2011 was a great time to be a gamer, but there were some hiccups here and there. Here’s some of the winners, losers, and assholes that really made 2011 to me.
There’s no question that Steam is changing the way we look at games. There has been an underlying fear among gamers about going to a digital service for their games. Steam has single-handedly destroyed that fear with a service that’s convenient with pricing that a retail outlets cannot compete with. Where Valve really excels is in their support against anti-piracy measures and in their promotion of indie games. Valve’s CEO, Gabe Newell, has been in the forefront against the anti-piracy measures used by other publishers. He’s explained time and time again that by keeping everything simple for the customer with reasonable prices and quality customer service, customers will be less likely to pirate games. Then we have their promotion for indie games where indie games are placed next to the biggest titles giving them a level of exposure not seen in other digital platforms. In particular, the Potato Sack pack was part of an ARG (alternative reality game) where the purpose of the pack was to have gamers play several indie games for a specified amount of time. If all of those games were played for a set time, Portal 2 would be unlocked days before its release. This is a true testament to the greatness of Valve; they used one of their biggest games of the year to bring focus to some indie games along with rewarding gamers for working together.
Talk about a daunting task for a developer. Eidos Montreal had to make another entry in the Deus Ex series. That's not an easy job considering the first game is considered to be one of the best PC games EVER. In addition, they had to also redeem the series from the horrid sequel that was Deus Ex: Invisible War. Did they accomplish that task with Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Hell, yes. Not only that, but Human Revolution is superior to Deus Ex in every way, except for innovation, which goes to show how far ahead of its time Deus Ex was. Even though Human Revolution will probably not win any Game of the Year awards, Eidos Montreal deserves plenty of fanfare for rising up to the challenge as they did.
Last year, I started a small tournament business here in San Antonio called Alamo Gaming. I knew that 2011 was going to be a turning point for competitive gaming here in the U.S., and someone needed to capitalize on it. Little did I know how big 2011 would be for eSports. From the 20,000+ viewers that login to watch practically any Starcraft II event to the over 2 million viewers for Evo 2011, eSports are now hitting their stride. More players are being sponsored as more companies are taking notice of its growing fanbase. Production values of these events have also grown leaps and bounds this year creating a spectacle for gamers to watch.
Every year, indie games leave a lasting imprint on gaming by giving us a taste of something new. Games like Terraria, Frozen Synapse, Bindings of Issac and Bastion did just that. In 2011, indie games really caused a stir in the gaming world. For example, Minecraft reached new heights in popularity for an indie game. After 2 years of being worked on in various alpha builds, Minecraft was finally released. To celebrate that release, Minecraft creator Notch decided to make a convention called MineCon 2011. Think about that. An indie game has its own convention. Then we have the various Humble/Indie Bundles that came out this year. Multiple quality indie games were sold at whatever price the consumer wished to pay with proceeds going to charity and to the developers. Millions of dollars have been raised with each bundle along with giving lesser known games some additional exposure for a cheap price.
I always give Wii owners a hard time, but then again, I’m a Wii owner so it’s ok. This year was a painful reminder of how lackluster the Wii is. With the Wii having such a huge lead in units sold over the rest, clearly dominating the competition, you would think that all the great games would be on the Wii, but they’re not. Aside from Nintendo titles, the Wii’s lineup this year was lacking in every way. The most loyal of Wii owners were finally picking up a 360 or a PS3 because there was simply nothing good to play for long stretches of time. Something like this should not be happening to the console market leader, and it’s clear that game companies have given up on the Wii, leaving owners with dusty consoles.
Music Game Lovers
In 2010, you could hear the death rattle of the music game genre with the releases of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, DJ Hero 2, and Rock Band 3. Everyone knew it was coming, but not so unexpectedly. Out of the blue, Activision decided to kill off the Hero series (Guitar Hero and DJ Hero) and let the world know via a conference call. Activision single-handedly killed off the genre that THEY helped create by milking it and oversaturating the market. The genre's only possible savior, Harmonix, has been focusing on their Dance Central series with no word on if a new Rock Band game coming out. We all knew the end was coming, but it was still a shock when it finally happened.
