The Jacksonville shooting
We can’t bring up this year’s events in the gaming industry without bringing up the tragedy in Jacksonville, Florida. Two gamers lost their lives and several others were wounded during a Madden tournament when a competitor entered the venue with a gun and opened fire. Several viewers, watching the tournament gameplay live on Twitch, could hear the sounds of the gunfire.
This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved.
— Electronic Arts (@EA) August 26, 2018
Following the shooting, gaming events all over the world have had to tighten their security, as the Madden tourney had none. As several esports event organizers pointed out, it was not something the community as a whole had really had to think about before. But the gaming industry can no longer be complacent in that regard if it wants to help keep gamers safe.
We as a community continue to mourn the loss of Elijah Clayton and Taylor Robertson.
Fortnite takes over the world
In lighter news, Fortnite achieved world-shattering success this year. It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, this was a game with an up-and-coming battle royale mode that seemed to be following the lead of more popular games. Now it’s all anyone can talk about or play.
Both the game and its battle royale mode were originally released in 2017, but it was still trailing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds at the time. According to Twitch’s 2017 year in review, PUBG was the most-watched new game of the year. But it steadily built its fanbase, and quickly the student surpassed the master. Data from Streamlabs suggests Fortnite was topping the list of most hours streamed as early as Q1 this year.
The fact the game got an infusion of interest from some of the most important streamers and more than a few celebrities definitely helped. The clear peak of the game’s upwards surge in the first half of the year was the team-up of Drake and Ninja, which broke several streaming records.
Video games targeted by the White House
Not that I want to bring up another shooting so soon, but the gaming industry became involved in a tragedy earlier this year when it was tainted by association somehow with the Parkland shooting in Florida.
Just two days after the shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin blamed video games for the tragedy, and compared them to pornography. Gov. Bevin even implied video games and their like should not fall under protected speech. So far, so typical, and that ought to have been as far as the matter went.
However, President Donald Trump apparently endorsed the notion, calling together both game developers and gaming’s detractors for a confab about the topic. It never amounted to anything, but at least we got the bizarre spectacle of the White House YouTube channel hosting a video of video game gore.
Telltale Games’ closure rocks the industry
Episodic game-maker extraordinaire Telltale shocked everyone with the sudden news it’d be shutting down, effective immediately. It wouldn’t even be finishing the final season of its signature series, The Walking Dead (it’s since contracted the help of another studio to finish that particular game).
— Telltale Games (@telltalegames) September 21, 2018
And if gaming fans were shocked, it was nothing to the feelings of the studio’s (now-former) employees. Almost as soon as the news broke, Telltale employees flocked to Twitter to share their stories, and it quickly became clear the closure was far more messy than the company had implied. Stories ranged from employees being denied severance pay to being almost chased out of the building after the news was delivered. Needless to say, the rest of the gaming world wasn’t impressed.
Re: I got laid off at Telltale
None of my sleepless nights or long hours on weekends trying to ship a game on time got me severance today. Don’t work overtime unless you’re paid for it, y’all. Protect your health. Companies don’t care about you.
— Brandon Cebenka (@Binkysaur) September 21, 2018
The topic of crunch culture — in which employees are coerced into working inhumanly long hours to ensure games are released on time — has long been a sore spot in the industry, and the alleged failure of Telltale to properly compensate its employees both before and after its closure rankled among fans.
Sony finally allows crossplay and name changes
This one might not seem as big as the previous stories mentioned, but Sony’s concessions to modern gaming mark a watershed moment for the millions of people who own one of its consoles. For several months this year, gamers have been urging Sony to adopt crossplay, especially after Nintendo and Microsoft announced they’d be allowing it. It took several months, but the company finally caved — to a certain degree. It announced it’d be allowing crossplay in a beta for Fortnite players.
It's official: the ability to change your PSN Online ID is coming. Here are the first details: https://t.co/dSBprNkjDZ Testing with select users starts soon, full rollout planned for early 2019 pic.twitter.com/4eM4lkNo9y
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) October 10, 2018
It also made a change players have been crying out for over the last decade, in that it would finally allow players to change their names. The company has since specified that doing so is likely to cause a host of problems for players, even if they change their minds and revert to their old handles. Still, it’s nice to know that, after about 12 years, the option is there.
Prima Games shuts its doors
There aren’t many companies in gaming that have been around as long as Prima Games has, so it’s a real pity its parent company announced that this year would be its last. The company has been publishing its signature strategy guides for almost three decades, and it will end its operations by next spring.
Given the prevalence of digital walkthroughs and video tip guides, it’s perhaps not a surprise Prima’s heavy print guidebooks eventually went the way of the dodo. But it’s sad to see the company couldn’t make the pivot to video work, as its walkthroughs online were still as informative as any you’d find on YouTube.
RDR2 has the best opening in entertainment history
And finally, in more encouraging news, Red Dead Redemption 2 closed the biggest weekend after its release. The game outsold every other kind of media — movies, books, music — to become the biggest launch of the year. According to Rockstar, the game reaped $725 million in the first three days.
That said, it still didn’t topple the three-day sales record of its spiritual predecessor, Grand Theft Auto V. Considering both games are from Rockstar, it’s probably still a win for the company. Shortly before the game’s release, it struggled with a controversy over comments from founder Dan Houser, in which he implied the company also had crunch culture similar to the one that befell Telltale employees (see above). The company has since tried to refute those perceptions by allowing its employees to share details about their time with the company.
While it’s not necessarily the most successful game of the year — it was beaten in sales by Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at the end of its launch month — it’s still a surprising achievement for a game. If you want to know what we thought of it, you can read parts one and two of our review (major spoilers in the second half).
We’re looking forward to whatever 2019 can throw at us, and we hope our community — and the world as a whole — sees nothing but positive news next year.