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2016 Year-In-Review: Top 10 Video Games of the Year

For the next installment of my 2016 Year-In-Review, here’s a look at my favorite video games of the year. How does it compare to your list?

Dom’s Game of the Year

1. Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment, Activision Blizzard)

Blizzard’s expertly-made competitive hero shooter is probably the game I played the most in 2016, both with friends and solo, as it features an excellent blend of competitive gameplay hooks, positive reinforcement and casual appeal with some of the most well-crafted characters this generation; as is expected from the developer, who is known especially for its attention to detail.

 

 

2. DOOM (id Software, Bethesda Softworks)

Developer id Software successfully reinvigorated this classic action-packed series in 2016, which is much more than a standard popcorn blockbuster game with its smart level design, fast-paced gameplay, fluidity of movement and surprisingly deep narrative, making it my favorite single-player first-person shooter campaign in years since probably another id property: Wolfenstein: The New Order.

 

 

3. Pokémon Go (Niantic, Inc., The Pokémon Company, Nintendo Co Ltd)

I’m not sure I can say much more than already has been said about 2016’s cultural phenomenon that was Pokémon Go: Niantic’s augmented reality mobile title took not just gamers but the world by storm after its summer release, and while admittedly it’s not the deepest game, it is severely addicting and caused millions to adventure to places they normally wouldn’t to collect all the cute creatures in the long-running franchise has to offer; including me, as I’ve sunk at least a hundred hours and still play to this day.

 

 

4. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog, Sony Computer Entertainment)

Naughty Dog’s epic conclusion to the Uncharted series is a technical marvel that expands on the swashbuckling, action-adventure gameplay by opening its level design and offering even more approaches to missions than its predecessors including a well-design stealth mechanic; Not to mention it’s the best-looking game I played in 2016, there were at least a half dozen times I stopped to take in the scenery, and it nails the landing on a story following its most-beloved characters that fans have known for years.

 

 

5. Watch Dogs 2 (Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)

Ubi’s sequel to its 2014 open-world stealth-hacking game Watch Dogs is just lots of fun to play, in its much brighter setting of San Francisco plus more relatable main character Marcus Holloway, who is a parkour master with a variety of cool apps and drones at his disposal, allowing for creativity during mission approaches and clever puzzle-solving that results in an enjoyable main storyline with worthwhile side quests; even collectible hunting becomes unpredictable and more fun than usual, as many can’t be completed without creative approaches using Marcus’ drone hardware.

 

 

6. Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Insomniac’s modern rebuild of the cartoony 3D platformer is not only among my favorite games of 2016, but it’s the one that took me most by surprise since it wasn’t on my radar until after its release; and with that surprise came moments of pure joy, as playing through the beautiful, colorful planets alongside the humorous narrative as the Lombax/robot duo warmed my heart like few games can.

 

 

7. Dishonored 2 (Arkane Studios, Bethesda Softworks)

Arkane’s follow-up to the original 2012 stealth title is exceptional in that it keeps the magic of the first Dishonored, with its wonderful level layouts and character designs plus dreary-yet-beautiful setting and art, while expanding upon its best elements since it now offers two playable characters both with unique talents, boasting a plethora of abilities and tools to ultimately allow the player to decide if she or he would be a silent ghost or a vengeful assassin.

 

 

8. The Witness (Thekla, Inc.)

Plain and simple, The Witness by designer Jonathan Blow is my favorite puzzle game of 2016 as it’s not only one of the most stunningly-beautiful minimalistic first person games I’ve played, its focus on mind-bending puzzles (some of its best are secretly hidden within the environment) and collectibles that reveal philosophical ruminations ranging from the nature of consciousness to the existence of God prove that there are layers upon layers to this modern day indie classic; if only its ending was more powerful, it would be higher on this list.

 

 

9. Titanfall 2 (Respawn Entertainment, Electronic Arts)

Yet another sequel, I know, but this time Respawn studio head Vince Zampella and his team injected a thrilling single-player story into its mech-shooter that originally debuted in 2014, and crafted a comfortable balance between fast-moving mechanics and narrative quality (especially in one much-discussed mission focused on the manipulation of time) not to mention reinforced the already strong multiplayer mode featured in the first game to shape what I think is the year’s second best shooter campaign behind DOOM.

 

 

10. Oxenfree (Night School Studio)

Rounding out my Top 10 is this weird, adventure-mystery game, made by a small team featuring folks previously from Telltale Games and Disney, which follows teens on a trip to a deserted island; Oxenfree plays on dialogue and choice like few other games have done to tell a unique coming-of-age story in a very cool, supernatural manner and truly allows the player to decide the outcome of various story elements.

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

Let It Die (Grasshopper Manufacture, GungHo Online Entertainment)

This 3rd person roguelike hack-and-slasher made by Japanese designer Goichi Suda (Suda51) and team at Grasshopper grabbed me randomly for a few weeks after its surprise announcement at the PlayStation Experience, and features some of the coolest characters this year along with challenging-yet-rewarding gameplay; but its free-to-play elements and difficulty spike are the reasons why it couldn’t crack my Top 10.

 

 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood & Wine (CD Projekt Red)

I’m including this excellent expansion for last year’s fantasy masterpiece The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in the honorable mentions essentially on a technicality, since it’s not necessarily a brand new game; Though with that said, Blood & Wine rivals most standalone role-playing games in its quality, gorgeous setting and breadth of content plus it puts a bow on this legendary story in a way that most games seldom accomplish.

