The debate over the best game of 2016 is more heated than any game of the year debate in recent memory. Some swear that Overwatch was the only title they needed this year, for instance, while others say that Uncharted 4‘s epic story represents game design at its very best. You could probably even find a couple of people that would argue for Pokemon GO.
If you’re asking what the most important game of the year was, however, the consensus answer has to be No Man’s Sky.
Designer Sean Murray promised gamers that No Man’s Sky would allow them to explore a nearly infinite universe that those with hundreds of hours to spare could turn into a playground. Eager to believe that such a game was now possible, many people bought into his elaborate pitch.
Think about that. At a time when doubting everything you’re told is considered to be the only safe bet, gamers everywhere were willing to believe that No Man’s Sky could be everything that Murray and developer Hello Games promised it would be.
When that didn’t happen, fans didn’t just feel ripped-off; they felt betrayed. Playing No Man’s Sky for the first time was like waking up one morning to discover your significant other has run off and stolen all of your money. Even once the initial pain has subsided, you’re still left with questions that will likely never be answered. Questions that are going to forever scar you.
Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but the point remains that No Man’s Sky was a disaster.
If there’s one good thing you can say about a disaster, though, it’s that people will go out of their way to ensure that it never happens again. No, No Man’s Sky likely won’t be the last overhyped game, but it just may be the last game that is able to coast by on trailers and media previews. It may very well be the last game that is able to promise the moon without clearly outlining a plan to get there.
For a new generation of gamers, it might also very well be the final straw. The last game that they allow themselves to buy (or buy into) without question.
No studio wants to suffer through another No Man’s Sky situation, and their efforts to avoid releasing such a game can only lead to things getting better. Better design, better marketing, better fan interaction, and a better appreciation for building trust.
If even some of those things prove to be true, then No Man’s Sky really will end up becoming the most important game released this year.