Here’s our take on the big events in the games industry this year.
There were some very big releases this year; though some weren’t quite as big as hoped for. As we’ve discussed that ad nauseam in recent weeks, we’ll have no more talk of that here. We’ve picked out a few big titles, not just for their commercial success but for breaking the mould.
Pokmon’s big year
Timed perfectly for its 20th anniversary, Pokmon had a massive year in 2016. There’s little that hasn’t been said about the Pokmon Go phenomenon. It launched in July, had over 100m downloads by August and was visible across the country come summer as players congregated in order to catch em’ all.
It didn’t stop there, though, as the craze for Pokmon reignited. Retail reported great sales of the trading card game and Nintendo had its biggest game launch ever in the UK. November saw combined sales of Pokmon Sun and Moon hitting 7.5m global in its first two weeks on sale.
Overwatch a smash on console
Blizzard doesn’t make commercial failures, but with Overwatch it again showed it could perform on console as well as PC, with 83 per cent of physical Week One sales coming on PS4 and Xbox One.
May’s online shooter took the template created by Team Fortress 2, added design elements from popular MOBA titles such as Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm and then polished it off with the company’s bright graphical style. The result was a game that debuted at No.1 and hasn’t left the UK Top 20 since launch.
With no paid DLC to divide the player base, Blizzard is only monetising the title through in-game cosmetic items and new retail sales.
Overwatch is a huge new franchise and one that looks set to run for years and years.
Hitman goes episodic
The long-running franchise returned in March but with a twist. The game was initially launched as a digital-only title in an episodic format, a shift in tact for the series. The six episodes were launched on a monthly basis, with a mid-season summer break, and could be bought piecemeal or via a Season Pass.
The release schedule meant each new level was often played multiple times, with gamers exploring the different approaches to the task at hand, and so building a highly dedicated following for the title.
A complete retail package is coming in January, too, showing that new business models need not exclude traditional methods. We watch with interest to see if others will find suitable content to release in this format in 2017.
No Man’s Sky
Generating huge pre-release hype, while also managing player expectations, has always been a tricky balancing act for those marketing video games. Hello Games arguably got it wrong when it came to No Man’s Sky.
The hugely ambitious-looking space exploration game was the work of a very small team of developers, but pre-release assets and the full-priced retail release pushed consumer expectations well above what was contained on the disc.
By its release date in August the game was already on the back foot. A wide-ranging Day One patch for the game supported fears that it had been rushed to market. A lack of any tangible multiplayer element was chief amongst complaints.
Hello has recently launched what is the first of many sizeable updates to the title.
However, No Man’s Sky will long be cited as an example of how pre-release expectations must be managed by the industry, not just stoked.