The video game industry is poised to rake in over $99.2 billion in revenues worldwide in 2016, with the number of global gamers expected to top 2.15 billion, according to research firm Newzoo.
While free-to-play, mobile, and eSports titles continue to take larger pieces of the overall video game pie, traditional console games remain a key pillar of the industry. Sony(sne), Microsoft(msft), Nintendo, Electronic Arts(ea), Activision(atvi), and other large companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in “AAA” games they hope will generate retail sales as well as longer term digital revenue through expansions and additional downloadable content.
Some blockbuster games have released too little information to summarize—including Activision’s next Call of Duty, Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect: Andromeda and the next Star Wars game, and Microsoft’s Gears of War 4. Here are 10 other big games coming in 2016:
Horizon: Zero Dawn (Sony, Guerrilla Games; PlayStation 4; 2016)
Sony has a strong lineup of exclusive games for its industry-leading PlayStation 4, and Guerrilla Games is serving up its first original game since Killzone in 2004. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a role-playing game set a thousand years in the future on an Earth overrun by giant mechanical dinosaurs. The game puts players in control of a female hunter named Aloy and offers an open-world experience that stands out as something very different from any other games out there. Completely different from the Killzone first-person shooter franchise, Horizon is the type of original game that can help Sony sell PS4 hardware.
No Man’s Sky (Sony, Hello Games; PlayStation 4, PC; June 2016)
For the past two years, No Man’s Sky has remained one of the most anticipated games out there. Ever since independent developer Hello Games was featured during Sony’s E3 2014 press conference, there’s been interest in what is essentially the largest video game world ever created. The sci-fi game offers an endless universe of space exploration, with over 18 quintillion planets to explore. There’s plenty of customization in the game as players buy and upgrade their starships' and characters' equipment. And game play varies from single-player to multiplayer cooperative and competitive play. If this team of about a dozen developers can deliver on this promise, it will be a huge win for Sony, and indie games.
The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo; Wii U; 2016)
There’s not a lot of information available for Nintendo’s 19th installment of its bestselling role-playing game franchise. But given Nintendo’s third-place position in the current console war, the game maker desperately needs this exclusive game to attract new Wii U players. The first high-definition Zelda game was originally slated to launch in 2015 but has been delayed to 2016. The game will introduce the largest fantasy overworld ever designed by Nintendo. Players can explore the lands by foot or on protagonist Link’s horse, Epona. Link also has the ability to slow down time to better aim his arrow at enemies in dungeons and towns.
Crackdown 3 (Microsoft, Reagant Games; Xbox One; 2016)
Microsoft continues to build out its key exclusive franchises like Halo, Gears of War, and now Crackdown. Original creator Dave Jones of Grand Theft Auto fame is back at the helm of this sci-fi action open-world game after skipping the second installment. This game puts players in control of an agent enforcing the law in a skyscraper-filled metropolis chock-full of crime lords and criminals. Crackdown 3 goes beyond cooperative play and introduces online multiplayer to the virtual sandbox. Microsoft is also using this game to showcase its Azure cloud technology, which allows for massive city destruction.
Mafia 3 (2K, Hangar 13; PS4, Xbox One, PC; 2016)
With no new Grand Theft Auto game in sight, 2K (a division of Take-Two Interactive(ttwo), owner of Rockstar Games and the GTA franchise) can step into that crime-filled open-world arena with Mafia 3. This sequel is set in 1968 New Orleans and focuses on African-American Vietnam War vet Lincoln Clay. It’s a revenge story that has Clay taking on rival gangs with the help of three very different lieutenants: Cassandra, Burke, and Vito Scaletta (who was the protagonist of Mafia 2). With a great '60s soundtrack and a fresh city to explore, Mafia 3 allows players to build up a criminal empire. From gun play to car chases to stealth takedowns to brutal interrogations, players get a lot of freedom.
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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Sony, Naughty Dog; PlayStation 4; April 26, 2016)
Naughty Dog has pushed the boundaries of interactive entertainment over the course of the Uncharted franchise, as well as The Last of Us. This is the first PlayStation 4 game for the studio, which has been at the forefront of utilizing performance capture to create Hollywood-style action sequences. Set three years after the last game, Nathan Drake’s brother, Sam, ropes him into one last adventure to hunt down the treasure of the long-lost pirate colony Libertatia. This game teams two of the leading video game actors, Nolan North and Troy Baker, together for the first time, which ensures plenty of humor as the Drake brothers globetrot through jungles, faraway cities and snow-capped mountains. In addition to co-op multiplayer, Sony will get additional life out of this last title through the first-ever downloadable story pack for the franchise later in 2016.
The Last Guardian (Sony, GenDesign; PlayStation 4; 2016)
Gamers have been waiting nine long years for The Last Guardian to become a reality. Acclaimed game developer Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus) is once again introducing something completely new to PlayStation gamers. This puzzle-filled adventure game has players controlling a little boy, as well as a giant creature that is part Eagle, part dog, and part cat. Level design requires the player to use both of these characters to navigate ruins, lost cities, and other mysterious locales. But like any real animal, the only way to control the giant creature is to lure it with food or otherwise coerce it to navigate areas. There’s a lot of thought required for this game, which is beautiful to watch. The relationship between the boy and this creature is truly special. It’s a game well worth the wait.
Tom Clancy’s The Division (Ubisoft, Massive; PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; March 8, 2016)
Ubisoft has had success over the years delaying fall games and finding a less crowded release window. The Division is the French company’s latest original title set within the Tom Clancy universe. The open-world, multiplayer game takes place during winter in New York City after a virus has wreaked havoc on the city. The Division is an agency that’s been set up to restore order, and this third-person perspective game lets each player equip and design their own character as they take on rival factions and other enemies throughout the snow-swept city, as well as underground in the subway tunnels and other areas. The game also features Dark Zones filled with high-end weapons, where players can team up and battle against one another.
Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment; Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC; spring 2016)
This online multiplayer game is Blizzard’s first new intellectual property since the launch of StarCraft in 1998 and the company’s first new console game ever. While Blizzard is best known for role-playing games like World of Warcraft, multiplayer online battle arena games like Heroes of the Storm, and strategy games like StarCraft II and Hearthstone, this first-person shooter is a departure for the studio. The game features a highly stylized look and a colorful collection of over 20 characters (which will grow over time via downloadable content). Two teams of six players engage in battle across maps based on real-world locations like London, Japan, and ancient Egypt. Like most of its existing games, there’s also eSports potential for Overwatch.
Doom (Bethesda Softworks, id Software; PS4, Xbox One, PC; Q2 2016)
The game that revolutionized the first-person shooter genre back in 1993, Doom, gets a reboot in 2016 from the studio that introduced “badass demons” and “BFGs” to the games industry. Although the first-person shooter market is crowded these days, this is the first new Doom game since 2004’s Doom 3. And that name goes a long way in attracting older gamers who grew up on the title and a younger generation looking for something new. Id Software is focusing on “push forward combat” with this latest battle against demons accidentally unleashed from hell, which means nonstop action, very big weapons, and no place to hide. Another differentiator for the new Doom is a bloody melee takedown system, which lets players tear apart demons with all the gore of a Mortal Kombat fatality. While Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Microsoft’s Halo 5: Guardians rule the shooter genre today, Doom is poised to reclaim a large audience in 2016.