These days, it seems in nearly every form of media that an established brand, a household name, or a recognizable star is all but mandatory for a big-budget investment. In gaming, the holiday season alone shows that mentality at work, with October and November filled with the biggest publishers marching forward yearly installments of the biggest moneymaking franchises. But that's not always the case.
Sometimes - as was the case this year - brand new projects can manage to grab consumer attention, console exclusivity, and the enthusiasm of previously-overlooked gamers. It's important to note that our choices for the most impressive new IPs in gaming aren't simply the best releases not tied to an existing license, but ones that have every intention of becoming the next big name. In the indie, online, or AAA market, these games showed their competition that a breath of fresh air (and a need to succeed) can make all the difference.
Without further ado, here are our choices for The 5 Best New Video Game IPs of 2014:
Few games have been as confidently promised to challenge Call of Duty's market share of competitive online shooters as Titanfall; from the mind(s) behind Advanced Warfare - the game credited with 'changing everything' - its blend of infantry and mechanized combat made it the Xbox One's most coveted exclusive. It may have been released later than hoped (and bound for a less glorious fate), but its mark is a lasting one.
In the end, the lack of content and a traditional single player campaign didn't help with either reviews or longevity, but for a first release, Respawn Entertainment didn't disappoint where many others have. Introducing new and sure-to-be-copied elements into the online arena shooter and simply working (something that other 2014 games would struggle with) made Titanfall a household name. Now, the only question is just how much the franchise's direction will change in the future.
It may not be the most shocking entry on our list, since Ubisoft was banking on Watch_Dogs becoming the latest AAA open world title in their stable (with big screen adaptation plans before it even released). Gamers didn't know at the time that the controversy surrounding the version of the game promised and the one released would become a familiar refrain for the publisher by year's end, but the strengths of the game shone through for many.
There's no shortage of open world, third-person action games set against an urban backdrop, but the hacking powers wielded by star Aiden Pearce over the city of Chicago gave Watch_Dogs enough to stand apart. Pair that with and online component that came as a genuine surprise, and a story that was just as unexpected, and it's safe to say Ubisoft earned yet another tentpole franchise - and one series poised to make even more of next-gen hardware.
The Banner Saga
Though it may have slipped by many consumers in a year filled with heavily-marketed titles, the art style of The Banner Saga alone is sure to turn heads even months after its release. As one of the great Kickstarters gaming success stories to date, the classical animation-inspired, turn-based strategy adventure is hard to describe for those who didn't try it out themselves.
Challenging players to not only handle a variety of soldiers in a unique twist on old school combat, but make executive decisions to keep a caravan of hundred alive through a harsh winter, The Banner Saga is an experience all its own. It may not have been perfect - or for every player - but the first entry in Stoic's series (now that a sequel is officially announced) represents just how varied the modern definition of a 'successful video game' has become.
It was enough of a coup when Insomniac Games announced that they would be leaving their PlayStation-exclusive franchises to craft a brand new IP (described as a return to the company's Spyro and Ratchet & Clank roots). But when the studio unveiled the first look at the world of Sunset Overdrive, audiences prepared themselves for disappointment, since no game could keep the visual style, the irreverence, and off-the-wall insanity intact in the gameplay itself.
Incredibly, Sunset Overdrive managed to do just that. Favoring fun over all else (in both the campaign and co-op multiplayer) and relying on a rock-solid gameplay foundation to get it done, players were able to feel in control in even the most ridiculous scenarios. Sunset remains one of the must-have titles for the Xbox One, and that alone makes its future as rock-solid as Insomniac and Microsoft desire.
What is there to say about Bungie's space-faring MMO that hasn't been said already? While in truth, Destiny may not have been quite the game that Halo fans were hoping for, there's no denying just how quickly it cemented itself as a franchise audiences should get used to hearing about. Too many pretenders have come and gone in the past few years to recall, but Destiny immediately claimed the title of one of the best and most successful MMOs in recent memory - and it did it on consoles, no less.
Whatever expectations may have existed, the number of hours we spent diving through its many dungeons and grinding for better and better loot prove how quickly the game can become an addiction. Even with its admitted shortcomings or drawbacks, Destiny is sure to be the best game of the year for many. There's no telling what plans Bungie and Activision have for it, but this series is here to stay.
These games proved that you don't need an established brand or hero to find success (on a sliding scale). But they certainly aren't the only ones that accomplished the feat - and some smaller hits may prove to be long-running franchises if their developers and publishers decide that they've got the staying power. Be sure to offer your own choices for the most impressive debuts from 2014 in the comments below.
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