This was an especially progressive year for gaming. New consoles, virtual and augmented reality, and Irish gaming superstars all came to the fore. Here are Ronan Jennings’s top 10 moments from 2016.
When Hello Games first announced No Man’s Sky in 2012, no one could have guessed the impact it would have on the community.
It quickly became the most hyped, most anticipated game of 2016. At the centre of that hype was creator Sean Murray, a Corkman who graduated from UCC before moving abroad to pursue his passion.
Backed by Sony, Murray made a huge media push for the game, even appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in the US.
It was an amazing achievement for such a small development team and its Irish leader, but No Man’s Sky was eventually eaten by its own hype.
Upon release, many gamers complained about the lack of features that had been promised during Murray’s media campaign and, as the internet does, Murray and No Man’s Sky were vilified.
The story isn’t over yet, though, as Murray and team have vowed to improve the game to meet expectations.
2016 was supposed to be the year of Virtual Reality, but that promise didn’t materialise until September, when Sony released the first truly accessible VR headset for the gaming community.
While PC-dependent headsets Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive hit the market earlier in the year, it was PlayStation VR (PSVR) that really captured people’s imaginations.
With a huge PlayStation userbase ready and waiting.
PSVR made virtual reality in the living room a possibility for the first time.
The tangle of wires and connections makes PSVR a hassle to set up, but the experience is like nothing else in gaming.
It’s a glimpse into the future.
The biggest news of the year, hidden right in front of us?
Sony’s PlayStation Pro console (and Microsoft’s unreleased Scorpio machine) were announced as ‘superpowered’ versions of existing consoles, capable of running games at better frame rates and higher resolutions.
Could this be a move towards the mobile-phone model of annual upgrades?
Splitting the gaming market in this manner doesn’t seem to make much sense, but it could be the direction Microsoft and Sony are heading.
Nintendo knows it, we know it, everybody knows it: The Wii U was a total flop.
It may rank as Nintendo’s worst home console ever, especially following the unprecedented success of the Wii.
So their next home console needs to be something special.
In the Nintendo Switch, they have, at least, caught people’s attention.
The Switch is a home console that comes with its own tablet-like screen, meaning it can double as a handheld console.
While unlikely to compete graphically with a PS4 or Xbox One, the Switch could become the console of choice for younger gamers and for families with limited screen space.
One of 2016’s biggest announcements.
The Central Park rush was the moment Pokemon Go became scary.
Hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers blocking up traffic, getting out of their cars, rushing towards the centre of the park, where a rare pokemon had suddenly appeared.
It was like something from an episode of Black Mirror. As the famous YouTube line goes: ‘Is this real life?’
Only an ubiquitous franchise like Pokemon could have pulled this off, but in doing so it gave us a glimpse into the future of augmented reality and entertainment.
This is only the beginning.
Arguably the most influential game of the 1990s (and certainly one of the most influential games ever) was rebooted in 2016.
No-one expected Doom to be any good, especially when press copies were embargoed until after release.
To everyone’s surprise, it wasn’t just good, it was great.
While Doom 2016 certainly won’t influence gaming like its predecessor, it’s a great example of a developer making old sensibilities fresh again.
It still doesn’t feel quite real.
In an unprecedented move by a large publisher, Warner Bros offered full refunds to Steam purchases of Batman: Arkham Knight, because the game was so poorly made.
While the console versions of Arkham Knight were largely fine, the PC port was plagued with problems from the get go.
Eventually, Warner caved to the reality and, to their credit, offered refunds.
In a world where unfinished games hit the market every week, this was 2016’s watershed moment for gaming consumer rights.
The times, they are a-changing. (You can even say that in Mario’s Italian accent).
We never thought Nintendo would allow its mascot and hero on any hardware but their own, but 2016 saw gaming’s most recognisable star explore new horizons.
Super Mario Run hit iPhones and will follow on android in 2017.
Put that in your pipe and… oh, wait, Mario got there first.
Irish entrepreneur Ferdi Roberts wants Ireland to be at the forefront of European gaming conventions.
To that end, he partnered with GameStop and announced GamerCon, Ireland’s first full-scale gaming convention, to take place next March.
The plan is to start with Ireland and expand to London and into e-sports.
With 20,000 gamers expected to attend the convention, it’s a brilliant development for the thriving Irish games community.
“Top of the morning to ya laddies!!”
Top of the beanstalk, more like, as Jack Septic Eye — born Sean William McLoughlin — climbed the YouTube ladder with astounding success in 2016.
The Athlone native, famous for his loud and humorous Let’s Play videos, reached 13.5m subscribers by December, making him the 31st most subscribed channel on YouTube.
The man is now a bonafide Irish superstar, albeit one that most people have never even heard of.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved