The 20 biggest video game news stories of 2015

Controversies, resolutions and loss marked another big year.

While video games enjoy a period of sustained global popularity, they continue to struggle with a reputation for irresponsibility, childishness and weightlessness. In part, this has come about due to the game industry's own habit of doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment, of lacking foresight and gravitas. Gaming has not yet matured.

It adds up to a perplexing, fascinating and sometimes enraging narrative that lurches alarmingly from crisis to crisis. Partial resolutions are forever being tossed around like cabbages at a drunken fete, only to land in the mud.

But gaming is also a place for complex, thoughtful, talented people who seek escape from the drudgeries of life, from the predictable arcs of other media. In its individual works it is often derivative, but overall, it is erratic and unknowable.

Gaming news reflects these forces on a daily basis, a catalogue of interesting new ideas, disappointing releases, crazy corporate decisions and bewildering acts of consumer passion.

At the end of the year, we seek to take stock. Here are 20 stories that Polygon believes marked 2015 out as another confounding year in the journey that is video games. The stories are arranged in no particular order.

The protracted Konami-Kojima saga

Konami managed to create a situation this year in which the departure of its most revered creator was not so much a difficult loss, but more an embarrassing saga.

Way back in March, rumors began to circulate that Hideo Kojima's 30-year relationship with the Japanese publisher might be coming to an end. They were fuelled by Konami's decision to wipe Kojima's name from promotional material for the company's biggest game of the year, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

Throughout the summer, Konami transmitted mixed messages, first claiming that the company was going to only focus on mobile games, but then, no, it still believed in consoles. The company also canned Kojima's much anticipated game Silent Hills, a collaboration with Guillermo del Toro.

Konami delisted itself from the New York Stock Exchange, claiming a need to save cash. A few weeks later a report emerged in Japan that portrayed the company as an awful place to work, including allegations that employees who linger on lunch breaks have their names announced throughout the company.

Kojima issued a statement saying he was 100 percent dedicated to completing Metal Gear Solid 5. When the game appeared in September it attracted rave reviews and decent sales. But it had cost $80 million to make, according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei. Konami's subsidiary Kojima Productions was closed and, as we head into 2016, the publisher has no significant console projects on its future roster.

Soon after the release of MGS5, Kojima released a farewell video celebrating the end of the Metal Gear series. A few weeks later, pictures emerged of him attending a farewell party at the company along with a report in The New Yorker that he had finally departed.

Konami promptly claimed that Kojima had merely left to go on vacation. At The Game Awards in early December, it emerged that Konami's lawyers had blocked Kojima from attending the Los Angeles event to collect an award. Finally, in mid-December, Kojima confirmed that he'd left Konami, while Sony announced a new partnership with him called Kojima Productions.

Harassment takes center stage

When game developer Zoe Quinn arrived in Washington D.C. in April to discuss harassment and cyberstalking at a congressional briefing, she had already endured nine months of intense threats and abuse. GamerGate erupted in the summer of 2014, targeting feminists in games, and continued its abusive activities through 2015, with Quinn a central target.

Even prior to GamerGate, Quinn had been the target of misogynistic abuse. The release of her 2013 text adventure Depression Quest inspired much admiration from fans, as well as hate speech and abuse from men who represented an actively misogynistic and reactionary section of gaming.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence this year branded GamerGate "an online hate group which was started by an ex-boyfriend to ruin [Quinn's] life."

"The girl I used to be," said Quinn during the hearings, "used to sit down and check her email where she'd get the occasional fan letter, business correspondence and spam email. These days they're joined by death threats and graphic fantasies about raping me, often accompanied by my home address and proof that the sender has everything they would need to carry through on them."

At the end of the year, GamerGate was accused by one of its most vocal critics Veerender Jubbal of doctoring a selfie to make him look like a terrorist bomber involved in November's atrocities in Paris.

Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted and linked to a report by the Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender covering online abuse against women that is currently in revision. We have removed the reference.

Nintendo grieves, looks to the future

Nintendo's much loved president Satoru Iwata passed away in July, aged just 55. He was a gaming visionary who understood, perhaps better than anyone, how to connect Nintendo with its audience.

An admired game developer, he rose through the company ranks during the 1980s and 1990s, becoming president in 2002. When the company seemed to falter during the GameCube era, he steered through genuine innovations like the DS and the Wii. He was a man of good humor, intelligence and generosity.

His passing was felt keenly by many who love games and who love Nintendo. But at a practical level, it was a great loss for Nintendo itself. More than ever, Nintendo needs leadership and inspiration. The company has been battered by tough competitors, the growth of mobile games and its own tactical misstep with Wii U, which has not been a sufficiently compelling draw for consumers.

Satoru Iwata
Satoru Iwata

Still, the company fights on, partly through initiatives begun by Iwata and now being steered by his successor Tatsumi Kimishima, a business manager with a solid history of competence.

This year saw the launch of, arguably, Wii U's most impressive game to date, Super Mario Maker, which accounted for a significant leap in hardware sales. Next year sees the arrival of a new Zelda game. In 2015, Nintendo also put an end to three straight years of losses, with a profits announcement in May.

In 2015, Nintendo partnered with DeNa with a plan to bring Nintendo franchises to mobile phones. Thus far, the reality of that notion has been limited. The future of the company may depend on how carefully it embraces non-Nintendo platforms.

Nintendo also announced a new hardware project, codenamed NX, likely due to arrive in 2016. Little is known about the platform, but its genesis will at heart be born of Iwata's genius.

Apple TV turns to games

When Tim Cook unveiled the new Apple TV at a press conference back in September, the company CEO only spent a few moments talking about games. This device, he said, will change the way we think about television.

Yet now that the new Apple TV is on the market, it's clear that games are a significant element of the device's appeal. Unlike a console, Apple TV isn't designed around games. But like Apple's mobile devices, it turns out to be a really good platform for playing them.

Apple TV has been with us since 2007 with three significant updates along the way. This 2015 iteration is the first to seriously address games.

When it launched, half the top-selling apps for the new Apple TV were games. These family-orientated, slightly derivative works won't be challenging for any game of the year awards, but they make good use of the machine's minimalist controller, and they look nice.

Most notable games include the Wii-like motion adventure Beat Sports, pretty 3D space shooter Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising and platformer Rayman Adventures. Many of the titles are transfers from mobile like Crossy Road and Alto's Adventure or franchise ports like Disney Infinity 3.0 and Guitar Hero Live.

It may be that party games will be a core strength for Apple TV. As Polygon's Julie Alexander pointed out: "Being able to play a few rounds of pretty simple, self-explanatory, funny games with friends is where the Apple TV succeeds as a gaming micro console."

Meanwhile, just as a reminder that we are now living in the future, Apple also launched the Apple Watch. It comes with games as well, though we have yet to see many that aspire beyond novelty or nostalgia.

Steam Machines make landfall

2015 was a console launch year, in a manner of speaking. The arrival of Steam Machines in November introduced open platform consoles with around 1,500 games already available to play.

Built around Valve's Linux-based SteamOS and manufactured by a variety of hardware suppliers, Steam Machines are the long-awaited answer to the question: Where can I get a PC game machine that plugs right into my TV?

They come with Valve's own controller, which also launched this year and offers innovative touch pad thumbsticks.

But these machines, from companies like Alienware, Asus and Zotac, are unlikely to trouble the console establishment. Prices start at $449, much higher than consoles. By definition of being open-platform, they also offer less sizzle in terms of big brand exclusive games.

Low prices and exclusive games are how consoles are sold so it's unlikely Steam Machines will sell in large numbers. They are generally seen as nice-looking boxes with niche appeal.

