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BAFTA Games Awards 2013: Why downloadable games dominated the awards

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The biggest trend from this year's BAFTA Video Game Awards was the huge presence of downloadable games.

A total of 13 out of the 17 awards were won by games that are not available at retail, with blockbusters like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Halo 4, Assassin's Creed 3, Mass Effect 3 and FIFA 13 coming away empty-handed.

Compare this to last year where only three downloadable games won, two of which were on 'Online' and the download-focused 'Mobile' category.

How did this shift happen?

A key factor was originality. Aside from being boxed products, what the above titles have in common is that they're all sequels and populate similar genres, whereas the downloadable winners on the night represented a wide range of ideas and executions.

Journey

© Sony

'Journey' dominated the evening with five BAFTA wins.



New Star Soccer's surprise but fully deserved victory in 'Sports/Fitness' perhaps showed this most, beating the likes of FIFA 13, F1 2012, Forza Horizon and Trials Evolution thanks to its perfect execution of merging action and football management to work effortlessly on a mobile device.

'Best Game' Dishonored was a surprise, but only because it had yet to win an award up until that point. The mood in the winners' room - populated with journalists and broadcasters - suggested The Walking Dead or Journey would take it, simply because downloadables had been doing so well.

However, Dishonored was also a new property that, again, offered fresh ideas and implemented them flawlessly, and was not another continuation of an existing franchise.

It was also interesting that, outside of Journey's five wins, no single game dominated the evening's attention. The Walking Dead and The Unfinished Swan grabbed two awards apiece, but otherwise it was a fair spread.

The Unfinished Swan available exclusively on PlayStation Network

© Sony

PSN title 'The Unfinished Swan' saw success on the night.



This underlined how diverse a year 2012 was for games. In previous years, one or two releases will unanimously sweep critics' 'Game of the Year' awards and public attention. Uncharted 2, Mass Effect 2 and Skyrim are some of these examples from previous years.

However, in 2012 Journey, The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3, Dishonored and many more all enjoyed strong and unanimous critical success.

BAFTA's change in submission process

Another important reason why this year's BAFTAs were dominated by smaller, downloadable titles was the submission process. Previously guarded by a pricey submission fee, as of this year developers could submit one game for free, effectively opening the gates to smaller indie teams.

While some categories are still awkwardly positioned - 'Mobile' was won by The Walking Dead, a game that also appeared on PC, Mac and consoles - BAFTA now seems to reflect the diverse way games are released and played by consumers.

'The Walking Dead: Episode 2' screenshot

© TellTale Games

Telltale's 'The Walking Dead' won two awards, including 'Story'.



But with next-generation consoles releasing later this year, bringing with them a wave of big-budget boxed releases, will this trend of downloadable dominance continue?

With new consoles come new properties and new ideas, so we expect boxed releases to gain more ground in award ceremonies come 2014.

However, between the change in submission process and willingness of judges to support the originality that smaller titles offer, it looks like BAFTA's representation of all corners of the industry is here to stay.

> 'Journey', 'Dishonored' win big at BAFTA Games Awards 2013

What did you think of the winners of the BAFTA Games Awards 2013? Add a comment to the space below!

Gallery: BAFTA Games Awards 2013 winners and ceremony in pictures:

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