2017 was an incredible year for games, especially console exclusives. Nintendo provided multiple game-of-the-year contenders with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario vs Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. PlayStation delivered some unbelievable new IP’s in Horizon: Zero Dawn, NieR: Automata, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. And Xbox One owners got to enjoy Cuphead… and not a lot else.

2018 is shaping up to be a fascinating year for the gaming industry. Each of the main players in the space have their own issues to address and questions to answer.

Can Sony continue their dominance in console sales? It was recently announced during an earnings call that the number of PS4’s sold has reached 76 million units… but sales are slowing down. What about PSVR? 2017 was the year many people predicted VR would explode into mainstream consciousness with multiple headsets available to consumers. PSVR. Although not unsuccessful (2 million units sold), PSVR failed to capture the public’s imagination. However, as developers are coming to grips with the technology, we are getting more and more refined experiences, and games to play- see Moss and Star Child below.

Microsoft’s Xbox did not exactly have a prolific 2017 in comparison to their rivals. This console generation has underlined the fact that they do not have as many first party studios as Sony, or as many beloved franchises as Nintendo. Will 2018 be any different? It looks promising, as they will start the year off with one of the most eagerly awaited exclusive games of 2018: Sea of Thieves.

Can the runaway success of the Nintendo Switch continue its momentum? An astonishing 15 million units of the hybrid console/handheld system have been sold, as we approach the one year mark of its release. This was on the back of some incredible games – new entries into the Zelda and Mario franchises were always going to create sales. But, what now? There may be more 3rd party support for the Switch, but the first party line-up is looking a bit slim so far. And will we ever see Virtual Console?

Now that 2018 is well underway, these are some of the games with release dates (or windows) that console owners should be looking forward to playing on their chosen platform in 2018.

Sea of Thieves- Xbox One, March 20th 

Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer adventure- game from celebrated developer, Rare. Set in a shared world with a cartoonish, vibrant art-style that looks absolutely charming, players will be able to crew as a team or go solo to complete quests, find treasure, drink grog, play music, plunder bounty, and navigate the oceans.

Anyone who has had the chance to play the game at preview events has been overwhelmingly positive about the experience, and Sea of Thieves could be one of the must-play multiplayer games of the year. It’s definitely an ambitious undertaking. For a while it was unclear how the gameplay would be structured, but recently more details have emerged about how to initiate quests (which are offered by three different factions), and how the challenges will scale in difficulty as your character ranks up.

Sea of Thieves will set sail on March 20th. If the game manages to capture the freedom of an open-world sandbox, and combine it with a rewarding gameplay loop that is as fun to play online as it looks, this could be a big system seller for Microsoft.

Project Octopath Traveler- Switch, TBC

Despite the strange name (which is a working-title apparently), this Square Enix developed 2.5D adventure should feel instantly familiar to old-school JRPG fans. Turn-based attacks, elemental effects, multiple weapons and abilities for each party member are the hallmarks of a genre that should suit the Switch’s portability perfectly. There will be eight different characters to choose from at the start, all featuring branching story paths (hence OCTO-PATH), so that should add some replay-ability to the game. The demo is available on the Nintendo eShop, and gives you a surprisingly huge chunk of game to experience. Even better, Square Enix seem to be listening to feedback on the demo, and have addressed many issues that players have raised. With the Switch’s exclusive games looking a bit thin so far, Project Octopath Traveler could shine.

Moss- PSVR, February 27th

Polyarc Games is made up of former Bungie devs (Destiny, Halo) who have founded their own studio, and their first major release will be the upcoming Moss, on PSVR, which was announced during Sony’s E3 2017 press conference. On the outside it’s a cute looking puzzle-adventure game with an adorable mouse called Quill as the main protagonist. But under the surface lies an interesting relationship between the player and Quill; she is aware that you are there in a unique, 4th-wall-breaking kind of way, and you work together to explore ruins and solve puzzles. This interaction combined with smart game-design (the camera point is fixed in each level, eliminating the chance of any motion sickness) should be able to further immerse the player into this charming-looking fairy-tale.

Crackdown 3- Xbox One, Spring 2018

Another long awaited Microsoft exclusive, Crackdown 3 has already been delayed multiple times. Following on from Crackdown 2, the player will once again embody a super-powered Agent of Justice to fight crime and cause general devastation in a futuristic cityscape. It has long been rumoured that Microsoft is experimenting with cloud computing to build a fully destructible sandbox for players to cause chaos in, either alone or with friends online. According to a recent listing from Amazon Spain, one potential release date is June 29th, although the official word from Microsoft is still “Spring 2018”.