For anyone with a PC and a Steam account, the better option is likely to be the more impressive Steam Link gizmo, which does an impressive job of linking a desktop to a TV, and costs only $49.99.

China opens its doors to consoles

China lifted its 14-year ban on video game consoles this year, encouraging both Sony and Microsoft to launch their PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles into a potentially huge new market.

The console ban was enacted in 2000 by China's cultural ministry, ostensibly to shield its youth from the corrupting influence of games. But in the 15 years since, video gaming has become a mainstream leisure pursuit in China, at a time when demand for consumer goods and consumer spending has exploded.

Image source: Shutterstock

Recent research from NewZoo suggested that China's 23 percent growth this year in games revenues could put it ahead of the U.S. for the first time. The Chinese market is predicted to come in at $22.2 billion compared to the United States' $22.0 billion.

No doubt, Chinese gaming culture will continue to evolve in its own way and game companies will react accordingly. Many of the biggest domestically-produced games in China are free-to-play MMOs. Activision also launched a variant of Call of Duty as a free-to-play online shooter.

Still, the Chinese government will only allow the sale of games that have been officially approved. Games that have been banned or amended generally include shooting or strategy games in which the Chinese are portrayed as military aggressors.

Gabe Newell 'pisses off the internet'

In April, Valve announced a plan to sell paid mods for Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, via Steam. Revenues for the mods were split between Valve, Bethesda and the mod makers.

The move to charge for mods was inevitably going to be controversial. Free mods have been a huge part of the Skyrim community ever since Bethesda launched the game, back in 2011. Some 24,000 mods have so far been released.

In the face of community uproar, Valve chief Gabe Newell took to a Reddit AMA to try to explain his position. He conceded that the plan was "pissing off the internet." Many critics made the point that charging for something that has traditionally been free would likely diminish, not enhance, creative freedom and consumer choice.

Gabe Newell Valve Corp.
Gabe Newell

"Our goal is to make modding better for the authors and gamers," said Newell. "If something doesn't help with that, it will get dumped. Right now I'm more optimistic that this will be a win for authors and gamers."

Modders involved in the paid scheme found themselves being vilified and even receiving death threats. A few days later, Valve scrapped the entire enterprise.

"It's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing," Valve said in a post on Steam. "Stepping into an established, years-old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here."

Swatters target game streamers and rivals

In 2015, the word "swatting" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It's the act of making a hoax call to law enforcement in order to induce a SWAT team to raid someone's house. Swatting hit the media in 2014 and 2015 following hoax calls by game players against perceived rivals.

In January, Grace Lynn, a critic of GamerGate, found herself targeted by a hoax SWAT call, which was sent to an old address of hers in Portland, Oregon.

Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson said that swatting "creates significant risk to the public and significant risk to officers responding," adding that " the prankster can face state and federal charges."

In early February, 27-year-old Joshua Peters, aka Koopatroopa787, was at home streaming Runescape when he was raided by a SWAT team. During the raid, which was broadcast live on Twitch, Peters' 10-year-old brother was in the house.

Image source: Shutterstock

"There’s no possible persons who I can think would do something like this to me," said Peters. "I’ve seen this happen to other streamers; I just never thought I would be the one to get randomly targeted. Never."

In a separate incident, Brandon Wilson a 19-year-old Las Vegas man with the gamertag Famed God was arrested for allegedly instigating a SWAT raid in 2014. If found guilty, Wilson faces up to five years in jail.

In March, a 13-year-old boy confessed to the police that he initiated three separate instances of swatting across two states. The teenager swatted a rival Minecraft player. "He felt he was wronged," said Det. Gene Martinez of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

In November, The New York Times ran a feature telling the story of serial swatter Obnoxious, a Canadian minor who targeted women streamers on Twitch. Following a lengthy investigation, Obnoxious was sentenced to 16 months in youth jail.

