2017: Thoughts on the Big Three

The illustrious year of 2017 is upon us and a proper moment of reflection is in order; 2017 will be a bountiful year and hopefully deliver a slew of fantastic new titles ripe with limitless potential. All three major parties – being the Big N, Sony, and Microsoft – have their own particularly unique plans for the New Year, each filled to the brim with their own resounding highs and unfortunate lows. Nintendo has an innovative console/handheld hybrid on the horizon, Sony is assertively pushing their bevy of exclusive content throughout 2017 and beyond, and Microsoft suffered an insurmountable blow with the cancellation of Scalebound, which was my most anticipated Microsoft exclusive of 2017. Let us begin with the most pertinent publishing company of the three shall we?

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Last week Nintendo released germane information on their newest home console/handheld, the Switch, including the release date, price, launch line-up, online service breakdown, accessory details, and what to expect in the future. I will not go into analytical detail with each announcement, as those of you reading this are most likely familiar with each factual detail of the Nintendo Switch, instead offering my own two cents on Nintendo’s vision. First and foremost, I think the Nintendo Switch is great. I was fortunate enough to nab a pre-order of the Switch and am profusely excited to lose myself in the illustrious world of Hyrule wherever I go, come March 3rd. March 3rd is an excellent date, much sooner than what I was expecting, and having The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild release day and date alongside the Switch is a smart, if not required, move on Nintendo’s part. If Nintendo can fulfil the promise of a seamless transition from home console to on-the-go mobile gaming, then the Switch will undoubtedly be a revolutionary success that will hopefully capture the hearts of both gaming markets. While its promise and vision are strong, the smaller details surrounding the Switch are far more fragile in terms of durability. Aside from Breath of the Wild, there will be four other games available at launch, a diminutive size in comparison to the Wii U’s surprising 23 available launch games. While I will always be an advocate of the quality over quantity argument, one cannot dispute that five is a little on the low side, especially with the cream of the crop is being released on the Wii U simultaneously. Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey look absolutely phenomenal, and it’s a shame we’ll have to wait a little longer to experience these gems, but luckily this indicates an arguably promising future for the Switch, at least in regards to 2017.

Nintendo’s online service for the Switch is downright pathetic, expectedly providing access to online multiplayer features and providing a free monthly game, a relative standard in the subscription-based gaming medium. However, the fact that Nintendo is merely providing gamers the ability to essentially rent a free NES or SNES game for the month is insulting in comparison to the services that Sony and Microsoft offer, services of which that gamers already question in terms of value. It’s an obtuse decision that reduces the general sentiment to subscribe as Nintendo’s online presence has never been a prominent one. In terms of other online services and implementation, Nintendo’s decision to utilize the Switch’s invite and chat system through a smartphone app is backwards beyond belief and tarnishes the Switch’s ubiquitous and unified nature. Nintendo’s questionable decisions, don’t even get me started on the absurd pricing on the Switch’s accessories and peripherals (if you thought the prices were ridiculous in the States, check out how much these accessories cost in Canada), foster a warranting sense of worry that will hopefully be addressed and/or rectified in the coming months. Despite these negative qualms, I am genuinely excited for the Nintendo Switch and I absolutely want it to succeed. A novel device that fulfils the traditional handheld experience and also serves a prominent platform for console gaming is an innovative piece of hardware that hasn’t been implemented successfully before. The Nintendo Switch can, and hopefully will appeal to a much larger audience as an excellent two-in-one unified product that caters to different life-styles. If Nintendo is able to receive resilient backing support from third-party developers, then it could easily become my prominent gaming platform, but that remains to be seen. For its first year, it will most likely continue Nintendo’s traditional legacy as an idiosyncratic device with excellent first-party support. Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Sonic Mania, and RIME are incentive enough to warrant a day one purchase for myself and provide tantalizing allure for the rest of the year. Here’s hoping that Nintendo addresses these concerns and builds upon the current momentum that the Switch has generated thus far.

