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The 8 Ball: Top 8 Game News Stories of 2017 – Mass Effect Andromeda Goes Down, SNES Classic, More

January 23, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Mass Effect Andromeda

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. This is likely the last of my 2017 round-up columns, as next week I’ll go back to looking at the best games of 2009. This is a roundup of the biggest stories I thought happened in the last year, not necessarily the most objective biggest stories. Let’s begin:

#8: Toys to Life is Done

The whole “Toys to Life” thing was already on life support last year when Disney put the kibosh on Infinity, and this year continued the trend. Warner Bros has said that Lego Dimensions isn’t going to continue, cutting short its three year plan, into a two year one. They cited the reduction in profitability, more packs, and more licensed stuff, as reasons for cutting and running. Of the four toys to life franchises left, Skylander, Infinity, Dimensions and the Amiibo stuff, only the Amiibos remain, and that’s because (I think) Nintendo never had a central game to actually go along with them.

#7: Respawn Buyout

This happened weeks after another news item on this list, and we all know it’s not going to end well. Titanfall 2 was one of the best FPS games of 2016, and it didn’t sell well-being sandwiched between Battlefield 1, and a Call of Duty game. Still, another conglomerate made a bid for Respawn, and sensing people were interested in it, decided to buy them first. And with that, say goodbye to Respawn Entertainment. EA has a long…long history of buying and then dooming independent game studios, and I fully imagine Respawn will be gone within five years.

#6: SNES Classic/Star Fox 2

OK, Nintendo making a SNES Classic wasn’t a huge surprise. Nintendo made a huge splash with the NES Classic, so it was a certainty that they were going to make the SNES Classic. The surprising thing was the game list, 20 games may not sound like a lot but it does reasonably cover a majority of the “big” games on the SNES, minus Chrono Trigger. The big news though was the “+1” they included in the SNES Classic, that being Star Fox 2. Star Fox 2 is a game that has been talked about for 20+ years, since it was shown at an old CES show in 1995. Cancelled that year, due to the release of the N64 in 1996, the game hadn’t seen the light of day until now. You can argue whether or not it’s a good game (probably not), but it’s still damned impressive & cool that Nintendo included it with the SNES Classic.

#5: Switch had a good year

On the other Nintendo front is the Switch, having arguably the best year ever for a console release. Aside from it having two must-have games, Zelda: BOTW and Mario: Odyssey, the system is rife with other inventive games like Splatoon 2, Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Golf Story, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, etc. Some games did were on the Wii U, but they felt more at home on the Switch than the Wii U. Aside from the games though, the sales for the console are mighty impressive, completely blowing away the Wii U figures in a single year and showing Nintendo is as strong as ever. There were plenty of people, me included, who thought the Switch would fail, but it’s still selling off store shelves.

#4: Visceral Shut Down

EA closes studios all the time, see above, but this was especially depressing. Visceral created some damn fine games in the last generation, notably Dead Space 1 and 2, but EA corporate culture began to sabotage the studio with Dead Space 3 and especially with Battlefield Hardline. Alongside the shutdown of Visceral, you also had EA cancel the unnamed Star Wars game that had Amy Hennig directing it. More than that though, it really showed how little EA cares about single-player games, even with the blog post from Söderlund saying “In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game.” He says that like it’s a bad thing, and to EA with their “Games as a service” mandate. The next year is looking mighty lonely for EA for non-sports games, but I’ll get into a tad more of that below.

#3: PUBG is big

Perhaps no bigger success story this year was PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS. What started as just another survival/Early Access game on Steam ballooned up to being one of the most popular games on Steam, and to starting a whole new genre up. Sure, there are other survival games before PUBG, Rust, H1Z1, ARK, etc., but none of them played particularly well, and they are way more focused on crafting/base creation (and defense) than just straight combat. This was such a big thing that other games, Fortnite, Paladins and others are essentially copying the idea, often times keeping the same damn name, I’m looking at you Paladins. As I currently write this, there are 700,000 people playing PUBG, with over 2.5 million people playing it today, at a single time. That is damned impressive by any measure.

#2: Star Wars Battlefront 2 Bungled

Wow, what a miscalculation this was. You can blame corporate greed, and you should, but EA’s unwillingness to stand by the game shouts volumes about who they are as a company. EA basically shut down microtransactions (from the game) literally hours before the game went for sale on the general public, due to the overwhelming negativity they caused in the betas and early release. And EA has replaced it with…nothing. If you still want to get anywhere in the game, without countless hours of grinding, you still have to buy the crystal currency, just to buy lootboxes in the vain hope you get something for a character you actually use. Alongside this though, EA’s avarice with this nonsense has cast a very hard light on lootboxes in general, so much so that certain governments are looking into the predatory nature of the system. So, hey, EA, they end on a banner year, after the next fiasco.

#1: Mass Effect Andromeda Goes Down

EA has killed off the golden goose with their release of Andromeda. Rushed to market, way ahead of when it was finished, the game was an ugly mess of bugs, bad animation, quests screwing up, and so on. Even if the game had worked perfectly when it was released, it still would have been a disaster of a game, due to the lackluster foundations of not a ton of new alien races, poor story writing, and no resolution to the story. Mass Effect was one of the best franchises of the last generation, say what you want about Mass Effect 3 (it’s still fine), but ME1 and especially ME2 were landmark games for that console cycle. To have EA basically spit in the face of the fans with this terrible game, essentially dooming the Mass Effect franchise forever now, since EA isn’t going to bring it back anytime soon, is one of the saddest stories of this year.

For comments, list which news stories about games were important to you in 2017.

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison