I hate awards shows. I know this may seem a bit ironic coming from a guy who prominently displays a “promising star” NBI award in his side panel. But I guess I consider a community/peer award a little bit different than the glitzed up, overdone, pretentious presentations that have become associated with most major awards shows. I’m especially skeptical of awards voted on by critics, industry experts, journalists, or any other tiny subset of the actual consumers or fans of the products. The whole formula seems like a petri dish for moral ambiguity considering the advertising boost received by the nominees.
Thus, last night, another awards show passed without my realizing it until after the fact: The DICE awards. I didn’t even know what the DICE awards were until I started researching them this morning. DICE stands for “Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain” and the awards are chosen and presented by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS). The one cool thing about the DICE awards is that they’re focused on video games, and have multiple award categories.
Alright, so we’ve already established my distrust and indifference to most of these types of awards. The only reason that I was even aware of this particular show was because upon their conclusion, I found my Twitter timeline cluttered with incessant whining about the winner of the “Game of the Year” category, which also happens to the game with which I’m currently enamored, Fallout 4. Most of those complaining felt that The Witcher 3 was more deserving of the crown. While I can’t comment on the quality of that title, I do feel that Fallout 4 is the best game I’ve played this year, so I tend to agree with the choice.
The point of this post is not to argue that specific trophy. What I’d rather do is look at the larger picture of both the award winners and nominees, because I think that’s probably a better holistic gauge of the games industry than focusing solely on the winner of a single category. For example, let’s look at the nominees for Game of the Year: Bloodborne, Fallout 4, Ori and the Blind Forest, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Witcher 3. Of these, I’ve only played Fallout 4 but have heard good word of mouth about Tomb Raider, Witcher 3, and Ori. I haven’t heard much about the action RPG Bloodborne, but that may say more about me and my crowd than the game, itself. In all, this seems like a pretty solid list.
But let’s take a step back and look at the games that aren’t on this list, nor in any of the other categories: MMO’s. I know, MMO’s is a very difficult category to define, but I’m talking about your classic large role playing multiplayer with combat, crafting, housing…the whole shebang. According to the Wikipedia page, there used to be a dedicated DICE award just for MMO’s. The winners during those years were the games you would expect: World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Everquest, The Sims Online…wait, what? But at some point along the line, the MMO category was combined with single player RPG’s, and nary an MMO has seen a win since that time. That’s right, since 2009, single-player games have won the RPG/MMO category every single year, including this year! If the removal of the category wasn’t an indication of the future of this genre, than perhaps this statistic is.
In glancing down the list of nominees for the various categories, I’ve got to say that I’m somewhat encouraged. Large, rich, story-driven RPG’s like Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 are represented, but so are such creative endeavors as Life is Strange, Her Story, and even the occasional guilty pleasure like Star Wars Battlefront. I’m glad to see no MOBA’s (except Blizzard’s, I guess) and, apart from the specific category, no mobile games. If this list of games is an indication of the styles and genres we’re going to see for the next several years, I think we’re headed in the right direction.
But let’s take a step back even further, because these awards don’t really carry any weight beyond bragging rights for fans and an extra promotional banner for the studio. As I mentioned before, The Sims Online was once an award winner, and look how that turned out! The real indicator of success for any game continues to be revenue generation (more specifically, net profit, but we as casual consumers don’t always have access to that type of information). In all, the top grossing video games of 2015 were Black Ops 3, Madden 16, Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront, and Grand Theft Auto V. Two shooters, two RPG’s and a sports game. To be honest, I’m ok with this list, too, because If the $100 million grossed by Witcher 3 and $750 million (can that number be right??) by Fallout 4 are any indication, we should be seeing more high-quality, in-depth, open-world RPG’s in the pipeline, and that’s something that I, for one, am looking forward to.