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Sony had a relatively strong presence last year following the release of the masterful Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the vibrantly addicting remake of Ratchet & Clank, and the heartfelt experience that was The Last Guardian, all of which act as a mere appetizer in respect to what Sony has planned for the following years. Sony has over 9 console exclusives releasing on their current home console throughout the year of 2017: Gravity Rush 2, Nioh, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nier Automata, Persona 5, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy to name a few. This is not even including the excellent remakes and/or remastered collections complimenting the new releases of the year such as the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 & 2.5 Remix and Crash Bandicoot: N’sane Trilogy. Despite their resounding success this console generation, Sony has been struggling with their exclusive content as its quality and quantity is a shell of what its console predecessor had to offer. Within the first three years of its lifespan, Sony had already released Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Resistance: Fall of Man, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Killzone 2, LittleBigPlanet, Infamous, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time for the PlayStation 3. Sony has finally built a perfect sense of rhythm and momentum, and look to have a strong, consistent line of exclusive content for the next year and beyond, perhaps rectifying Sony’s infamous absence of exclusives that they were renowned for at a point in time. Aside from their dripping potential of 2017, Sony also has Insomniac’s Spider-Man, God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Death Stranding, Days Gone, The Last of Us Part II, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Wild, and Dreams to look forward to in the near future. It would be safe to assume that, of the three big gaming contributors, Sony is in the most idealistic position and their success will likely continue at an exhilarating pace.

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While I am never fond of proclaiming statements that reek of fanboy tendencies, I simply have no other way of articulating this contemporary declaration: Microsoft is in a worrying state of trouble and in the polar opposite position of the big three in comparison to Sony. Where Microsoft started the current generation off with a healthy slew of exclusives and first party content, there is currently an undeniable exclusive drought that simply cannot mirror the quality of the other two heavy hitters. Through the unfortunate cancellation of Platinum’s action RPG, Scalebound, 2017 is shaping out to be a rather underwhelming year for Microsoft; since Scalebound will never see the light of day, gamers can look forward to Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, Below, Cuphead, State of Decay 2 and We Happy Few in 2017 and the not so distant future – with only Halo Wars 2 having a concrete 2017 release date. Scalebound would have been the Xbox’s resounding triple A exclusive of the year, a fresh new IP ripe with exquisite lore and a new illustrious world to immerse yourself in, in similar vein to Guerilla’s Horizon: Zero Dawn on the PS4. Instead we have a niche but most likely quality title, Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 with both titles having little to no content revealed thus far, and Sea of Thieves – Rare’s latest title, one that is relatively difficult to imbue excitement given what Playtonic Games are cooking up with Yook-Laylee. 2016 was a relatively decent year for Microsoft – with only the release of Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 carrying the gargantuan publisher throughout the year. While Gears of War 4 was a great, albeit by the numbers sequel and Forza Horizon 3 was an excellent experience for those who have an affinity for the genre, these exclusives did not have the moving force required to support an entire year, let alone stand up against the other two major parties. Despite 2016 shortcomings for the Xbox One, 2017 isn’t looking any better, arguably shaping to outweigh its previous year in disappointments. However, Microsoft are expected to release their new console upgrade/Xbox One iteration, Project Scorpio, sometime this year. With Microsoft boasting how Scorpio will be the most powerful console in the market, here’s hoping that Microsoft magically unveils a myriad of quality exclusive titles that support and appropriately showcase the new hardware as they currently do not have a strong line-up for 2017 and beyond.

Hopefully any foreseen hiccups and/or worries of 2017 for all three parties are addressed and rectified in the coming months as expectations are relatively high for everyone. Will the Switch be able to rekindle Nintendo’s glorious spark of success and become an inaugurated heavy hitter in the current gaming market? Will Sony be able to match its sense of quality with the healthy quantity of first party titles being released in 2017 and beyond? Will Microsoft be able to warrant its slight drought of exclusive content in 2017 and support its new vision with Project Scorpio? As a proud supporter of all three parties, I want them all to achieve resounding success as it will only result in a more rich and thriving gaming industry. Only time will tell however, so in the meantime, I shall stay cautiously optimistic for what 2017 has in store for us.

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