2020 was always going to be a bumper year for the gaming industry. With next-gen console releases on the horizon, gaming hardware releases up the wazoo, and some big-name game releases marked on our calendars - this was set to be a big year for every type of gamer. Then, the world was hit with a global pandemic and everything changed.
As the world was placed under lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, we all retreated to what we know best - long, comforting gaming sessions. As the lockdown took hold, we saw sales of the Nintendo Switch soar as more and more people wanted to escape to a simpler life in Animal Crossing, the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake was released to wildly positive reviews, and everyone’s calendars suddenly cleared up as gaming conventions across the world were canceled amidst safety concerns.
But, virus or no virus, 2020 has seen a lot of shake-ups in the gaming world. Join us as we take a look at some of the most significant changes for Gaming in 2020.
Nostalgia High = Remake Heaven
The last few years have seen nostalgia take center stage in most industries. Movie and TV remakes have been winning over audiences, fashion brands have been bringing back style moments from our youth, and the gaming industry has been no different.
Playing on the nostalgia factor helps to secure a more successful launch as there’s already a solid audience for your game - especially when it comes to such well-loved titles as Final Fantasy VII. After years of teasers and what felt like slow-moving production, 2020 finally saw the release of the FF7 Remake.
By making these games remakes rather than remasters, they made sure that the audience would still get to be surprised by what the games had in store, helping to catapult to the top of people’s wish lists. Unlike movie remakes, it seems that game remakes have been a big hit.
When we went to CES 2020, the event was littered with cloud gaming technology. Many industry insiders seem convinced that it is the way forward, and we can see why. Game sizes are increasing at a somewhat alarming rate (looking at you COD) so being able to game via cloud services seems like a great solution.
Unfortunately, the world of cloud gaming has got off to a rather rocky start. NVIDIA’s Geforce Now service launched this year, and quickly lost access to a significant amount of games from the likes of Blizzard Activision, Bethesda, and Xbox Game Studio. Only time will tell if the world of cloud gaming will really be able to make the splash that many thought it would.
Another big trend we saw at CES 2020 was a focus on mobile gaming. Some of my favorite pieces of tech to play with on the show floor were the mobile gaming products brought out by LG and Razer. These advances in mobile technology really helped to bring it to another level.
Along with new technology, we’ve also seen a number of big developers including mobile in their plans. With names like Activision Blizzard, EA, and Bethesda porting some of their most popular franchises to mobile, the market looks set to continue growing.
The mobile gaming industry still has a ways to go when it comes to convincing PC gamers to make the switch. Take Diablo: Immortal - when Blizzard announced the game, fans were disappointed, to say the least. Mobile still plays second fiddle to more traditional video game platforms, but with the advances and big-name support, we could see this begin to change throughout 2020.
Subscription gaming has rocketed in popularity recently, and we’re not surprised. As a generation that relies on Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime, the ability to apply this system games as well makes total sense. Add on to this the ever-increasing price of games and you can see why more and more people are taking advantage of services like PS Plus, Xbox Games Pass, and Apple Arcade.
Of course, with subscription services like this, you never own the games you get access to. If you cancel your subscription, you lose access to every title too. But, this no longer seems like such a sacrifice when the cost of these subscriptions is so low.
While you don’t have control over which games are included in your subscription, it does mean you’re more likely to be exposed to games you wouldn’t otherwise have known. Whether that means indie titles from smaller developers, or trying out a new genre of game for the first time.
Digital > Physical
A fairly obvious move that everyone saw coming, but fewer people than ever are getting hold of physical copies of their games. The simple convenience of clicking a few buttons and having the game in your hands can’t be beaten. Add to that the fact that most PC builds and laptops nowadays don’t even come equipped with a disk drive, and the rise in digital game sales makes total sense.
But, with less physical sales, more brick and mortar stores are struggling to stay open. For example, GameStop - one of America’s biggest game retailers - will be closing 300 stores this year, following on from 320 store closures in 2019.
Gaming As A Social Activity
Take a look at some of the most popular games around right now - Animal Crossing, Call of Duty, Fortnite, World of Warcraft, and you’ll notice they all have one thing in common: socialization. With everyone trapped at home right now, online communication has become one of the most important tools for staying in touch with people.
Animal Crossing, especially, has seen a whole host of in-game events take the place of IRL meetups. Everything from graduation ceremonies to birthday parties to date nights have been taking part in the sickeningly cute Nintendo game world. The coolest we’ve heard of though? One company using Red Dead Redemption 2 for their work meetings instead of Zoom!
Over the years, the game industry has been rife with issues around toxic work environments. Often viewed as an inherently straight male industry, it’s taken time for more areas of society to feel welcome and represented. 2020 has seen some improvement in this area though. From putting a lesbian character at the center of one of the year’s biggest games with Ellie in The Last Of Us Part 2 to featuring a range of gender-inclusive options for character creation in games like Animal Crossing New Horizons and The Sims 4.
Overwork culture has also seen improvements. While studios are still pushing their employees to finish games for their projected release dates, the community, on the whole, has become much more understanding (and expectant of) delays. Especially during this pandemic, fans are more than happy to wait for games if it means better quality and better work conditions for the developers.
Of course, the main thing that most of us are going to think about when we look back at 2020 is the Coronavirus pandemic. For many of us, this outbreak has caused a huge increase in our gaming. The social aspect, the escapism, and the chance to revisit old classics has really helped the gaming industry reach new heights.
COVID-19 isn’t disappearing any time soon either. So it’s likely that this increased focus on gaming is set to continue.
2020 has been an interesting year so far, to say the least. But, it is far from over, and we’re excited to see what the rest of the year will bring us. What are you most looking forward to in 2020? Whether it’s getting your hands on one of the next-gen consoles, building your first PC, or playing through one the new releases on the roster for this year - we want to know! So, leave us a comment down below or head over to the WePC Community to continue the conversation.