Happy New Year, gamers! After two long weeks of our individual Top Ten Games of the Generation, our Top 25 Games of the Generation, then our individual Top Ten Games of the Year 2013 and our collective Top Ten Games of the Year 2013, we’re finally back to a somewhat normal routine. That being said, we’re not quite yet ready to move on from last year so we decided we would talk about the moments in gaming news that had us all talking the most. This week we present The Top 5: Moments in 2013. These are the moments in the year that were the most important to us individually.
And away we go!
5. Conan O’Brien fails at Tomb Raider over and over again
It’s no surprise that Tomb Raider is the game that really defined 2013 for me, so when Conan O’Brien decided to do a Clueless Gamer Review segment on it on his show, I knew it was going to be hilarious. Or it could amount to a snuff film. The most notable part of this segment was when Conan kept failing a sequence in Tomb Raider where Lara was sliding down a mountain and Conan, being inexperienced in games, kept on getting her impaled. On the neck. You can imagine the crowd “Ohh”ing to the sight…
…or you can watch the whole segment here. Yes, that’s right. Here:
4. The SimCity Launch Disaster
Perhaps the thing that started the whole “always online” debacle in 2013 came from a renewed vision of SimCity that came out in March. No matter what Ari says in his review, no matter how much benefits of the doubt he gives the game, there were many problems with the game that ultimately turned SimCity into a more advanced version of Cityville. The introduction of a city’s reliance on multiple cities for natural resources, the reduced city size, and the always online requirement were the focus of ire by many gamers. Only time will tell if Update 10, which allegedly removes this always online requirement, will actually help with some of the game’s issues, but I can’t help but think that the core of the game ultimately has been compromised from the very beginning, which is why many of its development team left later in the year. SimCity, in my opinion, is beyond saving and no expansions or promised “fixes” will convince me otherwise. Just move on and make a better SimCity and this time, listen to your fans, Maxis.
3. The next generation is coming this fall!
Regardless of whether or not you fall in Sony or Microsoft’s camp, there’s absolutely no doubt that one of the most exciting things that came out of 2013 was that the next generation of gaming was fast approaching. Starting with Sony’s announcement during the PlayStation Meeting in February in New York, it was for sure that Microsoft would soon follow suit and announce the existence of their follow-up to the Xbox 360. Sure enough, they revealed the Xbox One in May of 2013, setting up a lot of excitement leading to E3 2013. But that excitement was tempered by what Microsoft revealed close to E3 2013…
2. Microsoft’s always online Xbox One
A few weeks prior to E3 2013, Microsoft dropped a bomb that will surely make 2013 a memorable year for gaming and for gamers all over. I’m talking about the time when Microsoft proclaimed that discs were practically going to be useless and that games would need to “check in” every so often in order for them to be playable, and that each game would be tied to just ONE Xbox Live account, ultimately rendering lending or renting games obsolete. The bigger flub of this moment was that Microsoft’s messaging was all over the place. Several people high up in Xbox’s food chain gave multiple stories about how this was all going to go down, as well as repeated flip-flopping on their end. It just seemed that no one could deliver one consistent message about the Xbox One (pun?). One company capitalized on this confusion, however, and ultimately won above all things that happened in 2013.
1. Sony announces PS4 price point of $399 and with no always online DRM -
Perhaps the most fitting event that would top my list would be Sony’s response to Microsoft’s much maligned paradigm shift. But it’s easy to neglect the announcement’s reaction that this wasn’t too much of a Sony win as it is one for gamers.
Gamers all over proclaimed that though there was a prevalence in digital game sale purchases in the previous generation, gamers valued being able to receive physical media for their games and being able to share them with friends, rent them, or even buy used copies. And while PC gamers who’ve been used to the convenience of Steam scoff at the complaints of the majority of console gamers, Sony ultimately capitalized on Microsoft’s mistake.
As if this wasn’t enough, Sony completely undercuts Microsoft’s pricing for the Xbox One and said they’re launching at $399, making the PlayStation 4 $100 cheaper than Microsoft’s platform at $499. Some people have forgotten that this happened last generation: the core Xbox 360 (without the hard drive) launched for $299 while Sony launched the 20GB PlayStation 3 at $499 – a difference of $200 between either platform’s low end models. This undercutting, along with the good will Sony showed gamers at E3 2013, is the main reason why Sony’s gotten an early lead this generation and it’ll be interesting to see how both companies will fare in 2014.
And just so we can relish on these memories once more, here’s Sony’s official used games tutorial video released on Youtube shortly after the Sony E3 Press Conference last year.
