Is 2013 a Good Gaming Year?
The past year was full of AAA releases, record setting titles, and lots of industry drama. With only a few days left before 2014, it's time to take a look at the state of current IPs and find out whether it has been a good year.
The past year saw a deluge of sequel releases, with most titles suffering consequently. Call of Duty, the largest competitive multiplayer title on console, was no exception to this. Call of Duty Ghosts is the best proof of a franchise just going through the motions. The steps forward taken by its predecessor, Blacks Ops 2, were either changed fundamentally or removed completely. As a result, it caused confusion and frustration.
Notable subtractions from the multiplayer series included the complete removal of the "Theater." The theater is where players can share their matches and highlights socially, along with league play options. With League of Legends, DoTA2 and eSports, the exclusion of social sharing and league play options for Ghosts is just baffling.
Even though the basic core of fast-action multiplayer shooting is still intact in Ghosts, the sequel tried new things that didn't make it better. At the same time, it omitted features and modes that players have come to expect from the franchise.
Ghosts' Reception as 'Catalyst'
The reception of Ghosts served as the catalyst for discussion centering on gaming in 2013. The year saw a deluge of sequels and reboots brought out for current generation consoles and PC.
With titles such as DmC: Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Tomb Raider, the year started innocently enough. Out of these titles, however, the only one to receive above mediocre reviews was the Tomb Raider reboot from Square Enix. Despite selling a respectable 3.4 million copies, the reboot became controversial as the publisher had expectations viewed universally as outrageous even for the title.
It's easy to conclude that a publisher put a studio on a sequel to pump out another title and make money as soon as possible. It isn't easy, however, to believe that people in the industry are just throwing out mediocre titles lazily on purpose. After all, it's only logical to assume positive intent first.
The 'Sequel Syndrome'
The disconnect with most of the sequels in the past year is the failure to connect with the audience. While this is a broad stroke, it comes down to a few factors that seem to be the themes in these titles.
Vast departures from accepted and loved canon or history seem to be the quickest way to lose an audience. Other issues include glaring technical issues that inhibit gameplay, counter-intuitive system, or bland story-telling, characters, and mechanics.
A complicated question with infinite combinations of possible results creates a poor sequel. A sequel should contribute actively to the series, and the gaming community at large. When a sequel does nothing for title - its feature set, genre, or narrative - it is a failure.
Good, Bad, or Mediocre?
While it's easy to say that certain titles committed mistakes, it's also easy to see others that didn't suffer from the sequel syndrome. The past year saw some great sequels, such as GTA 5 and Battlefield 4. These titles pushed their respective IPs in a positive direction.
Players can't also discount that 2013 was a good year for original IPs. After all, for every DmC there's a State of Decay, and for every Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 there's a Beyond Two Souls.
Unfortunately, the huge disappointment that sequels like Call of Duty Ghosts brought to players offsets that silver lining. For this reason, it's fair to say that 2013 is a mediocre year for gaming.