Titanfall 2 goes multiformat, Call of Duty goes on holiday and VR goes into the bin. What’s going to happen to games in 2015?
Now that the dandruff has settled on the shoulders of 2014, we can start making wild predictions about next year. It’s pretty obvious we’re going to see the usual suspects announced and rumoured for 2015 – The Last Guardian at E3, a Gears of War reboot for Xbox One, Assassin’s Creed Rogue for new-gen consoles – but away from those, what could really kick video games up the jacksie in 2015?
Call of Duty takes a year off
It’s been a better year for Call of Duty than you’d realise. Sledgehammer’s take on the series produced a bombastic and contemporary single-player game, and despite sticking to a well-worn formula it was enough to banish the stain of Ghosts. But it’s the multiplayer of Advanced Warfare that’s been brave enough to shake up the system, adding double-jumps and better loadout customisation to really cater to the core crowd.
Despite the invigoration from Sledgehammer and support from Activision, the series is still suffering from franchise fatigue with lower sales and a general lack of interest in a year where every shooter has been under Destiny’s shadow. Call of Duty needs a rest year. It would be a big move from Activision, but its success with Destiny and Hearthstone this year have proven it can make money from other big games outside of its usual pillars.
Instead of a full-price release Activision could continue to back Sledgehammer with a collection of DLC later in the year, building on all the good work it’s done with Advanced Warfare so far. The last thing Call of Duty needs right now is Ghosts 2 or Black Ops 3 kicking down the door of weary players.
Titanfall 2 goes multiformat
Titanfall was a big release earlier in 2014, but it was all but drowned out by the hype and sales of Destiny only months later. It’s a great shooter that distinguishes itself with two types of gameplay, it has enough spectacle to draw in a cynical FPS crowd and despite the daunting look of the Titans it’s remarkably accessible.
There’s no doubt that Titanfall was a credible hit, then, and there’s surely a sequel in the works. What it needs to do is address its two major issues – the lack of single-player game and its console exclusivity.
Although Xbox One sales are picking up, EA backed the wrong horse when it shook hands with MS, leaving a lot of sales of the first Titanfall on the table. If it gets a sequel on PS4 as well as Xbox One (and PC) Titanfall will have a good chance of standing up to its nearest sci-fi shooting rival.
Destiny is also a multiplayer experience but its story and co-op missions are on a smaller scale, giving the player a more personal experience in a larger world. There’s more to explore and do in Destiny, whereas Titanfall is much more old-fashioned in it’s approach to maps and combat choices. Titanfall doesn’t need a single-player game in the style of Call of Duty, but it needs co-op, more freedom of choice and wider exploration. The story may have been weak, but Respawn has done a great job of building an interesting world. Now it needs to build a sense of scale and let players loose.
Watch Dogs becomes the new Assassin’s Creed
It’s inevitable that Watch Dogs will get a sequel – those that think Watch Dogs “failed” because it didn’t live up to some preconceived idea is just nonsense. It may have only been a good game and not great, but that’s because Ubisoft is a company that takes its time to iterate on games yearly.
The first Assassin’s Creed game wasn’t that good either. But the second game was brilliant, remains one of the best in the series, and established it as a killer franchise for the publisher. Expect the same to happen with Watch Dogs 2. You’re right to criticise Ubi for releasing a very similar game year-over-year, but it does so in order to refine and rebuild until it gets it right.
Xbox One will spoon PS4
The Xbox One has been trailing in the wake of PS4 almost all year, but in November it managed to break Sony’s dominance. Now it’s at a much more realistic price, we should expect sales of both consoles to dance around each other for the rest of 2015.
Where Microsoft needs to win more is in the PR and marketing. Sony seems to be revealing more games on a regular basis – something its huge PR event The PlayStation Experience illustrated the other week. Sony is taking these things in its own hands rather than wait for the industry’s usual round of marketing opportunities at E3, Gamescom, TGS, PAX and EGX. Microsoft is catching up with the numbers but it also needs to win hearts and minds.
The Wii U continues to drift along its own path
You can buy the Wii U for bargain prices now and with some very good games to boot. Next year we may see a new Zelda release and titles like Mario Maker will help it keep afloat. But the third-party support continues to dry up, and the Wii U isn’t spoken about in the same excited tones as the other two big consoles.
The Wii U is fine. It’s doing okay. It didn’t die and it’ll stick around for another couple of years, but it hasn’t made a big impact in any wider context of the games business. Publishers were right to be wary of it. It will continue to drift along with guidance from its Nintendo masters, but as much as it’s unique it’s also aloof, not very willing to play the games everyone else is playing, for better and for worse.
VR follows Steam Machines into the bin
Remember Steam Machines? Some have actually been released with little or no fanfare. It’s probably due to the continued resurgence of home consoles. Valve was too late on that one.
I feel the same about VR technology too. Facebook buying Oculus Rift took the wind out of those sails, with VR morphing into a social and entertainment experiment rather than a pure games thing. Other attempts like Samsung’s Gear VR seem like novelty at best. Even Sony’s Project Morpheus is years away, or worse, the new 3DTV.
Will PS4 games honestly be improved for the better with VR? I doubt it. VR in games is the new microconsole, the new 3DTV, the new Steam Machine. A good idea that not enough people want and few are willing to invest in.