5. The End of Games for Windows Live
I try not to use the word hate very often, but I absolutely hated Games for Windows Live. When I found out that Games for Windows Live was shutting down, I celebrated its demise. I thought back at dealing with it while playing games like Fallout 3 and Batman: Arkham Asylum and couldn’t help but to smile from ear to ear at the thought of never having to log into its intrusive “service” ever again. Rest in pieces Games for Windows Live! Fortunately, several of the games that required Games for Windows Live have since been ported to Steam, and in most cases, customers that still have their original game keys and receipts of purchase are able to get a Steam copy for free.
4. Square Enix reveals Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III
The day before the start of E3 2013, the Gamer Horizon crew recorded a podcast and discussed some of their expectations for the upcoming days. I was looking forward to Square Enix making some big announcements like Final Fantasy XV or Kingdom Hearts III. Little did I know that both of those games would be announced the next day. It was a bittersweet moment for me because although I got what I wanted, I was honestly disappointed that Final Fantasy XV was a retitled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and that it appeared to be an action game more than an RPG.
3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Doesn’t Suck
When Final Fantasy XIV was released in 2010, I received my collector’s edition copy and did not open it. I had already played the beta, and I knew I had wasted my money. So when I heard that Final Fantasy XIV was going to be relaunched as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, I was skeptical; then I played it at E3. I was astonished, but somehow, it was my most enjoyable experience of the entire press conference. And when the game was released, despite a bit of a rocky launch, they pulled it off. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was actually great! Modern questing, plenty of content, an interesting world and a respectable user interface combined to make the best MMORPG I played in 2013. I wish I had more time to play it now! But I’ll never forget that moment at E3 when I got to battle Ifrit alongside a group of strangers, and Final Fantasy XIV was reborn before my very eyes.
2. Sony Announces PlayStation 4 Price
When Sony announced that the PlayStation 4 would be $399.99 during their E3 2013 Press Conference, I pre-ordered it immediately. Before the press conference was even over I had secured my launch edition PlayStation 4. I was completely swept up in the hype. It was impossible not to be! Sony had better policies, promising hardware and a respectable launch lineup… but that price! $100 less than the Xbox One, $200 less than the PlayStation 3 (60GB) was at launch, and generally more affordable than what I had expected the next generation to be. Despite not knowing what game I would be buying for the system (since I planned on getting Watch_Dogs for PC before it was delayed), I still felt satisfied with my pre-order, and the moment that price was announced was unbelievable. I guess the joke’s on me. Since the launch of the PlayStation 4, the only game I’ve really enjoyed for it is Resogun. To be honest, I’ve been enjoying my Wii U a lot more. Oh well!
1. The North American SimCity Launch Disaster
For me, the biggest and easily most frustrating moment in 2013 was when I tried to play SimCity the second the servers went live for launch. It was nothing short of a disaster, which was so bad that it could even be compared to the launch of Diablo III. Players couldn’t connect, those that could were frequently disconnected and to put it simply, the game was unplayable. I covered the launch that night and over the next few days in an ongoing article that I wished I didn’t have to write—I would have much rather been playing the game and preparing my review. Instead, my case was particularly bad, as I wasn’t able to play for several days since for some reason Southern California was being treated like a region outside of the US with a release date on March 7th instead of March 5th. When I finally got in the game, I found broken features and bugs everywhere. EA eventually issued an apology and offered SimCity players a free game, but the damage was done. I still managed to really enjoy SimCity, but it seems I was in the minority. And now here’s Francis doing the (NSFW) Francis thing:
5. E3 2013
This made my list for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that it was my very first E3 not only as media, but ever. And I couldn’t have hoped for a better year to be my inaugural one. With the new hotness of consoles, the excitement in the air was palpable. Nearly every major and not so major publisher and developer was on hand to show off their vision for next-gen gaming. From Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS: Second Son, Ubisoft’s The Division, and Bungie’s Destiny to the two most buzzed about games, CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3 and Respawn Entertainment’s debut Titanfall, it was an amazing experience to be a part of as a gamer.
I can’t wait to see what E3 2014 has in store.
4. Microsoft drops policy bomb days before E3
After the reveal of Xbox One, Microsoft wouldn’t answer any direct questions regarding their stance on used games and their rumored always online requirement. It wasn’t until mere days before E3 that Microsoft released their policy regarding Xbox One. Highlighted on Xbox Wire, the policy showed that Xbox One would restrict how gamers can handle their disc-based purchases as well as how often they need to be connected to the internet.
For me, the two biggest standouts are:
Trade-in and resell your disc-based games: Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit. We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers. Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games.
Give your games to friends: Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.
