Say what you want about 2013, but there was no end to the excitement when it came to the gaming community. Between major console launches, new and continuing game titles, the controversy surrounding Microsoft’s mismanaged promotions and increased interest and relevance from the indie community, you were bound to find something that caught your interest no matter what you play.
Hanging over the heads of gamers all through 2013 were the releases of Microsoft and Sony’s next generation of consoles, the Xbox One and Playstation 4 respectively. Fierce competition and similar November release dates saw a surge in the rivalry and leaps forward in hardware.
Microsoft’s focus on television home entertainment over gaming and controversies regarding the Xbox One’s digital rights restrictions — including an interruption to confirm ownership in the middle of a gaming tournament. The privacy issues concerning a Kinect that is required to be on at all times allowed the PS4 to gain the advantage in units sold.
Meanwhile, Nintendo has been struggling in sales of its next-gen Wii U despite a year head start on its rivals and a continued strong showing with both its handheld 3DS console and its lower-budget 2DS counterpart.
Even with these setbacks, titles such as Pokemon X and Y, the life simulator Animal Crossing and a remastered version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker to serve as a companion to a new 3DS title in the franchise, A Link Between Worlds, have allowed the company to remain relevant.
Nintendo also announced 2013 to be the Year of Luigi, a commemorative event to celebrate the oft-overshadowed brother of their mascot character Mario. And with upcoming titles such as a new Super Smash Bros. for both Wii U and the 3DS, Nintendo will likely be able to keep its stride into the new year.
Continuing with big-selling game titles, 2013 saw a large surge in high-quality and big-budget software. Grand Theft Auto V cleared the charts as the top-selling game, with a budget that outpaced even Hollywood blockbusters, while other titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Bioshock Infinite managed a strong showing as well.
There was an increased focus on dramatic games such as The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls, though the latter suffered critically due to its focus on theatrics over gameplay making it more movie than game.
Adventure game company Telltale Games, meanwhile, managed to define the cinematic experience once again with its continuation of their The Walking Dead adaptations 400 Days and The Walking Dead: Season Two.
Other franchises opted to revitalize themselves as well, with both DMC: Devil May Cry and Tomb Raider serving as reboots of their respective franchises to strong critical reactions.
But this past year wasn’t just about the big names and franchises: numerous indie games and developers have begun to gain a stronger foothold in the industry while providing a more refreshing and insightful degree of experimentation.
The Stanley Parable (a former mod of the Half-Life game engine turned full production) provided players with a twisting and turning look at narrative and the illusion of choice within game design, while The Fullbright Company’s Gone Home took a similar focus on story and turned it into a quiet exploration of a family’s life and tribulations.
If you don’t have the time or hardware to play most games try Aniwey’s Candy Box, which sparked a surge of simplistic-yet-fun desktop computer games that you can leave running while resources and options are automatically collected for you to use later. Part of the fun is letting the candy accumulate to large degrees to see what it can be spent on.
Despite the year’s setbacks, 2013 was largely a good year for games, especially with grand budgets, greater capabilities and more opportunities for experimentation.
As for 2014, we can expect new franchise installments like Halo: Spartan Assault, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Final Fantasy XV to come out swinging.
Other titles without set release dates like Murdered: Soul Suspect and The Sims 4 show a lot of promise, and those with a PS Vita and affinity for Japan’s quirkier titles may want to watch for the high school thriller Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.