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Game On: The Winners of 2013

Game On: The Winners of 2013

Fri 27 Dec 2013 3:00pm GMT / 10:00am EST / 7:00am PST
BusinessPublishing

From grassroots to giant robots - who ended the year at the top of their game?

It's easy to knock those that had a poor run in 2013, as mistakes stick out more prominently than successes. So while we've already covered those we've labelled the losers of the year, its important to balance that with some positivity. And to be honest, it's been one of those most positive years in the video game business I can remember.

New hardware has lifted the console market, experimental tech has gained momentum, creativity has returned to games ten-fold, genres are spawning other genres, the player is spoilt for choice and marketing has returned to a grassroots level. Here then are our winners of 2013...

Twitch

1

Twitch ends the year as a central part of the PlayStation 4 console, riding high on a successful launch from Sony and into everyday usage by console games players. There may have been a hiccup with nudity (it turns out if you give some people a camera and access to the internet they'll take their clothes off - who knew?), but PlayStation 4 now accounts for 10 per cent of all Twitch streaming. One little Share button on a controller prompted 100,000 people to stream their games on Twitch in the first month of launch. Watch that continue to grow.

"Twitch is a threat to any online company that makes money from advertising, not least the old guard video games media"

The company is riding two waves this year - the resurgence of the video games business and the popularity of online video. With $20 million in fresh funding (some of which, tellingly, comes from Grand Theft Auto V publisher Take-Two), the business intends to grow its advertising resources. Twitch is a threat to any online company that makes money from advertising, not least the old guard video games media who will be competing directly with this new, buzzing, easy-to-use and accessible outlet.

Consoles aren't a single factor in increasing the popularity of Twitch of course. Broadcasting and streaming PC gaming is still at the heart of it, but consoles are pop culture, and help raise profiles in the mainstream consciousness. And it only becomes more accessible to the user as YouTube continues to indiscriminately stomp on its users, and Microsoft's Xbox One allows streaming from its console next year. Expect your social media timelines to become flooded with Titanfall footage in 2014. Because 45 million users can't be wrong.

Finland and Sweden

2

Okay, it's a bit of a cop out to lump two regions together. So we'll add Denmark and Norway to the mix and call it Scandinavia at the risk of offending anyone with such generalisations. But from an outsider's perspective there is no livelier, friendly, more productive or downright talented collective of games creators at this point in time. The names are leaders in their fields - and that's pretty much every field in games.

"The names are leaders in their fields - and that's pretty much every field in games"

There's Supercell's continued dominance in the free-to-play mobile markets with Hayday and Clash of Clans, the incredible high-end Frostbite tech behind DICE's Battlefield 4 - technology that's now being used in multiple Electronic Arts games. Avalanche's one-to-watch Mad Max, Remedy's ambitious storytelling and TV crossover Quantum Break, Housemarque's PlayStation 4 cult debut Resogun, Starbreeze and Overkill's digital sellers Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Payday, those chaps at Mojang with their Scrolls and their ever-living Minecraft and Ubisoft's Massive Entertainment, finally breaking out in their own right with The Division. Oh, and Paradox, a publisher that exists in its own grand strategy ecosystem. And Simogo with Device 6 and Year Walk...

We could probably go on. This is a region that's pushing out incredible games, grabbing headlines and hoovering up cash, from the pennies down the back of the sofa to the billions in the bank - nothing is left on the table. And for good reason. And we also like the fact that when you go for a drink in that part of the world they have outdoor heaters and the waiter will bring out a blanket for your knees. You don't get that in Guildford.

Respawn

3

Titanfall is Microsoft's biggest Xbox One game and it's not even out yet. The format holder is putting all of its weight around Respawn's brand new title, due in March 2014, alongside the marketing muscle of publisher Electronic Arts. That's a triple threat to the PlayStation 4 business during the first half of the coming year and no amount of hype for Destiny (a multiplatform release which doesn't seem to have nearly the same amount of buzz) will dampen it. We're almost calling it before it's out, but I've seen veteran, calm and professional games journalists quite simply lose their shit over Titanfall. It's that kind of game. And have you seen the queue for this game at public events? It takes hours to get 15 minutes of hands-on time. This is a game that is effectively going to relaunch the Xbox One.

"This is a game that is effectively going to relaunch the Xbox One"

Respawn was of course a studio set up by ex-Infinity Ward employees Vince Zampella and Jason West, who went solo after messy legal and business issues with their old publisher Activision. There was a danger that high-profile drama would overshadow the games the company makes, but after all the legal fuss the departure of Jason West earlier this year had seemingly little impact on the business or the end product. It's a good sign that all eyes are focused on Titanfall above all else. The press are hyped, the pre-orders are rolling in and the console business is ready for a first quarter uplift from new intellectual property. It's a good time to be making triple-A console games again, and Respawn is leading the charge.

