2015 Console wrap-up, and what to look forward to in 2016
2015 was the year that the PS4 and Xbox One became must-have systems. I personally got a PS4 a few months after it released; I was always going to be an early adopter, but I can see why some people may have held off. Well, the time has come for everyone to upgrade, to make the jump to the current generation. 2015 was a banner year for both systems and you really can't go wrong with either, they both had phenomenal games and even more on the way.
Looking back, 2014 was an OK year but it was very much a transitional one in which the two new consoles were finding their feet. We got some stellar games like Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Wolf Among Us, some underrated gems like Child of Light and Watch Dogs, and an overrated, yet good, game in Shadow of Mordor. But it wasn't anything like 2013, in which we got one of the greatest games of all time in The Last of Us, another masterpiece in GTA V, and many other fantastic titles like Tomb Raider, Bioshock: Infinite and Rayman Legends.
Of course, games were delayed that would have made 2014 a much better year but those titles fell into 2015 and ended up making it a very memorable year. This year we were gifted with Bloodborne, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Life Is Strange, Batman: Arkham Knight, Rocket League, Mortal Kombat X, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Tales From The Borderlands, Fallout 4, and much more. Any of those would probably have been Game of the Year last year, which made this year really tricky to choose, but it's a great problem to have. This was the year that the PS4 and the Xbox One justified their price tags. Some people will argue that neither system have many blockbuster exclusives as of yet but at this point it seems those naysayers will never be pleased.
So looking ahead to 2016 there is so frickin' much to be excited about. I can't really say too much more without touching upon what I want to go into greater detail about below, so I'll just kick the pretenses and the bush beating here, and get right into the big breakdown!
Sony's PS4 has had a phenomenal year. This was the first year since the system was revealed that some trol...I mean fans seemingly started to turn on Sony, largely due to the apparent lack of exclusives. However there was no real lack when compared to Xbox and Wii U. Both had fewer AAA exclusives than PS4, not even counting Japanese titles - which would really push PS4 ahead. That being said, the fact that Sony lacked a big Fall game was noticeable, albeit a blessing in disguise considering the fate of Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Regardless of exclusives, the PS4 continued to dominate sales charts all year long, losing to the Xbox One only twice, in April and October. The console's meteoric success is still outpacing that of the PS2, and it has done so without a big name exclusive, like Uncharted.
Speaking of which, let's finally look at 2016 and to the absolutely huge deal that is Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. The game was originally set to release in 2015 but was pushed back to March 2016, however just yesterday that date was pushed back a month to April 27 (Colin was right). Of course this was met will predictable snide remarks and vitriol from internet trolls but the simple fact of the matter is that delays are only ever a good thing. This game is (probably) going to be amazing, and more importantly for Sony, sell like hotcakes!
But before Nathan Drake and Co. set out on their final adventure, the PS4 will get the blockbuster Street Fighter V in February! Having this title as a console exclusive on PS4 (It's also on PC), is a very smart deal for Sony and will ensure the fighting community finds its home on the PS4.
Also landing in April 2016 is the remake/reboot of Ratchet and Clank, which coincides with the movie. This remake looks amazing and is set to bring the series back to its roots, while retaining the gameplay and level design that was perfected in the PS3 games. Street Fighter V, Ratchet and Clank, and Uncharted 4 are sure to give Sony a big boost in early 2016!
The problem with looking further ahead is that we don't have concrete release dates for everything. We know Sony will have The Last Guardian, Persona 5, No Man's Sky, Horizon Zero Dawn, Drawn to Death, WiLD, What Remains of Edith Finch, Gran Turismo Sport, and potentially Dreams, from Media Molecule. That's a genuinely incredible line-up, and I wasn't even counting the plethora of digital titles that come out on a weekly basis.
We know No Man's Sky is scheduled for a June release, and both Dreams and Gran Turismo Sport have early Beta's next year, implying both games could also release in 2016. The Last Guardian, should it actually come out, seems like a potential August release but it could easily be in October or November. That being said, I am fairly certain Horizon: Zero Dawn will be Sony's big fall game. Everything else is up in the air and we will find out much more in the first half of 2016, but if most of those games actually manage to release next year it will mark the first incredible year for PS4 exclusives.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention PlayStation VR, a product/medium I am incredibly excited about. It seems fairly obvious that most gamers are still wary and unsold on virtual reality, particularly due to the lack of announced games and not having experienced it for themselves. That's a big problem Sony will have throughout 2016.
Sony aims to release PlayStation VR in the first half of 2016 and, so far, the announced games include Rigs, Adrift, Eagle Flight, ARK: Survival Evolved, REZ Infinite, Robinson: The Journey, Golem, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, EVE: Valkyrie, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, 100ft Robot Golf, Final Fantasy XV, Megaton Rainfall, Gran Turismo Sport, and Ace Combat 7, among many others. There might not be a killer app announced as of yet but the announced games are very impressive and I know most gamers won't care about something like Ace Combat 7, until they put on the headset and fly that jet themselves. Then they will care.