Dragon Age Fans
When Dragon Age: Origin was released, critics and gamers were enthralled by its deep story and gameplay. It won countless of Game of the Year awards and further showed the awesomeness of Bioware. Then came Dragon Age II, which was the harsh reality check letting us know that what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. Bioware gave Dragon Age II a Mass Effect II overhaul making for a more streamlined approach to the game. Dragon Age II was more action with less choices, making it more accessible to those that didn’t get into Dragon Age: Origin, but taking away the depth that made the original so well received. While not being an absolute bomb of a game, it did not repeat the success of the original.
Battlefield 3 PC Players
After the first bits of gameplay were seen, the line was drawn for many people: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3. Battlefield 3 had everything that fans of the series had wanted in an incredible looking package. PC owners were salivating over the eye-candy they would hope to see on their screens. In their way, however, was EA's new Steam-like service called Origins. You see, EA had the great idea of launching Origins with the launch of Battlefield 3. What resulted was large amounts of downtime due to maxed out servers, players buying digital copies but EA not allowing them to activate, and some terrible customer service. Where Valve has shown us how great a digital distribution service like Steam can be, EA showed us how it can all go wrong.
Capcom really went to town this year, delivering many slaps across the faces of gamers everywhere. First to get smacked were 3DS owners, with Resident Evil: Mercenaries and its non-erasable save slot, resulting in a game that Gamestop would not accept as a trade in when it was first released. Next up were fighting game fans, as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was released in the same year as Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Mega Man fans were privledged enough to get a triple slap: Mega Man Universe was cancelled, as was Mega Man Legends 3, and to top it off Capcom was kind enough to let the fans know that the cancellation of MML3 was their fault. Just when you thought Sonic fans had it bad! Finally, Capcom took DLC to a whole new low by releasing cheat code DLC for Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. That’s right, thanks to Crapcom, you now have to pay to cheat.
Defenders of Duke Nukem Forever
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t going to like Duke Nukem Forever when I was playing it. The antiquated gameplay, long load screens, and horrible multiplayer made the game a real chore to play through. Once I posted my thoughts, Duke Nukem Forever defenders started coming out to defend their pal. Their arguments about "judging the game on standards from 15 years ago" and "losing yourself in the fun" where utter drivel. While I didn’t tear into Duke Nukem himself as other reviewers did, the defenders kept stating how Duke Nukem Forever was this incredible game that I didn’t understand. Oh yeah, because when I think of games that require a high level of thought to comprehend, I totally think of the Duke Nukem series.
There’s no doubt what the focus will be here. Sony’s behavior regarding the PSN breach was deplorable. It was bad enough that Sony’s security was taken down so easily via access to the developer network on PSN, but Sony’s handling of the situation was atrocious. This year, other breaches that occurred to Steam forums and Square Enix were met with quick explanations along with suggested actions. In the case of the PSN breach, all we got from Sony were vague remarks about the status of the network. It wasn’t until several days later that they finally admitted what happened and what the ramifications were. Sony did try to redeem themselves with gamers with some freebies, but they then pulled another dick move by adding a clause in their PSN Terms of Service stating that by agreeing to the TOS players cannot file class action lawsuits against Sony. To top it off, they decided to get into bed with AT&T to provide 3G service to the PS Vita which NO ONE was a fan of at the Sony E3 Press Conference.
Any Company Doing Online Passes
Any company doing online passes: What started off as limited to only EA Sports games has slowly infected others. Online passes were suppoed to be for helping out developers maintain servers, but it has become quite apparent that is not the case anymore. I could see a major game like Battlefield 3 doing an online pass; it’s a game played by thousands upon thousands of gamers which requires a lot of work to be done even after the game has been released. What annoys me is when Bulletstorm and Resistance 3 came with online passes. While these two games are good, no doubt about it, did the publishers really think that these games would have a lasting online community to warrant the need for an online pass? Months after its release, Resistance 3 has already seen huge drops in players because of big titles like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, so who knows how many people still play Bulletstorm online. What offended me the most was when NetherRealm Studios announced that Mortal Kombat would have its own online pass. While they admitted that it was to generate more income for them, to do that on a fighting game is setting a very ugly precedent, especially considering how awful the servers are for the game. Online passes have become nothing but insults to gamers as game companies try to defend the practice time and time again with the core idea being that they need to make up the money that they aren't getting from used sales. Instead of talking with Gamestop to find an answer, they decide to take it out on the consumer instead.
Do you have any winners, losers, or assholes that we left out? Let us know in the comments.