse, if services start getting blocked because they can't pay to play, that means fewer surprise discoveries of franchises I end up loving. It's a scary thought, but with the real power of the internet consolidating into fewer and fewer hands, it's a real possibility.

2: Jonathan Blow is Out, Minority Media and The Fullbright Company Are In

Okay, not specifically Jonathan Blow, but the digital auteur zeitgeist that he embodies... so-called "artistic" exercises that are just pompous presentations of a nifty gameplay mechanic that gets old a lot faster than it should. Where Blow's Braid stomped out its metaphors... meaning they were no longer really metaphors... Minority had enough confidence in Papo & Yo players to let them accept the game on their own terms, and didn't attempt to explain the game's allegories as if the players were stupid. Meanwhile, Fullbright's short-but-impactful game Gone Home showed that the real lives of regular people still have power in the digital realm, and that male gamers can relate to a female protagonist who isn't hypersexualized. They also displayed great integrity when they pulled out of PAX on moral grounds, despite the potential business consequences that, fortunately, were balanced out by some media outlets championing the game. These are social forces in the world of video games that cannot be stopped. These emergent companies provide emotional power without the pretension by flying in the face of the entrenched status-quo, and the socially conscious model that they represent will be the robust future of indie games. Don't believe me? Check out the trailer for Silent Enemy.

1: Women in Gaming Issues Will Get Worse Before They Get Better

 photo Rosie-the-Riveter_zps8a383890.jpg

Seriously, who pissed in gamers' collective cornflakes lately? We're in the middle of a pretty major backlash wave when it comes to girl gamers, with "fake geek girls", horrific trolling, and rampant tokenism. While some of this is a natural part of integration, there's still a large part that doesn't make a lot of sense. The false machismo that's been grafted on to gaming needs to be called out for what it is, but those growing pains are going to be ugly. Furthermore, The Witcher 3 is releasing in Q2, and that series is ground zero in the gender war: the franchise's fans consistently refuse to accept that a world with that much misogyny and subtle homophobia isn't a more realistic world, it's just a world that more closely fits their passively-embedded worldview. A world where only men scar from battle wounds is a world where women are not real people. Every time a game like this comes out that is technically stunning and thoroughly socially irresponsible, there's a "back of the bus" phenomenon that hits gamers regarding the opinions of the women in the ranks. It's ugly, it's unnecessary, and it's inevitable, until the majority decides that it isn't okay. We're not looking to take away your boobs, guys. We just want to be seen as real people, who are allowed to fall down and get back up again, even if that leaves us with less-than-flawless skin. So you have a choice: are you going to see your games for what they really are, even if you like them anyway? Or are you going to stick your heads in the sand because you can, then wonder why more women don't play core game franchises?

Complainer's Corner

No secondary list this week. Just make your own predictions for next week, so I can discuss them.

The General Roundup

Good job you guys, there were a shocking amount of intelligent, well-written comments from last week. I won't address them all, but given how many there were, this'll be a bit longer than usual. I never had problems with certain games like Battletoads, GTA: San Andreas, SMT: Devil Summoner. I also kind of though SMT: Nocturne (It's Lucifer's Call in Europe) wasn't easy, but was pretty fair, except when you had to go through the Kalpa stuff to unlock Dante. M. Bison or Gill (in SF3) are both fairly frustrating bosses, but I disliked fighting Gill more. His resurrection super is very annoying. I never had a problem with Sonic 2, but did with Sonic 3, the infamous Casino Zone-cylinder thing. I had to call up the Sega hotline for them to tell me, "Press up and down on it, to control it". Apparently, this was actually a fairly common problem back in the day, since the game gave you no tip at all on how to get past it. There were a lot of Ninja Gaiden NES comments, but the only one I played was the original Xbox one. That was challenging, but once you got the "Flying Swallow" attack, it made most of the game a cakewalk. I actually really enjoyed the Bonus levels in Super Mario World (including the really hard one where you were in balloon form for most of it). They provided an interesting challenge, and had some cool mechanics to them. Lastly, I don't think it's possible to actually beat Super Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. They were well made games, but hard as all hell.

Next Issue

Top 8 Best Sick Day Games


The 10 Worst Justice League Members

Ryan Bader: Forever a Gatekeeper

411 Remembers Robin Williams

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