Looking Ahead to 2015 – Final Thoughts

Numbers Categories
49 Action and Adventure
6 Fighting Games
4 MMOs
1 Music Games
39 RPGs
15 Shooters
10 Simulation
5 Sports
6 Strategy
135

Scrubbing through the data, 74 titles (such as Bloodborne and Serpent in the Staglands) can be considered original IP. About 45 can be considered sequels ranging from Bloodguards 2 to Tropico 5.

The rest don’t quite fall under those picks such as a standalone title that is part of an ongoing series (such as Tales of Zestiria or MLB 15 The Show).

I had a previous hash of data from the previous year that noted 52 titles that could be considered original IP from that sample. For 2015, 74 is pretty big increase with a considerable number of these coming from indies.

Now for a few final thoughts on the upcoming year and a few comments on trends from 2014 while we head there.

Kickstarter Barometer

Like last year’s estimates, one thing that has been relatively consistent are the missed Kickstarter dates for deliverables by many projects.

That hasn’t changed in 2014, though it’s interesting to see just how far some of these projects have missed their dates. At the same time, it’s also worth noting that a number of titles which have missed their dates only to release much later, such as Shadowrun Returns to the Tesla Effect, have been worth waiting for. Others, like Godus, not so much.

Twenty-three games out of this list are Kickstarter based and here’s a small breakdown of what they are:

Missed dates for video games? It's Kickstarter.

All dollar amounts are in USD unless indicated otherwise for Armello and Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Conversions from AUD and British pounds, respectively, were done using the rate of exchange at the time of the project’s funding conclusion.

The ones marked in cyan are those that still have a chance to meet their estimated releases. Another thing that I thought was interesting is that of all of the projects on this list, Serpent in the Staglands had the lowest request for funds and despite missing its December release date, it looks like it’ll be aiming for a Q1 release and skipping Early Access entirely to come out as a “complete” game. It’s kind of refreshing to actually hear that.

There was also an ebb to pledges made on Kickstarter based on a report from Ico Partners. It noted the absence of big name projects, a few high profile failures such as Neal Stephenson’s Clang, Yogscast’s Yogventures, the con behind Confederate Express, and the encroachment of Steam Early Access. Last year, I noted that Early Access could become an important funding alternate for developers though didn’t expect it to begin cannibalizing Kickstarter.

But other drivers could also be the proliferation of alternative funding models such as Indiegogo to direct support via Paypal. Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen, initially started on Kickstarter, has continued to fund itself via Paypal donations on its homepage and has recently crossed the $69 million USD line. Kickstarter remains a popular destination for video game devs looking to fund their dream project, but now there are quite a few more ways to go about it than there were a few years earlier.

2015 – The Year of the Next Gen?

Last year I commented on 2014 being the last year of the last gen and for the most part, that held true considering that many major releases were also available for the PS3 and the X360 from Destiny and Dragon Age: Inquisition to Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

In 2015, however, the release schedule is significantly lighter for both as the traditional “ramping up” period following the release of new hardware is pretty much over. It’s a safe guess to say that many developers and publishers, now that they’ve had more time with the tools, are finally saying farewell to the last generation and the schedule for 2015 shows it.

The PS3, though, comes out a bit ahead of the Xbox 360 in trying to hang onto one more year of big releases…at least, based on the samples from the past week. Both are still getting titles like Mortal Kombat X, Battlefield: Hardline, and Dragonball Xenoverse, though when it comes to RPGs, PS3 owners are slated to get Persona 5 and Tales of Zestiria.

PC Gaming

There’s not much to say on the PC front other than get ready for more games. The sales decline in PCs slowed a bit, something that benefited the biggest players, though thankfully there’s also a dearth of mainstream articles articulating the “death” of PC gaming in the face of mobiles.

