There's no such thing as a quiet year for gaming, and 2014 has certainly been a noisy one. It's been a year very much focused on the PS4 and Xbox One finding their feet, but the two titans haven't totally hogged the limelight. We've seen virtual reality continue to burgeon, we've witnessed free-to-play open up some interesting discussions about in-app payments, and we played Rambo: The Video Game. The less said about that last one, the better.
Let's kick off with the big one. Thanks to the birth of Oculus Rift and the subsequent arrival of competitors, virtual reality is set to go big. Really big.
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We hoped 2014 would bring a consumer launch for the Oculus Rift, and indeed Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey told TechRadar last year that we were months, not years away, at the time. But here we are, one year later, Oculus is now owned by Facebook and the Metaverse is still a fantasy.
But we're close. In fact, our own sources have told us that Oculus is planning a limited rollout by Summer 2015. As for Project Morpheus, Sony recently hinted that we're some time away from a consumer-ready product, but we have hope that we'll see it before 2015 is over. Then we have Samsung's Gear VR and an endless raft of other headsets on the horizon, all of which will be helping to take virtual reality from a niche concept into the mainstream.
Exclusive power plays
In this tit-for-tat console war between the Xbox One and PS4, exclusive deals are going to become the key differentiator between two otherwise quite similar consoles. The first shot was fired by Microsoft at E3, where it announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be an Xbox One exclusive.
But Sony hit back hard later, securing Street Fighter 5 as a PS4-only title (though it'll be on PC too). It's safe to say we can expect to see a lot more of these power moves, not just securing new IPs but taking exclusive control of existing franchises.
It's been no surprise to see the gap between phones/tablets and consoles shrink ever smaller in 2014, and 2015 will only see that trend accelerate. In fact, 2015 could be the year that mobile finally catches up. Unity 5 is already putting console-grade graphics into the hands of developers, all that's needed is the power to back it.
And it's not just about power. In 2015, mobile gaming is expected to overtake consoles in terms of revenue. The 3DS and PS Vita have some strong libraries, but the relevance of the dedicated handheld is waning. All hail our mobile overlords.
PC takes back the power
We've got two words for you: Steam Machines. Valve's living room consoles have been a long time coming, but we can almost taste them. Valve recently told TechRadar that it won't have a presence at CES 2015 but it will be bringing Steam Machines to GDC 2015. We expect this is when Valve will reveal the updated lineup of manufacturers offering machines, as well as its consumer-ready Steam OS.
Just imagine it: Gabe Newell takes to the stage, the crowd falls silent. He doesn't say a single word, he just rips off a black tablecloth to reveal a line of Steam Machines. He then opens his mouth and simply says: "Half-Life 3. Portal 3. Left 4 Dead 3. All available on Steam OS right now. I am your saviour." The crowd goes wild, we quit our jobs to play them all non-stop. Life is glorious once again.
Nintendo strikes back
We all know that Mario has had a tough time since the launch of the Wii U, but everyone's favourite Italian plumber is clawing his way back to the top. Since Nintendo's well-received E3 show, the company has been hitting the headlines for many more successes. We've had Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros, and then there's Amiibo.
Predictions are that the the figures will rake in millions of dollars for the Japan-based company, hopefully making up for some of the ground lost with the Wii U. And then there's Zelda Wii U, which may be our most anticipated game for next year. And did we mention Star Fox?