By the time you read this, 2012 will be over and everyone will be gearing up for all the exciting titles coming in 2013 (Well, almost everyone). As we look forward to the offerings of next year, we should also reflect on the moments not related to either an election or a certain calendar expiring that defined 2012. The year brought us great installments to continuing franchises like Halo, Far Cry, Super Mario Bros., and Max Payne, and we also saw pleasant surprises in the form of Sleeping Dogs, The Last Story, Dishonored, and Journey.
Unfortunately, we’re not here to look at the good stuff that happened this year. No, this article is to highlight the other side of the coin: the outrageous, depressing, and otherwise stupid moments of 2012 that gamers would like to forget. Let us take a walk on the dumb side in the vain hopes that we will not have to witness idiocy like this in the new year.
Mass Effect 3 Ending Sparks Major Outcry
2012 seemed to be off to a decent start for some. It was in the beginning of the year that Mass Effect 3, the conclusion to the critically-acclaimed BioWare trilogy, was released. Gamers itching to see how their personalized space opera would end went out and bought the game in droves, and there was much celebration.
At least, until they actually saw the end.
In only a couple weeks, forums were set ablaze with criticisms (read: complaining) over the way BioWare decided to conclude the saga. In a series that emphasizes how much your choices matter, Mass Effect 3’s ending threw that concept out the window; every player was stuck with the same plot-hole-ridden final cutscene, thereby rendering all the choices made in the trilogy rather pointless. In addition, it was later discovered that the team responsible for most of the series’ story were locked out of giving input on the ending.
Not content with just complaining on message boards, some gamers took matters into their own hands. Campaigns to change the ending gained strong support on Facebook and Twitter. One campaign simply titled “Retake Mass Effect” raised over $80,000 for charity in their quest to make BioWare fix the ending before they were eventually shut down. Even groups such as the US Better Business Bureau got in on the controversy, accusing EA and BioWare of “false advertising.”
In a rare twist, the outcry was actually loud enough to make a difference. Halfway into the year, BioWare released a new set of epilogues that both aided in filling plot holes and making the player’s choices actually matter. Most of the debates died down shortly afterwards.
The controversy fully didn’t stop there, however. In September, BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk announced their retirement from the company. Speculation of their leaving because of both the ending controversy and Star Wars: The Old Republic flopping soon spread like wildfire, and the debates began anew.
Was getting a better ending worth people quitting their jobs? Was this whole debacle a case of publishers being held accountable to their actions, or an example of gamer entitlement growing out of control? Maybe the real question is not which side you pick, but whether or not your decision actually makes a difference in the end.
PS Vita and Wii-U Have Rough Starts, Stay Rough All Year
Just a year-and-a-half ago, Nintendo was struggling with selling the 3DS. For months, a combination of high price and lack of compelling software kept the successor to the wildly-popular DS from flying off the shelves like many a fan and analyst expected. In the light of this information, Sony fans were quick to trumpet that this would be the gen that Sony would blow Nintendo out of the handheld water with the Playstation Vita.
And why wouldn’t it? After all, Vita had seemingly every advantage against the 3DS in terms of hardware. With beefier specs, two analog sticks, and even a touch-screen interface, the Vita could potentially be loaded with jaw-dropping games that the 3DS could never hope to replicate.
Fast-forward to today, where Sony is struggling with selling the Vita for exactly the same reasons that Nintendo had trouble with: Too high a price for too little worthwhile content. Even in Japan where the PSP market was at its strongest, Vita continues to drag by in sales. For months, even the PSP was regularly selling better numbers in some regions than the Vita.
The salt in the wound for Sony fans was that at this point, Nintendo had turned around their troubles with the 3DS. Thanks to a hefty price drop, a few high-profile releases, and the online component getting its act together, the 3DS is on the right track to becoming a very successful system. Meanwhile, Sony has given Vita owners relatively little to look forward to next year.
