It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s on your gaming wishlist for 2021?
Can we get a new Metroid this year? I know Prime 4 is a ways out. That’s fine. How about a side-scroller?
Also: Less outrage about dumb things in gaming, more energy about things that do matter. More mutual respect, more consideration, more patience, more openness to different good-faith views, more games that challenge us and show us who each other are, and more time—for developers, for reviewers, for players, for anyone and everyone who has seen their days pinched by forces beyond them.
2020 was a historic cluster in almost every imaginable way, and our little corner of reality, the video game industry, compounded the chaos by launching expensive, hard-to-get, next-generation consoles over the holidays. Did we need them? Not especially. But they’re here now so it’s time for them to start justifying their expense.
With that in mind, I’m hoping to see both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S start to break away from the previous-generation machines with more meaningful “next-gen” exclusives that flex the new consoles’ capabilities and better make the case for upgrading. (The new Xboxes in particular have almost no next-gen exclusives, contributing to their “commodity game-streaming VCR” vibe.) After an incredibly distressing year I’m ready for some technically novel, escapist gaming entertainment. (Capcom, if you’re reading: Dragon’s Dogma 2. Please and thank you.)
Skepticism aside, I’m heartened by both Sony and Microsoft building solid 3D audio capabilities into their new consoles. Headphone virtualization can make it sound like the action’s happening all around you; done well, it adds a lot of enjoyment to my gaming experience. In the coming year I hope publishers continue to push this tech and developers take it seriously, implementing it in any game that can benefit. Heck, just take audio mixing more seriously in general. It’s super important and too many games end up sounding like mud.
Finally—no one said we have to be realistic here—I’d really love to see the return of high-quality B-games and other mid-budget wonders. When the industry transitioned to HD visuals, development costs shot up and lower-budget games grew scarce. Bring back the quirk! The hidden gems! King’s Field and Armored Core! Klonoa and Maximo and R-Type! Scuba-diving, casual flying, and demolition games! Oddball Taito and SNK puzzlers! Heck, even slightly off mascot platformers! The indie scene covers some of this ground, but that’s a band-aid rather than a panacea. Give me more randomness, more weird shit, more delightful surprises. The industry lost something when mainstream publishers decided only big, expensive, focus-grouped games were worth betting on.
I think games are in a good place heading into 2021, especially if we finally get some news and/or a release date for Elden Ring in the coming months. It’s everything surrounding games that makes spending any amount of time discussing them a miserable experience.
Talking about video games has been fundamentally harrowing for years. I think, for the most part, video game people are good people. But when it comes to discussing games, their impact, and the environments in which they are developed, a highly vocal minority does whatever they can to muddy the waters and ruin discourse. And while many can be written off as reactionary chuds, I would be remiss not to mention this behavior is employed by journalists, influencers, and developers as well.
I guess when it comes to what I want out of gaming in 2021, it would be a more constructive atmosphere to discuss gaming’s successes and failures. We shouldn’t be afraid of saying something critical about a release just because some idiot YouTuber or, perhaps worse, a director at a major studio is going to send a horde of assholes flooding into our mentions. It only holds us back.
Besides, that energy would be a lot more productive if aimed at challenging the executives who make gaming worse at every turn anyway.
Do you know what I’d give right now for a first-person immersive sim set in a cynical, futuristic metropolis where high-tech body mod shops are more common than Starbucks and contemporary social issues are reimagined as paper-thin allegories? I’m talking, of course, about another entry in the Deus Ex series. If next August rolls around without a word, that will mean Adam Jensen has been radio silent for half a decade.
Maybe I’m needlessly panicking. After all, there was a five-year gap between Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011) and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016), both of which were developed by Eidos Montreal. In the interim, the studio pushed out a multiplayer mode for 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot and a cross-gen revival of Thief, the cult-classic stealth series.
But maybe I’m not. Over the past five years, Eidos Montreal released Shadow of the Tomb Raider and pitched in on this year’s tepidly received Avengers, the result of an early 2017 partnership with Square Enix. It’s a similar output as that prior half-decade period, but consider what we reported in 2017: that Eidos apparently back-burnered Deus Ex in order to focus efforts on a game based on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Three years later, that one has yet to (officially) be announced. There’s also the small matter that we haven’t heard a damn thing about another Deus Ex. In 2013, Eidos showed off a glimpse of a “next-gen” Deus Ex.
All considered, the future for Deus Ex does not look bright. A guy can hope, though, right?
Oh, yeah, and then there are the pipe dreams: for everyone to be a bit nicer to each other, for the pendulum of discourse to be less volatile, for everyone to have an easier year, and for the covid-19 vaccine rollout to go as smoothly as possible. Online connections are all well and good, but the offline ones—the concerts and conventions and happy-hour debates—are sorely missed.
For my wishlist, I’d really like game makers to think harder about what options they add to their character creators. I understand the limitations of development mean one can’t have a slider or an option for every little different thing a piece of a human body could be, but what a creator chooses to include versus what they don’t can spark a meaningful and necessary conversation about what it means to make a diverse video game. In 2021, I want more thoughtful character creators that include options for body size, different hair textures (creators are getting there but parity between straight and not-straight hair options is far off still), and maybe hearing and mobility aids. Everyone deserves a chance to see themselves in the games they play.
As for other wishes: ctrl-f Bayonetta 3, 0 of 0 found. My colleagues are slipping! Please PlatinumGames, it’s been three years since you announced the third entry in the Bayonetta series and we’ve barely heard a word since. Give me a trailer, some artwork, a peek of whatever new hairstyle you’ve got my girl in this time around. I’ll take anything, my crops are dying!
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what’s your take? Where would you like to see the gaming hobby go in 2021? Trends you want to see continue, trends you want to see begin, or even just specific games you really wanna be able to play? Have your say! We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!