2013 Year in Review
With this year coming to a close, it only feels natural to reflect on the past 365 days. It that time of year where everyone lists their top games and reflects on the year that was. In the last 12 months, records have been broken, franchises rebooted and the next-generation of gaming consoles “officially” arrived. Next week I’ll be presenting the best games of this past year but until then it feels appropriate to analyze the year 2013 in gaming.
This past year began with the closure of THQ, one of the larger publishers in the industry, most notably responsible for the Saints Row games. I wasn’t particularly sad to see them go but it’s not often that this sort of thing happens. It’s a warning to other publishers of what a few bad decisions will lead to but it’s also indicative of the sequel-driven nature of the industry. Other than Saints Row, THQ failed to establish a major gaming franchise; Homefront was their biggest gamble, and it failed. Consider for a moment where Ubisoft would be without Assassin’s Creed or Activision without Call of Duty. It makes you think, however THQ’s closure was not the only loss of a gaming studio.It was followed by the more tragic news of LucasArts closing down their games division, which had been the publisher and developer for classic Star Wars games such as Battlefront and Knights of the Old Republic. At the very least we have another Battlefront game to look forward to.
This was a year of records being broken, not all of them good. Earlier this year, EA released SimCity which has the dubious honour of being the most poorly executed launch (if you could even call it that) in video game history. If you aren’t familiar, SimCity was a single-player game that required a constant online connection to servers that struggled to even operate. Being able to play Sim City was a game unto itself, several gaming websites were forced to delay their reviews of the game due to not being able to play it. The launch was so laughable that EA offered players a free game as an apology. In more positive news, Grand Theft Auto V destroyed previous records, making an astonishing $800 million in 24 hours after its release on Sept. 17 making 2013 the first year in a long time that a Call of Duty game did not break sales records.
As for the games themselves, this wasn’t exactly a banner year for originality. Several franchises including Tomb Raider and Devil May Cry were rebooted, other games got the prequel treatment with games such as Gears of War: Judgement, God of War: Ascension and Batman: Arkham Origins. Two notable PC exclusives came out this year, Slender: The Arrival and The Stanley Parable. Both games were essentially remakes of smaller projects. There were also big sequels like Battlefield 4 and Grand Theft Auto V. Truth be told, the only truly original game I played this year was The Last of Us but even then it’s set in a zombie apocalypse which isn’t exactly a breath of fresh air right now. I’ve heard people say that 2012 was the year of sequel for gaming. If 2013 was the year of anything, it was they year of everything-but-an-original-idea.
That’s not to say that these games weren’t any good. There were plenty of great games this year. Interestingly enough, even though there were of many better games, the most fun I had playing any game this year was Tomb Raider. It was probably the most pleasant surprise all year and considering it was my most anticipated game of the year, I suppose you could say it means this was a successful year in gaming. Unlike last year, the most popular games this year were also among the most critically acclaimed. For example, the best rated games of 2012 were The Walking Dead, Mass Effect 3 and Journey, however none of these games were the were one of the top 10 best-selling games of that year. In 2013 however, the highest rated games were Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us and BioShock: Infinite, all three of which were in the top ten best-selling. That’s especially impressive for the Last of Us as it’s only available on the PS3. The masses of people that make up the gaming audience had better taste in their games than last year.
However, all of this pales in comparison to what 2013 will be remembered for in the world video games. The arrival of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One have ushered in a new generation of gaming. Both consoles are doing very well, each having sold over two million units. Sometime next year I’ll probably buy one if not both consoles. All things considered, this has probably been the smoothest transition from one console generation to the next.
2013 for gaming was an improvement from last year, but there’s still room to grow. It’s been a year of transition, a very smooth one at that. It hasn’t been the best year in gaming this decade (that honour goes to 2011) but as a swan-song to the current generation of gaming, it’s been an acceptable one. With blockbuster games like Watch Dogs, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and The Division on the horizon, 2014 can’t come soon enough.