Biggest Gaming News Of 2017
2017 has flown by. It's been a busy year for gaming, between the launch of two major pieces of new hardware--Nintendo Switch and Xbox One X--the explosive popularity of an Early Access game in PUBG, and a possible breaking point for microtransactions with Star Wars Battlefront II, among many other things.
In this gallery, we're taking a look at the biggest news stories of the year on a month-by-month basis. Whether you simply couldn't keep up with the year's news or are just looking to relive the highlights, let's take a look back at the year that was.
We'll have much more Best of 2017 content in the coming days and weeks. You can look forward to console report cards this week, with our console best-of lists and Game of the Year countdown following after that. You can check our full 2017 Game of the Year schedule for a complete rundown.
January: Nintendo Switch Price And Release Date Announced
Nintendo started out the year by answering the biggest questions about the upcoming Nintendo Switch: a price and release date. As part of a livestream presentation, it revealed that its new system would debut on March 3 around the world, with a price tag of $300 in the United States. That was higher than had been rumored and more than many expected, but it signaled Nintendo's confidence in the system--something that was well-placed, as we saw later in the year.
January: Other Big Stories
January brought with it some disappointing news for those looking forward to certain games. Microsoft canceled Scalebound, the Xbox One- and PC-exclusive action title from Platinum Games. Xbox boss Phil Spencer said at the time that it was a "difficult decision" but that the "result is better [for] Xbox gamers."
Later in the month, we learned that Square Enix had signed a multi-game partnership with Marvel, the first component of which will be a new Avengers project from Deus Ex developer Eidos Montreal. This was soon after followed by a report suggesting that the Deus Ex series had been "placed on hiatus." However, Square Enix recently denied this is the case, saying that although no new Deus Ex games are in development, it's simply a matter of resources.
February: Xbox Game Pass Announced
The concept of a Netflix for games has been around for years, dating back to services like GameTap and, more recently, PlayStation Now. In February, Microsoft announced that it planned to take a stab at it, offering an Xbox One subscription service called Game Pass that allows users to play full games as much as they want for a monthly fee. Unlike Netflix or PlayStation Now, these games are downloaded, rather than streamed. Game Pass features a library of more than 100 games across Xbox One and Xbox 360. The system launched toward the end of spring and continues to see new games released every month. Microsoft has suggested the service could help support the development of original games, but whether that will ultimately happen remains to be seen.
February: Other Big Stories
For the first time in its history, the Entertainment Software Association announced that 2017's E3 would open its doors to the public in June. 15,000 tickets were sold in February, allowing people to attend what was otherwise an event limited to media and developers. (It was crowded.)
February also marked a new high point for Bethesda, as the developer revealed that Fallout 4 had surpassed Skyrim to become its "most successful" game ever. According to the developer, it outsold Skyrim during comparable periods of time, which is quite the feat.
March: Nintendo Switch Has A Big Launch
There's always going to be a userbase for any new video game console from one of the major companies. New Nintendo hardware doesn't come along all that often, especially one with such a unique conceit: the Switch doubles as both a home console and a portable. That helped the system to set the record for Nintendo's fastest-selling console ever in numerous regions around the world, including the Americas, Europe, and Australia. The success has continued throughout the year, and Switch remains a hot-seller as we approach the end of 2017.
March: Other Big Stories
Switch's success in March came despite numerous reports about issues with the system's Joy-Con controllers. Specifically, the left Joy-Con would sometimes lose sync with the system when used wirelessly. DIY solutions emerged, and eventually Nintendo acknowledged the problems and offered to fix them for free, albeit while attempting to downplay how severe or widespread the problems were.
April: Ignoring Demand, Nintendo Discontinues The NES Classic Edition
Despite proving to be phenomenally popular, Nintendo made the head-scratching decision in April to discontinue the NES Classic Edition. The surprise news came with no accompanying explanation, just the announcement that product shipments in April would be the final ones. This proved to be frustrating to many, given the difficulties in obtaining one (dating back to launch in November 2016, when resellers caused prices to skyrocket on Ebay). It's also likely a major reason that the SNES Classic Edition has been so difficult to obtain since its launch. However, there is some good news on the horizon; along with extending availability of the SNES Classic, Nintendo will bring back the NES Classic Edition in 2018.
April: Other Big Stories
Nintendo showed that it wasn't ready to let the 3DS's lunch be eaten entirely by Switch and announced yet another revision of its dedicated portable hardware. Intended to serve as a sort of middle ground between the existing 2DS and the more premium New 3DS XL, the New 2DS XL does away with 3D functionality but offers the enhanced hardware of the New 3DS and New 3DS XL. This allows it to play both SNES Virtual Console games and New 3DS-only games, such as Xenoblade Chronicles.
