I’m starting to feel like a broken record but I really can;t overemphasize how great a year 2017 was for video games. On nearly every front, on nearly every console in nearly every genre there were multiple fantastic games to play, so many that will it take months if not years to fully clear our backlog of 2017 releases. But time marches on, and as we get ready to countdown the last few moments of 2017, its time to switch our gaze to the future and the possibilities before us. And while it would undoubtedly be selfish to ask for a year as good as this past one was for gaming in general, some of what we know is coming in 2018 is already pretty darn exciting. So I ask you, is it possible for 2018 to be a better year for gaming than 2017?
To answer this question let’s take a look at a few things that if they were to happen could set the industry up for a lot of success. The first of these I want to discuss is how 2018 is being prepped as a major comeback year for the Microsoft and the Xbox One system. This past year was a lackluster one for the system, with major software droughts and only a couple of ‘exclusive’ games (they all came to PC) that weren’t available on other consoles. To make things worse the Xbox One continued to lose ground to the PS4 in overall sales and market share and Nintendo’s release of the Switch and its runaway success has landed Microsoft as a distant third when it comes to current hardware sales. So how will they turn it around in 2018? With two key elements. Big game releases and the most powerful console on the market.
The Xbox One X was launch just a few weeks ago and has already been impressing gamers thanks to its extremely fast processing times and increased graphical fidelity that surpasses the PS4 Pro in most metrics. This has given Microsoft a clear advantage with technophiles who demand only the cutting edge for their hardware but also seems to be catching onto with the general gaming population with Microsoft’s simple message that emphasizes the Xbox One X’s power. Of course all of this means squat without games to play and admittedly it did seem like an odd decision to release the Xbox One X in November without many games to market it alongside. This was a major area of concern for Microsoft in 2017 however in the next few months the company will be publishing several extremely anticipated games with Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 all releasing ‘exclusively’ for the Xbox One in the first half of 2018 and boosted even further with the power of the Xbox One X. All of this sets up a revival of sorts for Microsoft and may finally turn this generation’s console wars into a three-way competition.
Of course if you want to look at recent ‘revivals’ its hard to ignore Nintendo’s climb back into the ring with the Nintendo Switch which stands as the system carrying the most momentum into 2018. This momentum was generated by Nintendo leaving nothing on the table and releasing major installments in the Zelda, Mario, Splatoon and Xenoblade series in one year all while complimenting their lineup with spinoff titles and ports, which essentially obliterated one of Nintendo’s greatest weaknesses with their past systems, software droughts. And right off the bat 2018 includes some pretty significant Switch games with Kirby: Star Allies and Project Octopath Traveler both scheduled for release in the first half of the year and new Fire Emblem, Yoshi and (possibly) Metroid and Pokémon joining in as well.
However while I am personally very excited for each of those games its hard to compare them with The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario series in terms of reach and appeal (except Pokémon) so for Nintendo to keep that momentum going and help the Switch reach new heights they will need to do more. For starters the Switch needs a Virtual Console service. The demand for Nintendo’s classic titles has never been higher and the prospect of taking games like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and F-Zero X out into the world is something that would definitely resonate with a lot of fans. Then there’s the fact that the Switch is essentially a tablet, a tablet without apps. Giving the Switch access to services like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and the internet itself via a browser would help expand the system even further and finally give some of us a reason to make the system our all-in-one entertainment device of choice.
The other day my brother wrote an article that looked at the Big Three’s 2018 Wishlists and one thing that stood out to me was that he mentioned that Sony and the PS4 should hope for more of the success they got in 2017 and they would be fine. And while I don’t disagree with that I do feel like the PlayStation 4 has yet to face competition so stiff as it will in 2018, so if Sony wants to stay on top of the sales charts (and I bet they do) they will have to make some changes to their approach, albeit nothing major. One element that seems to be lagging behind is marketing and promotion of the PS4. Sure commercials exist, I’ve seen about 10 today alone but the messaging regarding the PS4 seems to not be as clear and direct when compared to the power of the Xbox One and the portability of the Switch. Basically the PS4 has a new problem in 2018, that it’s not the ‘top’ system anymore in areas where it once reigned supreme, that is except one… games.
Sony and their third-party partners have put a lot of resources into making the PlayStation 4 the number one stop for exclusive games and often times, games that not exclusive to the system do receive more content and support on the PlayStation 4 when compared to the other system. This is especially true for games from Japanese publishers like Sega, Bandai Namco and Capcom who have supported the PS4 aggressively since it launched and will be doing so still in 2018 with major games like Soulcalibur VI, Monster Hunter: World and Valkyria Chronicles 4, all games that are coming to other systems but, if history is any proof, will find a larger audience on the PS4.
The last point I wanted to touch on, and something I’ve highlighted throughout this article is that great years in gaming are built by games and in that regard 2017 was an exceptionally strong year but the 2018 is already shaping up to be a strong competitor, with dozens of already announced titles that definitely rank high on our ‘most anticipated’ list. Here’s a sample of (some) the games we expect will be great in 2018…
- A Way Out
- Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Code Vein
- Crackdown 3
- Darksiders III
- Days Gone
- Detroit: Become Human
- Dragon Ball: FighterZ
- Far Cry 5
- Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch
- God of War (2018)
- Kingdom Hearts III
- Kirby: Star Allies
- Monster Hunter: World
- Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
- Project Octopath Traveler
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Sea of Thieves
- Shenmue III
- Skull & Bones
- State of Decay 2
- Soulcalibur VI
- The Crew 2
- The Last Night
- Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
- Valkyria Chronicles 4
- We Happy Few
- World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
- Yoshi for Nintendo Switch
That’s an impressive list and remember, we still have all the games announced at E3 to consider as well as any other event during the year, surprises we’ve yet to see and dark horses that might surprise us out of the blue. So in conclusion, while 2018 will have a lot of work to do to top 2017 it’s definitely looking like it will be a close battle and as players we’re the lucky ones who are caught in the middle.