Room for Improvement
I love games and I love the companies that make games. They make fantasy worlds come to life, they allow me to speed around the Australian outback in a Bugatti and they help me to live my dreams of Space exploration. But for all my love for these companies and the games they create there is always a way to make things better, to enhance things for the customer. There is always room for improvement. I am by no means an expert, just an observer of the big gaming companies, but it seems there are some simple things (to say at least, to implement they may be a bit harder) that all of the major companies can do to enhance their standing with gamers and justify the faith that consumers place in them
I am going to start with the easy one first. Microsoft is doing a lot of good things. I am an unabashed fan of the “more power” philosophy so the Xbox One X is super appealing (and based on early pre-order numbers it seems I am not the only one excited by some more grunt) and they have made great strides in winning back consumer trust after their botched launch with initiatives like backwards compatibility and the Game Pass service. But all the good things Microsoft are doing are for naught if they can’t get more quality first party titles out the door. Forza, Halo and Gears are all good games but they are no longer the tent poles they once were, new blood is needed. Crackdown 3 getting delayed and Scalebound being canceled also hurt the big black box as there really isn’t a first party reason to grab the X upon release now. Microsoft needs to dust off some IP like Crimson Skies, Fable and Perfect Dark or create some brand new properties that appeal to more than just the shooter fan base otherwise second place will be Microsoft’s home for the foreseeable future.
The current king-of-the-castle, Sony is on a seemingly unstoppable role at the moment. The first half of 2017 saw the release of a host of hotly anticipated titles and they all met the high expectations that the gaming public had for them. But I worry about Sony’s business practices. They seem to be making a lot of business choices that put Sony first and the consumer second. The constant refusal to have backwards compatibility in anything apart from a paid service, the unwillingness to allow cross-play and the seemingly out-of-date online infrastructure (in Australia at least) is something I would love to see Sony change their position on. These are all initiatives that put the consumer first and Sony second and would also earn a lot of good will from gamers everywhere. Sony is doing a lot of things right but there is no reason they couldn’t do more.
If you had asked me at the start of the year if the Switch was going to be a success I would have told you that it didn’t have a chance in hell. I have never been so happy to be wrong in my life. Nintendo’s little portable/console hybrid has been on a roll since its release, being supported by high-quality first party title after high-quality first party title. But there is one thing I am awfully disappointed with regarding the Switch and it is the same thing that Nintendo has cocked up for years. Ever since the internet became a force in gaming Nintendo has shown the world what not to do regarding online infrastructure. Both the Wii and the Wii U’s online component was abysmal and without some drastic changes, the Switch is heading down the same path. For the love of god Nintendo, get rid of the stupid phone app and make party chat native, ensure you have server capacity for lag free gaming and make sure that when you start charging people money that gamers can see it is a value-for-money proposition, otherwise the Switch’s online will another failure in this space for the house of Mario.
Ubisoft is kicking the big goals at the moment. Big new titles like Skull and Bones and Beyond Good and Evil 2 have people buzzing and franchises that many thought had gone stale like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are looking to be tasty treats once again. But if there is one area that Ubisoft is letting down at the moment it is the smaller titles that they used to support in the past. The UbiArt engine is a thing of beauty and titles like Valiant Hearts and Child of Light used it to great effect. I would love to see more of the smaller, heartfelt titles from Ubisoft. They show the company as one that is willing to take a risk on something unique and that would certainly help to counter the perception that all their games follow a formula. Come on Ubisoft, give the little guy a chance to shine like you have in the past. We will love you for it, I promise
Of all the major publishers I feel that EA has the most room for improvement. It seems to me that this giant company has coasted for too long on the success of FIFA, Madden and Battlefield and has let many opportunities to innovate slip them by. The last three years for EA have been predictable, to say the least, with only the occasional surprise like Titanfall 2 and Unravel to break up the monotony. EA need to do more than simply pump out the same old stuff every year and they need to support their development houses appropriately. I am not sure if Mass Effect Andromeda would have been an amazing game had Bioware been given more resources but I am certain it would have been better than what was released. Battlefield and their Sports range (barring NBA Live) are all great titles, but they are the same titles we have gotten almost every year for the past 6 years. It is time to change that EA, use that big bank roll to fund innovation and not just what the board room thinks will bring in the dollar bills.
So there you have it, my unqualified thoughts on what the big five could be doing better. Was I on the mark? Did I miss an obvious shortfall? Am I barking up the wrong tree? Let me know where you think there is room for improvement in the comments below.