It’s not just Sony who’s struggling with a new system, however. Despite their turnaround with the 3DS, Nintendo apparently didn’t apply any lessons they learned when it came to the Wii-U launch. It, too, suffers from the same problems plaguing the Vita, namely a lack of worthwhile titles. What also didn’t help was that the tablet controller, the Wii-U’s big draw, simply didn’t have the same “wow!” factor that the Wii Remote drew prior to its launch.
The end result is quite possibly one of the most underwhelming console launches in video game history. Though the launch week sales of 400,000 in the U.S. and 300,000 in Japan are nothing to scoff at, sales afterwards have been a far cry from its predecessor. Even weeks after the launch, locating a deluxe model Wii-U on a store shelf was no difficult task. Contrast this to the original Wii’s launch, which sold out worldwide in a matter of days and stayed that way for over a year. Nintendo may have intended the Wii-U as a way to bridge the gap between the core and casual gamer, but for whatever reason, neither side is biting all that much.
It would be foolish at this time to proclaim either system a failure so early in their lifespans. At the same time, both companies better have a knockout lineup for their systems next year if they hope to turn their situation around anytime soon. Sadly, as the next moment on our list will explain, that may likely not end up being the case.
E3 2012: A Big Bust from the Big Three
E3 could be considered a Christmas time for gamers, and it’s not hard to see why. Some of the most groundbreaking games and systems have been announced at this expo over the years, such as the original Metal Gear Solid, or more recently the Nintendo Wii-U. With the current gen slowly drawing to a close, gamers were expecting anything and everything interesting to be unveiled at this year’s expo.
What they weren’t expecting was almost nothing interesting to be unveiled.
Perhaps gamers should have seen this coming a couple months before E3 landed. Prior to the show, both Microsoft and Sony confirmed that they would not show any next-gen systems at this year’s expo. Other confirmed developer no-shows beforehand included Rockstar, Valve, and Bungie, automatically scratching quite a few possible megaton announcements from the list. Still, gamers remained hopeful right up to the day that the conferences began.
Microsoft kicked off the show by re-affirming everyone’s fears that their major focus is no longer on the core gamer. Aside from the likes of Halo 4, Splinter Cell, and the upcoming South Park RPG, the only new content that received a good deal of focus was the dance and fitness games that are a cornerstone of every device marketed to the casual gamer. Also taking center stage were a plethora of social features that already work much better on your PC. Who’s up for some Internet Explorer on their 360?
Though not outright terrible, Sony fared only marginally better in their own conference. To be fair, they had some interesting announcements such as Beyond and The Last of Us. On the other hand, early adopters of the PS Vita were rewarded for their support by having almost nothing to look forward to in the coming months. Wonderbook, Sony’s newest attempt to go after the Nintendo market, took up the largest amount of time, and already it looks to become a repeat of the Move and Sixaxis. If Sony was trying to turn around their massive financial losses over the years, this conference did not do them any favors.
Speaking of Nintendo, forum gamers were almost certain that they would end up stealing the show after the forgettable performances of Sony and Microsoft. They had a new system coming out the same year, after all. To their credit, Nintendo did end up surprising everyone, but not in a way that made gamers happy. Despite a decent opening with Pikmin 3, much of Nintendo’s keynote focused on third-party launch titles for the Wii-U. Launch titles that gamers could already play on their current-gen systems right now if they wished. Their 3DS-centered conference had a better showing, but you know something’s wrong when the general reaction to a keynote focusing on a next-gen system is a resounding “meh.”
In the end, it was Ubisoft who was declared the general winner of E3 2012. By showcasing titles such as Assassin’s Creed 3, Far Cry 3, and original titles like Watch Dogs and Zombi U, the third-party publisher walked away with the largest amount of buzz among the gaming population. Then again, with all three console-makers collectively dropping the ball, this may not be such a big accomplishment. At least there’s always next year, right?