If the game does release this year, it’ll have been four years since it was announced at E3 2014, and fans of the first two games will be eager to see what the power of Xbox One X could do to enhance a franchise like Crackdown.

Spider-Man – PS4, TBC

Marvel and Sony partnering-up to bring a AAA Spider-Man game to the PS4 is reason enough to be excited, but the fact that Insomniac Games will be the developer making the game is the real jewel in the crown here. The initial trailer we saw at E3 2016 showed off beautiful graphics and an open-world New York City to swing around and explore. This was further reinforced by an excellent game-play trailer one year later, showcasing the fluid movement and combat skills that we would hope when playing as the web-slinger. Insomniac Games will be able to draw upon their experiences with the excellent Sunset Overdrive and the recent Ratchet and Clank to bring Spider-man to life. Throw in the tantalising detail that Mary-Jane is a playable character (likely for “detective-like” segments), and this has the potential to be the best superhero video-game ever made.

The Last Night- Xbox One, TBC

The Last Night popped up during Microsoft’s E3 presentation in 2017, and immediately stood out for its distinctive pixelated 2D graphics laid on top of 3D backgrounds of a neon-lit, cyberpunk world. It looks visually stunning. The story is equally appealing: in a future where automated machines have taken over all labour-centric jobs, you play as Charlie, a man living on the edges of society as he is unable to get the necessary AI augmentations that everyone else has. Developer Odd Tales has described the game as a “cinematic platformer” that will have a cast of complex characters and branching decisions. I cannot wait to explore this Blade Runner-esque world in all its pixelated glory.

Dreams- PS4, TBC

Dreams is a hard game to describe. It’s an interactive experience that gives the player the tools to create, share, and play various standalone dream-like segments with a vibrant, artistic style. And these segments can literally be about anything. That level may involve platforming through clouds, starring in a film-noir, interacting with animals you’ve designed… the idea is that whatever you can imagine, you can create in Dreams. The scope of possibility is astounding.

Once your creation is finished, it can be uploaded for other players to experience. For the totally un-imaginative folk (like me), you can simply enjoy other people’s worlds and dreams if you so choose.

It’s the kind of unique thinking that one would expect from studio Media Molecule, the creators of LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. Much like LittleBigPlanet, the studio is counting on users building a community around the game and creating content that can be shared and used by all. It will have PlayStation VR support, so prepare to explore you dreams (or nightmares) in full virtual reality.  This may be the most ambitious game ever made. We know it’s coming in 2018, but no concrete release date yet.

God of War- PS4, April 20th

Kratos is back! But this is a different, less shouty Kratos… or so it seems. Although God of War: Ascension (2013) was by no means a bad game, the general consensus was that the franchise needed some innovation. Developer Santa Monica Studio has shifted the narrative to the brand new setting of Norse mythology, and have by all accounts re-focused the tone of the game. Of course, there will still be brutal combat sequences and colossal boss-battles to look forward to, but expect a more nuanced story about the relationship between a man and his son. This is not the only difference though, and it seems like the gameplay has been given some more depth, and will feature more extensive RPG elements.

Fun and fluid combat mechanics have always been a strong point of the God of War series, and if Santa Monica Studio can combine this with a more thoughtful story and main character, it will be a triumphant return for Kratos.

Star Child- PSVR, TBC

This PSVR game might be very influential on the development cycle of a lot of future VR games if successful. Developer Playful Corp. have made a 2.5D side scrolling platformer/puzzle game… Not the typical genre you first think of when someone mentions Virtual Reality. But according to anyone lucky enough to play the demo, it works.

The player will control a character called Spectra as she attempts a mission on an alien world. She eventually get the ability to manipulate the environment around her, and players will have to progress by examining the levels like they are 3D models, which seems a perfect fit for the technology.

Nintendo Labo- Switch, April 20th

Not really an exclusive “game”, but Nintendo Labo is incoming in just over a month. While this won’t appeal to all Switch owners, it will be interesting to see how this interactive cardboard building set is received, and if successful, what it would mean for the future of Nintendo. The first two Labo sets (“Variety Kit” and “Robo Kit”) are out on April 20th.

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