Looking ahead in 2016 – A Summary

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This year’s list was considerably larger with 236 total titles (last year’s slice was 135 titles). That’s a lot of games.

But a number of these were also titles promised in 2015 that were ultimately pushed into 2016. Also, many games slated for 2016 are also still TBA (to be announced) for an actual date. Hopefully not many them will be pushed into another year.

Kickstarter Barometer

Kickstarter released their overview of 2015 showing that over $144 million USD passed into gaming projects ranging from tabletops to video games. Compared to the previous year’s chart on successfully funded projects, the number of games came in at 1,980. Slightly fewer games made the list in 2015 with only 1,770.

Interestingly, $89.1 million USD passed into games in 2014. But in 2015, as noted earlier, game projects collectively garnered $144 million USD indicating that even with fewer projects, they pulled in considerably more money altogether. The video game segment, by itself, pulled in $46,177,705. The rest went to tabletop games. Also interesting was that of all of the game projects created on Kickstarter, 30.3% were successfully funded.

And like last year’s estimates, one thing that has been relatively consistent are the missed Kickstarter dates for deliverables by many projects. Estimated release dates are still hard, something I don’t expect to change.

The following table snapshot lists the Kickstarted games from my slice. “Start Date” is when the Kickstarter began (which doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when development began — a number of titles had begun development well before their KS start date) and the “Due Date” is when the game is expected to be made available based on the pitch. The ones marked in cyan are those that still have a chance to meet their estimated releases. All dollar amounts are in USD with conversions from other currencies such as British pounds (as with Kingdom Come: Deliverance) using the rate of exchange at the time the project concluded its funding.

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Goliath is on the list because the last word on it is that it is still in development despite a canceled Kickstarter (hence, no numbers).

A number of games made a return to the list such as Star Citizen and Hero-U now that they’ve more or less settled on firmer footing when it comes to a release date. In the case of Star Citizen, it should be noted that the final date sometime this year is for Squadron 42, the single-player component of the game. As for the MMO half, no word yet and I doubt there will be until they’re much closer to an actual release date.

2016 – Next Gen Blitzkrieg

I suggested last year that 2015 could be the year of the next gen and it looks like that’s what is going on with increased sales for both Microsoft and Sony with Nintendo, as is somewhat expected at this point, lagging a bit behind.

If you still have a PS3 or and Xbox 360, 2016 holds very little for you to get too excited as far as physical, AAA releases go.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was an enjoyable romp for me on the Xbox 360, but it’s also something of a final hurrah. I was only able to play Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate on one of the new systems, in this case the PS4. There wasn’t one for the Xbox 360 or the PS3 as developers are finally quietly call it quits on the last generation.

There were already hints that this was going to happen as far back as 2013 when Yusuf Mehdi, Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer, noted that they were going to support the aging console for at least three more years.

As for the PS3, who can say? Sony hasn’t officially come out to say that they were going to end support in as many words as Mehdi has outside of their estimated “life” expectancy for the console. The PS2 only ended production around the end of 2012 and the start of 2013 after coming out in 2000 – far and beyond what Sony expected it to last, and a whopping seven years after the PS3’s own launch in 2006.

PC – Gaming As Usual

Despite the downturn in hardware sales, taking a look at places such as GOG Galaxy or Steam is a reminder that the gaming space for the platform is as viable a destination as ever. Just because people are holding onto their PCs longer and spending those paychecks on more mobile devices doesn’t mean that the traditional PC environment is going away – games like Divinity: Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity, and Fallout 4’s moddable world would beg to differ, and 2016 is packed with a ton of gaming goodness that doesn’t require you to have a “god box” heating your room in the corner.

Sony – Let’s Keep Playing!

Sony’s 2015 turned out to something of a series of ups and downs for the storied company as it tries to redefine itself in a changing market. Fortunately, one of the bright spots on its spreadsheets is the continuing success of the PS4.

The PS4 topped the Xbox One in hardware sales for much of the year except for October when it relinquished the top spot to the power of Halo 5 and earlier in April. But its success was such that Sony’s fiscal reports often pointed to it as one of the reasons the corporation as a whole has managed to post quarterly profits amidst continuing restructuring efforts.

They’re diving into the VR craze, too, with Project Morpheus although – like other efforts – everyone is wondering just what the killer app might be to sell it to the masses. Amazon had also apparently, and accidentally, leaked the price for the unit placing it at $800 (the Oculus Rift, for comparison, costs $600 albeit without the requisite PC hardware). Sony was quick to point out that they haven’t officially announced a price yet. At the same time, they haven’t denied that is what it might be, either.

As far as games go, Sony is leveraging its relationship with indies to deliver a number of exclusive titles ranging from the beat ’em up Mother Russia Bleeds to unconventional adventures like The Tomorrow Children from Q-Games. On the AAA front, Street Fighter V from Capcom and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End by Naughty Dog also stand out as exclusives for the year.