Bayonetta 2 Exclusivity Creates Bountiful Butthurt
2012 brought a few surprise announcements nobody saw coming, such as Dark Souls 2, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Ace Attorney 5. Perhaps the most surprising announcement was Bayonetta 2, a Wii-U exclusive sequel to the outrageous and acclaimed action game from Platinum Games. With the original team on board for the project, the announcement was sure to be a hit with fans, which makes it all the more baffling that it wasn’t.
That “Wii-U exclusive” part? Virtually nobody took anything else away from the announcement. Instead, forums lit up with endless complaints over the franchise’s shift from a multiplatform property to an exclusive one. In just a short amount of time, the outcry over its exclusivity had already exceeded that of its supposed cancellation earlier in the year.
This isn’t to say that some complaints were not justified. It’s fair enough if a fan of the franchise would rather want its next major release on a system they already own instead of having to also put down $300 for a console they don’t care for. Just like the folks who threatened to secede from the U.S. immediately after the Presidential Elections, however, there were a select few who took their whining to a special level of dumb.
Take this website, for instance, which advocates boycotting both the Wii-U and Bayonetta 2 in the hopes that doing so will force it to go multiplatform. The site’s author even encourages fans who can’t stay away to pick up their Wii-U and game copy used so as not to give any money to Nintendo. This, of course, is ignoring the facts that buying used also keeps Platinum from making any money, and that not only is Nintendo playing a significant role in the game’s production, but they are possibly the only reason it is even being made.
Also of note is this youtube video, which scours Twitter for hilariously stupid comments. Of special mention is the poster who is so outraged, he refuses to replay the first game out of “protest.” Way to stick it to the man, skippy.
There were plenty more arguments over the game’s exclusivity, with their core reasoning ranging from sensible to “If I can’t have it, no one else should.” This backlash just goes to show that if there’s one thing gamers hate more than seeing a game they want to play get cancelled, it’s seeing that game going exclusive to a system they don’t like.
Eurogamer Writer Points out Corruption, Loses His Job
Ah, video game journalism, one of the only journalistic mediums where the people you’re supposed to be critical of are also the ones providing a good chunk of your paycheck. The gaming industry has had its fair share of controversy in the past, but the frequency doesn’t make the following events any less disgusting.
Penny Arcade Report has the full story if you wish to read it. Below is the “Long story short” version.
This particular batch of controversy began with two catalysts, the first being the above image of reporter Geoff Keighly sitting around a Halo 4 poster, Mountain Dew bottles, and a bag of Doritos. The second was a series of game journalists retweeting hashtags on advertising high-profile games as a way to win free stuff. This prompted an investigative article from Eurogamer’s Robert Florence. In his article, Florence calls out not just Keighley for suspicious behavior, but Lauren Wainwright, a freelancer with known connections to Square-Enix. Prior to the article, Wainwright’s Twitter feed was often filled with promotions and advertisements for Square-Enix games, such as the upcoming Tomb Raider.
Thus kicked off a series of rather amoral behavior. Shortly after the article went up, Wainwright threatened Eurogamer with legal action over the supposed libelous remarks against her. The article was quickly amended, with any mention of Wainwright removed (This topic contains the removed portion). Wainwright later posted a Tweet with the phrase “apology accepted.”
Unfortunately for Florence, Eurogamer didn’t stop there. Florence later announced on his own Twitter page that he was no longer employed on the site. Whether he left of his own volition or was forced to quit is still unclear, but there’s no doubting that his sudden resignation and the controversy are tied together.
Meanwhile, Wainwright didn’t exactly get away scot-free for her actions. Whether or not the allegations against her were true, her behavior in the incident did not sit well with gamers. When the story exploded onto the rest of the internet, gamers took action: the outcry over the debacle led to Wainwright’s Twitter feed being harassed, with several of her less-than-clean dealings in the past being brought to light. She eventually set her account to private and deleted all traces of her connections to Square-Enix, an act that only made her look guiltier in the eyes of the public.
