In that respect: no reason to delay…
Square Enix: Figure yourself out.
You don’t have to pay much attention to Square Enix to figure out that something weird is going on over there. The biggest sign was probably when Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata decided to leave the company, followed up by the reveal that all the planned DLC for the game had been canceled. But that wasn’t the only sign of trouble: the mess surrounding the Quiet Man, for example, was weirdly out-of-character for them, and breaking up with IO interactive despite the success of the Hitman reboot. Then there was whatever the hell they did to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and the unrealistic demands they’ve put on Crystal Dynamics and their Tomb Raider games, their absolutely bonkers effort to get into mobile gaming, this ‘episodic’ plan for Final Fantasy VII…
Point is, there’s a fine line between disorganization and chaos, and Square Enix seems to be straddling that line with increasing gusto in recent years. And for a company of that size and prestige, that’s a serious problem, because if Square Enix’s wavering starts to transform into an actual collapse, then it’ll signal some very dark times in the games industry. It’s not so much that I’m rooting for Square Enix specifically – I have no particular fondness for a lot of their games or decisions – but more that I’m worried it’s signaling a general collapse of the Japanese games market as a whole. I mean, between Square Enix, Capcom’s ridiculous expectations, Sega’s failure to produce a hit outside maybe Yakuza, and Konami being Konami, it would mean the only really successful big-name Japanese game developer would be Nintendo and maybe Namco Bandai.
And it’s important that the market stay strong, because at a glance it seems Japan is home to some of the few publishers who have managed to resist the siren call of loot boxes and “games as a service”. Plus, like it or lump it, but Japanese games are just “different” from western games. And different games are good.
Look, I’m not trying to be alarmist. I very much doubt that Japan’s gaming industry is secretly crumbling and the vibrations are jarring Square Enix into a state of chaotic disarray. Heck, I very much doubt Square Enix is actually in trouble: they have a pretty clear road map even without Final Fantasy XV and I’m looking forward to some of their future releases. But having a future plan does not inoculate someone to hidden instability, and it would go a long way to helping me relax if they stopped shaking so much and were just normal for a few goddamn years. Maybe released another remake of Final Fantasy IX. People still buy those for some reason.
You can start going nuts in 2022 or something.
Nintendo, commit to being good or evil already
I feel like I make some variation of this wish every year, usually phrasing it like “Nintendo, stop being an ass” or something like that. But this year I’m going to make the slightly more realistic wish that Nintendo just make up its damn mind. Either commit to being a total jerkwad and start putting loot boxes in Pikmin, or stop being such an unreasonable prick when it comes to your fans, IP management, and services. I’m tired of being stuck between two worlds here, because it’s very exhausting to both support their games and their general “fun first” attitude and also find myself exasperated by their overprotective and oppressive attitude towards their IP and their unwillingness to treat their customers like human beings.
So just pick one, man. Make it easy to love you or fun to hate you. There’s not really much more to say than that.
Anthem, prove me wrong
You know, Bioware has some of the weirdest relationships with its fans that I’ve seen in the gaming industry. Because it feels like more than being fans of their games, people are fans of the IDEA of Bioware, and they devote themselves to the company in the hope that it will one day become what they want it to be.
I mean, for the longest time, they basically had a monopoly on the triple-A western RPG world, a monopoly only shared by The Witcher series and occasionally Bethesda. And while their games were never perfect, they were always just good enough that people could imagine how they could be perfect. And they never seemed to make the same mistake twice: Dragon Age told an interesting, world-spanning story in an incredibly deep world, but was repetitive and stale and watching the characters make out was only slightly less realistic than a girl smashing her doll’s heads together. Dragon Age 2 fixed the grind and had better combat but had a smaller world and less interesting characters and a way worse story. Dragon Age Inquisition had better characters and a more compelling story but a boring villain, brought back the grind, made the combat worse but still not bad…
Look, point is, they’re never perfect but they always try. Even Andromeda tried. And the gaming industry is better for having them around. Which is why I really, really, REALLY hope Anthem isn’t as bad as it looks, because if it’s as bad as it looks you know EA won’t hesitate to pull the trigger and put Bioware in the same pit they put Visceral and BullFrog and all the others.
That doesn’t mean I’ll automatically buy their game out of fear. No one should do that. But it would be great if the reviews made it sound like a game that I wanted to play. And it would be even better if I could date people at base. Because if I can’t play matchmaker there’s almost no reason to bother with Bioware.
I don’t care if their sex scenes look like two rat-filled mannequins on a water bed. It’s what I paid for dammit, let me ship people.
I just really want Detective Pikachu to be good, guys
On a lark, let’s compare all the reasons we should think this movie will be good to all the reasons to think it’ll be bad:
Reasons to think it’ll be good
- Good trailer
- Ryan Reynolds is Pikachu
- Literally everything else
Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely going to see this movie. There is no force on heaven or earth that will stop me from seeing this movie. But it would be wonderful if it doesn’t go as badly as it probably will.
Actually, you know what, let’s broaden this:
2019, don’t destroy video games with your movies
And that is aimed squarely at Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario, by the way.
Bethesda and Blizzard, don’t lose your way
Bethesda and Blizzard are both respected, well-loved creators who’s games and stories inspire countless people around the globe. Both companies were once known for being passionate about their games and their worlds, and being one of the genuine “by gamers, for gamers” kind of producers. And both companies are struggling with that history as they grapple with the reality of being triple-A developers in the modern world.
Bethesda fell from grace with the terrible Fallout 76.
Blizzard is falling from grace with the horrible treatment of Heroes of the Storm eSports and the Diablo: Immortal mess.
Look, guys, some real talk: it’s not too late for you. You can still turn things around, and save yourselves. That’ll be easier for Bethesda, because they don’t have Activision breathing down their necks (and if you don’t leave them, recent events have shown they’re gonna double down on you hard), but it’s still possible for both of you to become the developers we admired and respected in years passed. You don’t have to give in to the dark side.
This will probably be your last year to make that turnaround, though. Because for all the goodwill you had, it won’t survive another year like 2018. If 2020 comes and you haven’t fixed yourselves, you’ll get a seat at the “forgotten heroes” table, right next to Valve and Rare.
And no one wants to sit next to Valve and Rare.
Anyway, that's that. See you next year, assuming we're all still around.