2014 is coming to a close quickly, so it is time for us to look back and reflect on all the happenings in this year’s gaming world.
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One: Year 1
2013 was all about Sony’s and Microsoft’s new consoles. They hype about the disclosures, the buzz leading up to the release, and then both boxes are eventually released. Even though the consoles were only on the shelves for six weeks in 2013, the PS4 and Xbox One seemed to have filled the headlines from February to December.
The hype had ended in 2014 and it was time to get down to the brass tax. How good are consoles like these? The fact that the Xbox One and PS4 are great boxes is undoubtedly true. The hardware in them is miles ahead of the previous consoles, and both have functions that make them more than just gaming machines that are very cool and useful. For at least the next 5-7 years, these machines are certainly capable of carrying the console gaming market on their backs.
What we have also learned from both computers is that they are as vulnerable to hackers as any other connected device. Both systems have breached their infrastructures and have taken down their online systems on several occasions in 2014, including the grand finale on Christmas Day. Can we blame Sony or Microsoft for doing this? It’s difficult to tell. Some will argue that there should be an impenetrable amount of security surrounding the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live online infrastructure, but others argue that a hacker can crack any amount of security over time. Functioning in an online space is an unfortunate side effect, but when it comes to online security, there is always room for improvement.
Now, with the big question, was it necessary in 2014 to own the next gene system? On many fronts, this topic can be debated. On the one hand, we see that many of the 2014 marquee titles were cross-generational releases, meaning that they were available on both the new XB1 and PS4 systems and the old 360 and PS3 systems. So if you didn’t upgrade in 2014, there wasn’t much you really missed out on. There are amazing games on another front, such as Infamous Second Son and Sunset Overdrive that were not available on the old systems. You’ve probably picked up the PS4 or Xbox One in 2014 if you’re a gamer who places high value on visual fidelity.
The decision to own a new console is ultimately up to each customer, but in my opinion, I can see why frugal gamers would have decided to skip Xbox One and PS4 for the first year. The next generation of consoles will not be defined by titles such as Infamous Second Son and Sunset Overdrive, although amazing, and since very popular franchises such as Call of Duty and Dragon Age could still be played this year on PS3 and 360, it is easy to see why some people would have chosen to wait for it.
You may have done the right thing if you decided to wait until 2015 for your new console. In 2015, great titles are coming out that can only be played on the PS4 and Xbox One. Here are some of our most highly anticipated games for 2015.
Big money for big firms
Within the gaming community, some of the biggest financial acquisitions of 2014 happened. The Twitch TV acquisition by Amazon and the Oculus VR acquisition by Facebook have proven that gaming is no longer a niche product. Massive businesses pay big dollars to get into the world of gaming before it becomes too costly.
You can see exactly how far gaming has come in the last 7-8 years if we look at these deals individually. The only way you could watch people playing a video game before Twitch TV, originally Justin TV, was if you were there with them, or if they had some kind of elaborate setup that was not accessible to the usual, everyday person. By 2013, over 45 million users who watched over 12 billion minutes of video had been serviced by Twitch. The demand for a video game viewing service exploded, and massive names, most notably Google and Amazon, in the tech industry took notice.
It looked like Google was going to get their hands on Twitch at first, which would have given them a huge monopoly on the video gaming front since they also acquired YouTube recently, but Amazon swooped in at the last minute and grabbed Twitch for a cool $970 million. We can all now look forward to seeing how Twitch will grow with the largest online retailer in the world supporting it.
But, in the “which gaming-related company can be sold for the most money” competition, the huge $970 million Twitch acquisition came in 2nd place. First prize goes to Oculus VR, who acquired $2 billion from Facebook, yes, with a ‘B’. Oculus VR was founded and created with a vision to bring gaming to an entirely new level with its flagship product, the Oculus Rift. Originally, Oculus received more than $2 million from the Kickstarter crowdfunding website, but once Facebook realized the potential applications for this technology, they decided that the best course of action would be to acquire Oculus VR and provide them with all the development assistance they would ever need.
The hashtag still sparks passionate debate from both sides, probably one of the most contentious moments to come out of gaming. The movement came from the aftermath of an ex-boyfiend of indie developer Zoey Quinn’s WordPress blog post. In it, he revealed personal details as well as their subsequent break up of their relationship. He accused her of cheating on him with several men, some of whom were notable members of the game press, among those details.
The discussion slowly moved away from Quinn and began to concentrate on the games press as members of the gaming community gathered to watch the spectacle. Due to personal and intimate relations with certain members of the press, accusations began to fly that she had been given favorable coverage. Although these charges had been denied, the match had already been lit and several members of the gaming community started to speak out critically within the games press against biased coverage and corruption.
The debate was muddled with some community members speaking out against the press of the games, while others spoke out against Quinn herself. When several editorial pieces play out denouncing the ‘gamer’ identity, citing his death and rejecting the term as a group of misogynistic trolls, due in part to the persecution and negative spotlight achieved by Zoey Quinn, events reached a boiling point. The debate moved from ethics in journalism to harassment and gaming discrimination. To counteract that narrative, the hashtag GamerGate as well as # NotYourShield were then created, insisting that the movement was ethical and had always been about it.
When well-known female personalities like Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu claimed to receive death threats under the Gamergate moniker, things became further complicated. The situation gained so much focus that it made its way out of the gaming sphere and into mainstream media, with MSNBC taking an interest in the story as well as the Colbert Report. Onlookers can look online even now and see both sides of the arguments. GamerGate has now become the symbol of ethics in journalism or just another excuse to perpetuate sexism and discrimination, depending on who you talk to.
Embargoes are something that, for a very long time, product reviewers and journalists have had to deal with. They are in place to ensure that precisely when the newsworthy party wants it to be released, information is released. Publishers typically put embargoes on video game reviews in the case of video game journalism, so interested buyers can see the review scores before buying the game.
This year, in a bit of a different way, this practice was used. An embargo date of 11-11-2014 @ 9am was marked with Assassin’s Creed Unity. This date and time were a full 9 hours after the game hit shelves, which meant that until well after the release of the game, no prospective buyers could see the review scores for the game.
This may seem like a small problem to some individuals. You could just wait a few hours before buying it if you really wanted to see the review scores for the game, but notable gaming news sites took umbrage to this unusual violation of unwritten journalism rules. Their claim was that the embargo was used by Ubisoft to conceal the fact that their game was not finished and had serious problems with it. While these allegations can never be proven, and Ubisoft will certainly not admit to doing something like that, from day one, the problems with the game were clear, and it is easy to see why Ubisoft would want to hide the game ‘s problems.
We hope to see no more issues like this in the future, but the violation of the Assassin’s Creed Unity protocol could set a very dangerous precedent.
In 2014, what did we learn?
2014 has definitely been an interesting gaming year. We learned that for the PS4 and Xbox One, not all things are peachy in the first year of life. We learned that gaming has become a huge financial entity and that huge businesses are going to pay a lot of money for it.
We have learned that journalism in games, like any other form of journalism, is subject to corruption and misinformation, and in some circles even the term “gamer” can spark debate.
We have also learned that publishers and developers can do whatever they can to try to save the game from criticism.
Of all that, the one thing we know is that the gaming industry will continue to grow and continue to grow. More gamers join in the fun every year, and more people pick up a controller for the first time every year. Here’s 2014, the year that has been, and 2015, the year that ‘s going to be.