Sony is going all in on PlayStation VR. It's easy to look at it like another PlayStation Move or even *shudders* Wonderbook, but this really isn't the same thing. Sony has invested a ton of money in this new technology and is treating it with as much care as it does a console release. Shuhei Yoshida even compared it to the release of the PS1, saying Sony expects to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of PlayStation VR - that's how much he and Sony believe in it. And rightfully so, for anyone who has actually tried the technology, it is truly revolutionary. This is the biggest leap in gaming since the jump from 2D to 3D, and truth be told it's even bigger than that. Virtual reality's potential extends far beyond games, into virtual tourism, music/sporting events, socializing and much more, this technology is likely to be all-encompassing in years to come, making Sony very smart for getting in on the ground floor.
2016 will be a massive year for Sony with PlayStation VR and I wish them all the success with this incredible new medium.
But let's move on from Sony. Xbox One struggled in its first year on the market, but let's not continue to rehash that ground. Last year, Phil Spencer took over as head of Xbox and he has turned the entire ship around - it cannot be overstated how impressive a job the man has done in the past year.
Under his tutelage, 2015 was an excellent year for Xbox One. Sure it's still lagging behind the PS4 in sales, but it's doing fantastic in its own right. And should the console continue to receive great exclusive games like Halo 5, Rare Replay, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, it's profile will continue to attract more gamers. And that looks to be exactly the case in 2016.
Following on the heels of this year, Xbox One will kick 2016 off with a bang, relasing Quantum Break in April. Quantum Break looks like a very fun, unique game that may only be held back by its tie-in TV show. Later in the year, Scalebound will be unleashed upon gamers. Scalebound is a semi-open-world action game, involving dragons and Beats-wearing, sword-wielding teenagers developed by Platinum Games, the team behind Bayonetta 2 and Transformers: Devastation.
Following on from that insane-looking game, Xbox One will get Sea of Thieves, ReCore, Crackdown 3, Halo Wars: Origins, and Gears of War 4. These games have release windows, from the summer to the fall. This release schedule doesn't include digital games like Cuphead, Below and Inside, meaning Xbox One will have an incredibly busy year!
Not much is known about Gears 4 yet but no familiar faces were seen in the E3 reveal trailer and it seems to be taking the series back to its darker roots. Crackdown 3 looks like more Crackdown, as is the case with Halo Wars. Sea of Thieves and ReCore are very exciting games, largely because they are very different from what we expect of Microsoft. Not much is known about either game but the teams behind both, Rare and Comcept (Legendary producer/designer Keiji Inafune), is more than enough to get players hyped.
Microsoft and Phil Spencer are wisely doubling down on games and nothing else, much like Sony did in 2014. By continuing to pump out great games and not focusing on the entertainment aspects, Microsoft will continue to win back the many gamers it lost in 2014.
What a weird year for Nintendo. With more rumors than games, the Wii U rapidly dying, rare game delays, and the untimely passing of a legend and company figurehead, it wasn't really one to remember.
Yet, we also got one of the best and most creative Nintendo games in years: Super Mario Maker. An excellent game that allows players to create their very own Mario levels for the first time ever, Super Mario Maker was sheer brilliance that inspired a thriving community of creators. Then there was the surprisingly great Splatoon, Nintendo's first foray into the shooter genre. However, those were the two hits of the year, Nintendo had some rare mishaps with Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, Devil's Third, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, Earthbound Beginnings, and Mario Party 10. It wasn't the stellar year you might hope for at this point in a console cycle but truth be told, the Wii U isn't in its glory years, it's in its death throes.
So we look forward to 2016, a year in which Nintendo is set to reveal and seemingly release its next console. Codenamed the NX, much of what we know about the new system are rumors and speculation -- including console and controller patents that suggest a hybrid between home console and handheld. Another, more recent report said Nintendo expect to ship 20 million NX's in 2016, a number we deem a tad ridiculous considering the underperformance of the Wii U and the downward trend Nintendo has been on for years (minus the anomalous Wii). To put it into perspective, the PS4 only sold 12 million in its first year on the market and it broke records.
The latest controller patent for the NX is fully touch sensitive and playable by itself
So with the launch of a new console on the horizon, Nintendo is a very exciting company right now. We don't know much about the NX but most people are hoping it is a return to more standard gaming, as opposed to the innovative experiments seen with the Wii and Wii U. However all the patents and rumors suggest otherwise. From January to E3 in June we should get many more details and rumors about the new console, including a full reveal. If the console is to release next year as suggested, it should be revealed before E3 in June!
Which brings us to the games. Both The Legend of Zelda and Star Fox were scheduled 2015 releases but both were delayed, something Nintendo's first parties do not often do. Star Fox Zero from Platinum Games really does not look good, for a 2016 game it is very poor in the graphics department and the compulsory GamePad implementations are poorly designed and unnecessary. So here's hoping the delay will see the game resurface in much better shape. Then there's Zelda Wii U, which looks set to be another great entry in the legendary series. Many are expecting a Twilight Princess situation with this game, meaning it may end up on both the Wii U and the NX. This seems entirely likely. Though if Nintendo really wants 20 million NX sales, it should simply abandon the Wii U and force gamers to upgrade.
