Critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto V continues to do well for Take-Two. Photo: RockstarBorderlands: The Pre-Sequel! pleased series fans but failed to do much new.
2014 has been a fascinating year in video games. We have seen surprise smash hits come out of nowhere while heavily hyped big budget titles have sunk without a trace, plus PR disasters, major controversies, and consumer revolts.
Here is our list of the winners and losers of 2014. WinnersGrand Theft Auto V had a high-definition re-release on the new consoles and PC, selling three million copies in its first week despite already shifting more than 35 million copies on 360 and PS3.
Over at 2K, there was more success. Civilization: Beyond Earthtopped the PC gaming sales charts both for UK retail and Steam simultaneously, a rare feat, and also enjoyed positive reviews. Popular basketball simulator NBA 2K15 also achieved success with critics and fans.
There were some downbeat notes, however. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! received mediocre reviews, and WWE 2K15, the publisher’s big entry into next-generation wrestling games, was a dud.
Activision – The first big hit of the year was Activision’s: Destiny, the first new property in many years from Halo creator Bungie. While it divided critics, it was a sales phenomenon, topping $US300 million in sales in its first week and claimed by Activision to be the highest-selling new property in games history.
Also performing well critically (though sales figures have not yet been released) was this year’s Skylanders, titled Trap Team. It reviewed well and seems to be selling strongly, despite competition from Disney Infinity 2.0.
Finally there was Call of Duty, the main event in Activision’s annual release schedule. The series regularly breaks sales records, and 2014 was no exception: Advanced Warfare was cited as “the biggest entertainment launch of 2014”, meaning that it raised more revenue at launch than any other game, film, music album, or entertainment property. It also received the best reviews the series has seen in years. Losers
Ubisoft – The usually reliable Ubisoft has had a year that truly deserves to be called annus horribilis. Watch Dogs set the trend for the coming year: it was criticised before release for not living up to the amazing graphics seen during its trade show previews, and when released it was savaged by critics. This triggered the first of several sharp drops in its stock price for 2014.
The unveiling of Assassin’s Creed: Unity in June attracted more controversy, with fans outraged that the new four-player co-operative play featured only male characters. Ubisoft spokespeople stumbled through unconvincing excuses, but there didn’t seem to be any good reason for the oversight.
When Unity was released there was more bad news. The game was a buggy, unfinished mess, apparently rushed out the door to meet a deadline instead of being delayed until it was complete.
Ubisoft has apologised for the disastrous launch, released a series of major patches (one of which listed more than 300 fixes), and offered free games and downloadable content to make it up to frustrated fans. None of this stopped Ubisoft shares plummeting.
Open world racing game The Crew, which was delayed for more than a year, was also a critical disaster, but at least Far Cry 4 launched without major problems or controversy. It was an unusually bad year from a company generally known for quality games, and it will no doubt be hoping for 2015 to be better. The big three
Sony, Microsoft’s Xbox division, and Nintendo all had interesting years, with all seeing strong sales, but one console being a clear leader.
The PlayStation 4 has enjoyed a strong sales lead over its next-gen competitor, but the Xbox One refuses to die, and the long-struggling Wii U has seen a surge in sales, probably due to some strong exclusives.
Between Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 8, and to a lesser extent Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2, the Wii U has gone from trailing far behind the Xbox One to roughly level pegging. The PS4 is the undoubted king, however, selling about as many consoles as the Xbox One and Wii U combined.
DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez