It’s the end of the year. Yay. No, seriously, fuck 2017, what a shitty year. And no, it isn’t because of politics. Personally, I had a pretty awful year. But you’re not interested in my year, so let’s skip the sappy bullshit and hit up the lists.
How did I do last year? Here’s last year’s predictions for reference. Actually, I didn’t do too badly, in my humble opinion.
- Data breeches are ridiculously common now and basically nothing seems safe.
- Online communities are suffering under a Stasi-like witch hunt for offending opinions – where the only people who can find something ‘offensive’ are whoever we decide is ‘oppressed’ today.
- Streaming services are really popular but at least in Australia physical media hasn’t died out yet.
- Google’s Pixel 2 is really impressive, but the Pixelbook is ridiculous.
- Apple did struggle to impress; the iPhone X is probably the company’s new TAM.
- Steam didn’t lose steam – I got this one wrong. But it has suffered a bit of an image problem thanks in part to asset flip games, shovelware, and awful pricing.
- The Xbox One X (“Scorpio”) hasn’t really made a significant impact, but it’s a success in its own right. It delivers a superior 4K experience to the PS4 Pro, though the system still lags behind the Sony exclusives.
- I’d argue that 4K and HDR are becoming increasingly relevant as 4K/HDR TVs become cheaper, so I probably got this one wrong.
- PC gaming is still steady, nothing has really changed.
- VR is still a niche; it hasn’t died off and it’s not quite a novelty, but it shows no signs of attaining ‘must have’ status.
Alright, so what did I enjoy this year? Rather than do a list of games (because it’s slim pickin’ this year!) I’m just going to do generic stuff that was good.
Best Stuff of 2017
XCOM 2: WAR OF THE CHOSEN. Awesome expansion pack (in the classical sense of the term) for an already awesome game. It has issues, but the sum is greater than the parts. It’s great. Loved it. Will keep playing it.
PREY. Prey was great. For me it came totally out of left field and proved that a System Shock 2-style game can still be a popular title in today’s world. It’s also distinctly a PC game that recalls a time when consoles weren’t lead development platforms. Good storyline, tight gameplay, challenging, and entertaining – Prey was fantastic.
XBOX ONE X. I mostly play on consoles these days – not because I hate the PC nor think they’re better devices, but mostly because I can’t sit at a desk forever anymore, and I haven’t found a comfortable way to play PC games on a couch (no, KB+M on a couch is not comfortable). The Xbox One X (XBOX for short?) is an impressive console that comes much closer to the 4k revolution that Sony promised. Only real issue? The UI is fucking awful (so is Sony’s attempt though) and it lacks good exclusives. But exclusives are crap practice and should die.
Google’s PIXEL 2. Google’s phones are getting better and better – they’re not quite as good as the best flagships, but they’re not far off it. Stock Android is also much, much better than anything Samsung puts out (TouchWiz is still an abortion of ideas). Can’t wait to see what happens next year!
Microsoft SURFACE PRO. Although I haven’t picked up another Surface Pro yet (maybe next year), I’m impressed with where they’re heading. The 3:2 aspect ratio, much improved battery life, and better device profile is slowly moving towards a better hybrid. Windows 10 is still an awful tablet OS – and I don’t see that changing any time soon – but it’s steps in the right direction.
- Mass Effect: Andromeda. Prioritising volume of content over quality seriously hurt this title. It’s far from a bad game, but there’s just too much stuff in here, much of it not particularly interesting, and the characters aren’t as engaging as the original trilogy. It just feels a little off for some reason.
- Google’s Pixelbook. It’s an absurdly expensive Chromebook that tries to run Android apps, except it kind of doesn’t do it very well. There’s literally no reason to buy this when it costs similar to entry level Surface Pro devices which are also infinitely more useful.
- Apple’s iPhone X. What the actual fuck, Apple? It’s an iPhone, except it’s not that much better than the iPhone 8, and costs a fucking fortune.
- Samsung TouchWiz and Bixby. TouchWiz improves marginally but is still awful… and now includes Bixby, which they actively attempt to prevent you from disabling. Bixby is shit, it doesn’t do anything particularly well, and I just want Google Assistant mapped to the hardware button without resorting to a third party app. Just stop already, guys!
- Wolfenstein 2: The New Order. But not the game itself, no! The game is awesome, I really enjoyed it. But god damn, the pseudo-political commentary that surrounded the otherwise straightforward game was painful. I did love the delicious irony in hard-left social justice advocates completely ignoring the hyper-violence because it fulfilled their Nazi-killing power fantasies. I guess it’s okay only if it matches your morals, huh guys?
Predictions for 2017
High-end Chromebooks fail to gain traction. Calling it now – Chromebooks are still awful propositions once they become expensive. Nobody, and I mean nobody, needs a $1000 USD Chromebook. They’re just way too limited. Android has been a bad tablet OS for a while now, and trying to shove Android apps onto Chrome OS isn’t proving to be very successful. It’s a stop-gap measure. It’d be like Windows suddenly supporting Android apps because nobody likes the Windows Store.
Windows 10 S Fails. Microsoft’s hardware is pretty damn impressive (with Apple-style pricing to match!) but Windows 10 S is an abject failure. Nobody likes Windows Store apps – there’s so very few of them that are actually useful and very little interest in development (or supporting released apps). The sad irony is that Windows 10 desperately needs these apps in order for it to become a decent tablet OS – because desktop apps in tablet mode aren’t fun to use in the slightest.
Xbox One X is a modest success. We’re in a new era of mid-cycle console refreshes, and I think Microsoft’s refresh was the better of the two. I don’t think it’ll be the game-changer people were hoping for, but I think it’ll be successful in its own right. It’s the superior console from a technical standpoint (if you want cheap 4K gaming, it’s the best pick) but I don’t know if that’ll translate into more games for the platform.
Social media suffers a major image problem. This year we’ve seen people trying very hard to control social media by pushing their own morals and social agenda, and attempting to use that to define moderation standards – bordering on introducing thought-crime as an actual concept. It seems the real threat 1984 warned us about is actually coming from the regressive left, and not the far right. I think next year will see a continuation of this trend – but I think resistance will increase.
VR still doesn’t gain much traction. It’s still very expensive, there aren’t many killer titles that move units, and it still has a fairly high cost of entry. Maybe the new Windows Mixed Reality headsets will change things a bit; but for now, I don’t think VR will have too much of an impact on the gaming landscape (or otherwise).
So that’s it for me for this year! Hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate it), and a happy new year!