The biggest news of 2015
A lot happened in gaming in 2015. More than you might remember. It was a year for long-awaited sequels, franchise resurrections, publisher scandals, and a goofy Time magazine cover. It was also the year we said goodbye to one of the industry's most beloved leaders, Satoru Iwata. To put it simply, it was a historic time to be a part of gaming.
That's why we've collected 20 of the biggest, the most exciting, and the weirdest news items of 2015. From announcements about backwards compatibility to adult entertainment preference statistics, it's all here. When you look back on 2015, what will you remember?
Konami really doesn't want you to know that Kojima is leaving
Hideo Kojima exited Konami to form his own studio, and it's starting off with a Sony deal to publish the team's first game on PS4. It seems so simple now, and yet for most of 2015 the rocky relationship between Kojima and his longtime employer was one of the most confusing, yet worst-kept secrets in the industry. As Kojima's name disappeared from Metal Gear Solid 5's box art and Kojima left hints to his troubles left and right, Konami roundly denied that anything was amiss - even saying that he was just going on vacation when confronted with photos of an apparent farewell party. It may be years before we know the whole story behind Kojima's departure, though I kind of hope he makes a game about it - it wouldn't take too much artistic license to add in his trademark inscrutable conspiracies.
Fallout 4 is announced and released in the same year
Fallout 3 resurrected post-nuclear role-playing in October 2008 and Fallout: New Vegas refined it in 2010. And then, for four and a half years nothing. Bethesda Game Studios left the world to mire in leaks and half-true rumors, retreating into its Maryland offices without word of whatever its next project (after Skyrim) would be. When the proverbial vault door finally opened in May to issue forth screens and trailers, fans rejoiced and prepared for a doubly excruciating wait. Then Bethesda revealed Fallout 4 was coming out this year. The relatively short hype cycle meant Bethesda always had something cool and new to show off, all while leaving plenty of surprises for the actual release.
Satoru Iwata passes away
The passing of Nintendo President Satoru Iwata was not only noteworthy due to the man's high profile within the company, but for his contributions to the gaming industry and gamer culture. Here was a man who began his career as a programmer, making significant contributions to the Earthbound and Kirby games, and rose through the ranks to lead Nintendo into a new age with the Wii and DS systems.
Ever the charmer, Iwata gave us meme after meme, and smile after smile. Far from a corporate suit obsessed with the bottom line, Iwata was arguably the most human of the industry's higher-ups, routinely telling investors that his was a company focused on innovation and fun. His death may be one of the most newsworthy events of 2015, but it's his life you should remember.
The Nintendo PlayStation prototype is discovered
Nintendo backed out on a deal with Sony to create a disc-based add-on for the Super Famicom in the early '90s, and through spite and/or a desire to preserve R&D costs, the competing PlayStation product line was born. It remained an abstract footnote in the business dealings of an adolescent industry until Dan Diebold found one of the prototypes in his dad's storage. Through a series of executive departures, warehouses, and bankruptcy sales, the Nintendo PlayStation ended up powered on and playing Street Fighter 2 in China, decades after it was meant to be destroyed. Unfortunately, the disc drive part appears to have been disabled, but it's still a piece of living history.
The Final Fantasy 7 Remake is finally happening
After roughly a decade of fans begging for a Final Fantasy 7 remake on modern gaming hardware (no more Popeye the Sailor Arms on low-poly Cloud), Square Enix finally seemed ready to deliver with a big announcement at PlayStation Experience 2014 And it was an announcement for a port of the original version coming to PS4. Six months later at E3 2015, Square Enix announced the real thing, showing off a beautiful new realization of the early chapters of the influential RPG. Was the first reveal an intentional troll from Square Enix for its over-demanding fans, or just some serious cluelessness? We may never know.
Shenmue 3 is also finally happening
We actually did a full joke review of Shenmue 3 for April Fools 2014, that's how confident we were that this game was a pipe dream. Shenmue and its sequel were notoriously expensive to develop, and it had been more than a decade since we'd heard anything substantial in regards to the cult favorite series. But then director Yu Suzuki took the stage at Sony's E3 2015 press conference and made the announcement: Shenmue 3 is finally happening. As is modern custom, it was actually an announcement for a Kickstarter - one that raised more than $6.3 million (making it Kickstarter's most-funded video game ever) by its conclusion. Now we just have to hope that Ys Net can make good on all those years of anticipation.
