2017 – A Year of the Aussies Dominance
Is 2017 the greatest year in Aussie Games Development History. It’s a hard contention to argue against.
Australia has enjoyed a great number of successes in the games industry over the years. Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was among one of our higher profile titles, 2K Australia has had its fingers in pies of Bioshock 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and of course we’ve also seen really poor attempts at replicating our great sports, AFL, NRL and Cricket. While large, international studios have had the financial backing to develop projects that cost up to hundreds of millions of dollars to create, that is something that as of 2017 has not been feasible in Australia. The lack of funding and support has consequently meant that attempts to replicate a AAA style experience on the budget typically afforded to Australian developers have typically fallen flat.
In recent years, as App Stores proliferated and systems such as Steam, PSN and the Xbox Live Arcade become increasingly prominent, opportunities have arisen for a wide range of independent studios; the fruit of their labour is the likes of Assault Android Cactus, Party Golf, Fruit Ninja and Pacman 256. Many Independent Developer hubs have been set up, with Melbourne’s own ‘The Arcade’ being chief among them, and these have provided developers from a whole host of different studios to work in a supportive space, with like-minded individuals and make their dream projects into reality.
Flash forward to 2017, and while not an enormous amount has changed to the established system, this year may be looked upon as a year where finally the rest of the world stood up and paid attention to what Australia was bringing to the gaming table. Last year our very own Matt Hewson highlighted the incredible improvements to the cricketing formula that were made in Don Bradman Cricket 17, but those improvements have been further refined, polished, and made more accessible to gamers in the most recent cricketing release Ashes Cricket. Earlier this year I applauded some of the improvements made to the representation of AFL in video games in my review of AFL Evolution, noting that while there was much improvement to be made, it was still quite the stride forward for the sport, Matt again noted similar things in his review of Rugby League Live 4. Big Ant alone in 2017 has done an incredible job of carrying the torch for Australian developers… but it doesn’t end there, in fact, we’re not even close to done yet.
For as fantastic as it’s been to see the improvement in the sporting games, what has been even better to see is the overwhelming amount of praise heaped upon games developed by many of Australia’s independent studios. One only has to take a look at the nominees for the best debut independent game at the upcoming Geoff Keighley hosted Game Awards to see the Aussie representation. Mr. Shifty was the first Australian game to arrive for the (then) all new Nintendo Switch and was heaped praise for what it did, Hollow Knight is a game that was spotlighted at PAXAUS in 2015 for having presented a wonderful take on the beloved Metroidvania genre, meanwhile, Golf Story is one of the most original and Aussie ideas Dylan has seen. Each of these three games has been nominated for best Debut Indie Game and go head to head with one of the years most praised and anticipated games in Cuphead. Win, lose or draw, to see these games go toe to toe with such a game is a major tip of the hat to our Aussie developers.
Of course, it’s not just been those games either. You only had to walk the show floor of PAXAUS this year to see some incredible projects that have either just released or are well on the way. Give Matt a minute to talk about Hand of Fate 2 and you’ll walk away an hour later wanting to buy it, Sarah couldn’t get enough of Death Squared, Stephen loved Yonder: The Cloudcatcher Chronicles while in the meantime Forts is shaping up really well with scope for further improvement and Symphony of the Machine was a great first step into the VR space for a local W.A. team. The big year for Aussie devs doesn’t end there though, with the fantastic point and click adventure game Rumu arriving next week!
Looking into 2018 and beyond there’s much still to anticipate as well. City of Brass looks gorgeous whilst also boasts a tonne of combative depth, Projection is equal parts stunning and brain-melting, and following an incredible showing at PAXAUS it was revealed at the Sony Paris Games Week showcase that The Gardens Between would be coming to PS4 as well as PC. As incredible and game-changing as 2017 may have been for our local industry, it could very well be just the beginning. With so many incredible releases already and promising games on the horizon, while the infrastructure to support these studios continues to develop, the business in Australia has a great future ahead. If any of the games outlined above have struck a chord then be sure to check them out, and potentially make an investment in the ever-growing future of our local games industry.
Is 2017 the greatest year in Aussie Games Development History? I think the answer is a most definitive yes, and the world is beginning to see it too!
What were some of your highlights from the local games industry in 2017? What are some of the upcoming games that have you hyped? Let us know in the comments section below!