13 top talking points for gaming in 2017

Chris Stead 1 December 2016 NEWS

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There’s never a dull minute in the world of video games, and as 2016 comes to a close, it’s clear we won’t be short of sensational moments in 2017 either.

We keep a close eye on video gaming news, and barely an hour goes past without something sensational breaking. Whether it is a big announcement, a spectacular controversy or an insightful interview, the Internet is constantly lit up by the passionate people who call gaming their home. We say it every year, but 2017 is shaping up to the biggest yet, and already we can pencil in some of the biggest topics of your favourite forum. Here is what we expect to be the biggest virtual water-cooler conversations around gaming of 2017.

The Nintendo Switch is a joke/sensation

It will be love or hate; there won’t be much in the way of "meh" reactions to Nintendo’s upcoming Switch console. Releasing in March, presumably alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it certainly feels like Nintendo’s position as a player in the console space is on the line. The Switch’s initial announcement was light on details, but touts a hybrid handheld/console device big on gimmick, low on power. On face value, it’s a disastrous pitch for the modern gaming landscape. :et’s not forget Nintendo is also pushing hard into the mobile space, which would seem to be a direct competitor to the Switch. However, with more to be revealed in January, an ace or two could remain up Mario’s sleeve. One thing is for sure: we’ll all be talking Switch.

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Can Niantic follow up Pokémon GO?

At last count, the cultural phenomenon that was Pokémon GO was on a march to a ridiculous one billion downloads, so all eyes will be on Niantic to see what happens next, both for the company and for augmented reality more generally. The huge amount of money splashed around by investors in the wake of its success means the demand for a new product will be high. We should expect a similar licensing-based opportunity to emerge. A probable fit is Disney, who could lend Marvel/Star Wars/Pixar to a Niantic title. But will consumers return? What Niantic does next, and whether the marketplace will be keen to get out on the streets and wander down dangerous alleys and off cliffs again, will be a hot topic through 2017.

Is E3 dead?

The once mighty video game expo is on its knees in 2017, requiring a drastic shake-up to its formula as companies begin to turn away from the expense of being at the event. The exodus was led in 2016 by Electronic Arts, and with PAX and Gamescom growing, companies need to make tougher decisions on where to invest. Nintendo also did away with a traditional showing, focusing almost solely on one game – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – and not using the show as a channel to announce its next console. As we approach E3 in 2017, we’ll be more interested than ever to know who will be at the show and how big their presence will be. Inevitably, the question will be asked; is E3 dead?

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How will Project Scorpio change the game?

Sony and Nintendo have shown their hands with the PS4 Pro and the Nintendo Switch, but Microsoft‘s next console, Project Scorpio, remains largely in the dark. While not the Xbox 4, the Scorpio is still said to be four times more powerful than the Xbox One, while remaining compatible with its little brother’s games and peripherals. It is being specifically designed to maximise 4K and VR (and presumably the HoloLens) and will be a huge talking point in 2017. The PS4 has doubled the sales of its rival console so far this generation, and the Xbox is currently light on for exclusives for 2017 (Crackdown 3, Scalebound, Sea of Thieves, Halo Wars 2, State of Decay 2 and Below are the most notable, hardly a list of big name IP). Will Microsoft fade quietly into the sunset with Scorpio, or come out swinging with a console and launch line-up of undeniable quality?

Will Horizon: Zero Dawn be a system seller?

We’ve been lucky enough to experience the PS4 Pro in all its glory and while it’s not worth buying a PS4 Pro and 4K TV at present, the games certainly look richer and feel more immersive. Horizon: Zero Dawn is the big one though; due on 1 March, it’s the first game built specifically to maximise the PS4 Pro and what we have seen is quite remarkable. With God of War, Gran Turismo Sport and Days Gone to follow through the year, it will be the arrival of Horizon: Zero Dawn that will have many considering investing in the PS4 Pro. It will be a hot topic, because it could define the hill Microsoft has to climb when the Scorpio arrives later that year.

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Was VR a fad?

