The gaming industry is just about to finish one of the most successful years we’ve seen in quite sometime. There have been countless blockbuster games to launch over the last 12 months and so many more wondrous indie games that have pleasantly surprised us. From Fallout 4 to Rocket League, so many incredible games have proved to us once again why we love this industry.
The console ecosystem has proven to be as healthy as it has ever been thanks to excellent starts to this new-generation for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. Both consoles have smashed sales records of old, and Nintendo is preparing to introduce the world to its newest piece of hardware in 2016. We hope you enjoy byteclay.com’s recent chat with EEDAR Qualitative Analyst Matt Diener.
Examiner: What’s the biggest trend from 2015 that will carry over into 2016?
Matt Diener: Diversity. Not just in the types of games being developed (although, certainly, we’ve seen a lot of diversity coming from studios both large and small lately), but the type of characters that are appearing in games. Both Sony and Microsoft had a headlining game at E3 starring a female protagonist (Horizon Zero Dawn and Rise of the Tomb Raider), and this speaks to a growing awareness of the huge percentage of gamers who’d like to see broader representation of the sexes in games. There’s also been a general increase in the number of non-traditional protagonists and supporting in games lately, and that’s terrific as it potentially broadens the appeal of gaming to a wider audience who may have felt marginalized in the past.
Examiner: Third party PS4 and Xbox One exclusives have been a major part of the gaming industry, but will that trend continue into 2016?
Diener: Third-party exclusives are going to continue into 2016, and they’re arguably more important in the industry than ever. With a growing number of platforms like PC, mobile, and Apple TV vying for a player’s attention and dollars, the major console developers need third-party exclusives to help entice players to their side to convince them that there’s a valuable experience that can only be enjoyed on their platform. Nintendo, for example, has a strong portfolio of first-party games (to say nothing of Bayonetta 2), that can only be played on the Wii U, and that’s been the primary factor in moving units for the system. But looking specifically at Microsoft and Sony, both already have exclusives announced for 2016 and these exclusives allow the consoles to position themselves strategically to appeal to different segments of gamers.
Examiner: What does Nintendo need to deliver with the NX in order to be competitive with PS4 and Xbox One?
Diener: I don’t think the NX needs to compete against the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to be successful. Nintendo has a history of doing things its own way, and that’s partially what’s allowed it to deliver excellent, oddball experiences like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker completely out of left field. When this experimentation works, as it did so well for the Wii, DS, and 3DS, it has paid dividends for Nintendo – but, unfortunately, when you take big risks, you’re going to have a few missteps along the way. For the NX to succeed in the current gaming ecosystem, it needs to focus on delivering a clever, Nintendo-only experience while enticing third-party developers to port major releases onto it. One rumor about the NX contends that it will be a hybrid handheld / console device, and I think that’d be a fantastic move for both Nintendo and players for the amount of freedom it would give. The worst-case scenario I could see for the NX is if Nintendo tries to copy the PlayStation 4 / Xbox One too closely in an attempt to entice more third party support for the platform. Those 8th generation console gamers without a Wii U are already well established in the Sony and Microsoft camps, and convincing them to leave for an experience that doesn’t offer anything different from what they’re already getting seems like an incredibly hard sell.
Examiner: What did Fallout 4’s reveal and subsequent launch teach publishers about the amount of time needed in between a game’s announcement and its launch?
Diener: There’s an inherent risk to announcing and showing a game too far ahead of its release, as changes made along the development cycle can result in frustration from fans of the title. We’ve seen that recently with a fan backlash to the changes Capcom’s made to Street Fighter V– and I absolutely love Derik Daniels’ perspective on the matter when he summarized that “the general public is know [sic] seeing behind the curtain of how games change as they get made”. Basically, it breaks down like this: the longer the distance between announcement, reveal, and release date, the greater the chance that fans will see changes to what’s already been shown, and the greater chance that there will be a negative reaction by fans to this. Fallout 4 is a particularly interesting case, since its announcement came less than six months before its release. That’s an extremely tight schedule to stick to, but the payoff is that the game got to essentially ride a wave of buzz from E3 to its release. Yet I think the biggest takeaway about Fallout 4’s launch story for other studios isn’t the short amount of time between announcement and release, but the carefully coordinated, multi-prong approach Bethesda took to engaging their fans out of the gate. The mobile simulation game Fallout Shelter was a masterstroke of fan engagement, as it provided the Bethesda faithful with a genuinely fun mini-game to play to tide them over until Fallout 4 arrived, and the Pip Boy limited edition was a great way for truly invested (and lucky) fans to show their commitment to the franchise by pre-ordering early.
Examiner: In order to remain successful, what’s the one thing gaming needs to change or keep the same moving into 2016?
Diener: Today’s gamers are almost spoiled when it comes to choice: they can play serious console games at home on a huge TV, fire up fun time-wasters and snack sized experiences on their phones no matter where they are, and they can kick back with a gaming handheld on the couch or on the go to have a slightly deeper experience between the two. In order to stay successful across all of these sectors, I think developers and publishers need focus on giving players a really solid experience that’s tailored for the gaming session that they’re looking for. I absolutely love Crossy Road and still play it regularly, but I don’t think I’d ever want to sit down and play it for three hours straight on my TV. Similarly, I loved the Witcher 3 but I’d never want to play it on an iPhone with a touch-screen interface. The fact that I have access to both of these games at different times means I’m going to continue playing them both – and my 3DS will continue to see heavy usage so long as I continue to travel and have lunch breaks! For the games of 2016 and beyond to find success, they need to identify what sort of experience players will want from them – low investment, completely immersive, or somewhere in between – and then focus on making their game as absolutely perfect for that experience as they can.