What does 2018 have in store for the gaming industry?
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2017 was a huge year for the gaming industry. The Nintendo Switch launched and surpassed all expectations. The Xbox One X set the new gold standard for home console capabilities. We got the long awaited sequel to Knack. It was one of the best 12 month periods in recent years for the booming gaming sector.
So what does 2018 hold? Well, with no major hardware updates slated, 2018 will almost certainly be a somewhat quieter year, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With no new consoles to entice players in, the manufacturers will have to rely on fantastic games to help sell their consoles.
Here’s our predictions for what we’re likely to see in 2018 from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony.
The Switch represented a major comeback for Nintendo, having suffered through years of weak sales with the Wii U. They’re now back to their ambitious best, aiming to have sold 20 million units by April 2019. Last year saw the release of titles in three of their biggest franchises – The Legend of Zelda, Mario and Mario Kart. To hit their sales target, they’ll need to go back to their tried and trusted performers.
We already know Metroid Prime 4 is on the way for the console (possibly not until next year), but though beloved by Nintendo fans, Metroid has a history of not selling particularly well. We’re also getting new Kirby and Yoshi titles, but again, these are unlikely to sway anyone not already convinced by perhaps the best Mario game ever.
However, Nintendo does have two aces up their sleeve. The next main Pokémon title will launch on the Switch, and is arguably the only confirmed game we know of that is capable of shifting the next ~9 million units in order to hit the above target. We don’t have a release date for this yet, but a launch to coincide with the peak winter holiday period would give the Switch a tremendous boost.
Now for the unconfirmed ideas. A port of the Wii U’s Super Smash Bros 4 would make sense, would be relatively easy to create and, though not as big as Pokémon, would certainly help sales along.
Another surprising hole in the Switch’s library is of a genuine party title. Mario Kart is great, but still comes with a difficulty curve and some explaining required. 1-2 Switch’s price remains relatively high given its weak reviews. Nintendo are well aware of the potential of even just a basic party game after the unprecedented success of the Wii was driven by Wii Sports. A revamped version of that game – or a new Mario Party title – would definitely keep the Switch’s sales figures moving.
Away from the Switch, we expect that the process will begin to retire the 3DS and 2DS family of handhelds. The 3DS has been an enormous success for Nintendo, but it now looks like attentions are firmly focused on the Switch. Whether we’ll get a formal announcement this year about the end of the 3DS remains to be seen.
2018 will also see the return of the NES and SNES Classic Minis, both of which are generally tricky to find at the moment. Could we see an N64 Mini this year too? It may depend on how quickly the Switch’s Virtual Console functionality is up and running.
With the Xbox One X’s sales ticking along quite nicely despite its hefty £449 RRP, Microsoft can be content that they have bested Sony’s PS4 Pro in terms of performance. However, the question for both of these companies is ‘what’s next?’
Both the X and Pro have improved on their respective base consoles’ processing power and graphical capabilities, two features typically reserved for console generation updates. With the incremental improvements of the X and Pro, what would justify the PS5 and the next Xbox?
Whatever would trigger the next generation of Xbox, it won’t be here in 2018. Instead, we can expect Microsoft to double down on a few key games. The One has been criticised for its lack of prominent exclusive titles, and Microsoft has taken steps to address that this year.
Seafaring MMO Sea of Thieves has been attracting a lot of hype since E3, and has a firm launch date – March 20th. State of Decay 2, slated for release at some point in the year, will provide plenty of zombie-fighting action, and introduces an online co-op mode.
Perhaps 2018’s most exciting Xbox exclusive is one that’s already out – kind of. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is continuing to dominate the Steam charts, and the PC version is now out of early access. The Xbox version will follow in the coming months. When it does, don’t be surprised to see Microsoft go all in on the battle royale-style game, with hard bundles on possibly both the One S and the One X.
It’s also possible that the end of the year will bring some price drops on the X. Sony lopped about £50 off the RRP of the Pro on the one year anniversary of its launch. The Pro is now retailing for around £300, making it significantly cheaper than the X at the moment.
Of the three major gaming manufacturers, Sony is the one most capable of springing a surprise in 2018. The PS4 will turn five this year, with the Pro turning two. It is likely a year too early, but there is a slim possibility that we could see the fifth iteration of the all-conquering PlayStation announced at some point this year.
As we said in our Microsoft section, where this potential announcement differs from previous console generations is there’s no clear path to follow. The Pro has largely made a more powerful PS5 redundant. Many people don’t yet own a 4K television and thus can’t appreciate the full capabilities of the Pro. Offering an even further upgrade would have little appeal to a mass market beyond the simple marketability of a new PlayStation console.
One area that is exciting, however, is PS VR. The price has dropped to much more affordable levels, and the VR platform is gradually garnering more software support. While this generation may not ultimately end up completely integrated with VR, it will serve as a valuable testing ground, and could well influence what direction Sony go in with the PS5.
If there is no impending PS5 announcement on the horizon, then there’s still plenty to get excited about in 2018. Sony will continue to receive an excellent selection of exclusives, with Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, The Last of Us 2 and Spider-Man all being released this year.