Another year in gaming has come and gone. 2015 was a fantastic year in games, seeing the release of amazing titles both from the AAA and indie spectrum. But who were the driving forces for games in 2015? Well, the Enthusiast Gaming staff came up with this 20 person comprehensive list of the most influential people in gaming for 2015. We congratulate and thank every person on this list for their contribution to the video game industry, regardless of what that contribution may be. In no particular order, here it is:
Before Phil Spencer took the reins of the Xbox team, the Xbox One was considered a lost cause, a veritable mess of issues with a catastrophic messaging problem. The Xbox brand seemed to be a sinking ship with a derelict captain.
Since Phil started leading the Xbox team, it’s been one great idea after another. The messaging appears to be getting back on track, while major gripes of console owners have started to be addressed. With 2015 he hit his stride with a bevy of exclusives that included the likes of Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Forza 6. This is the first year an Xbox One can be recommended without a preface. The best part is that 2016 is looking much better than 2015 with even more exclusives. Phil Spencer connects with the community in a way few others can; he has emerged triumphant averting what many perceived to be a disaster.
You could be forgiven if you are unaware of who Marcin Iwinski is, but I’m more than certain you are familiar with his contribution to the gaming industry as a whole. Iwinski is one of the co-founders of CD Projekt Red: a name that almost all gamers are more than familiar with. CD is known as the developer of both The Witcher series and, their current project, Cyber Punk 2077. They have an affinity for and gratitude towards their customers that is almost unheard of in today’s industry. They have supported Witcher 3 with free DLC to show their appreciation for those that bought the game.
Many know CD is a very pro-consumer company that is fiercely against digital rights management (DRM). They feel so strongly that they not only have chosen to avoid DRM in their games but have created Good Old Games, a place to purchase DRM free games as well as old pc games. Iwinski has been an incredible proponent of customer trust. He has not only managed to help create what many consider their game of the year, but he also took on industry goliath Steam, proving that your customers are your biggest resource and not your biggest liability.
Toby Fox started out with just a dream and a Kickstarter of $5,000. 2,398 backers later he’s managed to churn out the incredibly popular RPG Undertale that happens to double as a commentary on the genre – a formula that has proven to garner the love of both gamers and critics alike. Like many indie developers he’s a one man team: with the exception of small portions of the art, the entirety of the game was made by him in a little over 2 and half years.
Undertale is what happens when you turn an RPG on its head and allow the player to have more meaningful interactions with enemies beyond just destroying them. Just about every enemy can be befriended. In the process, he injected quite a bit of fourth wall breaking humor while completely streamlining the experience and breaking conventions. Fox has rethought how to apply tired game design in a way that creates something retro yet cutting edge.
This man needs little to no introduction. Todd Howard has been on stage at countless conventions such as E3, DICE and yes even Quakecon. He is one of the driving forces behind both Bethesda’s wildly successful RPG series Elder Scrolls and Fallout.
As if making one of the most anticipated games of the year wasn’t enough, he’s breaking convention by pushing mods to make the leap from PC to console. Mods have always been the domain of the PC player. It’s an even bigger deal when you consider other developers citing it as a reason to keep a game exclusive on the PC, cough, XCOM 2. Howard has been pushing the envelope of what’s been possible on the console. Though their games maybe be buggy, they hold a special place in our gaming hearts.
Every once in awhile someone comes along and doesn’t just change the game but creates an entirely new genre. What started out as Demon Souls on the PlayStation 3, Hideteka Miyazaki has expanded into the Souls genre. Where the crushing difficulty and precise controls are mirror images of each other, the Souls games are always fair and walk the line of frustration and exhilaration.
What’s even more fascinating is the treatment the genre received through his latest game, Bloodborne. This title is different because it breaks many of the rules of the genre but never leaves it altogether. It trades in cautiously measured combat for faster movement and timed strikes. Once more it removes shields almost from the equation entirely, while at the same time rewarding your aggression. Miyazaki proved he’s not done yet reinventing what he created.
Satoru Iwata is a man who leaves behind an incredible legacy. From working at HAL and pulling off incredible feats of coding for games that have changed the course gaming, to steering Nintendo as president into risky and industry-changing innovation, Satoru Iwata was an icon of the games industry; an icon that showed that businessmen can have a love and a passion for what they are allowing to be created. His passing was one that rocked the entire industry. In life, he used creativity and hard work to craft experiences that would last for decades, and his willingness to experiment and take risks turned Nintendo – and in many ways, the game industry – into what it is today. His impact on gaming will never be forgotten; he may have passed, but his legacy will live on.
Shigeru Miyamoto is a legend of gaming. Known for the creation of countless franchises, from Mario to Zelda to Donkey Kong, he has shaped the world of gaming for the better. With titles like Super Mario Maker and Triforce Heroes releasing in 2015, his influence is felt just as much as it ever was, as characters created decades ago continue to have influence on the industry in a major way. With the promise of more new types of experiences from the developer and work on new Zelda and Star Fox titles commencing, Shigeru Miyamoto is poised to continue a legacy already filled with utterly influential, remarkable, and stunning experiences.
Taking over the job as president of Nintendo is no small task. After all, it is one of the biggest gaming companies out there – and a lot is about to change. Nintendo is about to take their first leap into smartphone development, their first real experience developing games for a platform other than their own in a long time. A new console generation is on the horizon, as the Wii U seems poised to lose Nintendo’s focus with the NX coming soon. Into this environment Tatsumi Kimishima stepped late last year, transforming from a little-known executive into the spotlight of most powerful man at Nintendo. With so much change on the horizon, seeing how a new face will steer the company through this turbulent time is something all of the industry is fascinated to watch. Let’s hope he pulls it off.
Those looking for a major console JRPG this generation have not had many options to choose from. Fortunately, Monolith Soft finally delivered their long-awaited sequel to the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles in Xenoblade Chronicles X. The Tastuya Takahashi-led Monolith Soft, of course, broke away from Square Enix, ending up with Bandai Namco where they crafted several JRPGs before ending up with Nintendo. Xenoblade Chronicles X continued the series’ tradition of meshing the East and the West; of combining the enduring staples of JRPGs with the freedom of WRPGs; of putting together complex systems in such a compelling way. Takahashi’s direction made that possible. Getting so few JRPGs is an easier pill to swallow knowing that Takahashi is working to make them as excellent as this.
About 15 years ago, Tim Schafer founded Double Fine to work on Psychonauts. Released in 2005, it quickly became a cult-classic and won Eurogamer’s Game of The Year award. Well, Psychonauts is back with a sequel and a VR spinoff that are both in development. But while that’s all well and good, it isn’t the main reason why Tim Schafer is a face known to every dialed-in gamer in the world. The reason why we all know – and most love – Tim Schafer is because of how he chooses to fund his games. Kickstarter, and now Fig, have become a giant part of Double Fine’s production.
Schafer changed the way developers approach game production through the success that he had with Broken Age’s Kickstarter campaign and it seems like he’s doing it again with Fig by turning the donations into investments. On top of that he’s releasing awesome games.
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