We all went a little VR crazy in 2016, with the big three – Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR – all arriving and impressing. But for many, the cost of getting in the door was simply too high and history has proven that gaming is quick to love and then fail technology that doesn’t catch on quickly in big numbers – remember HD-DVD? 3D? Kinect? Second-screen gaming? The conversation will ebb and flow all year as big games – Resident Evil VII, Farpoint, Gran Turismo Sport, Star Trek: The Bridge, Golem and Obduction – continue to bait consumers. A lot will depend on whether the price can come down, and whether the likes of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive can receive a true worldwide release.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – ‘nuff said

Without a doubt, the most anticipated game of 2017 is Red Dead Redemption 2, due for release in spring. Rockstar is very specific about the way it manages the hype on its games, and it will provide a number of incrementally more advanced preview showings to journalists throughout the year. This will ensure we’re never far from another huge discussion around the game. The first trailer teased another epic Western adventure, as well as a cooperative “magnificent seven” multiplayer experience that’s truly salivating. Seven years in the making, we’re struggling to think of any game that could be announced between now and the end of 2017 that will topple it from its “most anticipated” perch.

Can Star Citizen live up to the hype?

Overhyped indies were the talk of 2016 compliments of No Man’s Sky, and a likeminded product that will definitely be on everyone’s minds in 2017 is Star Citizen. The Chris Roberts’ led space sim is high, high concept and has been eagerly watched ever since it went supernova on Kickstarter in 2012. Unlike No Man’s Sky, however, Star Citizen had already seen fans pledge their anticipation in the form of over US$50 million in crowdfunding – a world record - so the weight of expectation is even greater. The game must deliver on everything it shows, and the Internet will be ready to pounce on any perceived lakc.

Sony PlayStation goes mobile?

The success of Nintendo’s foray into mobile gaming and the slow painful death of the PlayStation Vita is set to guide Sony towards a significant leap into the mobile gaming space in 2017. In fact, Sony has already founded a mobile-centric developer in ForwardWorks that has been hard at it since March 2016 on “full-fledged game titles” from the PlayStation universe. In 2017 we should start to see the fruits of its labour, but what titles can we expect? From Crash Bandicoot to God of War, Uncharted to Gran Turismo, and Ratchet to Resistance, the company is not short on killer IP. The impact Sony can have on a new market in 2017 could define the future of PlayStation.

Where next for the 3DS?

With the arrival of the Nintendo Switch, which doubles as a handheld device, and the push from Nintendo into mobile gaming, all eyes will be on the 3DS. Nintendo’s saving grace this decade, the little handheld has sold very well and has a big fan base, but its market position is now under threat. Nintendo has a history of letting their machines die a long death at the hands of an even reducing release schedule, and 2017 currently looks like slim-pickings. Outside of the new IP Ever Oasis and a vaguely referenced Pikmin game, we have Mario Sports Superstars and Lady Layton: The Millionaire Ariadone's Conspiracy (which is also releasing on mobiles) and ports in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World. Nintendo’s continued investment – or not – in the 3DS will be a hot topic.

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Has the sequel model finally stalled?

At the time of writing, the sales of Watch Dogs 2, Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare have underwhelmed considerably on their original expectations. With Assassin’s Creed already taking the year off – and not yet announced for 2017 – we’re starting to see a movement in the market away from the sequel-driven formula that has dominated the industry for the past 10 years. The sales of these so-called “blockbusters” and how that will define the release schedule, announcements and future of many beloved brands through 2017 and beyond will be intriguing. And where is the money going? Indies? VR? New IP? Mobile? We can’t wait to find out.

Mass Effect: Andromeda’s ending

The March release of the fourth game in the Mass Effect series will be met with huge joy by sci-fi and RPG fans, and rightfully so. The game will depart significantly from the original trilogy, set in a new galaxy 600-years later, with a new crew and a new spaceship. The open world, open class gameplay experience promises great moment-to-moment fun, but all eyes will be on the ending. Developer BioWare succumbed to public pressure at the release of Mass Effect 3 and sensationally swapped out its creative vision for a more user-friendly ending via a patch. Will lightning strike twice? If so, will BioWare make the same mistake again?

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