Oculus VR

4

In a stellar year, the Oculus team managed to cap it off with $75 million worth of investment to bring its VR headset to the masses. In many ways this cash injection is the final validation the business needs. VR is about to be finally, honestly, seriously, a viable part of the video game business.

"VR is about to be finally, honestly, seriously, a viable part of the video game business"

But lets step back a little. Validation for Oculus has come from many quarters. It started with a Kickstarter project where people bought into the dream. VR has been knocking around in various forms over the years and it's never had a lack of support in theory, but here were supporters pledging serious money for a beta product. Then the development community got its hands on it and the buzz began to build, but there was always the concern that this may be too niche a product - a great toy for developers to express themselves but lacking in commercial possibilities. Then came the big names - with id Software genius John Carmack at first a champion for the product before deciding he liked it so much he was going to join the company. Where Carmack leads others follow.

Now with investment for a real consumer version of the Oculus Rift and backed by 40,000 developers and partners, Oculus has all the momentum to blaze a new path for interaction in video games. All the signs point to 2014 as an even stronger year for one of the most exciting companies in the business.

Indies

5

To be honest, independent developers continue to be in a great position of freedom once again in 2013 and going into 2014. As they did in 2012 and quite possibly 2011 before that. It's no surprise now that they get just as many headlines, just as much priority on the digital store shelves, just as much well-deserved attention and proportionally impressive sales success as any other part of the business.

The year has been full of little victories, too many to mention. From mobile, PC and Steam to Vita, PS4 and soon Xbox One, every channel to consumer is accessible to independent games developers. There may be some barriers and the fight is tough, but it is for every company, big or small and regardless of their status. To think of indies as a marginal part of the business, punching above its weight for attention and sales, is out of date. And forget about romanticising the underdog in the garage, coding late into the evenings before the early start at a full-time job elsewhere. There's never been any fun in being a starving artist.

"Forget about romanticising the underdog. There's never been any fun in being a starving artist"

The next billion dollar franchises will not come from established studios who have been doing the rounds for ten-plus years, churning out iterations of safe games that already have their audience locked down. The next billion dollar franchises, the one's the old-school publishers will wish they could have a slice of, will come from new independent development teams. The games that will grow so quickly and so successfully, seemingly coming from out of nowhere, will find an audience many didn't realise existed, at least not in such scale. Independent developers cater to those audiences, listen to those audiences and eventually create what becomes a product like Minecraft. Because indies are now the mainstream.

MOBAs

6

Forget the multiple names for this growing genre (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, Hero Brawler, Action Real-Time Strategy) - the important thing is this feels like a new genre despite its history and background as a spin-off from the RTS market. And now there's a lot more choice in MOBAs than just League of Legends.

"The important thing is this feels like a new genre despite its history and background as a spin-off from the RTS market"

Defense of the Ancients 2, Heroes of Newerth, EA's Dawngate, Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance, Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm, Infinite Crisis based on DC Comics heroes, Ubisoft's rumoured MOBA project, Demon Tribe on iOS from Jet Set Radio and Panzer Dragoon producer Masayoshi Kikuchi - the list is only going to get longer as more developers put their spin on it and more publishers look at the money making potential of it all.

And it's been fine to say in 2013 that you don't really understand MOBAs yet. It's a learning process for a majority of us and there's no shame in it. But the things we know and recognise are clear - there's a rapidly growing audience, it's a very broadcastable genre and as such, there's a potential to continue to grow the e-sports business even more (which brings us back to Twitch, see above). So a growing genre where others are meeting with indifference is a good thing for the players and the business. There may well be a bubble or saturation point over the next 12 months as more companies announce their MOBA plans, but having some of the most credible, forward-thinking businesses at the forefront of this renewed push can only be a good thing for the games industry.

14 Comments

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

202 1,105 5.5
Popular Comment
I quite disagree with Oculus and Titanfall. They may be great, but not this year. This year, they do not exist. At least not in a commercial form. Titanfall may flop and Oculus may fall into irrelevance once they launch (Ouya says "Hello"). If you need a game studio on the list, then it's Naughty Dog or Rockstar.

Where's Supercell? They have the spotlight F2P game and are currently swimming in cash. As much as I hate it, "F2P" is the great winner as well.
I agree with indies and also with Scandinavia. How could there be so much great talent right now? It must be something in the water I guess ;-)

Posted:9 months ago

#1

John McCaul Web Developer, DevPhase.Net

16 20 1.3
Popular Comment
Why is the 3ds not on this list?

