2013: A Year in the World of Gaming

This year has seen gaming become more mainstream than ever and has shown why it is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world. Whether it was the launch of the next-generation, the growth on the indie scene or the numerous sales records which have been smashed left, right and center, 2013 has had it all. Digital media continued to grow this year with physical and digital formats closer than ever in sales. With Steam continuing to improve and offer more games on the platform, along with the availability of games on Xbox One and PS4 via their digital marketplaces, this trend is set to continue.

With digital media becoming more popular year on year, 2013 saw Steam continue to fight off any competition it faced, with EA’s Origin and Ubisoft’s Uplay failing to materialize into a rival for Steam. Valve’s digital platform has continued to go from strength to strength, adding in user reviews, trading cards and a leveling system for its users. With Microsoft’s Games for Windows amounting to only a thorn in gamers side, Microsoft revealed that they should have been building a service like Steam.

Its been a tough year for Microsoft, with the Xbox One reveal backfiring on them, as well as CEO Steve Ballmer stepping down and Don Mattrick leaving the company for Zynga. Mattrick didn’t help Microsoft’s cause by controversially stating earlier in the year that if you wanted to play offline, then you should stick with the 360. But Microsoft managed to turn the year back around by backtracking on the features which vocal gamers didn’t want.

So come and join us as we take a look back at the highs and lows of a year which been unforgettable, for both the wrong and right reasons.

Hardware

The year will undoubtedly be remembered for the launch of Sony’s and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One respectively. However while it seemed Sony could do no wrong, and in fairness they blew Microsoft away with their conference, Microsoft on the other hand had a nightmare at this years E3. The hype which the PlayStation 4 generated after the reveal of Xbox One seriously hurt Microsoft, something which they have not managed to fully recover from, despite fixing all the issues which made the console inferior in the eyes of many gamers. Despite starting out as two different pieces of hardware with different directions, there wasn’t a lot separating the two. Come November, the hype for next-gen was in full swing.

November 15 saw the PlayStation 4 launch in North America where it sold over 1 million units in the first 24 hours of its release. It would be a further two weeks until the rest of the world would get their hands on Sony’s next-gen console. When it released in Europe on November 29, the console sold around 700,000 units, with a further 400,000 units being sold in North America, bringing the total amount of consoles sold by early December to 2.1 million.

The Xbox One didn’t quite enjoy as high number of sales, but when it launched on November 15 worldwide, Microsoft announced that over 1 million units had been shifted. To help build the hype, Leicester Square in London was transformed into Xbox One Square, with Microsoft hosting various other launch parties in both Europe and North America. Within 18 days, over 2 million units had been sold worldwide.

Unfortunately for gamers, the launch line-up for both consoles were rather lackluster and we won’t see a consistent array of new exciting titles until a year or so from launch.

The biggest surprise when it came to hardware however wasn’t the next-generation, but was instead Valve’s attempt at simplifying PC gaming by making it accessible from the comfort of our living room via their Steam Machine. At the start of December, Valve sent 300 hardware beta units to gamers. It’s an interesting concept, however I remain unsure as to how successful their console will be, which is run on Steam’s very own SteamOS, an operating system based on Linux. With the Steam Machine still in limited beta however, it will be sometime until they are available to the public which is expected at some point in 2014.

2013 also saw the return of virtual reality. The idea of being fully immersed in a game appeals to millions of gamers, but as of yet no piece of hardware has made virtually reality, well a reality to the average gamer. That could be set to change with Oculus Rift, which offers an affordable virtual reality headset for PC gamers. Although it hasn’t been made mainstream yet, an Oculus Rift dev kit is available for a rather reasonable $300. The Rift has a lot of potential and is so far looking very promising. We look forward to seeing where the Oculus Rift will go in 2014.

Unfortunately some consoles didn’t far as well. The Ouya failed to capture gamers imagination in the same way it did on Kickstarter. Other Android gaming consoles which tried to break into the market in 2013 where the GameStick and Nvidia Shield, but ultimately none of them succeeded. The Android based gaming systems tried to offer a more open gaming experience at an affordable price. Ultimately these platforms just didn’t have the games library to make gamers want to purchase them.

