2017 a fine year for games consoles

2017 truly was a great year for gaming. Ronan Jennings reminds us of some of the big developments, including the rise of an ‘unknown’ Irishman.

2017 a fine year for games consoles

1. Nintendo Switch is revealed

On January 13, Nintendo decided to ‘Switch’ things up, revealing their new console, along with a price and 2017 release date.

While the Nintendo Switch was never designed to compete directly with the more powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it offered gamers the option of playing on a TV or handheld device.

There were many doubters when the console was revealed in January, including this writer, but the Switch has gone on to sell millions, proving Nintendo knew exactly what the market needed — an excuse to play Zelda on the toilet.

2. The death of Masaya Nakamura

Namco may not be a household name, but their flagship character certainly is.

Namco created Pac-Man, along with other seminal video games like Galaga and Galaxia. Namco was founded by Masaya Nakamura in 1955, first as an amusement ride company, before evolving into one of the world’s most important video game developers.

Nakamura passed away in 2017 at the age of 91, hopefully to a more peaceful state than one of Pac-Man’s ghosts.

3. PlayStation VR

While virtual reality (VR) was officially launched on PlayStation in late 2016, it wasn’t until this year that we really started to reap the rewards.

Resident Evil 7 in VR is surely the world’s premium horror experience, across any medium. It is almost too nerve-wracking to enjoy.

Farpoint was a thrilling sci-fi shooter that later added online multiplayer. Skyrim VR showed us a flawed, but thrilling glimpse of what the world of Elder Scrolls was like ‘from the inside’.

In some ways, we’re glad that VR still has comfort and technical limitations — otherwise travel agents might be out of business.

4. An Irishman takes over gaming

Ballyshannon’s Brendan Greene is the creator of 2017’s biggest hit.

His game, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, is still in pre-release mode — meaning gamers are playing an unfinished version — but that didn’t stop Greene and Korean partner Bluehole selling more than 20 million copies this year.

Battlegrounds places 100 soldiers on a battlefield that continually shrinks until only one person is left alive.

(We’ve never made it.) It’s tense, dramatic and surprisingly funny.

The concept is so simple, they could have called it Playgrounds, but keeping the fanbase happy is far from child’s play — Greene and Bluehole will need to keep improving the experience to stave off competitors.

5. The new Zelda is (very) good

Only the games matter. That’s why we need milestone, generational experiences like Breath of the Wild.

Zelda is to gaming what ‘Star Wars’ is to movies, which makes Breath of the Wild’s cultural impact similar to The Force Awakens.

It took the essence of the first Zelda and reimagined it for a modern age.

Breath of the Wild was the first relevant and truly great Zelda game in 20 years, one that cut across generational divides and had pretty much everyone in agreement — gaming is magic again.

6. Loot boxes and gambling

Check under your Christmas tree. Make sure there are no loot boxes there, hidden in the form of ‘video games’.

This year saw the rise of stealth-gambling in games, where players were corralled into paying extra money to maximise their chances of progressing or succeeding.

This manipulation of gamers came in the form of ‘loot boxes’, which effectively amount to digital lucky dips.

In November, Belgium’s gaming commission confirmed that loot boxes were considered gambling and they will move to ban them.

7. The Game Awards

For the first time, we caught a glimpse of what might become the ‘Oscars’ of gaming. (Is that a good thing, you ask?).

While this was technically the fourth incarnation of the Game Awards, this year’s event in Los Angeles was the first to really hold its own and carve out some relevance. More than 11.5million people streamed the awards on December 9.

The game nominations were smart (with Zelda winning overall) but more importantly, there were a host of new game announcements and trailers revealed, including a new Bayonetta and Soul Calibre VI.

8. PlayStation Pro and Xbox One X

Both Sony and Microsoft gave a big push to their spruced-up super consoles, the PlayStation Pro and Xbox One X respectively, the latter of which released this year.

The question is, did anyone care? While sales figures were respectable, the benefits of the two consoles just didn’t seem apparent.

While both do 4K output natively and each can handle slightly better looking graphics, this emerged as one of 2017’s more head-scratching industry moves, one that failed to resonate with gamers.

9. Hellblade on World Mental Health Day

When Ninja Theory announced they were independently developing an action game, everyone thought Hellblade would follow the company’s previous style of over-the-top story and direction.

Instead, they released a thoughtful game inspired by mental health issues, with the main character Senua haunted by internal voices and health conditions that were implemented after consulting with real-life experts and sufferers.

On World Mental Health Day, proceeds from the game on that day were donated to charity, raising €70,000.

10. A new high

The games. Not since 2007 has the games industry seen a year of quality like this one.

The sheer number and brilliance of titles released was overwhelming: Zelda, Mario, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Nioh, NieR, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Resident Evil 7, Prey, Wolfenstein II, Cuphead, Destiny 2, What Remains of Edith Finch, Injustice 2, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Divinity II, Sonic Mania, Hellblade, Dishonoured: Death of the Outsider, ARMs, Splatoon 2.

The list goes on making, 2017 arguably the best year for the medium to date.

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