The Last Guardian rounds out the E3 of dreams
The Last Guardian had been another one of those "joke announcements" for years, the kind of forgotten project that people dredged up to fluster Sony executives in interviews. Then Sony went and spoiled it by not only speaking its name on stage at E3 2015, but by nailing down a 2016 release window. The unexpected announcement was capped off with a good, long look at The Last Guardian in motion, now running on PS4. The little boy and giant dog-bird-thing scrabbling around huge, ancient environments looked phenomenal, at once surprising and a logical next step after Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Joke's over.
Project Morpheus becomes PlayStation VR and gets 50+ games
The games industry is always looking for the next Big Thing. Years ago, that meant better graphics than your competitors. Last generation, it was motion controls. This generation we have Oculus, Valve, and PlayStation as the frontrunners trying to get us to believe in virtual reality. And so we watched as what seemed like a cute "me too" experiment by Sony (Project Morpheus) grew into a fully-realized idea with a proper name (PlayStation VR) and more than 50 upcoming games. We've yet to see if VR headsets will take off, but come success or failure, it's worth paying attention to.
Batman: Arkham Knight's PC launch is a disaster
Bad PC ports are nothing new, but Batman: Arkham Knight's PC version was so awful that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment voluntarily pulled it off the Steam storefront for months after it came out in June. Both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City ran fine on PC, all things considered, but something changed to make Arkham Knight's PC version a downhill traffic accident of performance issues and glitches for many players. Months of finger-pointing from fans and quiet work by the developers later, and it's once again up for sale on PC. But it's still not clear how things went so terribly wrong.
Xbox One gets backwards compatibility
Microsoft didn't have much to say on the subject of backwards compatibility in the early days of Xbox One, so most of us had quietly filed it away in the "never gonna happen" folder between Banjo-Threeie and the triumphant return of Kinect. Then Microsoft revealed at E3 2015 that not only was Xbox One going becoming backwards compatible, but it would start off with 100 supported games in November. It's not all prettified like an HD remake or anything, but it does mean you can replay Mass Effect or Shadow Complex without having to plug back in (or re-purchase) your Xbox 360 - and at no extra cost. The whole thing was a very cool, consumer friendly move from Microsoft.
Nintendo announces its first-ever smartphone stuff
You can't blame Nintendo for being a little hesitant to let its characters appear on external platforms - that's how those awful Zelda CD-i games happened, after all. But the company's refusal to jump on the mobile gaming revolution/bandwagon flummoxed its investors for years. Whether it was just waiting for the right opportunity, or if poor Wii U sales finally forced its hand, Nintendo announced in March that it had partnered up with mobile publisher DeNA to start making games for smartphones. Nintendo says all of its mobile games will be geared to bring players into the Nintendo hardware ecosystem, rather than being a profit-making means to an end. Its first mobile project, Miitomo, is set to release in March 2016.
Then Nintendo announces its next system, codenamed NX
As much to prove it was still super into console gaming as to generate excitement, Nintendo couched its mobile announcement with the revelation that it was working on a new system named NX - but that it wouldn't have more to say until 2016. Thankfully, alleged insider leaks and the US Patent Office has provided plenty of interesting tidbits to fill in the silence. We've heard about a system that can be used both as a handheld device and as a home console, a special networking setup that could use your neighbor's inactive NX hardware for extra processing power, and even an unusual controller with a touch-sensitive display wrapped across its entire face. None of these may end up appearing in the final product, of course, but it's fun to imagine.
Time magazine has a unique interpretation of virtual reality
With tons of announcements from smaller studios and gaming heavyweights alike, 2015 was The Year of VR Becoming a Thing. Everybody in the industry was really getting the 3D head-tracking picture, and then Time Magazine put a picture of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey posed like a kung fu space baby wearing a Rift headset on its cover. The super awkward, not-at-all-illustrative photo probably didn't actually set public acceptance of VR back all that much - who still reads Time, anyway - but it was still one of the grandest face-palm moments in recent memory.