Posted:9 months ago

#2

Justin Shuard J - E translator

45 176 3.9
Popular Comment
Have to admit I don't really get the hype over Titanfall. That's not to say it won't be a good game, but all I've seen so far is that it's essentially CoD with mechs.

I think the game shows well at game shows like E3 - play it for 10 minutes and any journalist will rave about the frenetic pace of the action. Whether the gameplay has the depth to stand the test of time is something we'll just have to wait and see however.

Posted:9 months ago

#3

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,130 1,162 1.0
If you asked the question about the winners of 2013 back in January of 2013, you would not have come up with that list. For a year in which new consoles were released, the list is actually quite insulting to the designated winners of early 2013's perception.

We have one, admittedly very promising, but still unreleased technology with the Occulus Rift. The only game worth mentioning as a winner of 2013 seems to be a game that isn't out yet. There is a streaming service listed as a winner, even though video streams remove the core thing of games, being interactive, from them. Not to speak of the press being hyped about Twitch, when they should have the spine to work towards a future where editorial work beats random users pushing a share button.

One entry is a flashback to 2009 (Moba games) and after years of getting fast follow ups by small teams producing games which went away fast, Mobas are suddenly recognized in the press for bigger publishers doing "not so fast follow up" versions. If I was from Scandinavia though, I'd be offended by the realization that it was a surprise that a peaceful set of societies offering civil liberties and free education excels at arts and technologies; as well as attracting people to that place. The realization that Indie games are really good falls in the same category. Finally, after a decade of developers complaining about big publishers ruining their games, they put their money where their mouth was and it turned out well.

Posted:9 months ago

#4

Alex Lemco Writer

16 67 4.2
Sorry GamesIndustry, two of those entries can be removed without fear of contradiction from the readers who still have their heads screwed on.

Titanfall looks like a very good game and Respawn Entertainment appear to have put their knowledge to good use. The Oculus Rift seems to be a very interesting product that could change the face of gaming. I have played with the Oculus developer kit (and it was an impressive piece of kit) though I have yet to play Titanfall.

The point about these two products is that they are both unreleased and untested against the competition. We can't declare winners out of participants who haven't even started running yet. If we could, Usain Bolt would never have to race again.

Posted:9 months ago

#5

David Serrano Freelancer

300 272 0.9
This is a game that is effectively going to relaunch the Xbox One.
Based on the performance of the best selling hardcore multiplayer titles released over the past several years, is there anything which indicates Titanfall or Destiny will appeal to console players who do not enjoy or play hardcore action / shooter multiplayer games? Objectively, no. Is there anything which indicates Titanfall or Destiny will bring new consumers who didn't previously play AAA games or own a core gaming device into the core market? Objectively, no. Is there anything which indicates Titanfall or Destiny will create crossover with other segments of the game market? Objectively, no. Is there anything which indicates Titanfall or Destiny will have the ability to alter the negative stereotypes about multiplayer games and the people who play them. Objectively, no.

So if the overwhelming majority of 360 and PS3 owners have shown no interest in games like Titanfall for almost a decade, and if consumers outside of the game market or in other segments of the market have never shown any interest in games like Titanfall, and if Titanfall won't do anything to mitigate the negative stereotypes about multiplayer games and the people who play them.... how will Titanfall "relaunch" the Xbox One?

Posted:9 months ago

#6

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
Given that neither Titanfall nor Destiny have ANY sort of single player offline modes and this previous generation has already been plagued with some woeful day/week one plus launch hiccups and issues with some big MP titles, who's going to bet a penny or two that both games have problems with people staying connected or even getting that mandatory update when they want to so they can simply dive in and play what they pre-ordered months ago a few minutes after it ships?

Yes, I know they'll sell well and all, but these are exactly the types of games where some will want something to do in their respective worlds while they're waiting for that patch to fix what's bound to ship broken. That and newbies are doomed to suffer the fate of wanting to play these and learn the ropes, but probably just getting stomped by live skilled players who'll see them as easy kills time and again. Even if they DO have stories, the need to always be online means this isn't going to appeal to the less social gamers out there who might just want to fly solo without being bugged by others.

Eh, we'll see... but I fully expect a few stories here about problems with both games when they ship. I'll say "I told you so" now so I can either smile when I'm right while lamenting yet another game I can't play or I'll eat another crow pie in public. Two cents says its the former...

Posted:9 months ago

#7

Craig Page Programmer

384 220 0.6
This list would be more accurate if it were titled "Best Advertising/PR Campaigners of 2013".

MOBAs are crap, Indies are the most over rated game genre, Occulus isn't even out yet, same with Respawn. Although I love (and am at the same time terrified by) Vikings so keep Sweden and Finland on the list.