Finally, some visibility for women in games

Weak, offensive or non-existent presentations of women in videogames have been a problem for decades, intensifying in the last few years as more players and commentators have registered outrage at publishers and developers cleaving to a male-oriented status quo.

In 2015, signs began to emerge that the status quo is changing.

Major fall releases like Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Halo 5: Guardians, Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and more allow players to control female characters. Women leading these AAA titles were defined not by their sexuality or appearance, but instead recognized for admirable, gender-neutral attributes.

This was also the year when EA Sports added women players to its annual FIFA game. The company's decision to include eight women's teams was timely, given the success of the Women's World Cup this year. FIFA 16 offered a way to play the women's game that, as in real life, was different than the men's game.

Game publishers are finally catching on to the notion that their products are not only consumed by young men.

A Pew Research Center survey on the demographics of technology ownership revealed that a higher percentage of console owners were women than men. 42 percent of the study's female respondents said they owned a game console compared with 37 percent of men.

Sony shines at revitalized E3 with big franchise reveals

This year's annual game industry get together was marked by a new willingness by organizer the Entertainment Software Association to allow members of the public into what has traditionally been a retail-focused event.

For the first time in its 20 year history, attendees unaffiliated with the industry or media were invited to the show by various exhibitors. In all, around 5,000 people took up the offer, boosting E3's overall attendance to its highest in a decade.

As is traditional at E3, the companies sought to outdo one another with new announcements and reveals. Sony probably had the best of show with its new reveal for Fumito Ueda's much-anticipated adventure The Last Guardian and a partnership with Yu Suzuki to work on PlayStation 4 console-exclusive Shenmue 3. Other hot games included Guerilla Games’ shooter Horizon: Zero Dawn, Media Molecule’s Dreams and Uncharted 4 as well as a remake of Final Fantasy 7.

Microsoft focused on some familiar 2015 games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Halo 5, but offered some future releases including Sea Of Thieves from Rare, ReCore from former Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune and Gears of War 4.

Microtransactions cause general uproar

Some games are ultra-monetized by dropping loot crates that players can only open with the purchase of keys. These lotteries either reward the keen player with rare weapons skins, or they offer something relatively worthless.

When it's been part of a game forever, these schemes run along without much controversy. But when they are introduced to an existing game, you can expect fireworks from fans.

In October, Starbreeze Studios and Overkill Software added microtransaction to their 2013 co-op shooter Payday 2, charging an optional $2.49 for crate keys.

The response was hostile. Many fans recalled that back when the game launched, Producer Almir Listo had stated that "Payday 2 will have no microtransactions whatsoever."

Payday 2

One Reddit thread "Fuck you overkill" attracted almost 8,000 upvotes, while protesters bombarded Payday 2's Steam page with negative reviews. Community modders walked away from their posts.

A few days later, Starbreeze and Overkill had a rethink. Loot drops were made free, though players could trade their booty via Steam.

Listo went on to apologize. "Players have been angry with us," he said. "For all the distress we’ve caused the past few weeks, I’d just like to take the time and say that we’re sorry. We’ve done a lot of things right in the past, but these past few weeks we screwed up."

YouTubers face financial scandals

Dead Realm is a multiplayer survival horror game. Players take the reins of either the main character or a ghost. It looks like the sort of game custom-built for YouTube's ubiquitous Let's Play shows.

Turns out, the game was created by YouTubers who went on to promote their own product on their shows, neglecting to inform viewers of their financial stake.

Dead Realm was created by a company called 3BlackDot, founded by ex-Machinima staffers as well as successful YouTubers Tom "Syndicate" Cassell and Adam "SeaNanners" Montoya.

Their actions were a violation of Fair Trade Commission rules which state that "if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear ... Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement."

Dead Realm
Dead Realm

3BlackDot released a statement claiming that its involvement was well known by "the community," but did not address its reticence to speak of its connection in the video endorsements.

A few weeks after this damaging episode, the FTC released a report on a 2013 Xbox One marketing campaign organized by Machinima, in which the company paid YouTubers to speak positively about the console, without divulging the financial arrangement.

