The Three Biggest Surprises About the ‘The Game Awards’ Nominees

The Game Awards are nearly upon us. In just two weeks Geoff Keighley and company will take the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to recognize the best in gaming in 2017. Many of the awards make complete sense: Game of the Year, Best Score/Music, Best Action Game, etc. Still, when checking out the official list of nominees, there are a few oddities that stick out. Though there are sure to be plenty of exciting reveals, and even more unnecessary celebrity appearances, now is the time to focus is on the nominees. And boy, are some of these strange.

There’s a “Best Chinese Game” Category

The games industry is always growing,and it looks like China is bound to be one of the next big forces in it. All of the console manufacturers have begun to focus more on the world’s most populated country than ever before and many game development teams have started to pop up in China at a wild pace. For these reasons, it makes sense that The Game Awards would want to focus on China’s burgeoning space in the industry. To create an entire category for Best Chinese Game, however, is still a surprising move.

As it stands, the United States and Japan house most of the big-name video game publishers and developers in the world. There are, of course, numerous major development teams that hail from other countries: CD Projekt Red resides in Poland, Ubisoft’s various studios are mostly located in France and Canada, and Guerilla Games is housed in The Netherlands (just to name a few). It’s particularly strange, then, that it exists when there’s no “Best American Game,” “Best European Game,” or even “Best Asian Game” that would include China as well as Japan.

It’s a fan-voted award “as judged by The Game Award viewers in China,” and isn’t likely to even be announced during the show. Still, the movement to include it as a category is clearly a power-play to increase The Game Awards viewership in China. It’s hard to blame them for trying to court this fresh demographic, but that doesn’t make it any less surprising.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds isn’t Even Out Yet

The Game Awards have five nominees for Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, and… PUBG. In many ways, it’s understandable why this massively popular game would be nominated – it reportedly raked in over $100 million in revenue within in the first few months of its open beta alone. Its level of quality isn’t really the issue either – many journalists have praised the game in its early release form. What’s particularly strange is the fact that a finished version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds hasn’t technically been released yet.

PUBG is set for official release worldwide sometime next month, but it’s been available (at various levels of completion) through Steam’s early access program since March. It has since become the most popular title ever on Steam. The Game Awards consider any game “available for public consumption” on or before November 17, 2017 eligible for nomination. Even if PUBG hasn’t technically been released as a complete game, it meets that requirement. Some fans were happy to hear that this massive cultural phenomenon made it into the five Game of the Year nominees, while others lamented the promotion of early access games in such a major way. Regardless, it’s a surprising move that may mean more for the future of early access than the industry currently realizes.

The Category Sponsors Are Surprisingly Appropriate

Award category sponsors aren’t a new thing, but the randomness at which sponsors are attached to categories might seem a bit confusing at first. According to the official nominees page, there are only three categories with an official sponsor attached: Most Anticipated Game Presented by McCafé, Best eSports Player Presented by OMEN and Debut Indie Game Presented by Schick Hydro. Sure, McDonalds doesn’t have anything to do with anticipated games and shaving products are miles away from debut indie games, but the best eSports player being attached to OMEN gaming laptops actually makes a lot of sense on its own. But that’s not what’s surprisingly appropriate here.

None of the major categories have a sponsor shoved into their titles. There’s no “Game of the Year Presented by Denny’s” or “Best Action/Adventure Game Presented by Pepperidge Farm.” The three aforementioned categories are considerably low down on the list of categories and The Game Awards having enough self-restraint to keep sponsors away from major categories is surprisingly commendable. Sure, there would ideally be no sponsors involved in the video game equivalent of The Academy Awards, but in order for The Game Awards to stay afloat, they need to make money. If attaching money to minor categories is the way for them to achieve this, then so be it.

Hardcore Gamer will be following The Game Awards on Friday, December 7. There are sure to be dozens of announcements at the show, ranging from “who cares?” to “oh my god, the world will be forever changed by this game announcement.” If you want the most up to date news on all the major stories that break during the show, then keep an eye on Hardcore Gamer.