The 10 Biggest and Most Controversial Gaming News Stories of 2016

2016 has been a controversial year to say the least. In the real world it’s often felt like planet Earth is approaching its final season, with so much chaos being caused over the course of the past 365 days that even modern TV writers would write off such a script as being far too unrealistic. But even for those who’ve wanted to seek some peace in the form of video games, rarely has a month gone by in which the industry hasn’t been beleaguered by controversy.

With that being said, we’ve compiled a countdown of the top 10 biggest and/or most controversial gaming news stories of 2016. Though many of these are stories we’d rather forget as the year draws to a close, each has proven to be a major talking point in the gaming industry and the community surrounding, for better and for worse. Take a look below:

 

10. Watch Dogs 2‘s genitals

One of the most recent and hilarious controversies to befall video games was in Watch Dogs 2, when it was discovered by a player that certain NPCs had been designed without underwear and with fully rendered vaginas. The player then shared their discovered via PSN, with Sony banning them from the service as a result.

As Watch Dog’s 2 went to launch a few days later it was discovered that there were far more examples of nudity in the game, both male and female, and the bans introduced by Sony in order to prevent people from sharing this content resulted in Ubisoft eventually “covering up” their NPCs. “While Watch Dogs 2 is a mature-rated game, we apologize and will update this NPC model to make it more consistent with other NPC models in the game in a patch to be released this week,” the published said in a statement. “We also are working with our first-party partners to ensure that players can continue to play and share all content from the game within the bounds of the first parties’ respective codes of conduct.”

9. Bethesda’s new review policy

During the summer Bethesda released DOOM, though refused to send out review copies to outlets ahead of schedule. When the game was met with a positive reception, the publisher then used this example as an excuse to update its review policy, stating that it would no longer be sending out copies more than one day ahead of a game’s launch. Considering that most Bethesda games are lengthy RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, this effectively means that there will be very few reviews of Bethesda games available at release for consumers to read.

Bethesda claimed that the policy update was being rolled out in order to ensure that everyone plays its games at the same time, but in reality it provides absolutely no benefit to consumers, and is instead a very thinly veiled attempt on the company’s behalf to suppress potential negative critical opinions ahead of release. At this point Bethesda’s key franchises are so absurdly popular that they don’t need positive reviews in order to generate interest, so the publisher decided that risking negative reviews slipping through their fingers was too much of a risk to take, doing away with them altogether. Coincidentally, the game released by Bethesda almost immediately following this decision was Skyrim: Special Edition, which was criticized by PC players on its launch day for its performance issues and copious amounts of bugs. If only there were some way that consumers could have been notified by this problem ahead of the game’s launch…

 

8. Xbox One Scorpio reveal

The PS4 Pro and the Xbox One S are good consoles, but they’re hardly the “true 4K” gaming experiences we’re looking for. With them both more capable of displaying games in upscaled 4K rather than native 4K, it’s the Xbox One Scorpio that is the most exciting prospect for 4K TV owners, with it being announced during this year’s E3 2016 expo.

The upcoming console closed out Microsoft’s E3 presentation, and while the company didn’t offer very many specifics regarding what we should expect from it, it did mention that it will bring about the Xbox brand’s first foray into virtual reality along with native 4K games. With so many predicting that, due to Microsoft’s partnership with Oculus, the Scorpio’s VR headset could well be a modified version of the Oculus Rift, it’s certainly the 4K console to watch out for even if we don’t know an awful lot about it right now.

 

7. Tracer’s pose

Arguably the most absurd controversy of the year, the amount of vitriol directed towards Blizzard as a result of this minor change was astounding. Prior to Overwatch‘s release, a comment was posted on the game’s forums requesting that Blizzard remove a victory pose performed by the character Tracer. This comment suggested that Tracer’s pose, which sees her with her back to the camera, was overly sexualized and didn’t sit well with the character.

“What about this pose has anything to do with the character you’re building in Tracer?” the comment read, adding: “It’s not fun, its not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces Tracer to another bland female sex symbol.” Overwatch‘s game director Jeff Kaplan replied to the comment, writing: “We’ll replace the pose. We want *everyone* to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented. Apologies and we’ll continue to try to do better.”

Despite this being an amicable conversation between developer and player, it resulted in the anti-“censorship” brigade surging forward with enthusiasm, once again accusing vaguely outlined liberals of censoring their games and trying to shame developers into altering their content. In the end, what would have otherwise been a nice story of a multi-billion dollar company listening to the feedback of its players became an embarrassingly lengthy debate surrounding a game character’s ass cheeks.

 

6. Infinite Warfare‘s negative reception

While Battlefield 1’s trailer became the most liked video in YouTube’s history, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s debut trailer endured the opposite reaction. It currently sits at over 3 million dislikes on the site, and this widespread negativity carried over to its launch, with it garnering disappointing sales for publisher Activision.

The transition to space combat was bemoaned by CoD veterans who routinely requested “boots on the ground” gameplay, and the inclusion of CoD 4: Modern Warfare Remastered as part of a special edition at a very inflated price tag was also met with complaints. With many not liking the look of Infinite Warfare and wishing that Activision would simply sell Modern Warfare Remastered separately, in the end the latter game actually managed to top IW‘s number of players on Xbox Live, indicating that the series may need to take a break if it doesn’t want to risk stagnation. 2016 will go down as a big year for Call of Duty, but for all the wrong reasons.

 

5. Baldur’s Gate‘s depressing controversy

Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear released earlier this year to a positive critical reception, but soon its user reviews were flooded with negativity. Why? Because developer Beamdog introduced a transgender character into the game.

One of the NPCs you encounter in Siege of Dragonspear, Mizhena, offers you a bit of background info regarding her life when you ask into the origins of her unusual name. She reveals that after she was born, “my parents thought me a boy and raised me as such,” adding: “In time, we all came to understand I was truly a woman.” This short snippet of dialogue was enough to make the heads of the perennially outraged explode in unison, resulting in people protesting the only way they knew how — Metacritic user reviews and angry internet comments — before Beamdog altered the character’s dialogue and removed another jokey reference to GamerGate in an unfortunate turn of events. Unsurprisingly, those who bleated about the removal of Tracer’s butt pose didn’t consider this censorship.

You can take a look at some of the user reviews for the game below, though we should warn you that many of them are pretty disgusting and all are downright depressing:

4. Nintendo Switch reveal

Now for happier news, with the Nintendo Switch reveal being one of the gaming industry’s highlights of 2016 and pointing towards a hopeful new direction for Nintendo. With the Wii U having suffered from low sales, poor third-party support and a gimmick that failed to resonate with a wide audience, the Switch looks to improve upon its predecessor’s mistakes by offering a portable/home console hybrid with a touchscreen controller that is much more versatile than the Wii U’s GamePad.

With its debut trailer receiving plenty of praise, this early wave of positivity seems to suggest that the Switch will enjoy a much more successful launch than Nintendo’s last console, and that the company could well return to the good fortune they enjoyed with the Wii. Here’s hoping.

 

3. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gambling racket

Image Credit: YouTube / TmarTn

Back in July popular YouTubers Syndicate and TmarTn were revealed to be the owners behind a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gambling site, information that they withheld from their viewers while also posting videos of them winning money on said site. CSGOLotto.com had been featured on both YouTubers’ channels, with them uploading videos which saw them celebrating big wins without revealing that they were actually behind the creation of the site.

After they were outed, TmarTn in particular made many efforts to downplay the situation, skirting around delivering an actual apology in favor of apologizing to his fans for not being more clear with them, stating that it was “public info” that he was the vice-president of the company despite it quite clearly not being outlined sufficiently, and saying that everything should have basically been fine because the videos were listed as sponsored… even though the company “sponsoring” them was a company he owned. Needless to say their viewers were very angry about being duped, and Valve began a widespread crackdown on these gambling sites, bringing them out of the moral (and legal) gray area that they had previously existed in.

 

2. Pokemon Go‘s breakout success

We all expected Pokemon Go to attract a sizable audience, but no one quite anticipated just how much impact it would have. Despite having a multitude of problems that persisted long after its launch, the augmented reality game managed to embed itself in popular culture with unprecedented swiftness, leading to Nintendo’s stock value increasing dramatically and achieving $470 million in revenue in just 80 days.

Despite being a pretty simple game that was marred by a troubled launch along with frequent crashes and other such performance issues, the ability to be able to catch Pokemon in the real world (kinda) really struck a chord with players, and pretty soon everyone was glued to their smartphone even more so than usual, throwing down lures and desperately trying to evolve their Eevee into a Vaporeon. Such was the success of Pokemon Go that it even contributed to the increased sales of the latest entry in the 3DS series, Pokemon Sun and Moon, which sold more than any other 3DS game in the UK, and even eclipsed every Wii and original DS game, too. While Pokemon Go‘s launch undoubtedly caused no end of headaches for developer Niantic Labs, it went on to become not only the biggest mobile success of 2016, but one of the biggest successes in the entire gaming industry.

 

1. No Man’s Sky‘s launch

No Man’s Sky was so poorly received that even now, nearly 5 months after its launch, the game still boils the blood of those who were most looking forward to it. Promoted as a groundbreaking space exploration game in which the possibilities of its procedurally generated universe were nigh-on limitless, the game was widely touted as the most heavily anticipated new game of 2016, generating more excitement than AAA games such as Uncharted 4 and Final Fantasy XV. Considering it was the brainchild of the small UK studio Hello Games, whose previous work solely revolved around the Joe Danger series, and its pre-release material suggested that this would be one of the biggest underdog stories that the gaming industry had ever seen.

However, when the game released it became clear that it wasn’t what many were expecting, with it instead being a pretty simplistic little oddity that, far from granting players the unprecedented level of freedom they had expected, instead presented them with a very limited survival game that failed to deliver what had been advertised. Hello Games found themselves at the eye of a controversy storm as a result, with the developer maintaining a radio silence while they were accused of false advertising and lying to consumers. Though Hello Games released a big update in November that introduced base-building, new game modes and visual improvements among other things, No Man’s Sky will still go down as one of the most controversial launches in the history of the game industry. Despite being a major disappointment, at least it serves as a reminder that while overly hyperbolic pre-release hype may be beneficial in the short-term, in the long run it can leave everyone involved more than a little embarrassed.

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