2014 was a wild year for games, with new releases to beloved games like Super Smash Bros, Pokemon, Assassin’s Creed, and Far Cry, as well as highly anticipated titles like Titanfall. Gaming culture and technology also took headlines of digital and print publications several times, a sign of what could be increasing alignment of the gaming world with more mainstream interests. With 2015 well on its way, what is in store for gaming?
The F2P business model
Free-to-play models have largely focused on mobile games, MMOs and MOBAs, but there is increasing traffic towards non-MMO games, and to free-to-play as a potentially profitable model. F2P is a good way to attract gamers to newer titles without forcing some sort of commitment, and is also readily adaptable to micro-transactions and customizations, matching the rise of micro-transactions for extra materials in AAA games. Bioware;s Old Republic has been making good bank since its shift to free-to-play, and with news of stock being pulled from Harvey Norman and EB Games, Elder Scrolls Online will likely do the same. Major F2P games League of Legends and DOTA2 have also been huge successes since their inception, the latter’s fans stoking the prize money of the international tournament to above $10 million.
Part of the future we’ve been promised is here and it’s virtual reality, with its stunning 360 3D effects. Sony and Samsung have both provided offerings with Project Morpheus and Gear VR respectively, and Google made a brief appearance with a simple but smart cardboard setup at its I/O Developer’s Conference. But the name on everyone’s lips is the Oculus Rift, which had some major press junkets in the latter half of 2014, and took CES 2015 by storm with its new Crescent Bay rig. With major developer support the Rift has plenty of content to use, and having been acquired by Facebook for $2.5 billion, there’s the potential to reach millions with that technology.
Indie mainstream integration
Games like GoneHome, Spelunky, Journey, and Bastion have been riding the thin line between indie and mainstream gaming for some time, and that’s only going to continue into 2015. Indie games are slowly beginning to become part of the mainstream landscape, going from fringe entertainment to major platforms and publishers, earning side-by-side appearances to larger titles. This is largely due to the increased avenues of exposure that developers have. With Kickstarter, Sony’s Indie Pub Fund and Microsoft’s ID@Xbox, and publishing platforms like Steam Greenlight, creation and distribution of indie gaming is becoming easier than ever.
Gaming “Culture” Conflict
Between the controversy of GamerGate, college bomb threats and Ubisoft’s now infamous statement on the difficulty of animating women, the gaming community, and for some, the gamer identity, is rapidly becoming embroiled into a larger discourse on racism, sexism, online harassment and doxxing, and also industry ethics. Regardless of your stance, politicization of the gaming industry is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and the shadow of these incidents in 2014 will likely affect mainstream reporting on gaming for several months to come.