Five Winners and Loser of March
March has become one of the biggest months of the year in the games industry. Between two major trade shows, the biggest spring releases, and huge announcements March has become thirty days worth circling on your calendar. This past March had all the regular ingredients and provided numerous topics to talk about. So what were the big announcements and which ones missed their mark?
#1. BioShock Infinite
Make no mistake, the detractors are definitely out there as they always are. But BioShock Infinite has ended this month with a resounding bang, dominating the conversation from one website to another. The name Ken Levine is on the tips of everyone’s tongue and the game is a bonafide success. When you consider a development history that deals with key team members leaving, a half-decade distance from the last great game, and fever-pitch expectations, BioShock Infinite’s story become truly remarkable.
#2. Tomb Raider
To say Tomb Raider came out of nowhere is not entirely accurate, the game turned plenty of heads at E3 2012 and has been quite the story with its feminist for/against arguments. However, I don’t think anyone saw this type of success for the franchise. The reviews are solid, a film has been greenlit, and Lara Croft is back to being the number one female gaming icon. While the game had its flaws, the majority of fans –old and new– are looking forward to more adventures with this new Lara.
After announcing the Playstation 4 Sony has been on a media warpath, talking up their current console, praising their upcoming console, and desperately trying to save the Vita. With an ambitious approach to court independent developers and a show of passion for providing games for its fans, Sony is making a statement about their future as a company. Currently, the Sony campaign has been a decisive victory as the company has dominated the console conversation while Xbox plots its next move and the Wii U licks its wounds. Will Sony’s play toward developers and gamers pay off? That question can’t be answered yet, but the early results are promising.
#4. Witcher 3
It feels like anytime I turn around there is a new announcement about the Witcher 3. For a game that won’t be out until 2014, we are getting all kinds of details and promises about the third chapter of the Geralt saga from CD Projekt Red. The talk of an open-world focus, 36 different endings (what the what?), DRM-free, a world bigger than Skyrim, and an increased focus on monsters, has made The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt quickly find its way onto many people’s radars. Just try to remember, it won’t come out until 2014…hopefully.
#5. THQ’s Displaced Studios
With so much transition and uncertainty coming out of the THQ Bankruptcy, it was hard to believe that Volition Inc. would be able to be very far into their development of Saints Row IV. However despite moving from the disbanded THQ to Deep Silver, Volition was able to drop a Saints Row IV trailer before PAX East and then show off some gameplay to the press. On top of Voition’s success, the reassembled team of Vigil–now branded Crytek USA–have publicly announced they plan to make a bid on the Darksiders IP currently floating about the ether. This would pair the IP back with its creators and would spell out a future that is currently uncertain for the Darksiders franchise.
#1. Wii U
The Wii U’s disappointment started in January, but hasn’t let up. March has been a particularly difficult month for Nintendo’s current console as some of the biggest upcoming releases continue to exempt themselves from the platform. The Wii U is selling worse than either the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3 ever sold, the biggest reason for this is that there simply aren’t enough games to entice buyers. Nintendo will be bringing out its hottest titles at E3 this year, but it might not be enough at this point.
Oh boy, where to start. EA has been the king of publishing nightmares. Coming off an abysmal year, being dogged by financial reviews, and dealing with numerous rough releases, EA was looking for a win. Instead they got one of the worst always-online launches to date with the highly anticipated Sim City. Even worse, EA’s always-online explanations are still raising eyebrows and eliciting shoulder shrugs. As the controversy continued with the leaving of CEO John Riccitiello and the lackluster release of Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, EA may need to spend some time regrouping.
#3. God of War
Kratos used to be one of the biggest names in the Sony lineup, but after March it is difficult to tell if the angry spartan has the same drawn he once did. Final sales numbers are still coming in, and it is safe to say that God of War: Ascension was a financial success, but the one-note character drew a series of critical dismissals and dealt with some controversy for its crass persona. The franchise will most likely go on to see a fourth numerical installment, but maybe God of War will have to think about changing up its modus operandi to continue audience engagement.
#4. Metal Gear Solid
Two games! Say what?! Kojima’s announcement about The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes should have rocked the gaming world. The only problem was that everyone already knew it was coming. For a series that has been a staple in gaming culture for decades, the announcement of the two upcoming games at GDC was met with a golf clap, rather than thunderous applause. Metal Gear is a series dogged by an offbeat, but overwrought, formula and the upcoming releases don’t look like they will break the mold. Add in the fan malcontent about the David Hayter dismissal and The Phantom Pain/Ground Zeroes has some work to do to pump up the hype meter.
#5. The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Terminal Reality, your game, woof. After this spring people may think twice befor picking up licensed games again. First there was the disaster of Aliens: Colonial Marines, then Terminal Reality release this monstrosity based on the popular AMC TV show. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts proved that licensed video games can be nothing more than a bland sandwich with a glass of mediocrity to wash is down. Actually, Survival Instinct was even worse than that, it was flat out awful, and will be remembered forever as the “other” Walking Dead game.
What were your highlights of March? Did you dig PAX East? What were you favorite games? What left you unimpressed? Lets us know your thoughts in the comments below.