As successful as Switch was in its first weeks on the market, launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did even better in terms of sales. Settings aside sales of the Wii U version, Breath of the Wild for Switch sold 2.76 million copies in March worldwide--topping the 2.74 million Switch units sold during the same period.
May: Mass Effect Goes On Hiatus
Mass Effect: Andromeda was not the success that was expected from a new Mass Effect RPG. The critical response was middling, and there were numerous complaints about technical issues--particularly relating to facial animations. While improvements were made across a series of updates and EA said it has "strong" expectations for the brand in the future, a report emerged that Mass Effect had been put on hiatus. Members of developer BioWare Montreal were said to be reassigned to EA's Motive Studios and other projects, and later in the year, we learned officially that BioWare Montreal would be absorbed into Motive.
May: Other Big Stories
BioWare Montreal wasn't the only developer facing turmoil in May, as we learned that Hitman developer Io Interactive had been put up for sale by Square Enix. Things looked potentially troublesome for both Io and its signature game series, but the studio subsequently went independent--with the rights to Hitman in tow--and, more recently, a new Hitman game and TV show were announced.
In May, we also learned that one of 2017's biggest games would become one of 2018's biggest. Red Dead Redemption 2 was delayed until Spring 2018, with a release coming no sooner than April 1. We still don't have a date, though Rockstar has shared a select few screenshots and a trailer to give us some sense of what to expect.
June: Project Scorpio Finally Revealed As Xbox One X
We had known about the Xbox One X for quite a while prior to its official reveal at E3 2017 in June, but only as Project Scorpio. Microsoft used a good portion of its media briefing to tout the power and benefits of its new system, which is positioned as an optional upgrade over the Xbox One S, rather than the start of a new generation of systems. It plays the same games, but with various improvements to visuals, performance, and loading times. The event also brought word on two other key details: It would launch on November 7, and with a price of $500. That was the same ill-advised price point as the original Xbox One, which came bundled with Kinect. With Xbox One X, Microsoft knew it was targeting a niche audience, even admitting that Xbox One S would continue to be its best-selling console.
June: Other Big Stories
E3 featured far more news than just Xbox One X reveals. A huge list of games were announced, some with very little information: There was BioWare's Anthem, Assassin's Creed Origins, Metroid Prime 4, a new Pokemon RPG for Switch, Skyrim VR, Metro Exodus, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Forza Motorsport 7, and Monster Hunter World, among many others. A few of these, including Skyrim VR, Origins, and Forza are already out, with at least two more coming soon. Others, like Metroid Prime 4, are still a year or more away.
Another hot topic at E3 was cross-play, as we learned that Rocket League was coming to Switch and would support cross-play with the Xbox One and PC versions. Sony, meanwhile, continued to resist calls for it to allow multiplayer support with its console rivals. The company did address the issue, but only to provide answers like, "Unfortunately, it's a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders," and, "We've got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft--the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it's all ages but it's also very young."
Meanwhile, Rockstar faced a hairy situation as it angered fans with its approach to Grand Theft Auto V mods on PC. It forced the legal shutdown of OpenIV, a tool that powered many of the game's mods, although it ultimately relented and allowed OpenIV to come back online--albeit with some changes seemingly designed to mitigate hacking in GTA Online.
July: Pokemon Go Continues To Expand
One of the biggest games in recent years, Pokemon Go, continued to grow in meaningful ways in 2017. Perhaps the biggest addition came in July, when developer Niantic introduced Legendary Pokemon--and along with them, Raid Battles. These provided a type of activity that gathers players together and offers a cooperative form of gameplay that had not been present previously.
July: Other Big Stories
Our first solid indication that the SNES Classic would be hard to obtain came in July, when Walmart took its pre-orders live and they rapidly sold out. Frustratingly, for those who did secure a pre-order, this turned out to be an error, with all orders being canceled.
Nintendo was far from the first to offer a classic micro console, but the success of the NES Classic demonstrated the potential there. Perhaps on the back of that, we saw Atari announce that it will deliver a new console that offers both "current" and "classic" gaming content.
August: PUBG Becomes Steam's Biggest Game
It's not uncommon to see a new game take Steam by storm, rising up the sales and player count charts. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds may have initially looked like such a game, making a strong run during its first few months of Early Access. But if there was any doubt about the heights it would reach or its long-term popularity, August wiped them away. PUBG surpassed Dota 2--which had long been Steam's most-played game--for the first time in terms of peak player count. In September, it would go on to break Steam's all-time record, set by Dota 2 in 2016, and as of this writing, it continues to dominate the No. 1 spot. With an Xbox One release coming soon and mobile versions in development, PUBG's explosive popularity is likely to only rise from here.
