Looking at next-gen: The good and bad of VGX

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This year’s edition of the Video Game Awards is now just over a week old, yet has already accumulated an impressive backlog of criticism. Anyone who caught a fragment of the show—or somehow endured the entire livestream—can say how forced and unprofessional VGX came off, and every gamer can attest to how underwhelming the show’s heavily hyped announcements proved to be. However, in delivering what is arguably the opposite of what gamers want out of a game awards series, VGX has in fact highlighted exactly what the show needs.

From a strict viewership standpoint, VGX was an absolute trainwreck. The hosts were incredibly awkward throughout—almost intentionally so; the lack of an audience rendered the actual rewarding downright cricket worthy; music choice was disjunctive and inappropriate to say the least—the list goes on. There is a clear need for improvement in how the awards present themselves, but, luckily, someone passionate like Geoff Keighley is at the helm, so there’s little doubt that changes will be made.

However, it wasn’t all bad. The livestream format is a clear winner, as it’s the format in which most gamers “attend” events as it is, and cheaper than standard broadcast to boot. Looking at patchwork, answers are similarly obvious, though no doubt difficult to suss out in practice. It’s a game awards show. Get gamers involved. No amount of bargain-bin celebrities can amount to the genuine enthusiasm that a presentation gains when relevant personalities—in this case, people who care about the games they’re talking about—are doing the presenting. Oh, and spice up the award categories and select credible contenders (e.g.: not including multiplats in the category of “Best PlayStation Title”).

Similarly (and equally ironically), in revealing so little content, it’s set a high bar for impending next-gen announcements. Although No Man’s Sky stole the show (and everything else that wasn’t nailed down while it was at it), there was little in the way of new titles to be had at VGX. Cranky Kong is as exciting as any other obligatory and rehashed Nintendo game (though moderately more tempting given the quality of Super Mario 3D World), and the remaining majority of the show was primarily filled with unsatisfying trailers and teasers for games that were announced at E3 or earlier.

No Man's Sky

But the next-gen launch period hasn’t gone anywhere, and it’s safe to assume that we’ll be hearing more from big-boy developers in the coming months. But that’s an obvious assumption; of course we’ll hear about next-gen projects from the studios that have yet to flaunt new IP. However, the big red flag of VGX went up in the non-triple-A sector, where many of today’s gaming gems are coming from. That a heretofore unseen title like No Man’s Sky was able to win instant adoration at a smaller presentation like VGA is exciting to say the least, as it cements the indie scene as a competitive force in the next-gen race—just in case the massive indie lineup hasn’t done that for you already. 

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Austin Wood
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