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The Game Awards 2015: How the witcher has beaten the scavenger

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If you went to the front page of Twitch or YouTube last Thursday, you might have seen music producer deadmau5 performing a set or YouTuber iJustine hosting some show for AMD. It probably looked like some kind of award show like the Oscars was being livestreamed. A big venture full of people, famous personalities presenting, awards being given to somewhat unknown people who probably worked behind the scenes of some kind of big production, etc..

This was indeed an award show that was being livestreamed, but not one for movies or music. This was ‘The Game Awards 2015’, an annual event where a number of games get awarded for various categories. The big winner of this event was the game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, a game developed by CD Projeckt RED, which is a company that only in recent years got the status of a triple A developer.

Let me give some background information about this award show. This year was the show’s second edition, after last year’s very successful first edition which had 1.93 million live views, and took place in the Microsoft Theater in Las Vegas, California. The jury and advisors for the award categories were significant persons working for various international media outlets. I want to focus here specifically on the Jury voted category ‘Game of the year’, which is basically the most overarching and most prestigious category of this event.

The five games that were nominated for the ‘Best game of the year’ (GOTY) were Bloodborne, Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Super Mario Maker, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. All five of these games were made by renowned developers and had sales that have risen into the millions, but I want to compare the two biggest selling games in this category, namely The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with 6 million copies sold in the first six weeks since its release resulting in a profit of 62.5 million dollars for the developer, and Fallout 4 with 12 million shipped copies resulting in a grossed 750 million dollar in sales.

It was quite obvious beforehand that of the five nominated games, one of these two would win, but which one of the two would actually win was debated heavily on internet forums. One game was made by a developer that had been somewhat of an underdog and had only two prequels, the other was a game developed by Bethesda Softworks, an already well established company, and already had four prequels.

The two games have a couple of things in common. Both games are following up on their prequels that were considered very impressive and innovative games, which means the expectations were set very high. Both games were also open-word role playing games, which means the player can follow their own path in the games and immersive themselves in the character they are playing as.

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However, there are also some big differences. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, published on the 19th of May this year, is set in a beautifully crafted fantasy world, rich of flora and fauna (under which also monsters), where the different races of humans, elves, and dwarves try to live together in their cities, which is not always successful. The player plays as Geralt of Rivia, a witcher who hunts monster with his swords and magical abilities, which he obtained due to mutations, as his profession. You may encounter objectives where you have to help townsfolk to get rid of a group of wraiths, or you might go on a quest to try to settle a war between two kingdoms.

Fallout 4, released on the 10th of November this year, is set in a post-apocalyptic world where technology has been stuck at the level it was at in the 1950s since a nuclear blast has hit the United States. After waking up from a cryosleep in your vault, you travel the wasteland as a scavenger fighting ghouls and super mutants to find your kidnapped son. During your travels you can choose to be accompanied by your robot butler from before the nuclear blast or by a German Sheppard while you encounter settlements and build your own.

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The critical receptions for both games also differed quite substantially. The Witcher 3 recevied almost perfect scores form pretty much every media outlet related to games. Game critics gave the game a 92 out of 100 on Metacritic. Kevin VanOrd, a game critic from Gamespot, adds to this: “This is one of the best role-playing games ever crafted, a titan among giants and the standard-setter for all such games going forward”.

Upon its release, Fallout 4 was surrounded by controversy as people’s expectations, which had been hyped up by the game’s announcement during this year’s E3, speculation on the internet, and the advertising campaign were partially not met. Due to these unmet expectations, user reviews were fairly low, 5.4 out of 10 on Metacritic, but critic reviews were more nuanced, 84 out of 100. Phil Savage from PC Gamer summarizes this very well: “In short, many of Fallout 4’s problems, like every Bethesda RPG before it, are a consequence of what makes them unforgettable. That might not be the neatest conclusion, but it explains why, 50 hours in, I’m still having fun”.

So, did The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt rightfully win the award for the best game of the year instead of Fallout 4? I would say so, because it did almost everything right. It has an immersive open-world, there is an interesting and captivating narrative, the game is filled with hundreds of hours of gameplay, and it sets the standard for RPG skill development. Fallout 4 also incorporated these elements, but it lacked just a little bit in every component. It was basically Fallout 3 with slightly better graphics. If it had met all the expectations, it would have probably won the ‘Game of the year’ award.

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