For as much fun as we’ve had with video games in the past year or two, we’ve also seen a ton of failures in 2017 and 2018 that were huge and high-profile messes. It’s almost as if we can’t have a middle of the road, decent sort of game anymore in AAA gaming. Every time a new game comes out from a blockbuster publisher, you see either everyone gushing about it for months or everyone chasing increasingly negative headlines as if the rage over their disappointment somehow gives them more power.
Just in the past 12 months or so we’ve had the huge highs of God of War, Super Smash Bros. and Assassin’s Creed punctuated by unending ire fueled by the likes of Fallout 76, Jump Force, and now, almost surprisingly, Anthem. While these titles in particular continue to be kicked while they’re down, I figure it would be a fun thought exercise to look ahead a little and think about what might be joining the ranks of the down in the dumps.
We have to be a little careful here, because we aren’t just trying to pick targets to dump on for no reason. After all, it’s sometimes hard to say what a game will be like until it’s on the shelves, even if there are things like beta tests floating around out there. My approach here will be a bit supported by context, even though a lot of this will simply be a mixture of conjecture, my personal taste, and some attempts at pattern recognition. After all, when it comes to AAA games, sometimes you see a few different publishers accidentally chase the same dead end around the same time.
The first game I’m unsure about is Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Ubisoft is a bit of a wildcard when it comes to game quality, especially community response. We’ve seen a new Ubisoft lately; it is one that seems unafraid to take time on projects, even ones that used to be annual releases. We’ve also seen the company build a lot on long-term support into its games, without EA or Activision-like nickel and diming.
But it’s also hard to argue that The Division is Ubisoft’s most approachable IP. The first game had a bit of a rough landing. While it had its audience, you can pick that bad boy up used for change you find in your couch cushions. Early reports from the beta tests suggest that not as many people are interested in the sequel by way of Twitch streams, although it could still surprise us if it’s distinct and improved enough from the first. My biggest concern, however, is the huge risk in service-oriented titles at this point. People seem to be losing their patience for them.
Next we have Days Gone, which might be the biggest question mark on the current slate of video game releases. SIE Bend Studio has been working on this game for what seems like forever, yet it seems to slip in and out of public consciousness like so much sand falling through a child’s fingers. It’s a gritty-looking zombie shooter, which isn’t exactly the most novel concept in video games. The big focus seems to be on both the game’s technological fidelity, as well as the gameplay being based on the main character’s wide variety of combat options, outdoor survival horror style. That said, many gamers still seem to be struggling with a perceived lack of identity with Days Gone, and that may be enough to tank it in such a crowded space.
Speaking of Ubisoft, the third game I’m nominating here for our “has a lot to prove” journey here is Skull & Bones. I don’t mean to pick on Ubisoft at all, but hey, take a peek at Starlink. Things happen, and Ubisoft can obviously take a hit or two. Skull & Bones sounds neat on paper. It’s essentially the ever-praised naval combat from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, expanded into its own multiplayer game. It could be amazing, with the focus on this core concept giving Ubisoft’s team room to really crank up the fidelity, not unlike a racing game. Or it could come out and struggle to find an audience, like so many high-concept multiplayer games do, and sink before it gets a chance to fail. I’m perhaps the most curious about this one, as much like For Honor, Ubisoft gets hell of points for trying something that feels experimental and new.
So there we are. Just three games so I don’t take up too much of your time on a bunch of speculation and chin-scratching. The current reality of the AAA gaming industry is a ton of instability, with games seeming to be either massive hits or huge misses, with little in-between. Inevitably, 2019 will not continue without another high-profile failure or two, while Fallout 76 and Anthem will hopefully stick around long enough to earn some good faith back after updates and such. Still, the hope is always that every game is good, especially the ones I named here. Perhaps these titles also feel like they carry the most risk, so we’ll be paying attention to them for sure.