With the start of a new year comes the promise of what could be. Major upcoming titles and huge industry events are just two of the things people think of when it comes to a new year.
For the Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, 2014 was a phenomenal year from a hardware and software standpoint. There were so many great stories and trying moments for thousands in the gaming industry, but it’s time to start looking forward.
2015 looks to be one of the biggest in gaming, as was 2014, and to help prepare you for what is coming next, here’s a look at what some of the industry’s biggest publishers need to do in order to ensure success over the next 12 months.
If you have been paying clear attention to gaming this past year, then you have to admit that Microsoft had one of the best years of the three hardware firms. Yes, Nintendo had an exceptional one as well, but 2014 was crucial for Microsoft and the Xbox One.
After a rocky launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft rebounded phenomenally with outstanding game releases and exceptional console bundles. This holiday saw Microsoft release three outstanding Xbox One exclusives: Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Among others that have launched on the system, these three have helped bring in new Xbox One gamers and foreshadow some incredibly promising things for the future.
Looking at the console itself, a price drop was needed so Microsoft dropped the Kinect and slapped a $399 price tag on the device. This, in addition to the remarkable $349 holiday price cut, has boosted sales for a console that struggled to sell a year ago.
For 2015, continuing to publish quality games is going to be crucial for Microsoft. Games like Halo 5: Guardians, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raide, among others, will be important in Microsoft continuing its success. Sales of the system have skyrocketed and that will most likely continue, so long as messaging stays consistent and games remain exceptional.
2014 was a massive year for Xbox and should Microsoft produce another year like this past one, look out Sony and Nintendo.
Nintendo is a company that so many people want to love and support, but many need further justification before doing so. It’s a matter of fact that the Wii U has some of the best exclusives of any other platform.
Just about every exclusive Nintendo publishes for the Wii U is a critical hit, but that hasn’t been good enough to bring sales up to par with competing systems. The firm has done so much right with the 3DS and for 2015, they only need to continue making great games for it.
The outstanding Wii U exclusives will continue to bring in more gamers to the console, and that is something Nintendo must not stop doing. That said though, the company needs to find ways to bring in more third party support because it just isn’t there. The lack of support is a turn off for many prospective buyers.
It’s true that most third party publishers aren’t sure what to do with the Wii U and creating a game specifically for the system is a legitimate financial risk. Nintendo needs to change that and get third party games back on their platform.
Continuing to sell more Wii U systems is a way to do that, but so is convincing third party companies that bringing a major AAA release to the Wii U isn’t going to damage their bottom line. Accomplishing that may be done by de-emphasizing the Gamepad or by focusing on the Wii U Pro controller, but one thing is for sure, they need to have a larger presence from third party publishers if they hope to revive the Wii U in 2015.
The PlayStation 4 has had the best start of any of the three new-generation consoles on the market today, that is a fact. What’s puzzling is how Sony hasn’t been able to capitalize on that further with great games.
2014 did see some decent releases like inFamous: Second Son, The Last of Us: Remastered, LittleBigPlanet 3 and DRIVECLUB, but it was a less than stellar year for the publisher. inFamous: Second Son and LittleBigPlanet 3 were good, but not great. The Last of Us was a remaster and DRIVECLUB was released two months too early.
The firm undeniably won the mind-share war with Microsoft and Nintendo by providing brilliant messaging and offerings surrounding the PS4, but that is not enough to ensure console sales for an entire generation. That is done through publishing great games.
In 2015, Sony needs to have a better year from a publishing standpoint. Game delays thinned 2014’s offerings a bit, so when you look forward into 2015, Sony has a major opportunity to reestablish dominance in the first party software space.
Games like Bloodborne, The Order 1886, Uncharted 4 and more are scheduled to launch in 2015. It goes without saying that these games need to deliver top-of-the-line experiences because gamers will eventually turn to other platforms if not. Messaging can’t makeup for sub-par games.
Should Sony return to publishing some of the best games this industry has to offer, the PS4 will continue to enjoy top-notch console sales.
The launch of Battlefield 4 was a disaster, but since then, EA has made some major changes to their philosophy. Games are no longer being pushed out before they are ready. The delays we have seen have been for the sake of quality and it shows.
Proof of this philosophy and proof of it working is Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game was originally scheduled to launch this past October, but the firm push its launch back about a month. We don’t know what would’ve been different had it been launched in October, but we do know the Dragon Age: Inquisition that launched in November was excellent. It in fact won one of our Game of the Year awards.
Being more open about the games they are working on has been a breath of fresh air in an industry that prides itself on surprises and secrecy. EA’s new commitment to quality and transparency is something that resonates with consumers.
