It’s time to make merry, grab some Steam discounts, and hammer out those “Best of 2018” lists. As my fellow Kakuchopurei pals dig out their Year of the Dog highlights, I’d like to spend this time sniffing out five positive developments from the industry so far.
It’s all too easy to count our losses, with this year seeing multiple studio closures and the end of strategy guide makers Prima Games. But as we toast to those bygone memories, let us also cheer for the victories large and small.
After all, we’re all here for the fun of games.
Mad Catz pounces back
Peripherals maker Mad Catz gave us plenty to twiddle, beat, and mash since the early ‘90s. From racing wheels and drum kits to gamepads and fight sticks, they rode the success of esports and rhythm games while keeping an eye towards space sims’ return. Yet it all came crashing down in 2016, when surplus inventory resulted in losses so tremendous they filed for bankruptcy a year later.
It was a tragic, ignoble end to one of gaming’s titans of hardware… until they pounced back with new ownership right out of Hong Kong. This kitty’s journey isn’t over yet.
Ubisoft fends off Vivendi takeover
Say what you will about their open-world formulas and selling tactics, but Ubisoft sure knows how to navigate hostile seas. In March this year, the publisher finally won its three-year battle for independence against Vivendi, a Goliathan who once counted Activision Blizzard among its own.
It’s the second defensive achievement by Ubisoft founder and CEO Yves Guillemot, who had previously ended a six-year takeover attempt by Electronic Arts in 2010. This may not satisfy the gripes and criticisms many have levelled at them, but it’s certainly good news for all the developers and subsidiaries under their banner worldwide.
Microsoft acquires 7 new studios
The console wars may be over but Microsoft’s grand plans are only beginning. After a considerably muted stretch for Xbox, the company dropped some green-tipped bombshells at E3 by announcing five studio acquisitions. That was followed by two more in November, adding beloved RPG developers Obsidian and inXile Entertainment to the list.
Together, they’ll be shaping what is likely to be a service-based future for the Xbox ecosystem, one spanning across console and PC with monthly game subscriptions and cloud streaming. With big money rolling in, we’re expecting these studios to tackle some ambitious projects to drive up user numbers.
Google gets proactive in Southeast Asia
It’s the star of mobile gaming’s whirlwind rise, but as everyone bleats excitedly over the region’s users and potential revenue, Google has deigned to cast the spotlight on developers instead. The house of Android recently held the world’s first indie games accelerator in Singapore, taking 30 studios from SEA and Asia on a mentorship programme that left graduates flushed with gratitude and newfound knowledge.
It ranks low on the gamer-hype totem pole, but it’s by and large an acknowledgement of region’s budding talent, ones that need a few informed nudges to get on the right path to success.
The Epic Games Store
Many storefronts have risen to challenge the dominant, bloated empire of Steam, but few have had the position and resources to do so. As the creators of Unreal Engine, the bedrock for many critically and commercially successful games, as well as Fortnite, the biggest gaming phenomenon of 2018, Epic Games are one of that privileged few.
With a better revenue cut for developers, financial recognition for content creators, and strong adoption incentives for users, here is a very real and potent competitor to Valve’s aging storefront — and that’s not considering the long-awaited demand for such an arrival.
What’s In Store For 2019?
The industry’s on the cusp of some major shifts come 2019 and beyond. We have the newly-waged battle between Steam and Epic Games Store to benefit from, plus the ongoing competition between NVIDIA and AMD that’ll push for better cost-to-performance ratios — seriously, PC gaming isn’t as expensive as you might think.
On the console front, we have the diverging paths of PlayStation and Xbox, both chasing their own visions for next-gen gaming. You shouldn’t discount the Nintendo Switch, either, which just got hit by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and is about to receive a ton of exciting releases next year. Even mobile gaming is up for some exciting possibilities with the advent of devices such as the Razer Phone 2 or ASUS ROG Phone. And who knows where virtual reality is headed off to, now that the hardware is out in the hands of consumers and developers?
Whatever you play, wherever you play it on, it’s always an exciting time to be a gamer. If you’ve exhausted Kakuchopurei’s daily updates, come join me over at GameAxis to gush over the best form of play there is.
See you in 2019!