The FTC ruled that Machinima had engaged in deceptive advertising in creating the YouTube marketing campaign.

"When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they're looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch," said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "That's true whether the endorsement appears in a video or any other media."

Star Citizen suffers a bumpy ride

Star Citizen has so far raised more than $100 million from fans willing to spend money on a game that is still in development.

It was originally due to be launched at the end of 2014. Although some limited modules are available to backers — two dogfighting maps (called Arena Commander), some spaceship race courses, a hangar to store ships and a social hub — the vast bulk of the game is still in development, including the single-player campaign and a unified, explorable universe.

Some investors have been losing patience. In 2015, the Star Citizen community was riven between those backers calling for patience, and those who wanted to see more accountability from developer Cloud Imperium, even demanding refunds.

Although reluctant at first, Cloud Imperium began giving refunds back to those backers who felt they had waited long enough.

As rumours began to circulate that the project might run out of money, Cloud Imperium chief Chris Roberts sought to calm nerves. "We have our development timeline and we know what we're doing," he said. "The game will speak for itself. The noise we're dealing with now will not be there. The people who were there and backed it along the way will be happy and they'll be proud of helping make something happen that probably could not have happened in any other situation."

Destiny gathers strength to become a cultural phenomenon

When Destiny arrived in September 2014, publisher Activision hailed it as the biggest video game launch of all time. The game made $500 million in pre-orders and day one retail sales and sold more than six million units in its first month.

Tooled by developer Bungie as a shooter with MMO tendencies, the game is still going strong following a hugely successful year. In 2015, Polygon published more stories about Destiny than any other game. Destiny has become a platform in its own right.

In 2015 Activision launched two expansions — House of Wolves and The Taken King — both of which players received enthusiastically. But it was the latter which resolved many of the game's first year failings, which its fan base had clearly pointed out to Bungie.

"We're super fucking serious about supporting Destiny and making it better," said Bungie's Luke Smith. "And for all of the ways that we hope to have improved Destiny with The Taken King, our work is unfinished and we're going to continue to work and make the game better."

The game was also given a massive update which made significant changes and additions. Destiny version 2.0 arrived in September weighing in at a hefty 18 GB on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

It replaced the voice of the sidekick AI, moving from Peter Dinklage to Nolan North. Additionally, the original levelling system, which previously required a specific armor attribute, was simplified and, with the launch of The Taken King, raised to level 40. A new Quests tab was also added as well as a revamped items management system. New maps were added and weapons were tweaked.

Perhaps its greatest achievements have been cultural. Barely a week goes by when a big Destiny-based spoof video, speed run or obsessed fan story isn't tearing through social media feeds. Destiny has carved its own path to become a video game phenomenon.

Updates and price cuts come to the console wars

It's been two years since the arrival of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and Microsoft and Sony's long-standing rivalry shows no sign of letting up. But one company has clearly had the better of it so far.

Even Xbox boss Phil Spencer agrees that PlayStation 4 "has a huge lead," helped by Sony having its best launch since the PS2, and Xbox having its worst, hampered by a high price and a misguided adherence to the Kinect back in 2013.

Spencer was promoted in 2014 in order to rescue Xbox, and 2015 saw some of his strategies coming to fruition. At E3, he announced plans to introduce backwards compatibility for many Xbox 360 titles. Microsoft also introduced an updated user interface called the New Xbox One Experience, which was based on the company's desire to integrate Xbox and Windows 10. It came with a slick new design and extended community features. DVR functionality was announced in the summer.

Following an extended price cutting experiment, Xbox One officially dropped to $349 in the summer, with the introduction of a new 1TB model with wireless controller.