Should EA continue their string of quality games with the upcoming release of Battlefield: Hardline and others, 2015 could be a huge year for the publisher. We fully expect Hardline to perform well, and if Star Wars: Battlefront ends up doing the same, should it release in 2015, it’ll be just what the doctor ordered for EA.
There’s a lot we don’t know about for what’s coming from EA in 2015, but we do know if they don’t break their commitment to quality, the new year will be a great one.
Warner Bros. had a humble, yet exceptional year in 2014. Their biggest release was Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and it was a critical, commercial success. This upcoming year has a lot of bright spots on the horizon for the publisher.
The publisher has the right scent of what most gamers want these days, open-worlds. If you don’t think this is the case, just look at their upcoming slate of titles like Batman: Arkham Knight, Dying Light, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (North America publisher) and Mad Max.
Open-world games are experiences players want the most and the market proved that this past holiday season. The three games that won our Game of the Year honors were all open-worlds (Dragon Age: Inquisition, Shadow of Mordor and Sunset Overdrive).
Knowing what consumers do and do not want is important in this industry, as is producing quality games. Warner Bros. has their hand on what gamers want and if they can continue to publish high quality open-world experiences in 2015, success with continue to be at its grasp.
In 2014, Square Enix was just getting its feet under itself in the new-gen space. Remasters were a major theme for the firm with games like Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs coming to the PS4 and Xbox One. They did bring Thief, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and Murdered: Soul Suspect to the new-generation of gaming, but fans want to see more from their biggest franchises.
With 2014 being the year of remasters for Square, 2015 will need to be a year for launching new games. Titles like Just Cause 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Life is Strange are all scheduled to arrive in 2015, with Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III possibly coming as well. We know a new Hitman game is in development, but we’ll most likely not see that launch this year.
This coming year will mark a coming out party for the biggest brands the firm has to offer. Successful and timely launches will be important, but only when they are ready for launch. Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are going to be marquee launches and they cannot afford any slip ups with these adored brands.
Square Enix has positioned itself to release some of the year’s most unique, influential and fun games in the industry. The firm has a strong lineup coming next year, and if they all measure up to the hype, 2015 will be a major stepping-stone.
Activision had an interesting year with the launches of Skylanders Trap Team, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and of course, Destiny. These three titles have seen phenomenal commercial success, but not all of them were critical hits.
Skylanders was more of what fans wanted in a great way, and Advanced Warfare is perhaps the most accessible Call of Duty yet. The brilliant matchmaking system and introduction of exo-jump suits have made this year’s iteration one of the best.
Then there is the launch of Destiny. Greeted with mixed reviews and reactions from fans, Destiny was by far the most polarizing game we saw release in 2014. Bungie has established the game as a major franchise and managed to gain a major base of players, but it was not an overwhelming hit. There is still work to be done for the game to reach its full potential.
In 2015, Activision needs to resist complacency and maintain an eye of the tiger mentality. Yes, Destiny was a commercial success, but the game needs to improve to make it as memorable as Bungie’s past games have been. Call of Duty and Skylanders need to both continue to evolve as well.
Having only three major brands means that there is no room for error. If one of these games stumbles, perilous outcomes will appear. Activision has three of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry today, and if they can continue to find tangible ways to improve those games, they will remain atop.
Ubisoft was perhaps one of the busiest publishers in the year 2014. Publishing AAA games the likes of Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4 and The Crew showed the company’s commitment to the PS4 and Xbox One.
Over the past few years, one of the traits we’ve associated with Ubisoft games is quality. While 2014 didn’t completely sully that reputation, it was a reminder of what the company needs to continue to do; release games when they are ready.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is a great game, without the bugs that is. Had Ubisoft decided to hold off on launching this game for a few more months, people would look at it in an entirely different way. This is a great game, but the bugs and issues with it proved that it just wasn’t ready to be released.
This is part of the danger of letting finances and market expectations drive business decisions. Maybe Unity had no other option but to launch in November due to what may be coming in 2015, but we do know it shouldn’t have.
2015 is a major year for Ubisoft and we’ll probably see another three or four games launch from them. Games like The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege are so important for Ubisoft to get right. Releasing them before they are truly ready could be damaging from a long-term standpoint. Assassin’s Creed Unity was a slip-up, but The Division and Siege would be a de-railer should they stumble too.
This would be highly uncharacteristic of the publisher and that is why many are giving the firm a pass on Unity. 2015 is a chance for Ubisoft to redeem itself and show the consumers why they have the reputation of creating some of the best games around.