For some these two things weren’t an issue as they don’t give away, sell or trade in their used games. For many others, like myself, being able to sell your games or trade with friends is an invaluable way to sustain this hobby. Many critics of these policies pointed out that Microsoft did a poor job of showing consumers the benefits of these new policies and only highlighted the negatives. And unfortunately, Microsoft promptly canceled all of their one on one interviews for E3 so they couldn’t be asked the ever so important question, “why” and if I am being honest, regardless of the reversal, this is something I have always wanted to hear them say.
3. Sony announces the PS4/Microsoft announces the Xbox One
Both Sony and Microsoft confirmed what had pretty much been known, they were both releasing brand new, next-gen consoles in 2013. First up was Sony who revealed their PS4 in late February; a machine that couldn’t be more different than the PS3 in nearly every way that mattered. No longer filling the console’s guts with hard to develop for tech like the Cell Processor, the PS4 would be much more in line with PC architecture and much more developer friendly. Showing off a new controller, shiny new games like Killzone: Shadowfall, and inFAMOUS: Second Son, and having a strong indie game initiative, Sony seemed to be in line with everything gamers wanted. A drastic change from their hubris of the generation before. Now if they would only talk about the price and their DRM/online policies…
A mere 3 weeks prior to E3, Mircosoft unveiled their vision of the future, the all-in-one entertainment device, the Xbox One. A hulking mass of tech that was designed to not only play video games, but serve as the central hub for your living/family room entertainment. Many found their initial reveal to be to focused on TV/sports and not enough about games. Microsoft promised that E3 would be about nothing but games, and they weren’t wrong.
So without games to talk about, all anyone could really think about was the vague talk about used games – if and how they would work, and their supposed “always online” initiative. Deliberately cagey and nebulous regarding these topics, and without any press really pushing for answers and absolutely none of them asking “why” it wasn’t until days before E3 that their plans came to light.
2. Microsoft reverses pretty much everything regarding Xbox One
Even after the drubbing they took in the press pretty much daily after their initial announcement and even worse during E3, no one saw this one coming. It started with rumblings by Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek stating that he found out from a source that Microsoft was going to reverse their decision on their restrictive DRM/24 hour check in policy and it soon spilled all over social media.
Within hours Mircosoft confirmed what was already being taken as truth: they “listened” to fans and were going to allow used games on their console that could be sold, traded, loaned etc. and that there wouldn’t be an online connection required at all, after an initial update required upon first hooking up the console.
Much speculation was that Microsoft saw the pre-order numbers and were not pleased, so they decided to change course in order to win back gamers’ trust. It seems like it paid off because as of this writing, Microsoft has confirmed the sales of 3 million Xbox One’s to consumers in 5 weeks.
Not long after their initial reversal, Microsoft said they would be allowing self-publishing on Xbox One and including a chat headset in every box.
Good on you, Microsoft. You earned yourself back a fan.
1. Sony decimates Microsoft during their E3 Press Conference
Leading up to E3, it was unclear how Sony was going to handle their used game policy/DRM and online requirements for their new, yet unreleased, PS4. Speculation was that Sony was also going to restrict used games at the behest of publishers, and that moves like EA abandoning their Season Passes were because it wouldn’t be required since both console manufacturers would be making sure used games were no longer an issue.
Microsoft, as stated earlier, had released a policy document on their website stating exactly how used games would, or rather wouldn’t work and then quickly cancelled all of their interviews during video gaming’s biggest news week. My personal assumption was that they were going to let Sony take the brunt of the vitriol and scrutiny during the week and let the games Microsoft showed off during their earlier press conference do all of their talking.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, and fortunately for gamers, Sony had other plans. During a pretty rote presser, Sony dropped bomb after bomb on Microsoft by stating that used games would be allowed on PS4, there would be no online connection required for any games save for multiplayer focused games, and the final blow was given in the form of the $399.99 price take, drastically undercutting the hefty $499.99 of the Xbox One. This news was so universally pleasing that Sony received a standing ovation during their press conference, something I have honestly never seen in my life.
I won’t lie, I literally jumped off of my couch saying “YES!” when that happened and then promptly pre-ordered my PS4.
[Sean and Alex happened to pick the same video this week, but I think it's worth watching twice anyway. -Ari]
5. The Steam Controller Reveal
A lot of people don’t understand why this controller is a big deal. You know what? Your Xbox 360 controller works great on Windows. Dual Shock 4 is quite good as well. This controller exists to make games that don’t feel good with a controller… feel good with a controller. Maybe the Steambox paradigm will succeed and maybe it won’t. But there essentially hasn’t been a redesign of the standard controller for about 20 years. No one has really done anything different with layout except for Nintendo, but that was to achieve something specific with motion. Valve is trying to do something different here. Now hopefully, this controller will go beyond just being a stand in for mouse input; the jury is still out. What IS important is that someone is trying, and that someone is a very credible company.
