Starting Screen is the USgamer staff's weekly column. Check back every Monday as we share our thoughts on the news as well as our favorite obscure RPGs, game music, and more.
Quick, what's the best-selling game of 2017 so far? You probably have a number of guesses, because 2017 has been a pretty stacked year in terms of quality games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Dragon Quest XI, Nier: Automata, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, maybe even Grand Theft Auto V. You remember stories of sales numbers here and there, discussions of these games' communities, or simply articles about the buzz around a new title.
The best-selling game of 2017 so far is Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
Wildlands, if you were to look at the MetaCritic or OpenCritic ratings, is an average third-person military shooter. The reviews on the game's Steam page are mostly positive, but the Most Helpful reviews are a solid mix of positive and negative. In our own review of the game, former USgamer Editor-at-Large Jaz Rignall said that "Ghost Recon: Wildlands is all over the place in terms of its quality." I'd agree, I enjoyed the game, but I wouldn't necessarily call it amazing.
Ubisoft's latest Ghost Recon has steamrolled over all that. It's currently the best-selling game in North America according to the NPD Group, the analyst firm that keeps track of these things in our region. (And number two is another Ubisoft game: For Honor.) Over in the United Kingdom, Ghost Recon is number two in sales for 2017, behind the ongoing monster that in Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V. Even in Japan, the game debuted at number one on the Media Create charts for its launch week and didn't fall off the Top 20 until 10 weeks later with 180,413 copies sold. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is selling.
So why isn't anyone talking about it?
Certain games continue to pop up and get talked about. Breath of the Wild vs. Horizon Zero Dawn. The newest additions to Overwatch and Hearthstone. Final Fantasy XIV has a new expansion, Persona 5 is breaking records, Nier: Automata is an amazing narrative experience. Certain games just fall through the cracks when we're talking, despite having consistent, strong fanbases.
When we talk about games on USgamer, on other gaming websites, on forums like NeoGAF and Penny Arcade, those games are showcased time and time again. Over on Reddit, Ghost Recon: Wildlands' subreddit only has 20,132 subscribers. Compare that to Overwatch (913K), The Legend of Zelda (209K), Street Fighter (50K), or Persona 5 (35K).
Ubisoft has continued to support the game with two downloadable content launches (Narco Road and Fallen Ghosts), alongside constant live season updates. Of those, Wildlands is currently on Live Season 3 (of four planned), offering players new rewards like outfits, vehicles, weapon skins, and character patches. So there are players there enjoying the experience; it's not like Ubisoft has sold the game to players who picked it up once and never again.
I feel like Ghost Recon: Wildlands is going to become one of those stealth hits. Games that folks know are popular, but no one ever talks about. I can't remember the last time I heard someone talk about Team Fortress 2, but the game is always on the Top 10 in concurrent players on Steam. There's a free-to-play game published by Neowiz called Black Squad which currently has 702,724 owners and 497,976 player according to SteamSpy. Despite that seeming success since its July launch, everyone is talking about The Long Dark, Slime Rancher, and Dream Daddy instead.
It's interesting, because if you're not talking about something, folks perceive it as something that doesn't exist. That's how you end up with these dark horse games, like the Truck Simulator series, that do very well for themselves, but operate completely under the radar. Maybe that's not a problem either. Maybe Ghost Recon: Wildlands and its community are just fine away from the limelight, doing their own thing.
Are there any other games you feel are successful, but no one ever talks about? Let us know in the comments!
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: The Wind Never Ceases from Secret of Mana
August 6 2017 marked Secret of Mana's 24th anniversary in Japan, where it was born on the Super Famicom as Seiken Densetsu 2. By happy coincidence, I'll be reviewing Secret of Mana for the SNES Classic this week. Guess I'll just talk about the game's music, then! As if I needed an excuse.
The Wind Never Ceases is the gentle song that accompanies you while you climb the Lofty Mountains in search of a sage who's supposed to teach you about "true courage." Warning: The sage is a massive troll, and you wind up climbing his dumb mountain over and over again. It's not so bad with the wind (and The Wind Never Ceases) at your back, though. Ahhh, that piano. So gorgeous.
Secret of Mana's soundtrack is supposedly composer Hiroki Kikuta's favorite work. Fitting: It's one of my favorite soundtracks of all-time, and I know I'm not alone with my love.
Mike's Media Minute
The Dark Tower came out this past weekend and despite horrible reviews, the adaptation of Stephen King's wide-ranging fantasy series took number one at the box office. Well, barely. The Dark Tower only made $19.5 million for the weekend, putting it slightly ahead of the $17.6 million made by Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. The film will limp it's way to profitability potentially, with a production budget of only $66 million.
Over on the television and streaming side of things, Netflix is about to release The Defenders on August 18, 2017. The series stands as the culmination of the original Netflix/Marvel deal, which was for five shows: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. That deal has worked out for both parties, leading us to the current productions three seasons of Daredevil, two for Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, plus an additional season for The Punisher.
Hopefully, The Defenders will be better than the critically panned Iron Fist, because Marvel Television is dead set on giving us The Inhumans series, which looks to be dire. The show will run on ABC and is headed up by Iron Fist showrunner Scott Buck. Perhaps it will surprise, but all indications point towards a resounding failure.
Caty’s AltGame Corner
It's hard to find games cuter than anything that pops out of the members of Sokpop Collective. Air Mail, the latest from developer rubna, is no exception. Air Mail tasks you as an aerial delivery person. You deliver things to others across a vast, low-poly space. Often to get there, you have to hop into your handy-dandy candy apple red airplane and take to the skies. It's a quiet charming little experience. It was created during the latest Ludum Dare game jam where the theme was Running Out of Power. You can play Air Mail for yourself on PC here.
Matt’s Monday Mornings
Watched Dunkirk over the weekend (in 70mm). Gotta admit, I didn't really have much hype coming into the film, and was kind of surprised by how many people were calling it Nolan's best movie. And while I still prefer Inception, Dunkirk genuinely surprised me as a film from a filmmaker who I started discounting as...what's the dadrock equivalent but for movies? Anyways, yeah, Dunkirk is good. Check it out.
In other news, I've been slowly making my way through Wolfenstein: The New Order for the first time. It's been on my list forever but I can't commend MachineGames enough for crafting such a wonderful game, equal parts nazi-killing and emotional desolation. Wolfenstein 2 just jumped to the damn top of my most-anticipated games of the fall list.
This Week's News and Notes
- The USgamer Community Question followed the USgamer Podcast is returning from the abyss! Last week's question was about multiplayer games, asking "What Multiplayer Game are You Best At?"
- This week the USgamer Lunch Hour streams will include Nadia and Mike checking out the Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 on Tuesday, and Mike and Caty hunting for a chicken dinner in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds! As always, join us every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am PT/1pm ET for the USgamer Lunch Hour.
- Last week, Caty took a look at the survival title The Long Dark from Hinterland Games. The game has been in Early Access on Steam, but last week marked the full launch of the game on PC and PS4, with the first full story episode. Caty will continue her journey in her bi-weekly Field Notes column.
- Nadia is running through all of the games will be come preloaded on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition. Last week included Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting and Star Fox!