A new year is here, and the gaming landscape is changing. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have just come out of the gate with a bang, refreshing the console landscape. PC gaming continues to go strong, and the mobile scene is beginning to settle and sort itself out. The Kickstarter movement is coming home to roost as its biggest projects are due to come out. I believe that this is going to be a great year for gamers, and here are my predictions for the world of gaming in 2014.
Gamers Win the System Wars
Let the die-hard console warriors argue over whether the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One “wins” in terms of marketplace dominance. With 4.2 million PS4s and over 3 million Xbox Ones sold by the end of 2013, the real news is that this home console generation has started off strong (Nintendo's flailing Wii U aside).
While Sony will likely remain ahead in global sales throughout 2014, Microsoft is doing fantastically in its key marketplaces such as the United States and Britain. China's gigantic market has just been opened up to consoles as well, offering a lucrative possibility to whichever console maker can best take advantage of that opportunity.
What does this mean for gamers? Tons of great new multiplatform console titles, that's what. We can choose which console we prefer based on its few exclusives, our lifestyle preferences, our undying loyalty to a particular company, or whatever. Most games should be available to PS4, Xbox One, and PC, all of which have impressive user bases that are hungry for shiny new games. The Wii U is mostly missing out on this multiplatform bonanza, but it's a solid secondary gaming device with a unique library of quality titles. In the end, we're the ones who win the system wars, and that's the best possible outcome.
The Shooter World Gets Shaken Up
Many first-person shooters have tried and failed to bring down the juggernaut that is Call of Duty over the past few years. In 2014, a couple of new shooters may have a chance. Titanfall has received a highly positive reception from people who have played it at conventions, giving it an unexpected amount of buzz. Bungie's Destiny, on the other hand, really seems to be doing something new with the multiplayer shooter experience. I predict that Destiny will get the upper hand in the end, based on Bungie's solid track record and the game's lack of console exclusivity.
Haters aside, there's little chance that Call of Duty is going to fade into the ether. It will continue to have an avid fan base for its yearly releases as long as the quality of the multiplayer modes doesn't fall. After the fiasco that was Battlefield 4's launch, EA is going to have a more difficult time getting back into the mix. Hardcore FPS players can only support so many games at once, and if Titanfall and Destiny take off as well as it appears they will, gamers might be unwilling to give DICE another chance to get its netcode right.
Mobile Gaming Settles Down
Over the last few years, everybody has been racing to get a part of the mobile gaming pie. Almost every major gaming studio has a mobile division now, and many smaller developers abandoned PC and console development for the cheaper, faster mobile world. Some commentators even predicted the imminent demise of console gaming.
Now that the mobile explosion is settling down, 2014 will see it become simply a part of the gaming landscape instead of the next big thing. The reality is that the current mobile market is a big gamble. While the few top games make mega-bucks, most games barely scrape by, and we're already seeing developers move or port their mobile games over to PC and console marketplaces.
There's plenty of room for both the simple, cheap gaming experience generally found on mobiles and the more expensive, complex kind found on “traditional” gaming platforms. In 2014, we'll start seeing more mobile-type games available on PCs and consoles, and maybe we'll even see more console-type games on mobiles. Now let's all hold hands, sing a happy song, and realize that mobile gaming isn't going to kill the console world.
The Big Test Comes for Kickstarter Games
Thanks to independent companies like Telltale and to Kickstarter, we've seen the revival of several game genres that publishers thought were dead, like point and click adventure games and hardcore isometric RPGs. A number of the most famous gaming Kickstarter projects are due out this year, and their release will serve as a huge test for this genre revival and game crowdfunding in general.
Will gamers love Broken Age and Massive Chalice from Double Fine? Can Obsidian complete Pillars of Eternity and release it relatively bug-free by the end of the year? Will Wasteland 2 and the many smaller projects coming out this year make a splash, or will these games appeal mainly to the people who already funded them? As a huge fan of these traditional genres, I can only cross my fingers and hope these companies can deliver amazing gaming experiences now that they're free of the demands of traditional publishers.