While the vast majority of our Game of the Year awards are all about positivity and highlighting the best parts of the gaming world, time and again there are things that don’t live up to expectations or actions by companies that leave gamers dismayed.
As you’d expect from 2020, there’s more than a few examples to choose from, but in truth, there was only ever going to be one “winner” of this category.
It’s difficult to know where to start with Ubisoft. Things didn’t look so rosy coming into 2020, as the difficult release of Ghost Recon Breakpoint at the end of 2019 forced them to delay pretty much their entire slate of games, but they turned that around and arguably ended the year on a high. The popularity of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the appeal of Immortals Fenyx Rising and the offbeat systemic play of Watch Dogs Legion, all coming out within a matter of weeks has turned their gaming fortunes around.
That’s not the story that defined their 2020, though. Things took a darker turn in the summer when allegations of sexual harassment, racism, and homophobia surfaced at Ubisoft, going from a trickle to a flood as more and more former and current staff stepped forward to detail their horrendous experiences at the publisher. The company implemented an anonymous alert system, but all that served was to highlight how badly HR had failed in protecting employees and the rampant misconduct through the editorial team. Senior staff at the publisher have since been removed, including Tommy François, Ashraf Ismail, Maxime Béland, and Serge Hascoët.
Oh, and then they released Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad with the Black Lives Matter logo used to represent Umbra, the bad guys in the game. The game was created by Ubisoft Owlient, managed by Charlie Guillemot (CEO Yves Guillemot’s son), who graduated university in 2014 and became the studio manager in the same year.
Though the company has made a number of public moves to right the ship, there’s still serious questions about the company’s leadership going forward. Yves Guillemot has pledged to do better in future, but his son’s promotion smacks of nepotism, and it feels unbelievable that he was completely unaware of the actions of those in his inner circle at the top of the company.
Still, the good news is that they have taken steps, adding new roles to promote diversity at the company. There’s also the simple fact that a spotlight has been thrown on the issue, and it’s more likely that issues such as these will be highlighted in future.
Runner Up – Cyberpunk 2077
After years of pent up anticipation and hype, Cyberpunk 2077’s launch was a bit of a calamity. Sure, Cyberpunk 2077 has sold over 13 million copies, and came with glowing reviews (to start with) but at what cost did managing to sneak the game out before Christmas come?
Well, at the cost of console gamers, for one thing. With no pre-release reveal of the base console versions and no advance reviews on console, buyers were left with a nasty surprise of the base PS4 and Xbox One. This coming after CDPR’s Adam Kiciński talking about console performance shortly before launch, saying:
PS5 is great. PS4 is still very good. I mean, we had those extra three weeks and we achieved a lot by – within this final stretch. So, we believe that the game is performing great on every platform.
Complete and utter bobbins as it turned out.
While the game performs better on next-gen platforms and can look the business on PC, in general was still just buggy on all platforms, with very, very memeable visual glitches, game crashes, and a general feeling that this game really needed to be pushed back further.
So, in a way, it has been. Sony decided to simply delist Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store and offer blanket refunds to anyone that bought it after CDPR said refunds were an option. While Microsoft are still selling the game, they have added a warning about performance to the store page and will offer full refunds until further notice.
Oh, and now they’re being sued for misleading investors.
Runner Up – PlayStation 5 pre-orders & deliveries
2020 was a difficult year for those seeking to purchase the latest high-end tech, but those eager to snap up a PlayStation 5 pre-order were met with an even more desperate and chaotic scramble than was expected. It certainly didn’t help that some retailers seemed to push pre-orders live early, but Sony absolutely had a hand in this, having previously said that everyone would have plenty of advance warning, only to then announce pre-orders less than 24 hours ahead of time, whipping everyone up in a frenzy as they were desperate not to miss out.
Yes, there were limited supplies and websites crumbling at the sight of the expectant hordes of gamers across the board, whether it was for the latest Nvidia graphics cards, AMD’s new CPUs, or the Xbox Series X|S, but at the very least everyone got to line up at the same time, as opposed to having no idea when or where to try and look for one.
Of course, then there were scalpers and bots to contend with, not to mention the shambles of actually getting those consoles delivered, with far too many reports of Amazon delivery drivers and warehouse staff half-inching consoles and either simply marking them as delivered or replacing them with all manner of weird things like cat food, grills and more.
Through all of this, it feels amazing that anyone actually managed to get a games console at all, and yet there are millions of them out and about in the wild, whether they’ve been enjoyed since mid-November or having unwrapped one under a Christmas tree.
(Dis)honourable mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Project CARS 3
- Warcraft III: Reforged
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list!
- Best PlayStation Game
- Best Xbox Game
- Best Nintendo Switch Game
- Best VR Game
- Best PC Game
- Best Single Player Game
- Best Narrative
- Best Gameplay
- Best Independent Game
- Best Visual Design
- Best Original Soundtrack
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Remaster/Remake
With that out of the way as a kind of palette cleanser from all the positivity, come back tomorrow when we’ll reveal our overall Game of the Year 2020!