PC requirements for many games, however, seem to be continuing the trend of remaining more or less conservatively low negating the need to replace that aging box that you might have sitting in the corner. Most users won’t feel the need to invest in a dual GTX 980 configuration to run Hotline Miami 2 or Total War: Attila, for example, but others that live for the bleeding edge won’t bat an eyelid doing so in anticipation of future proofing themselves for other titles down the line.

spreadsheet_requirements

It’s interesting to note that most of Steam’s most popular top sellers (as of 1.12.2015) still support Windows XP as a minimum requirement from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to The Talos Principle.

Quite a few others, from Day Z to The Crew still support Intel’s Core 2. Your games might not look (or run) as if they were state of the art, but players that haven’t yet upgraded to any of the fancy i5s, i7s, or AMD Phenoms or GTX 980s are still in the game. At least for now. Players may be voting to keep their current desktops more often than not and buy into a new tablet to add to their arsenal instead.

Sony: Still Feeling Great

“So considering how we started, it’s amazing when I meet people who are in their 20s and we talk about PlayStation games like Crash Bandicoot, which I was producer on, and PlayStation has become a synonym for video games.”

-Shuhei Yoshida, President of SCE via PC World

Sony’s year could have ended on a better note.

The parent company stopped paying a dividend on its stock and suffered more losses over the course of 2014, its entertainment division was hacked with thousands of SSN’s from its employees and even more than a few movie stars dumped on the ‘net along with a lot of other odds and ends, and PSN suffered DDoS attacks over the holidays as did a number of other services including Xbox Live.

But one of the shining spots was that the PS4 was selling quite well. According to its last fiscal report, sales of the unit were responsible for the strong performance of its Game & Network Services (G&NS) segment with a year-on-year increase of 83.2%. The latest figures, up to January 4th this year, boast a total of 18.5 million units sold worldwide.

So what else is Sony planning? Playstation Now is going to open up later this month as a sort of “Netflix” for games featuring classics from the previous two generations of the Playstation platform featuring titles such as Shadow of the Colossus to more relatively recent ones like Bioshock Infinity.

There’s also the budding exclusives war that continues to be notching up between Sony and Microsoft. The latest coup is Street Fighter V which is slated as a PS4-only title (leaving the inevitable updates, such as the ‘Super’ and ‘Ultra’ titles a question mark).

RPG fans will find a few reasons to adventure on the PS4 in the coming year as well with exclusives such as Bloodborne and Disgaea 5. There are also a few others such as Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4, Supermassive’s Until Dawn, and The Order: 1886 from Ready at Dawn. And Sony’s getting ready to roll out their own piece of the VR pie with Morpheus.

But what about the PS Vita? It continues to lag behind Nintendo’s elephant and that situation doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon. On the plus side, it’s going to get its own share of indies such as Axiom Verge, Broforce, Mighty No. 9, and Hotline Miami 2 based on last week’s sample. Sony sees their handheld as having found its niche (one stacked with a considerable number of games including JRPGs) and in a relatively recent interview with IGN, SCEA President and CEO, Shawn Layden, said that sales actually picked up thanks to PS4’s remote play feature.

Microsoft: Thinking Outside the Xbox

“Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.”

– Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft via letter to employees

Microsoft had a strong finish to 2014 with a number of aggressive moves which eventually allowed it to finally top monthly PS4 sales for November (in the US and the UK) after nearly a year of trying. Game bundles and further holiday exclusive price cuts heading into Christmas likely helped even more (especially in North America), though those results aren’t out yet.

They’ve learned from their mixed messaging in 2013 and 2015 looks like we’re going to see a lot more of that focus. Sony has Morpheus? Rumors from December suggest that Microsoft is getting ready for VR, too, in time for an E3 2015 surprise.

Microsoft also has very, very deep pockets. It’s also probably why Sony didn’t offer as many exciting incentives this holiday season though there were a few deals to be found. Even Wal-Mart quietly tagged a limited-time price drop for the PS4 mere days before Christmas. While Sony is ailing financially, Microsoft reported a rosy FY15 Q1 in October with strong performance from sectors such as its cloud services to Surface sales which came in just $100 million shy of a billion USD.

