There appears to be unfortunate rhetoric surrounding 2021 as a gaming year with so many people proclaiming that it was a 'bad year' for new releases. This couldn't be further from the truth and those using games like Hitman 3, It Takes Two and Deathloop as support for their claim couldn't be further from the truth - while also exposing that they probably haven't given those games a fair shot.
When you look at the First-Person Shooter genre, it has been a difficult year though with Battlefield 2042 disappointing, Call of Duty: Vanguard bringing turmoil to Warzone and Halo having early struggles with its XP and monetisation methods.
It turns out that 2021's best all-around shooter experience was likely released long before any of these games, and cost absolutely nothing. We are - of course - talking about Splitgate.
2021's Best Shooter was Free-to-Play
Splitgate built its buzz in the most organic way possible. It was the word of mouth and online content praising the game that had people turning their heads early on. While the game has been available to play in some form since May 2019, its official full release didn't happen until July 27, 2021.
What happened when the release came around? Well, Final Fantasy XIV owners can probably sympathise because the servers just couldn't handle the heat. Players flocked in huge numbers to the modest F2P game and were often left facing long queues to even access the game.
It took a few weeks to get things under control and expand the servers to the point where there were no wait times and there was almost no discourse over the early issues because people understood that developer 1047 Games simply couldn't anticipate such a boom in their first week.
Splitgate is like the perfect blend between Halo and Portal and is just a smooth and simple shooter experience. Incredible gunplay and map design all helped its popularity not only in the first few weeks but with the sustained player base that still chooses to play the game today over the aforementioned AAA games.
There is no intrusive monetisation, no ongoing map issues that see bugs and glitches ruin games and the scale for the game suits just bout any player (which again reverts to the unreal map design).
What can AAA Developers learn from Splitgate?
In truth, there was no one specific thing that 1047 Games did that you can take and apply to a major AAA studio. It was clear that their open dialogue throughout the launch issues, updates on fixes and post-launch went a long way to keep the community happy.
For some reason, actions like this are over-praised when done by a major studio which seems strange because their resources are far greater so perhaps it should be the least that we expect? Not one paragraph PR statements posted to Twitter on a yellow background (Looking at you CD Projekt Red) or simply going silent and slithering away to make the game more like what the community told you they wanted in the first place (Looking at you, DICE).
Poor communication is almost this pre-accepted crappy practice that communities are steadily starting to call out. There have been too many dark days in the games industry over the last 24 months for this ignorance to continue. Players will always vote with their wallets but AAA developers have something that smaller studios don't... Mass appeal.
This means that even when communities rise up and fight back, this completely oblivious mass market continues to pump money into the business, a luxury only afforded to some of the biggest names around like EA, Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard.
Maybe 2022 will be the year that this shift becomes more apparent and it will be smaller studios like 1047 that we'll have to thank for the change in beliefs.
For now, whatever game you choose to play, know that the games with the biggest developer, budget and marketing campaign aren't always the best ones out there. Splitgate, It Takes Two and Hitman 3 all proved that in 2021. 1047 Games can hold their heads high no matter what happens moving forward but hopefully, it's an incredibly successful 2022.