4. Consoles embrace free to play
Tekken Revolution, Warframe, DC Universe Online, Blacklight Retribution, Killer Instinct; all of these games are available on Xbox One, PS4, and/or PS3. They are all free to play. Originally considered a business model that would never work in America, this product release strategy completely dominates mobile, and is becoming heavily entrenched on PC. In 2013, it moved heavily into consoles, and it seems to be being embraced. Tekken Revolution has been downloaded over 2 million times, and the next three titles are great fun, and a great reason to own a PS4 (and Killer Instinct is probably the best argument to own an Xbox One). While it’s possible for these titles that offer microtransactions to end up costing quite a bit, for the most part, none of these titles are pay to win.
Over the next several years, free to play will become the norm. One scary thing that is happening is with many titles–notably some on Xbox One and specifically Forza 5–offer a free to play cost structure, except the game will cost $60. I am really scared that THIS will become the norm instead, and people won’t realize that they’re being screwed.
3. The Wii U underperforms
The Wii won last gen according to sales numbers, but it sure doesn’t feel like it, does it? There definitely wasn’t a lot for us core gamers to enjoy, with games we preferred to play dwindling year after year. The Wii U has been out for a year and has already been outsold by the PlayStation 4. If recent articles are to be believed, Nintendo has basically no idea what they are doing in the console space in the year 2013, with executives quoted as saying, “We’re not familiar with Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.” How can you not know your competition? But boy, it sure is hard to figure out how to add people to your friends list.
Even for the most ardent Wii U fans, me included, it is rough. This is easily the worst console launch Nintendo has ever had. Maybe not the Virtual Boy. People can argue that as long as Nintendo has the 3DS, they’ll be fine, and this might be true (except for the lawsuit they just lost that makes them give up 1% of the wholesale price which is a BIG DEAL), but what is Nintendo going to do then? Just limp along with 1st party releases for the console? Apparently yes, they are. From what I can gather from documentation and other things, this is the extent of their strategy. I mean, they have a decent indie section coming soon, but for now, good luck.
2. Ultra Street Fighter 4 Announced
Capcom previously said that Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition would be the last version of Street Fighter 4. They had every intention of holding to that, even when they released a balance patch called Version 2012 that fixed a lot (no, seriously, a lot) of balance issues in the title. And this was fine, for a time. But eSports took off, and if you’re not into the PC world of MOBA’s and RTS’s, watching some Street Fighter matches might tickle your fancy. It tickled millions of people’s fancy when they watched Evo. At the same time, there was a growing feeling from the playerbase that it would be cool if there was an update.
I was in the room when Capcom revealed the first details of Ultra Street Fighter 4. No one was really sure if this would be a balance patch, or if they would add new characters. Peter Rosas, Capcom’s new Community Manager, demonstrated some new combo possibilities in an early build. Chun-Li fans were pleased, sure, but when we got to the powerpoint slides and, yes, this would be a new game essentially, yes, the new characters are coming from Street Fighter x Tekken, but we have a lot more to show you, they said.
We all went nuts. It was a Street Fighter 4 version made because WE wanted it.
Since then, more new features have been revealed, including battle system changes that counter the rising tide of vortex tactics by allowing the defender to force the attacker to play guessing games. I have personally gone hands on with the 4 announced characters for Ultra, and I must say they feel good, especially Poison. The balance changes for my main, Vega, make him more viable in a defensive position. Also recently announced are an online training mode, and a 3v3 King of Fighters style battle mode. You can now also change your buttons during character select, and button changing is now done “Skullgirls style”. If you know what this means, it is good.
While Capcom hasn’t announced the fifth character, it’s Decapre. Screw it, I know who it is. It’s Decapre. Google that one.
1. Sony at E3 2013
They chanted “Sony, Sony, Sony.” That really doesn’t happen any more, but it happened this year at E3. This was the exact moment when Sony won 2013. Sony is beating Microsoft by at least a million consoles, and it’s clear that it’s pretty easy to find an Xbox One these days, and not a PS4.
It helped that Microsoft set up Sony for their own knockout blow, having a good, but not great presser that morning. The $499 price tag was their undoing, too, but Sony did everything right. This was such an awesome presentation.
But what a lot of people didn’t see was E3 itself. Having attended all three show days, I can say that Sony’s E3 booth felt a lot better than Microsoft’s. Sony had an awesome video wall highlighting all kinds of first and third-party titles for PS3, Vita, and PS4. There was a feeling of excitement, and all manner of games, including indie titles, were playable. This was in contrast to Microsoft’s booth which felt fine, I guess? But there was also an air of tepid disappointment and desperation in their atmosphere.
What were the biggest moments for you in 2013? Let us know in the comments below!