RPG-wise, the PS4 has a strong RPG showing this year with a number of titles ranging from Persona 5 (which is also expected to show up on the PS3), Nier: Automata by Platinum, and Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla expected to make the rounds.

Microsoft – Now we’re playing with AR

There’s not a whole lot to say about Microsoft or the Xbox One, only that they’re still doing what they’re doing. And doing it well for millions of fans around the world.

The Xbox One’s sales performance in 2015 continue to keep it the relative underdog of this generation (not counting the Wii U) as the PS3 was in the previous. It was only able to claim two months out of the year (April and October) based on NPD numbers while remaining a fan favorite for millions of players around the world much like Sony’s PS3. Except, perhaps, in Japan where, commercially, the Xbox One is all but a lost cause.

But just because it’s coming in second in hardware sales doesn’t mean that it won’t have a ton of games for owners. Its library for 2016 is just as packed as the PS4’s with impressive exclusives such as Cuphead with staples like Gears of War 4 and Halo holding the line. The race between Sony and Microsoft continues to argue which exclusives are players more interested in.

As for Microsoft the company, they’ve been doing just fine even after having rolled out Windows 10 for free to the millions who qualify and using that platform to further leverage what the Xbox One can do outside of the living room.

Instead of straight-up VR, Microsoft is embarking on something else – AR, or augmented reality. Instead of bringing games to life via a pair of goggles, their technology passes itself off more as a pair of glasses “enabling high-definition holograms to integrate with your world”.

They also didn’t waste any time demonstrating the coolness factor for the tech by using Minecraft to look at what it can do (Youtube) by literally using the world around you as the backdrop for the game. As for whether the tech will take off, it’s far too early to say – but it’s amazingly cool stuff.

Nintendo – Are you ready?

“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

I’m recycling the quote I used in my previous article because it’s still a sentiment that holds true for Nintendo.

Despite millions of consoles sold, the Wii U continues to lag behind the two juggernauts led by Sony and Microsoft. But in Japan, despite declining sales for consoles in general there as more opt for mobile solutions, the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS have actually been doing quite well over there even against the PS4.

That hasn’t, however, dulled its solid library of first tier titles. In general, the Wii U has tended to stick to a release schedule that leaves huge gaps in between each title as opposed to the monthly, and more often, weekly, staccato beat feeding audiences for the Xbox One and the PS4. And even, to some extent, Nintendo’s own 3DS.

At the same time, the games that do come out tend to be top shelf. Couple that with ongoing support for Splatoon (one of Nintendo’s biggest surprises for 2015) and Super Smash Brothers with new characters, and Nintendo’s proven it still has a lot of tricks up its sleeves for the Wii U.

The coming year, as with 2015, looks typically light for the Wii U outside of the expected marquee titles such as the new Zelda and Star Fox that everyone is hoping to hear more on. Amiibos have continued filling in the gaps bolstering Nintendo’s bottom line according to their quarterly reports (with a lion’s share of sales occurring in North America) but it hasn’t bolstered the numbers for the Wii U in the same way.

Outside of that, this year is also going to be interesting thanks to its newfound alliance with mobile gaming giant, DeNA and the five mobile titles that are promised.

The first, Miitomo (due in March), appears to be a social game allowing people to build and associate with each other via custom Miis. As for the next four titles, your guess is as good as mine as to what they might be. But Nintendo is clearly, and tentatively, testing the waters here as they haven’t committed any of their key IP into the mobile mix quite yet.

The second big thing is the 400lb console bruiser in the room – the rumored NX. Via bloodhounds on the ‘net that sniffed out patents for a controller and a possible representation of the console itself hinting that it could consist of a console base and a mobile unit, the rumors are tickling everyone’s imagination.

Couple that with the rumors of development kits in the wild and production, and maybe the analysts at Nomura might be right with an eye to an end-of-2016 release which could potentially cannibalize sales of the 3DS and the Wii U. In a way, it mirrors the same flurry of activity that surrounded the eventual reveals for the PS4 and the Xbox One. In another, it also runs the risk of doing what a company like Sega did to its own hardware such as the Sega Saturn which later left a bitter taste in fans’ mouths by releasing a new platform only a few years later — in the Wii U’s case, roughly four years from its release at the end of 2012.

Former Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, had noted in his last shareholder Q&A to look forward to E3 2016 as the event that will answer questions on the NX. Or at least pull the curtains back on a few more details. There’s also little doubt that for some, what might be an impending release for a new Nintendo system may have already put the chill on buying a Wii U or a 3DS for their budgets.

Release date? Pricing? Unveiling the actual hardware? It’s anyone’s guessing game right now. Nintendo, being Nintendo (and a typical hardware company that doesn’t want to reveal something its competitors might take notice of), continues to play its cards very close to its chest.

And as the months roll by, the speculation is only to get much much more heated making 2016 a much more interesting year for Nintendo than for Sony or Microsoft in many eyes.

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