Notable Games Industry Trends that Didn’t Make It Out of the 2010s
For better or worse, these trends won’t see the light of 2020
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Today, we hold a vigil to honour the dearly departed: those gaming trends that were unable to make it here to the year two-thousand-and-twenty. Some of these trends led long, rich and fruitful lives and continue to live on with us; others were birthed and heaved into the ground in the space of a short couple of years. Let us know reflect on the old and the new, and acknowledge the life and times of all our lost friends, enemies, and general acquaintances.
R.I.P 3D Gaming
Did you know that there were 58 stereoscopic 3D games on the PS3? Big releases in 2011 had to have 3D support to be taken seriously, as movies like Avatar broke box office records and TV manufacturers trotted out their fancy curved, stereoscopic new wunderkinds. Call of Duty: Black Ops released at the height of the series’ popularity with 3D support across PS3, Xbox 360 and PC: it was fantastic, since 3D glasses made everything too dim to see and it ran at a significantly reduced graphical quality and framerate, as it had to be rendered twice for the 3D effect.
Okay, let’s stop pretending: what were we thinking? We bought into this collective delusion that 3D was the future and spent way too much money on brand new hardware to support it – your TV had to be replaced, your media players had to be replaced, you needed a pair of special glasses for every single person who wanted to sit down and watch or they’d just be subjected to a blurry mess. Even handhelds weirdly wanted a piece of the action, with Nintendo developing a 3D display for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 that didn’t require glasses, but at the best of times gave you a little bit of a headache and didn’t radically improve the experience.
By the time the PlayStation 4 hit the shelves back in 2014, stereoscopic 3D was all but dead, with only 14 games with support on the console – and none of them AAA releases. Three years was all it took. Now, not even cinemas are consistently screening 3D movies, and the hardware you need to experience any of those 3D-enabled games is simply no longer available. What a weirdly high-profile flash in the pan you were, 3D gaming.
R.I.P Dedicated Handhelds
Stoking up a bit of controversy here but in 2017, the era of the dedicated handheld gaming console could finally officially be declared over with the release of the Nintendo Switch. It would be fitting that the company credited with creating the category with the Game Boy in 1989 would be the one to kill it, but there’s a lot more to the story than one company. The rise of the smartphone from 2007 onwards saw our devices converging more than ever, with a machine that “just played games” becoming less and less interesting, particularly one that was unable to offer games as complete or interesting as what was now releasing on their mobile phone.
Sony had some handheld success with its PlayStation Portable, but its successor, the PlayStation Vita – launched in 2012 with social networking, video and personal organiser features – sold dismally, only landing less than 15 million units in customer hands and being officially discontinued earlier this year. The Nintendo 3DS did a little better, some would say because Nintendo doubled down on just delivering great games, but even then it only sold 75 million units, just half of what its immediate predecessor the Nintendo DS managed. The people had spoken: low-powered handhelds just didn’t compare to the much more powerful and useful smartphones on the market, and they wanted something different. The Nintendo Switch delivered that, plugging into the TV for a full console experience or detaching to take on the go, and with it sounded the death knell of cut-down experiences on dedicated handhelds being the norm. FIFA 19: Legacy Edition showed that consumers don’t want that anymore.
It’s possible I’m burying the handheld alive, though, I can admit that – the Switch Lite is all handheld, and it’s great, but we’re not going to see cut down experiences like Super Smash Bros. for 3DS anymore, and at the very least I’m happy that taking our games with us is coming with less and less compromises.
R.I.P A Bunch of Video Games I Really Wanted To Play
We’ve seen a number of really, really promising video games sent to the pits of development hell over the past decade, the most prominent of which has been Half-Life 3: when when former Valve lead writer Marc Laidlaw posted “Epistle 3” to his personal site, it looked as if we were never going to see how the story that Half-Life and its sequels and episodes had so valiantly set up would end, because it looked like the series had been discontinued for all intents and purposes. Now, though, we’re getting Half-Life: Alyx next year — 13 years after Episode 2 — but this might just be a husk of the series we loved so much, like Portal’s barely-there VR spinoffs The Lab and… whatever that second one was.
Around the same time we also lost Silent Hills, which had the fantastically scary teaser P.T. (and we even had that taken away from us!). We lost Scalebound,a big action RPG from PlatinumGames — yeah, the team behind Nier: Automata — and we never got to see the next title in the Fable series with Lionhead Studios shutting down in 2016. Probably inevitable, since Peter Molyneux left in 2012 to work on weird little mobile experiments instead, but we’re all worse off for it. Telltale Games also shut its doors in 2018, but its corpse has somehow been reanimated and it’s now just shambling about, missing limbs like The Walking Dead that helped to make it successful in the first place and biding its time until The Wolf Among Us’ second season comes out.
Of course, with all of this loss, there was no way EA was going to sit on the sidelines: by shutting down Dead Space developer Visceral Studios, the epitome of corporate greed cost us the Star Wars game it was working on, and that was only a couple of years after Disney bought Lucasfilm and cancelled Lucasarts’ Star Wars game as well.
There are more I could mourn, but there was a laundry list of games unceremoniously thrown in the garbage this decade, and it’s a shame that the hard work and artistic expression of so many talented developers will never be seen by consumer eyes.
R.I.P The Last Console Generation
In the halcyon days of the 2000s we saw several generation shifts: the original PlayStation hit maturity and evolved into the PS2 and then again into the PS3, Microsoft introduced the Xbox and then dropped it like a sack of old potatoes in favour of the Xbox 360, and Nintendo stopped competing graphically after the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube were both outclassed and released the Wii. Well, friends, as of 2019, all those platforms are officially over: the Wii got its final game this year with Just Dance 2020, and both the Xbox 360 and PS3 had their last hurrah last year with FIFA 19 Legacy Edition.
I’d also like to give a special mention to the PS2, launched in 2000, that received Pro Evolution Soccer ‘14 this decade, so technically we can throw that in the pile here as well. Lying in the hospice as well is the Wii U, but not memorialised here since Drop It: Block Paradise came out last month… yes, when I went to do the research, the Wii U is still getting games. I’m as surprised as you are.
At any rate: let’s remember all the things these generations did well! I remember buying a PS3 Slim for its status as the cheapest Blu-Ray player on the market at the time. I remember when my original Xbox 360 hit the monstrous Red Rings Of Death. I played Singstar on the PS2 again only this year and it’s still a fantastic party game. With big quality of life upgrades like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X now happening, I wonder how long our current crop of consoles will last? With Microsoft announcing that the new Xbox is just called “Xbox” again, I wonder if we will see an end to these clearly defined console generations sooner rather than later.
For now, rest in peace to all the brave games machines that left us this decade — may they live forever in our hearts.
Thus concludes our service. Thank you for attending today: the memories of all that we condemn to the earth today will surely make their way into the annals of history. Please feel free to take a program on your way out.