Sony followed suit with a PS4 price cut in September, matching the $349 price on basic models. The company also introduced a new firmware update offering significant changes. PS4 system software 3.00 increased online storage capacity from 1GB to 10GB for all PS Plus members. A live YouTube streaming app was added as well as a community events section and new social features like Favorite Groups, posting clips to Twitter and custom community hubs.

In November, Sony announced that it has sold more than 30 million hardware units.

The fight continued on the exclusives front with PlayStation 4's 2015 selection including the likes of Bloodborne, Until Dawn and The Order: 1886 while Xbox One offered up Rise of the Tomb Raider, Forza 6 and Halo 5, among others.

Ouya fades away

July marked the end of Ouya as a hardware platform. The company's assets were bought up by PC hardware and peripheral maker Razer, and the platform was closed down.

Razer has its own Android-based console called the Forge TV. Its main interest in Ouya was the company's portfolio of 1,500 games which were transferred to Razer's online store. The company said it would "keep the lights on" for Ouya users for a year, while seeking to sell them all a Forge TV.

Razer is interested in bringing an Android-based console to China, something Ouya failed to accomplish despite a last ditch $10 million cash infusion from Alibaba back in January.


Founded by Julie Uhrman, Ouya was originally a much-trumpeted Kickstarter, raising $8.5 million from 63,000 backers before its 2013 launch. Although many users liked the idea of an open console platform, Ouya's eventual hardware felt cheap, and its user interface was poorly designed.

The machine's sales numbers were never high, and its user base failed to expand much beyond its backers. Game developers who were initially excited about Ouya drifted away. Ouya owed many of them significant amounts, a debt that Razer picked up.

Looking back on the failed platform, Uhrman said that she was proud to have "created the first open platform for television" adding: "While this was a hard trail to blaze, we proved that we could bring new thinking to how the games industry operates and we hope we have paved the way for others."

Video games are growing in more ways than one

The global market for games is estimated to have grown by 9.4 percent in 2015, according to the Global Games Market Review from research outfit NewZoo. Games are everywhere, even forming the basis for a lifestyle self-help book called SuperBetter, by Jane McGonigal.

20 years ago, the government was highly suspicious of games, but now it welcomes them as an integral part of children's education.

In April, the U.S. Department of Education held its first Games for Learning Summit in New York City.

"A lot of students play on average about 10,000 hours of video games by the time they are graduating high school," said Erik Martin, the U.S. Department of Education's Games for Learning lead. "That is almost the same amount they are spending in schools. You can imagine a lot of the time which of the two activities they might feel more engaged in or more relevant."

Games growing
Image source: Shutterstock

Ubisoft attended the event to talk up its own efforts to straddle education and games with guitar tuition title Rocksmith and Just Dance, which it said enhances health. The company also publishes games that touch on historical themes, such as the Assassin's Creed series. This year's entry, called Syndicate and set in Victorian London, features Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Florence Nightingale, Duleep Singh and Queen Victoria.

The summit is a direct response to President Barack Obama's ConnectED initiative, a push that included the idea of using games to make learning more practical and productive.

A White House Game Jam was organized by Martin which resulted in the release of a developer's guide that outlined ways apps, games and tools can be used to transform learning.

"Now there is an opportunity to see games as solving real educational problems," he said. "Video games can really provide formative, quality assessment about how a kid tackles a problem and how they fail and overcome the challenges around a certain context a game provides them. This is not about looking at games because they are cool or they are fun; they're a real educational solution."

Five Nights at Freddy's just can't be stopped

If you're the parent of a child between the ages of eight and 12, you probably know all about Five Nights at Freddy's.

This year, the series of survival horror games broke into the mainstream with a huge surge of popularity, most especially among the young. This popularity played out on YouTube, where many kids experienced the game by watching others play it rather than playing it themselves. In April, Warner Bros. announced that it was picking up the series' movie rights.

The games — two of the four were launched in 2015 alone — take place in a family themed restaurant at night. You are a security guard who is about to be treated to serial jump-frights. The player uses a system of security cameras to hide from demented animatronic puppets.