Regardless, incidents like these show that video game journalism still has a long way to go before it can safely be deemed as trustworthy and honest as real journalism. In the meantime, gamers will just have to keep their eyes open and their minds skeptical whenever reading up on a popular upcoming game.
And while you do that, why not enjoy this wonderful article, brought to you by the classic taste of Coca-Cola®?
Lazy Developers Sully Day Z’s Good Name with Crappy Knockoff
Very few can dispute the major advantages that followed the rise of Steam. Frequent sales allow gamers to pick up big-name games at a fraction of the original cost. Meanwhile, features like Greenlight and a robust search engine help fledgling indie developers get the audience and funding they need to succeed.
Unfortunately, it also occasionally puts the wrong people in the spotlight. People like the developers of Hammerpoint Interactive, who capitalized on the popularity of Day Z, a zombie-survival mod to Bohemia Interactive’s Arma II, in the most blatantly lazy way possible. Unlike the free mod, Hammerpoint’s The War Z was priced at $15. It doesn’t sound like much, but players who bought into it soon realized that the game wasn’t even worth 15 cents.
For starters, the game was incredibly unfinished and broken. Zombie A.I. was laughable, performance issues were the norm, players were given no explanation of how to play, and hackers were rampant. Many of the features touted on the game’s Steam page were either exaggerated or nonexistent. Certain buttons in the game’s control scheme did absolutely nothing, only displaying the message that they would be implemented soon. Also included was a sketchy micro-transaction service that sold one-use-only perks like shortening the 4-hour respawn time and extra weapons and ammo that were immediately lost upon death.
This was only the tip of the iceberg in shady behavior from Hammerpoint. Large amounts of players were routinely banned from the game for no apparent reason. Several posters also met the same fate on the game’s official forum, where they were banned for saying anything even remotely negative about the game. Hammerpoint developers often responded to criticism with condescending remarks such as gamers “misreading” their feature page. It didn’t help that Hammerpoint changed the feature page to display more honest information after the outcry became too loud to ignore.
Despite all the complaints and outrageous behavior, The War Z reached the top-sellers list on Steam within hours of its release. Thankfully, the right people eventually caught onto the con. 2 days after it went up, Valve pulled the game from Steam, and everyone unfortunate enough to buy into it was refunded. It’s still sold on Hammerpoint’s own site, but hopefully gamers and publishers alike will learn from this mess and be a little more critical in what they put their support – and money – into.
One last fun fact about Hammerpoint: their development team includes the likes of Sergey Titov, who was the lead programmer for none other than Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. It’s hard to tell what’s more shocking: that he made another terrible game, or that people actually bought into it.
For a more in-depth look at the horror, check this video out. At 42 minutes, it goes into a bit more detail than “Stay the hell away,” but it’s a worthwhile look.
Flops of the Year:
Now that all the dumb stuff related to the industry has been discussed, let us turn our attention to the games themselves. Here’s a look back at the noteworthy titles that performed well below their expectations (as far as Gamespot is concerned, anyway).
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
GS Score for Resident Evil: Revelations:
GS Score for ORC:
Ninja Gaiden III
GS Score for Ninja Gaiden II:
GS Score for NG3:
5.5 (6.0 for Razor’s Edge)
Resident Evil 6
System Wars Hype:
AA at most
New Super Mario Bros. 2
GS Score of NSMB:
GS Score of NSMB2:
Reason for Hype:
Launch Title to Wii-U
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Declassified
GS Score of Black Ops 2 on Consoles:
GS Score of Black Ops on Vita:
System Wars Hype:
And with this, we officially bury 2012 and all the smart and dumb things that happened during it. To our readers, thank you for all the support you’ve given us. We’ll be sure to honor your dedication with plenty more biased reviews, crazy fanboy ramblings, and more articles highlighting the less-than-respectable people and events that make up the gaming industry. See you next year!