 

-Dom

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Prediction: Which Console Exclusive Will Sell More: Uncharted 4 or Quantum Break?

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Prediction: Which gaming console exclusive will sell more copies across its lifetime: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, releasing May 10th on Sony Corp’s (6758) PlayStation 4 or Quantum Break which is out tomorrow Apr 5th on Microsoft Corporation’s Xbox One? Note that the latter will also be available on PC.

*FAIR WARNING* This will be a lengthy post, and more analytical than my usual ones. This is to dive deep into what is driving my predictions, rather than simply stating them blindly.

My personal guesstimates are below. In my opinion, Uncharted 4 has the better upside since it is the latest and likely last installment in a long-standing series. Additionally, PS4 user base is larger at around 36 million currently and I expect it to be as much as 50 million by end of 2016 based on growth since launch (and even more by the end of the generation, as we’ll see below). Moreover, Quantum Break is a brand new intellectual property (IP) for the lagging Xbox One this generation so its sales potential is lower despite its overall favorable critical reception now that review embargo has lifted as of last week.

When it comes to these two exclusives, quick predictions for sales this year and then rationale to follow:

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog, Sony Computer Entertainment)

Predicted Lifetime Sales: 8 million

Quantum Break (Remedy Entertainment, Microsoft Studios)

Predicted Lifetime Sales: 5.9 million

The basis for these predictions comes down to a handful of factors: Current and predicted install base of each current generation console, historical attach rates of similar titles (comparison of software units sold per units of its console), actual company estimates and finally pre-order figures.

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For Uncharted 4, the historical sales of each installment in the series is as follows over each game’s lifetime compared with the install base of PlayStation 3 on which all were originally released. Note these are lifetime sales:

Uncharted Series Lifetime Sales

Subsequently, current lifetime sales of select PS4 exclusives to date and corresponding attach rates based on 36 million units sold of the console itself. Caveats, obviously, these are newer than the older Uncharted games and some are available on PC. But these represent only console sales.

PS4 Exclusive Lifetime Sales

Pushing this one step further, let’s assume based on early sales trends that the PS4 will outsell the PS3 to upwards of 100 million (almost what the PS2 sold). Using this assumption, these are “potential” lifetime figures of the same select PS4 exclusives we just plotted at current attach rates:

Potential PS4 Exclusive Lifetime Sales

Which ultimately leads to my estimate of 8 million lifetime sales for Uncharted 4, assuming it achieves an attach rate of 7.50% which is comparable to earlier titles in the Uncharted series and a bit more than select titles currently available for the PS4 console. This is my built-in upside, as the title has already achieved gold status which is pre-order sales of 250,000 before it has even released.

Estimated Uncharted 4 Lifetime Sales

 

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As for new Xbox One title Quantum Break, we’ll first look at historical sales of new exclusive titles available on “Original” Xbox and Xbox 360 platforms over the past few years again compared with corresponding console sales:

Xbox Exclusive Lifetime Sales

Now sales of Xbox One exclusives to date and attach rates based on 20 million consoles in the wild:

X1 Exclusives Lifetime Sales

Similar to what we had above, the following is “potential” lifetime figures assuming that the Xbox One sells exactly the same as its predecessor which is around 84 million. I am estimating less lifetime sales here than PS4 based on the Xbox One lagging for the foreseeable future.

Potential X1 Exclusives Lifetime Sales

Almost done. While Quantum Break isn’t a part of an existing series, I’ve charted how earlier games by Remedy Entertainment have sold on their individual consoles. Note these are not console exclusives except for Alan Wake.

Remedy Entertainment Lifetime Sales Final

And finally, this brings me to my Quantum Break estimate of 5.9 million lifetime unit sales. I have to assume the game has an attach rate similar to existing Xbox One exclusives like Halo 5 or earlier Remedy title Alan Wake rather than classic titles such as Halo: Combat Evolved or original Fable. And also, this assumes Xbox One again sells as much as the Xbox 360 which I think is realistic depending on how this generation plays out.

Estimated Quantum Break Lifetime Sales

 

Two MAJOR edits at this juncture: The Alan Wake sales figures above initially were high, as this is the figure was for the series overall. I have edited this to reflect Xbox 360 sales only which are around 1.5 million. Also, the big caveat that I didn’t properly convey is that at present Quantum Break is a console exclusive and it is available on PC but only via the Windows Store. Limiting distribution to one platform on PC rather than opening it up to others, namely Steam, will have huge negative implications for sales of the title overall. If MSFT doesn’t offer Quantum Break on the most popular PC distribution platforms at some point in its lifetime, and Xbox One doesn’t sell as well as Xbox 360, then my estimates would need to be revised downward.

Keep in mind, there are a ton of assumptions and estimates here. The bottom line is that I think Uncharted 4 has the greater potential when all is said and done, in that it’s the final installment in an established series going up against a brand new game in Quantum Break. This is despite higher historical attach rates for Xbox exclusives, as I think the Xbox One console could sell less than its competitor PS4 plus Quantum Break is an unproven brand. How do you feel about these assumptions and estimates? Do you think Quantum Break will actually sell more?

Sources: Sony Corp, Microsoft Corporation, Remedy Entertainment, NPD Group, Forbes, GameSpot, Amazon

-Dom