01
Jan
14

2013 gaming wrap-up


 
I had a lot of trouble getting this article started.  Not because of a lack of material but rather because 2013 was what they call in football “a rebuilding year.”
 
Not that anyone intended it to be.  The long wait for next gen consoles finally came to an end with the launch of the PS4 and Xbox1.  Call of Duty and Battlefield saw new releases and a hotly anticipated classic got rebooted in SimCity.
 
It seems, however, that every advance came with two steps backward.
 
The console wars heated up with February’s PS4 announcement that told us all about games and virtually nothing about the hardware.  May saw the reveal of the XBOX 1 which was all about the hardware (mostly TV) and one game…with a dog.
 
It wasn’t until June and E3 that we finally got the goods on both consoles and found out that they were mostly the same.  Sony slashed their price by $100 made possible by the elimination of the kinect like motion capture camera.
 
Of course this all came after Microsoft’s PR nightmare where Adam Orth (former creative studios director) thumbed his nose at the uproar over the “always-connected” requirement of the console.
 

In a typical Microsoft move the response came quickly…They backpedaled and dropped the requirement and Orth quietly slipped away to pursue his career elsewhere.   Of course Sony seized on the opportunity and made light of Microsoft’s troubles with their own PR campaign highlighting their contrarian stand on used games and always-on connections for their console.  In shot, if Microsoft said something stupid, Sony was there to take advantage of it.

 

When it came to actual games it was all about the shooters.  EA built up the hype for Battlefield 4 starting from Christmas of 2012 with early access to a closed beta for those unfortunate enough to pre-order the ill-fated Medal of Honor:Warfighter.  Call of Duty:Ghosts was the spotlight game of the XBOX 1 reveal which spawned hundreds of YouTube videos poking fun at 20 minutes of gameplay featuring a dog and a TV tuner.

 

SimCity and Diablo 3 made news but not for cutting edge graphics or groundbreaking gameplay.  Instead we saw a troubled launch day for SimCity with server outages and Diablo 3 developers finally admitting that their new marketplace had essentially ruined the game.

 
EA followed up the SimCity launch later in the year with another spectacular failure in the guise of Battlefield 4.  Server failures, game crashes and constant patching proved once and for all that EA favors sales numbers over content.
 

Battlefield 4′s launch went so badly that it’s first DLC packs were delayed by 2 weeks and in a rare move EA actually offered refunds to disgruntled pre-order customers.

In a related story EA is being sued in a class action lawsuit but not by its customers as you’d expect but rather by its shareholders.  The suit alleges that EA misrepresented the serious issues with Battlefield 4 to drive up its share price.

 

Call of Duty: Ghosts  was Activision’s entry into the 2013 triple-A launch wars but aside from the comical focus on a dog was little more than a halo console release for both Sony and Microsoft.  That makes sense since unlike Battlefield 4, Ghosts was little more than a minor franchise release akin to Battlefield’s Bad Company series.  It relied on an updated but still long in the tooth graphics engine that paled in comparison to Battlefield’s Frostbite 3.

 
 

There were other releases that should have made more news like Crysis 3 and Need for Speed: Rivals  but spectacular launch failures and constant console hype drowned  them out.

 

Hardware news was less than exciting for gamers as the graphics wars cooled.  Both AMD and Nvidia chose to refresh current designs saving their newest stuff for the end of the year.  AMD’s new volcanic islands was launched leading to the flagship R290X.   In contrast, Nvidia’s 700 series cards still hold reign while the 800′s won’t be seen till Q1 2014 at the earliest.

 

CPU news was a bit more exciting with the long awaited 4th generation Intel processor, Haswell, launched in the summer and powering the long awaited refresh of the Mac Pro.  With better onboard graphics the pendulum for mainstream computing moved closer to the elimination of discrete graphics cards.

 

AMD followed suit with its Fusion APU designs powering both next generation consoles and offering the best integrated graphics in the industry.  Based on AMD’s 6000 series of graphics processors the platform is capable of supporting entry to mid level gaming without the need for a discrete GPU.

 

We had weird stuff too.  Nvidia decided to make the handheld Android gaming device, Shield, an actual product.  Still largely regarded as a solution in search of a problem it remains to be seen if it survives till the 2014 holiday season.

 
Valve finally made good on rumors of the mysterious “Steam Box” with a Linux distro, hardware spec and special trackpad based controller.  Far from an actual physical console it seems that much like Nvidia GPU designs, Valve plans to push a spec rather than a manufactured product.   A number of hardware manufacturers have committed to the product but success is
dependent on graphics vendors and game publishers to follow suit.  As of now the jury is still out.
 
Pushing aside games and graphics cards, however, the real news of 2013 was an awakening of sorts. For the first time in a long time gamers showed resistance to the hype.  Next gen consoles sold well but consumers were asking more questions before they laid down their hard earned money.  Game publishers primed the hype machine for triple-A titles but when the sales numbers rolled in the words “record breaking” couldn’t be found.
 
The days of the $60 pre-order may be numbered as titles like Battlefield 4, Call of Duty:Ghosts and Crysis 3 found far fewer takers than their predecessors.  Battlefield 4 servers remain largely empty even 2  months after release and Ghosts isn’t faring much better.
 
Hype isn’t enough anymore.
Publishers have to deliver and they haven’t been doing much of a job of it over the past 2 years.  Gamers can be the most rabid of  fans but a franchise can die overnight if they feel like they’ve been crossed.  A fact that may hurt games like Battlefield and Call of Duty in the long run.
 
So as memories of 2013 slowly fade and we embark on 2014 you can count on the midagedgamer to extend a sincere and outstretched middle finger to the hype happy lapdogs in the pocket of game publishers!
 
 
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