Videogame porn stats are... interesting
Did you know you can look at pornography on your video game machine? It's true! And lots of people do it every day, according to some fascinating statistics from adult streaming site YouPorn. Each console family has its own preferred adult performers and genres, but the most amusing part was just how loyal fans remain to their favorite franchises fans even when they're, ahem, exploring non-traditional play narratives. Xbox players search Halo-themed porn 589 percent more than Wii and PlayStation players, while Wii owners look for Zelda porn a whopping 1,082 percent more than the other two. Well excuuuuuse me, Princess!
Telltale Games is pretty much doing all the licensed games
Ever since it put out the first season of The Walking Dead, Telltale Games has been on a roll with one hot new license after another. But it seriously went over the top in 2015. With the first seasons of both Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands concluded, Telltale proved its dramatic range. Then it revealed that it was making Minecraft: Story Mode in a supremely unlikely partnership with Mojang. To cap it all off, Telltale revealed it was making a frickin' Batman game, diving into the " duality of Bruce Wayne's identity" and his personal struggle to save Gotham from itself in 2016. What a way to end the year!
Rocket League takes the world by storm (thanks in large part to PS Plus)
The funny thing about Rocket League's massive success is that it's a more polished version of a game that came and went largely unnoticed years before: Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars. I'll chalk 10 percent of the difference up to a catchier name and 90 percent up to great timing. Being a free game on PS Plus in July instantly got thousands of players onto the virtual rocket-powered pitch, where they quickly discovered one of the freshest video game sport experiences in years. For months, Rocket League was the only multiplayer game the internet was talking about. It's dropped off a bit since then, but the unlikely eSports hit is still going strong.
Psychonauts 2 is real, if you believe (and crowdfund it)
2015 was the year all your favorite long-forgotten sequels being brought back from the dead - well, almost all (sorry Beyond Good & Evil 2). We thought we'd seen the apex of this craze when a Kickstarter for Shenmue 3 was announced at E3, but we were happy to be proven wrong when Tim Schafer revealed a Psychonauts 2 crowdfunding campaign during PlayStation Experience 2015.
What's more, Psychonauts 2 is being funded through the new platform Fig, which allows backers to not only help the game meet its financial goals, but directly invest in it. This is the highest profile game Fig has hosted thus far, and its likely to be heavily scrutinized. Don't be surprised if Psychonauts 2 ends up on a round-up of 2016's biggest news.
Phil Spencer admits he doesn't know if Xbox can beat PlayStation
Xbox has had a rough go this generation. Whether it's games performing a step below than they do on PS4, plans to have the console chain its users to the Internet, tone-deaf presentations that tried to sell the Xbox as a Skype-and-cable box, or simply costing $100 more than its competition at launch, things haven't looked good.
It would be easy for Xbox head Phil Spencer put his head down, stick fingers in his ears, and say that everything's going great. But at GeekWire 2015 he admitted that he didn't know if Xbox could beat PlayStation, going on to admit that Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with the Xbox One launch. The whole interview is kind of amazing to watch, if only for Spencer's unflinching honesty.
Halo 5 has microtranscations and no splitscreen
Since the beginning, Halo games had local splitscreen. Naturally, it was safe to assume Halo 5: Guardians would as well, right? Wrong. Players were outraged when it was revealed that Halo 5 would not support more than one player per Xbox One, and plenty who hadn't heard the news filled the forums on launch day with the same ire for developer 343 Industries as they discovered a missing feature.
The inclusion of microtransactions was another announcement which stirred the hornet's nest, prompting the usual wave of petitions and promises to never buy another Halo game. Whether you feel like these changes were travesties or no big deal, the development of Halo 5 is a sign of the changing times. Halo had always been tethered to the past; for better or worse, it became a truly modern game in 2015.
Swery gets bitten by his 19-year-old, toothless cat
Hidetaka Suehiro, international gaming treasure behind Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, was ferociously mauled this year. Fortunately, it didn't hurt, because the assault was carried out by his 19-year-old cat named HR Giger, who does not have any teeth. Because of course Swery has a 19-year-old toothless cat named after the phallus-and-biotech-obsessed concept artist for Alien. We sought comment from Cat Giger but did not hear back from her representative in time for publication.
In summation: 2015 was a pretty weird year.