August: Other Big Stories
Just weeks before NBA 2K18's release, 2K was faced with an unusual situation. Its cover star, Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was now Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics. The star point guard requested a trade from the team that had drafted him--and given the timing of the trade that ensued, this meant 2K18 would have to ship with Irving in the wrong jersey on the cover. 2K would subsequently release an updated cover.
August also brought a delay for maybe the biggest first-party game of the fall from Microsoft, Crackdown 3. While notable in its own right, more striking was Microsoft's frank admission that it has "made the mistake of announcing some exclusives a little bit too early"--something that's certainly the case with Crackdown 3, which we first heard about way back in 2014.
September: Fortnite Releases Its Own PUBG Mode
In and of itself, the release of Fortnite's free-to-play Battle Royale mode, which draws more than a little inspiration from PUBG, is not a huge deal. When PUBG's developer publicly expressed its displeasure with this, we did get a glimpse at a potential lawsuit, albeit one that's unlikely to ever make it to court. But more importantly, it signaled what's likely to be the next major trend in gaming: PUBG-inspired Battle Royale games. Much as we saw countless games adopt Minecraft's basic gameplay mechanics and visual style, we've begun seeing more developers move toward attempting to capitalize on PUBG's popularity. Fortnite is the biggest example of this so far, but it certainly won't be the last.
September: Other Big Stories
September marked the release of Nintendo's second big classic micro console, the SNES Classic Edition. Despite the company's insistence that there will eventually be enough to go around, demand has far outpaced supply and led to inflated prices on the secondhand market. It's easy to understand why, with the system boasting an extremely impressive roster of games.
The SNES Classic launch was preceded by news that the system will continue to be available in 2018, despite earlier plans to only offer it until the end of 2017.
September: Biggest Games
October: Visceral Studios Shut Down As Its Star Wars Game Is Rebooted
EA has a variety of Star Wars projects in the works, and among them was a single-player game from Visceral Studios, the developer best known for Dead Space. October brought word that Visceral, which was founded as EA Redwood Shores back in 1998, would be shut down completely. Additionally, its Star Wars game is being at least partially scrapped; EA said it was "shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game," but it would now seek to deliver "an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come." This sparked concerns about the future of triple-A single-player games, though EA has said (and a subsequent report reiterated) that the decision was driven by the game's quality. However, EA does believe people don't care for linear games as much as they did in the past.
October: Other Big Stories
October marked the year's biggest month for game releases, but it wasn't just new titles launching. We got a revamped version of PlayStation VR that makes some small improvements (without making any changes to the core experience); PS4's big system 5.0 system update was released, and Xbox One got its major fall update.
In the latest sign of Switch's sales success, Nintendo revealed its latest sales projections for the current fiscal year, which runs through March 2018. If those are met, they will mean Switch will have eclipsed Wii U's lifetime sales in just its first 13 months.
October also brought the Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta. Although there were no microtransactions available, it provided players with their best glimpse yet at how progression would work, which would prove to be a major subject in November.
October: Biggest Games
November: Star Wars Battlefront 2 Microtransactions Spark A Firestorm
Microtransactions and loot boxes are nothing new, but the specific implementation in Star Wars Battlefront II proved to be too much for many fans. The game was set to allow real-money purchases of loot crates, which can provide players with in-game boosts--ones that in some cases provide additional health or damage, not simple weapon alternatives. EA and developer DICE made changes prior to release, but the biggest came just hours before launch. In the face of extreme anger from fans, EA temporarily pulled microtransactions altogether. And although microtransactions will return, they may come in a much different form. The move may have been motivated at least in part by pressure from Lucasfilm and Disney, which were reportedly less than pleased with the negative press surrounding their brand.
This situation extends beyond the last-minute removal of microtransactions from a game, as surprising as that was. We've seen politicians around the world who are suddenly concerned about the idea that loot boxes are gambling, and the potential for legislation is now on the table. Whether that happens or the industry decides to regulate itself remains to be seen, but the outrage around Battlefront II has seemingly proved to be an inflection point for video games.
November: Other Big Stories
Xbox One X, the most powerful console ever, was released in early November. It provides a way to play enhanced versions of games that are otherwise still playable on the standard version of the console. It does succeed in doing so, though how large the audience is for a 4K-capable system like this remains to be seen.
Blizzard had a variety of announcements to make as part of BlizzCon, but the biggest may have centered around addressing a years-old request: a way to play vanilla World of Warcraft. We still have few details about WoW Classic, but Blizzard confirmed it is working on a way for players to enjoy a version of WoW before the release of its many expansion packs.