The NX will need games. That seems a fairly obvious thing to say but I mean big games, from both first-party and, more importantly, third-parties. Nintendo spurned third-party developers, like Ubisoft, with the Wii and Wii U, and it needs to win them back if it hopes to succeed. It isn't enough getting a port of a game like Mass Effect years after it released on PlayStation and Xbox. That makes gamers see Nintendo's consoles as mere additions to their primary console, be it an Xbox or PlayStation, whereas Nintendo need to establish the NX as the only system you need, or at least the best of the three.
So big games are a must. They need complete third-party support, meaning Rockstar's games launch the same day they release on PS4 and Xbox One, and the same for Ubisoft, EA, Warner Bros., and more. It will also need great first-party games. A big single-player Mario game was notably absent from the entire Wii-U cycle, so one can hope that year or two ago Nintendo made the decision to slide it over to the NX instead. Having a game akin to Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Sunshine on the NX at launch will be a very big deal. If it gets that Mario game, Zelda, Donkey Kong, a new IP, and complete third-party support, then maybe gamers will have to pay attention. If not, I can't envision it grabbing the hardcore crowd.
I'm really not sure what Nintendo can do to make the NX a legitimate contender to the PS4 and Xbox One. If it's is a dedicated gaming system with similar power levels, then won't it be just more of the same? But if it's experimental and ultimately uninteresting to the hardcore gamer, then they won't sell to the most important early adopters. Nintendo find themselves in a pickle, but as a fan it is going to be a very exciting situation to watch play out.
The 3rd Parties
Now that we've analysed the state and potential forecast of each console and their exclusives, let's focus on the third-party games coming to systems in 2016.
January is home to a ton of great digital games, given that AAA games rarely release in that window. Both PS4 and Xbox One will get Gone Home, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India, Resident Evil Zero, and Lego Marvel Avengers, the latter of which is actually a full retail release. A lot to look forward to there, as well as some that are exclusive to PS4.
February, then, is where things kick into gear; Far Cry Primal, The Walking Dead: Michonne, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia, Unravel, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 and Mighty No. 9, among a few very exciting platform exclusives, make February the first big month of the year.
March sees the release of two very big games in Tom Clancy's The Division and Hitman. March also has a few remasters on PS4, including Heavy Rain, Day of the Tentacle, as well as the ever great MLB: The Show.
April, May and June are also very exciting months, with PS4 and Xbox One both getting giant exclusives. On the third-party front however, we'll be getting Dirt Rally, Dark Souls III, Battleborn, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, ARK: Survival Evolved, and One Piece: Burning Blood. Including the exclusives, that means at least 8 AAA games between February and June!
From June onwards we don't have too many actual release dates but I will list a few of the big titles coming to PS4 and Xbox One; Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Yooka-Laylee, Batman: A Telltale Games Series, Dead Island 2, Homefront: The Revolution, Dishonored 2, Doom, Friday The 13th: The Game, Outlast II, Mafia III, Mass Effect Andromeda, Overkill's The Walking Dead, Overwatch, Paragon, Tekken 7, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter, Battlefield 5, Titanfall 2, For Honor, and the next installments in Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, and all sports franchises.
Needless to say, that's a lot of games coming in 2016. The biggest hitters are Dishonored, Mass Effect, Mirror's Edge, Deus Ex, Battlefield, and Doom, as well as the yearly installments and console exclusives. That's a lot for sure, but is that really everything coming next year?
My 2015 game of the year is one that I hadn't even heard of at this time last year: Life Is Strange. I won't gush on and one about why I love the game so dang much, mostly because I already did that here, but also because my point is that the very best games can pop out of compete obscurity and take the world by storm, like Rocket League.
That's one of the best things about gaming, we don't know everything we're going to play in 2016, and that's really exciting.
Who knows what giant games might be revealed and released in 2016, I have a sneaking suspicion we will get a Rockstar game, be it Red Dead 3 or my long-desired Bully 2. That would be a similar situation to Bethesda and Fallout 4 this year, which clearly worked very well for them, so why wouldn't Rockstar want to emulate that formula. Plus it only makes sense considering it's been 3 years since GTA V, and the team behind Red Dead Redemption didn't even make that, so it's been a long time that they've had to toil away on something. And that's just Rockstar, Visceral are making a single-player Star Wars game, so hopefully that can be a 2016 reveal and release.
Then there's the plethora of digital-only games that are often revealed and released in the same window, which can often make game of the year lists. There is already a laundry list of exciting, innovative "indie" games coming next year, including Bound, The Tomorrow Children, Firewatch, Cuphead, Inside, Below, Mighty No. 9, The Witness, We Happy Few, Thimbleweed Park, Boundless, and, of course, No Man's Sky. That's a very exciting list of games, but then there's the ones we don't even know exist yet, and they might be the games that capture our hearts more than any other.
My Personal Top 10 Most Anticipated Games:
- Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Quantum Break
- Gears 4
- Mass Effect Andromeda
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- The Last Guardian
- Telltale Games: Batman
- No Man's Sky
- Mirror's Edge Catalyst
So what games are you most excited for? What is your 2015 game of the year? Do you think 2016 can be better than 2015? Let us know in the comments below.