And Twitch... I think you have to be Korean to actually want to sit and watch other people play mediocre games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft.

The actual winners should be Sony (for not screwing up their PS4 completely, like Microsoft did to their XBox One), and every profitable game company still in existence, since there were so many bankruptcies this year..

Posted:9 months ago

#8

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
The reason Titanfall and Oculus Rift are on this list is that they look good enough to get noticed and without being laughed out of the room. Just look at Brink and any previous VR headset: people mocked those things instantly. People still mock headsets like Google Glass and such, but OR doesn't get that. Titanfall doesn't get that. That's a big win for them.

@Craig
Don't be ridiculous. MOBA's are huge in most regions of the planet, indie isn't a genre, and millions use and love Twitch streaming. Also, the X1 is doing fine, just like the PS4.

Posted:9 months ago

#9

Paul Jace Merchandiser

935 1,410 1.5
I think alot of you are missing the point about Titanfall. First, Titanfall isn't on the list of winners for 2013: Respawn is. And why is Respawn on the list? Lets count the ways.

1.) They are the company that created the most popular and highest selling game franchise of this(well last now) generation: Call of Duty.

2.) Sometime this year they finalized their exclusive Xbox One deal with Microsoft, which most likely earned them an amount of money thats atleast in the tens of millions of dollars range although it's possible(but not likely) they might have gotten nine figures for the deal.

3.) Titanfall is without a doubt the most highly anticipated/talked about next gen(current gen now) exclusive game there is. While all three systems have their fair share of exclusives(both released and upcoming) Titanfall is the only game that I have seen owners of non-Microsoft systems complaining about it's exclusivity. In other words, they wish it was coming to the PS4 or Wii U. I mean, I'm sure owners of each system wouldn't mind having some of the other systems exclusives but Sony fans in particular have been very vocal about not being able to play it, even here on GII.

4.) See 1-3.

So thats why Respawn is one of the winners of 2013. But next year it could say either Respawn or Titanfall because it's a guaranteed hit. The original Xbox gave us the Halo series, the 360 gave us the Gears of War series and the Xbox One will now give us Titanfall.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 31st December 2013 2:43am

Posted:9 months ago

#10

Richard Browne EVP Gaming and Interactive, Evergreen Studios

103 117 1.1
1) Infinity Ward along with Activision created Call of Duty. Not everyone is at Respawn and without Activision's clout and backing Call of Duty would never have become the juggernaut it is.
2) EA did the deal, not Respawn. Apparently Respawn were a bit surprised by it.
3) Totally agree, although the competition is strangely missing. Watchdogs seems to have blown it's chance, though I'm sure Ubisoft marketing will try hard over the next few months to alter that perception. The "most anticipated" list of 2014 is rather barren outside of Titanfall and Destiny.

I do actually think it is the chance to relaunch XBox One mind, given the fact it's stocked to the rafters at most retailers. . . .

Posted:9 months ago

#11

Paul Jace Merchandiser

935 1,410 1.5
1.) Yes Activision helped them create it but in reality Call of Duty is just the newest version of a game series Infinity Ward created while initially at EA. And that game was called Medal of Honor, which I'm sure you knew. Yes Call of Duty had Activision's financial backing and input but it was mostly created by many of Infinity Ward's members who are now at Respawn.

2.) As far as we know the only thing Respawn was surprised about was the "life time of the Xbox One" part of the deal but they were well aware that this game was atleast going to be a timed exclusive(which is probably what they were hoping for because launching on more systems would mean more sales). Yes EA did conjure up this part of the deal but whatever amount of money Microsoft forked over for Titanfall it's not likely that EA was the only one that benefitted financially from this. I suspect that both EA's and Respawn's bank accounts went up by atleast $25 million a piece but thats obviously just speculation.

3.) Watchdogs and Destiny aren't exclusive to any consoles but I still think they are going to sell huge numbers. Obviously they should sell atleast twice the number of copies Titanfall sells because of the extra availability of being cross-platform but even if they don't I have no doubt that all three of these new games will be successful in creating new franchises for their respective companies.

.

Posted:9 months ago

#12

Paul Jace Merchandiser

935 1,410 1.5
Good catch Christian. IW's first MOH game(Allied Assault) was the third game released in that series. What I should have said was that Call of Duty was the newest version of the game series IW had previously worked on, not created.

Posted:9 months ago

#13

Hugo Dubs Interactive Designer

163 24 0.1
following your way to select winners, you may have forgotten to consider "The Division" which, in my opinion, delivered a much more impressive look and feel than TitanFall.

Posted:9 months ago

#14

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