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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds record-breaking popularity and Geoff Keighley’s Video Game Award’s GOTY nomination have forced this question on the industry. The VGA will poll dozens of gaming outlets to choose the winner between:

Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

Persona 5

Horizon Zero Dawn

and the Early Access! PUBG

Argument Against

The game isn’t officially finished. It’s currently in Steam’s Early Access program and isn’t necessarily indicative of the finished product. There’s still just one map, and there are server/stability issues galore. The game could get worse or be abandoned (I don’t see millions of dollars being abandoned anytime soon). It could also set a precedent for games rushed to market with a lower bar of quality.

Rebuttal – Modern games are often certified Gold and ‘finished’ but require a Day 1 patch. Even with a patch, we’ve seen numerous examples of performance issues, especially with PC ports getting stuck with the broken end of the stick too often. Officially calling a game finished doesn’t excuse it from problems. A game should be judged on its merits, regardless of the label

This is the finished game, definitely NOT Early Access

Art vs Commerce

Judging the best game is a matter of art. The VGAs and every GOTY article are simply polling the opinions of a microscopic slice of the gaming population (games media). Judging games on sales would provide the most amount of data if we consider each sale a vote via the wallet. After all, while games can be artistic, the games usually considered for GOTY are all created by full-time devs that make games as a living. This doesn’t mean the game’s integrity is sacrificed in every possible way to make the most profit, but success is often told by sales. The problem with judging by sales are the many variables and uneven playing field. Consumers purchase games based on marketing, brand recognition, word-of-mouth, review scores, streams, and personal bias to name just a few.

We mentioned games that release ‘finished’ but are buggier than some Early Access titles. But Early Access titles may receive an unfair perception based on their not-finished status. If No Man’s Sky was Early Access would it have been spared the pounding it took from critics and consumers that felt cheated of promised features? Did Early Access grant PUBG an unfairly positive first impression that allowed it to sink its hooks into just about everyone that played it?

Bestowing artistic praise on a worthy piece of content is a wonderful concept. Developers work and sacrifice to create games that often miss the mark. Validation isn’t quantifiable, but it still feels good.

If a game is sold and people enjoy it, is it a game? Could it be Game of the Year? I say yes.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWdd6_ZxX8c[/youtube]
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