Destiny came out last week, and it was met with pretty mediocre reviews. To be fair, I haven’t played it, so I can’t make a personal judgment on whether or not I liked it. Consensus says it wasn’t the “knock your socks off” experience that I think we were all expecting or hoping for though. Now, I’m not trying to pick on Destiny specifically here, but I couldn’t help but start to feel like 2014 has, thus far, been the year of the flop. Perhaps that’s a bit of hyperbole, but maybe not as much as it should’ve been. I’d like to take a bit of time and discuss the pertinent details of why 2014 has felt so blah.
Facts (kind of)!
First off, before we get to my reasoning, a little consensus based fact presentation. Below are some of 2014’s biggest games, and their Metacritic score. I realize that Metacritic is by no means the end-all-be-all of video game review. I also realize that we all like games that may not be favorably reviewed. All I’m trying to present here is a bit of consensus; the broad, generalized opinion of the mass video game media.
(A quick note here: the titles here represent only new games. There are no ports or DLC. I also only selected games that I felt had some type of triple-A hype. You won’t find indie games here…we’ll get to those later).
Dark Souls II – 92
Titanfall – 86
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – 75
Infamous: Second Son – 80
Mario Kart 8 – 88
Watch Dogs – 77
The Sims 4 – 71
Destiny – 75
Of the titles listed there, the three biggest in terms of marketing and pre-release hype have to be Destiny, Watch Dogs, and Titanfall, none of which have a score of over 86. Good games, yes. Games worthy of the massive budgets, hype trains, and buzz that they created? Not at all. In fact, the only game on this list over a score of 90 is Dark Souls 2, the most inaccessible game of the list.
In comparison, here are what I would consider to be the three most hyped games of 2013 and their Metacritic scores.
The Last of Us – 95
Bioshock Infinite – 94
Grand Theft Auto 5 – 97
I’d take any one of those games over anything from 2014, hands down. When you look at those lists next to each other, I think most of you would do the same. What is my point in saying all of this though? So 2014 has been a flop so far, so what right? It happens. Sure, it does indeed happen. But how does it happen on such a massive scale? You would think that at least one of the games on the 2014 list could have been a masterpiece akin to a Bioshock Infinite, or a The Last of Us. I honestly don’t feel like it’s too much to ask for one single studio to pump out one single really amazing game per year. The medium is so young and there is so much left to explore that it seems a bit mind boggling that we can’t find one game in an entire year that was widely accepted as amazing.
How did we get here?
I’m not really sure how we got here, to be honest. It would be easy to say that the hype for these games just got out of control, but the hype for the games from my 2013 list were pretty out of control too. Perhaps it was the fact that these games were rushed in order to bolster early console sales. That might ring true for Watch Dogs and Titanfall but Destiny can hardly be considered an early console title. It’s been nearly a year since the PS4 and the Xbox One launched. I can’t honestly put my finger on why I feel like these big time games are struggling, but it’s sad to see.
Why does it even matter?
In truth, having these huge triple-A titles be met by mediocre reviews means very little. Watch Dogs 2 was greenlit based on pre-orders for the Watch Dogs. Destiny was said to be at least a trilogy right from the beginning. Developers aren’t going to stop making these games, and people most likely aren’t going to stop buying them. So in a sense, the quality of the titles doesn’t much matter anymore.
Furthermore, if you’re a discerning gamer (and I hope you are), it’s not like you’re lacking for good games anyway. There are plenty of great games that have come out in 2014, it’s just that many of them didn’t have $100 million ad campaigns. If you’re enthusiast though, you’re probably already aware of them though. Plus, there is all kinds of great DLC out there for the games you already love.
But it still bugs me!
Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but I remember a time when the hype train for games usually resulted in games that were pretty great. Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. These are games who had massive hype behind them at the time and still managed to deliver experiences that felt on par with what we expected them to be. I miss those days. I love being excited for games, and I don’t want to feel jaded. I don’t want to be so skeptical of every game that my de-facto position is always “wait and see”. I want to get caught up in the hype train every once in a while. I just don’t want it to bite me in the ass every time I do.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings.
We still have plenty of 2014 left to go. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Assassin’s Creed: Liberty are all still on the horizon. And who knows, maybe this will be the year that a smaller indie game takes top prize. Ultimately I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as long as there are good games to play. Where my concern lies is in opportunity cost. Bungie spent something like $200 million on Destiny to have it be met with pretty mediocre reviews. They could have instead made some other game that might have been much more well received with that time and money, and that bugs me. I want to see companies use their resources wisely, to give us as consumers games that we won’t regret paying $60 for.