Players spend much of the game doing very little, apart from watching screens and being scared. Watching other people watching screens and being scared, via YouTube, turns out to be a lot of fun.

The games have brought sudden wealth to their creator Scott Cawthon, who previously developed obscure Christian-themed games. Last year he was still making ends meet by working as a cashier in a dollar store.

He has donated some of his wealth to charity but success tends to breed envy. In July the normally reticent Cawthon posted a letter to his fans. "It's true that there has been a lot of hate toward me lately; on the forums, on YouTube, etc," he wrote. "And I'll be honest, it's difficult. It's difficult when people seem to dislike you only because you've found success with something."

VR finally makes an entrance

Throw a coin these days and chances are you’ll hit someone working on virtual reality game. Or developing VR software. Or trying to get funding.

Yet VR is a world that hasn’t yet been fully discovered. VR headsets due on the market in 2016 include Oculus' Rift, HTC's Vive and Sony's PlayStation VR.

The range of software projects currently underway in VR is kaleidoscopic, but you can get a good taste by checking out Unreal Engine demo Showdown, Eclipse, Land's End, The Assembly and Omega Agent.

But it's also extant, albeit in a limited sense. Samsung released its Gear VR in November 2015 through mainstream retailers. It's a well-received $99 headset that attaches to various Samsung phones. The Gear VR is supposed to be a mass market product, and is in fact the first retail VR headset to be released in the modern wave of VR enthusiasm.

The hardware is both light, comfortable and easy to wear over long sessions. Part of its technical success comes from John Carmack's work on the project and his mobile SDK.

As Polygon stated in our review: "It's impossible to describe in words what it's like to strap on a headset and find yourself inside a video game rather than watching on a screen. The waiting game may have been hard, but the reward is a $99.99 headset that is comfortable, fully featured and ready to go with a variety of fun games, video content and things to explore."

Futuristic stuff made us check our reality

Games are forever looking to the future. Even as VR arrives as a marketable product, we turn our gaze toward the promise of augmented reality and holographic games.

Magic Leap is a secretive startup that is working on wearable augmented reality entertainment. Its "proprietary human computing interface technology" is called Cinematic Reality.

Last year Magic Leap hired author Neal Stephenson as its chief futurist while taking on board a $542 million investment from Google. Earlier this month reports emerged of the company expanding its war chest by more than $800 million.

In March 2015, we got a glimpse of what the company has planned, albeit in the highly restricted form of a trailer. Magic Leap released a video of an augmented reality shooter that the company claimed its staff was "playing around the office right now." Essentially, the game is superimposed on the player's environment, dropping combat into wherever you happen to be playing.

The VR-meets-life tech was shown again in a slightly more realistic October video which revealed virtual items mixed with real world items. A robot hides under a desk. The solar system floats in the middle of an office.

Still, the nature of the hardware itself, and its limitations, are still largely unknown, and such technologies have a history of failing to live up to their promises. In February, Rachel Metz from MIT Technology Review was one of the few outsiders to get a look at the tech. She described the hardware itself as "unwieldy scaffolding" while noting that Magic Leap is "hiring like mad" and filing patents for more practical wearable solutions.

Microsoft's HoloLens won Time's "top gadget of 2015" even though it's not actually available. Microsoft and Mojang used E3 to show a version of Minecraft.

HoloLens is a self-contained piece of equipment that introduces into the world what appear to be holograms. You can see and interact with virtual objects as if they were real. But even the most highly restricted hands-on demos reveal that the tech is still a long way from completion, with a limited field of view.

According to former project lead Kudo Tsunoda, the tech is being improved for launch in the relatively near future. "We’re talking about delivering Microsoft HoloLens and holograms within the Windows 10 timeframe," he said.

As new platforms arrive and as gaming continues to struggle with issues of its own making, 2016 will likely be just as unpredictable and fascinating as the last 12 months. Babykayak