So what’s in the cards for 2015? Like Sony, depending on which exclusives you really want to keep close to your heart, that depends. Tomb Raider was an early casualty of the exclusives war in favor of Microsoft, though only as a timed exclusive. However, the platform has a number of other properties that it can also rely on.

Microsoft’s slate includes Remedy’s Quantum Break, indies like Studio MDHR’s visually stunning Cuphead, and 343 Industries’ next Halo iteration not to mention whatever Black Tusk has planned for the next Gears of War. Aside from the next Fable (Fable Legends) in last week’s sample, however, the Xbox One doesn’t have much in the way of RPG exclusives though it will still share marquee titles like The Witcher 3 and Final Fantasy Type-0 with the PS4.

As noted earlier, one thing that the Xbox One isn’t suffering from this time around is a mixed message, something that new CEO Satya Nadella underscored with the $2.5 billion USD acquisition of Minecraft as part of their commitment to their games (potentially for mobile users) segment apparently amplifying what he had also said in a letter addressed to employees in July. There, he noted the Xbox as a “fortunate” piece of the Microsoft pie, so expectations that he may seek to spin off the division seem moot though that hasn’t stopped an analyst or two from continuing to speculate that it might still happen. It might not be “smart” business from their points of view, but Microsoft is likely banking on what the Xbox platform offers outside of what the division’s bottom line says on its spreadsheets.

Nintendo: War? What War? We’re busy having too much fun!

“If I have an option between having more games versus having high quality games, we will always take quality.”
– Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s President and COO via Forbes 

It can be easy to overlook Nintendo in the shadow of both Microsoft and Sony, but although their Wii U might not even be considered as much of a bruiser as the Xbox One or the PS4 tech-wise, it rules its own respectable niche of high quality titles that you won’t find anywhere else. Going forward, Nintendo feels that’s all it needs to do – trickle out titles, but make sure those titles are going to be smash hits. You might have to wait months for a game, but when you get one, it’s almost guaranteed to be an exciting experience.

That said, critics lambasting the company for its “90’s” thinking and the dearth of “hardcore” titles can’t argue over how exciting its lineup is to Nintendo die-hards. Stockholders clamoring for the company to spread its wings on mobile devices and break out of its carefully curated hardware ecology may get a bit of a reprieve when Nintendo decides to play its licenses in the way that Disney does such as a Mario version of Puzzle & Dragons.

It’s a smart move that doesn’t put Nintendo’s IP at the same level of risk that a dedicated game might. As much money as such a move could make in the short term, the long term effects in diluting that brand and its properties could be worse if that part of its specific identity is chucked away. While in the late 80s and early 90s, Nintendo’s vice-like grip was about control, it also played into efforts in carefully fostering a unique theme the way Apple’s own ecology has grown with.

Nintendo seems bent on providing experiences solely on its hardware while tentatively acknowledging alternatives, such as apps, complimenting that ecology instead of providing complete gaming experiences, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Because of the fact that Nintendo is still around to surprise analysts every now and then, it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.

Then we have Amiibos! Nintendo’s Amiibos have not only created an additional source of revenue but have also demonstrated the agility Nintendo’s creativity can adapt with especially when it comes to having decades of classic titles to draw figures from. It’s already created a collector’s frenzy, especially over Amiibos with defects, but game-wise, while it might not be completely unique (Skylanders, Disney Infinity), Nintendo’s remarkable library of characters has already made it something of a success.

They might not be the “greatest selling” console or lead the generation in numbers, but as NOA’s President has said above, they’re not really worried about that when they have quality on their side and a new generation – and a vast number of longtime fans – to entertain going forward.

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One response to “Looking Ahead to 2015 – Final Thoughts

  1. Pingback: Looking ahead in 2016 – A Summary | World 1-1·

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