The Games

While none of the current “next-gen” games have set the world alight, two games in particular did just that on current-gen consoles, pushing both the 360 and PS3 to their limits. June saw the release of the highly anticipated The Last of Us, arguable one of the best games of the generation. Gamers were fully immersed in the story, which saw you playing as Joel as he treks across post-apocalyptic USA with 14-year-old Ellie. While it didn’t offer anything revolutionary when it came to gameplay, the visuals and storytelling however took it to a level we hadn’t quite seen before in video games. The Last of Us delivered one of the most mature and touching narratives ever put into a video game. It was an experience which will be remembered for a long time, and for all the right reasons. Despite being only available on PS3, gamers from all platforms were able to see its brilliance.

In any of the past few years, The Last of Us probably would have been a clear favourite for Game of the Year. Grand Theft Auto V came charging onto the scene in mid-September and stole the show however. Rockstar’s phenomenal open-world game not only became the fastest selling game in history, but also the fastest entertainment property to hit $1billion worth of sales, in just 3 days! The title had already generated over $800m worth of sales within the first 24 hours of being available to gamers worldwide on September 17. Grand Theft Auto V once again showed that gaming can easily rival other forms of popular entertainment. In just six weeks the game had sold over 29m units, more than GTA IV!

Not all launches went as smoothly as GTA’s however. At the start of the year SimCity was released, and ultimately was unable to cope with the demand. Fans were left angered at not being able to start building their own cities for at least several days after launch, if not longer. Maxis required users to always be connected to the internet to play. If that wasn’t bad enough, you also had to join a server. While the game itself wasn’t terrible, the whole launch proved why DRM shouldn’t be forced upon gamers, especially for a game which isn’t built around online play.

Although Sim City’s launch angered many, Battlefield 4 would take it a step further by offering gamers a game riddled with bugs, glitches and crashes. Issues which DICE still continue to work on. Even when it came to the launch of next-gen, users still experienced issues which made the game unplayable at times on both Xbox One and PS4. Whether it was the game locking up your console when switching maps, the one-hit kill bug or preventing 64-player online play, this wasn’t what consumers paid for or wanted. Lawsuits have since been filed against EA for being misleading regarding the state of the game, both before and after its release to raise stock prices. China has since gone on to ban the game outright. Not because of the issues of the game though, but because the game supposedly “threatens a new form of cultural invasion and that it endangers national security“. I have a feeling 2013 will be a year DICE and EA will want to forget.

This year has also seen the indie scene grow tenfold, nearly to the point of saturation. Steam’s Greenlight program, as well as its Early Access are great programs and have brought us some amazing titles, but they have also brought with it a saturation in the market. Various games have been released or are in development which are clones of popular games, offering to only change a few things up. Fortunately, there are games which come around which are truly unique and to be remembered. Papers, Please, for example, took a concept which had no right to be fun or entertaining, but managed to turn it into just that!

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The past two years have seen the growth of early access titles, which allows the player to buy into the game at the development stage. In exchange players get to experience the game from Alpha through to release, seeing the game evolve and improve along the way, with all the bugs and glitches included! 2013 took this success even further, with one game which has only just recently launched on early access sitting comfortable as Steam’s top selling game since its launch on December 16. That game is DayZ. The zombie survival simulator has finally entered alpha after being given the go ahead to create a standalone version of the highly popular DayZ mod for Arma 2. Just under 690,000 survivors have stepped into Chernarus thus far, a huge achievement for Dean Hall and the team, once again showing how successful and vital to development early access can be.

2013 Summary

2013 has been an unforgettable year. The year has brought with it two new consoles which will take console gaming to a whole new level in years to come. While they won’t have the lifespan of the Xbox 360 or PS3, they will allow developers to create some truly amazing experiences, more beautiful and dynamic worlds and games which have before been beyond last-gen capabilities. 2014 will bring with it new titles such as Titanfall, Watch Dogs, The Division and The Elder Scrolls Online to name a few, and we can’t wait for them!

The year will stand out for the games and hardware which were released within it, however it’s important we don’t forget the human aspect of the gaming industry. 2013 took away one of the industries most beloved journalist’s and personalities, Ryan Davis. Davis was the editor of Giant Bomb and sadly passed away on July 3rd due to natural causes. May he Rest in Peace.

We have thoroughly enjoyed reporting the latest news and bringing you reviews for this years games, and we will continue to push on in 2014. We can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring in the world of gaming!

YouTube user Malcom Klock has created a superb short video of 2013 in gaming and is a fitting way to end the year .Check it out below!