This is the last Rundown of 2016, so before we take a break for Christmas, we’re taking a look back at the biggest news stories of the year!
The biggest story of 2016 was also the most explosive. Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7 in August, and it was meant to be their new flagship smartphone. It has a lot of great features, but unfortunately, a dangerous battery defect caused units all over the world to overheat and literally explode. Samsung initially recalled the device and sent out replacements, but the replacement models started blowing up as well, causing them to discontinue the phone and take it off the market altogether. Some users have decided to keep the phone despite the recall, but Samsung says this is very dangerous and you should trade it in as soon as possible. Apart from the obvious short-term financial problems stemming from the failure of the Galaxy Note 7, this will also cause long-term damage to the Samsung name, which could take years for them to fix.
One new tech trend that thankfully didn’t blow up in anyone’s face is the rise of VR. 2016 saw the release of the first big virtual reality headsets: the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR, not to mention several less fancy headsets that make use of mobile phones. This isn’t the first time the entertainment industry has taken a stab at VR, but it was the first time it started to break into the mainstream. It’s not quite there yet, though. The headsets will probably need to get a little better and come down in price before everyone wants to get one, and it’s unclear exactly how successful they’ve been so far. Despite all that, many gamers, including yours truly, were surprised at how enjoyable VR gaming can be, and we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future.
VR wasn’t everything in 2016, the year also saw the surprise ascension of AR. The augmented reality game Pokémon Go was released in July, becoming a massive phenomenon overnight with millions upon millions of people playing it all over the world. There was a period after launch where it felt like literally everyone was playing it, and its popularity dominated headlines for weeks. So why was Pokémon Go so popular? It’s hard to know for sure, but its concept of sending players out into the real world was a novelty that most people hadn’t seen before, not to mention the fact that most people hadn’t played an augmented reality game before either. It’s also worth pointing out that the Pokémon characters themselves are pretty loveable, and that always helps make people want to catch ‘em all. The popularity of Pokémon Go didn’t last though, and it’s not as big now as it was at launch.
We hate to beat up on specific games in our end of year round-up, but there’s one that just has to be mentioned. The outer space exploration game No Man’s Sky generated a huge controversy in 2016. It was released on the PC and PS4 in August after years of hype, but many, many players quickly began complaining that the final game was nothing like what they were expecting. It did give them a massive, procedurally-generated universe as promised, but there just wasn’t very much to do once you were there. Thanks to so many negative user reviews, sales took a nosedive. Developer Hello Games has since begun updating the game with new content, but it might be too little too late. The controversy behind No Man’s Sky raises several interesting questions about the game industry. Should developers be more up front about what their games have to offer, or should they try to preserve some mystery during the development? There’s also a renewed conversation about how much games should cost, and whether or not players should be able to get a refund on digital downloads.
2016 was the year that one of the biggest game makers in the world to finally went mobile. Nintendo released their first mobile games in 2016. They had been one of the last holdouts against mobile gaming, but they finally relented, and in 2015 announced that they would start developing mobile titles. Their first one, the social app Miitomo, was released back in March of this year, and their second, Super Mario Run, was just released on iOS devices. The reason they finally went mobile all comes down to money. The company had been struggling after poor sales of their last console the Wii U, and investors were begging them to go mobile, seeing it as an easier way to turn a profit. It remains to be seen how well that will turn out. Super Mario Run debuted to a strong start, but mixed reviews and a high price point have caused a drop in Nintendo’s stock value, so they still have a few things to figure out if they’re going to be a success in the mobile space. Expect more mobile games from Nintendo in 2017. They haven’t turned their back on traditional console gaming, either. Their next system, the Nintendo Switch, arrives in March.
And speaking of new consoles, 2016 was the year that next-gen went nexter-gen. Sony and Microsoft announced new and more powerful versions of the PS4 and Xbox One. Sony’s offering, the PS4 Pro, hit stores in November, while Microsoft’s new Xbox One model, codenamed Project Scorpio, won’t arrive until next year. Both companies have stated that they see these as a way to shake up the traditional console release cycle; rather than releasing completely new systems every seven years or so, they can release systems with smaller, more incremental updates on a more regular basis. If this does become a thing, it would make console gaming look a whole lot more like PC gaming, which may or may not backfire. The PS4 and Xbox One aren’t just getting more powerful. Sony and Microsoft also released slimmer versions of the systems in 2016, but aside from the different form factors, they’re basically the same under the hood, with just a few minor technical updates.
So what were your favorite news stories of 2016? Is there anything big that we missed? Let us know in the comments below. We’re taking a break over Christmas, but we’ll be back in the new year with more great EP content.