2017 is shaping up to be a very big year for gaming. Not only is Nintendo poised to mount a comeback with its Switch console in March, but Microsoft will also be making its first foray into 4K gaming with the Xbox One Scorpio. Then you have major new game releases such as Red Dead Redemption 2, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mass Effect: Andromeda and many, many more, making it one of the busiest years the industry has experienced in quite some time.
So as we head into this exciting new year, we’ve compiled a rundown of predictions that could happen in the foreseeable future, both optimistic and pessimistic. Here are our video game predictions for 2017:
The PlayStation VR will struggle
I bought a PlayStation VR at launch, so I very much reside within the camp of people who desperately want to see Sony’s virtual reality headset succeed. Unfortunately, the device heads into 2017 lacking the momentum it needs to achieve this success, as it still suffers from a dearth of killer apps with only January’s Resident Evil 7 threatening to change its fortunes.
The PS VR release calendar currently looks less than favorable, and Sony’s track record with console peripherals such as the PS Move and PlayStation Camera certainly don’t breed confidence in me that the company will start reeling off game announcements any time soon. Despite being skeptical of Sony Computer Entertainment’s ability to develop and then adequately market anything other than a home console, after trying out the PS VR I was hopeful that this time it would be different. Although the company has stated that it has matched its sales targets, research groups and analysts downgraded their expectations, with SuperData predicting 2.6 million units would be sold before the year’s end compared to the 750,000 that were actually shifted. I hope that Sony’s biggest push to get the PS VR into PS4 owners’ homes hasn’t already happened, and that the device won’t go the way of the Vita.
More big name mobile games
Pokemon Go is arguably the biggest gaming success story of 2016, and while many less established developers attempted to piggyback on its success by copying its augmented reality format wholesale, in 2017 I imagine that we’ll see plenty of big names trying to emulate it by way of bringing their most famous properties to the mobile platform in a variety of unique ways. Nintendo’s one-two punch of Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run, which reportedly enjoyed higher launch day sales despite a more middling consumer response, has set an early standard for how established console developers should bring their IPs to the smaller screen.
While both Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run have their fair share of problems, Nintendo and third-party dev Niantic did well to so adeptly downsize two of the Japanese developer’s biggest franchises and add key social elements to increase replayability. Expect major players such as EA and Ubisoft to look more closely at the mobile space as a result of their success.
The Nintendo Switch will have the best launch lineup ever…
While there are still lingering concerns over the Switch’s fate considering the Wii U’s poor performance, it’s looking incredibly likely that it will enjoy one of the most exciting launch line-ups in gaming history. With console launches routinely featuring an underwhelming smattering of games that do not improve until developers have got their heads around the new technology, trusted source Laura Kate Dale has claimed that both Mario Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be available on the console’s release day. This is huge news if true, with it meaning that Nintendo will have two of its heaviest hitters out of the gate as soon as the console reaches store shelves. Considering that it took a year for the Wii U to receive its first 3D Mario game, and the only Zelda game it has hosted has been the Wind Waker HD remaster, the Switch would therefore have a major early advantage over its predecessor.
…but will suffer from a lack of continued support
I was incredibly hopeful for the Wii U, so I’m certainly more hesitant to go all in on the Switch even if the initial consumer reception has been hopeful. I’m still not optimistic that Nintendo can court the third-party developer enthusiasm it needs in order to ensure the Switch enjoys similar longevity to the PS4 and Xbox One, especially considering that Sony and Microsoft have now taken the plunge with mid-generation console upgrades in the form of the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One Scorpio. The previous trend of systems being brought out roughly within the same year as one another will finally be broken by the Switch, and it remains to be seen whether or not this will work in Nintendo’s favor, or whether the Switch will experience prolonged teething issues in the vein of the Wii U. Despite its reported strong launch line-up, I’m unfortunately predicting that Nintendo’s continued third-party issues will place it in the latter camp.
BioWare has already stated that it isn’t planning on bringing Mass Effect: Andromeda to the console, and according to Laura Dale Rockstar still doesn’t have a working relationship with Nintendo, meaning that Red Dead Redemption 2 will reportedly not be released on the console, either. While Nintendo released a poster featuring a line-up of developers that would be supporting the Switch, the company employed the same tactic with the Wii U, only for this support to eventually dwindle as Sony and Microsoft continued to do a better job of courting external developers and publishers. Unless Nintendo manages to kick a bad habit that it’s struggled with since the days of the Nintendo 64, then I expect the Switch to go down a similar unfortunate path.
The Xbox One Scorpio will be priced at $399
The 500GB Xbox One S is currently priced around the $300 mark, while the original 500GB Xbox One retails for roughly $259. Though there has been speculation that the Xbox One Scorpio could launch with the premium price tag of $499, it’s more likely that Microsoft will look to make its mid-generation 4K system as competitively priced as possible, so I’m predicting that a $399 price point will be reasonable.
Considering that the Xbox One Scorpio is being touted as the first “true 4K” console, along with Microsoft’s boasts that it will feature the best console VR experience available, this could be a very attractive proposition to those who have yet to buy an Xbox One, or those who are looking for a 4K console. For comparison, Sony’s PS4 Pro launched for $349, though the console has been criticized for its sub-par 4K features — it runs on upscaled 4K for the majority of its games, while it also doesn’t include a 4K Blu-ray player — so for $50 extra those who are interested in the Scorpio would have little to quibble about.
Call of Duty will get new developers
Call of Duty is struggling. While the franchise still manages to shoot straight to the top of the sales charts on an annual basis, it’s clear that consumer interest is dwindling as players are becoming burned out by the yearly format. The desperation from Activision to stop the series’ downward spiral was made particularly evidence when the publisher decided to attach Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered to the latest CoD release Infinite Warfare, refusing to sell the game separately in order to drive more eyes on its brand new game. The publisher was then embarrassed when it transpired that more people were actually playing MW Remastered online than they were IW.
Activision has a cycle of three development studios it uses to produce a new Call of Duty each year, with Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games each releasing a brand new game in the series every three years. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that despite all these talented people coming together to work on the monolithic franchise, audiences are continuing to lose their interest. So what happens next? Many have called for the series to take a break, similar to the one Assassin’s Creed received in 2016. However, Activision’s overwhelming reliance upon CoD‘s profitability will likely ensure that this won’t happen, so I predict that the series’ creative team will receive a major overhaul instead. There are many things that CoD needs right now, from an updated graphics engine through to a move away from its unpopular sci-fi leanings, and a change in creative direction could well inspire this.
Final Fantasy VII Remake receives a huge delay
Square Enix hardly has a great track record when it comes to releasing Final Fantasy games in a timely fashion, and I expect the Final Fantasy VII Remake will receive a lengthy delay, too. Square has stated that the game will release in episodic form, though there has been no word on when its first episode will make its way to the PS4. There were rumors last year that it would launch in February, but this time slot seems extremely optimistic now that we’ve made our way into the New Year.
FFVII producer Yoshinori Kitase is overseeing the development of the game’s remake, so although it’s being developed by a completely different team than Final Fantasy XV, I’d still wager that history will repeat itself and FFVII Remake‘s first episode will be pushed back all the way until late 2017, or potentially even 2018. There has been little discussion on Sony’s behalf since the game’s announcement, which doesn’t bode well for those who expect it to release sooner rather than later.