It’s onerous to maintain monitor of all of the gaming information that occurs in a single 12 months. The online game trade is a continuously increasing universe and even its most ardent followers couldn’t presumably sustain with all of it. It will require being hooked as much as an RSS feed (or Twitter, modernly) such as you would an IV.
Generally, that information may be so thrilling that it makes you are feeling such as you’re dwelling by a historic second. The 12 months 2021 introduced a wealth of innovation in tech, recreation design, and accessibility. From Valve saying the possibly game-changing Steam Deck to Forza Horizon 5 including signal language interpreters, there’s an actual sense that each nook of the trade is evolving.
However there’s a flip aspect to that — and a darkish one at that. A bombshell report about Activision Blizzard’s poisonous firm tradition rapidly grew to become the defining story of the 12 months, reminding us of the true human value of these improvements. As a lot because the online game trade has modified, different elements are depressingly stagnant. And Activision’s response to its personal drama reveals that it is likely to be some time till these issues are utterly uprooted.
Listed here are all the most important online game tales from an emotional, curler coaster 12 months stuffed with contradictions.
Activision Blizzard faces a well-known scandal
On July 21, a bombshell report outlining a historical past of toxicity inside Activision Blizzard dropped. The corporate was sued by the state of California and confronted accusations surrounding its “frat boy” office tradition. The stories are onerous to abdomen, detailing a historical past of sexual harassment on the firm.
The story solely obtained worse because the 12 months progressed. In November, one other report alleged that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick knew concerning the firm’s points and actively tried to brush them underneath the rug. Kotick was allegedly a part of the issue as effectively, with a former assistant claiming that he threatened to kill her over voicemail. Regardless of exterior stress from corporations like Sony for Activision to take motion towards Kotick, the corporate’s board of administrators selected to stay with him. Kotick stays the corporate’s CEO on the time of writing.
It’s a depressingly acquainted story. Simply final 12 months, Ubisoft’s personal office tradition scandals had been featured in our “greatest information of 2020” article. The trade at massive nonetheless struggles to grapple with its darkish actuality. On the 2021 Sport Awards on December 9, host Geoff Keighley started the present with a preamble condemning harassment and toxicity in gaming, although he stopped in need of naming names (maybe as a result of Activision’s Rob Kostich is on the occasion’s advisory board). Moments later, Keighley launched a trailer for up to date recreation from Quantic Dream, a studio that’s lengthy been combating poisonous office allegations.
These incidents present that there’s nonetheless a good quantity of cognitive dissonance within the gaming world on the subject of these points. The will to have fun video games, but in addition maintain the businesses that make them accountable, can typically conflict, leaving gamers with an existential disaster. There aren’t any straightforward solutions, and that makes this story all of the extra irritating.
Delays outline 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, however its impact on gaming wasn’t felt till 2021. Lots of 2020’s greatest releases had been already near completion by the point builders needed to pivot to working from dwelling. However what did that imply for video games that weren’t as far alongside?
In the beginning of the 12 months, we predicted that 2021 can be affected by delays, and that’s precisely what occurred. Excessive-profile titles like Horizon Forbidden West and God of Struggle Ragnarok shifted into 2022, scaling down the vacation season. Whereas indie builders nonetheless loaded the 12 months with hits, gamers weren’t having fun with video games like Elden Ring as they might have anticipated heading into the 12 months.
As disappointing as they might appear, delays are a necessity. Final 12 months’s Cyberpunk 2077 was a cautionary story for builders after a seemingly rushed launch led to catastrophe for CD Projekt Purple. Studios appeared eager to keep away from these errors this 12 months, opting to provide their video games the time they wanted. Hopefully, these choices lowered worker crunch, which stays a widespread difficulty within the online game trade.
Valve shocks with the Steam Deck
For many years, the gaming console panorama has been outlined by three corporations: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Whereas there are many different corporations making tech, nobody else has made a devoted gaming gadget that’s actually modified that dynamic. That made Valve’s Steam Deck announcement a real system shock.
The shock gadget is basically a Nintendo Swap for PC avid gamers. It will possibly truly retailer and play PC video games, in contrast to gadgets just like the cloud-focused Snapdragon G3x. Pre-orders surged regardless of the hefty price ticket. It’s straightforward to see why there was a lot pleasure across the Steam Deck. The concept of taking your Steam library on the go is a dream come true, and one which one-ups the getting older Swap and its outdated tech.
After all, there was a hitch. Whereas the Steam Deck was scheduled to launch this month, Valve delayed it into 2022 proper on the end line. Even the most important tales of 2021 felt like they had been teasers for subsequent 12 months.
Sony and Microsoft’s newest warfare heats up
The console wars appeared like they had been lifeless and buried as Sony and Microsoft’s methods drifted aside, however a brand new battle has begun. Final 12 months, Microsoft fired an enormous shot by buying Bethesda, gobbling up video games like The Elder Scrolls VI as potential exclusives. It felt like the beginning of an arms race and Sony was positive to reply.
Certain sufficient, Sony spent 2021 making energy performs. The corporate went on an acquisition spree, locking down builders like Returnal studio Housemarque, in addition to Bluepoint Video games, which created the Demon’s Souls remake.
Microsoft nonetheless performed the final word trump card, although. In a real shocker, Sony’s personal MLB The Present 2021 got here to Xbox Sport Cross at launch. It was a transfer pressured by the MLB itself, which pushed Sony to launch the sport on different platforms moderately than maintain on to it as an unique. That transfer confirmed the facility of Sport Cross within the present gaming panorama — it’s a service that seemingly everybody desires a chunk of. With Sony reportedly planning its personal Sport Cross competitor, we would see that battle get much more tense in 2022.
Apple vs. Epic resolves with no clear winner
Final 12 months, Apple took an enormous shot at Epic Video games by eradicating Fortnite from its app retailer. It was a transfer spurred on by Epic attempting to get round Apple taking a large chunk of its in-app purchases. Epic responded with a lawsuit, setting the stage for a high-profile authorized battle that had the potential resolve the way forward for the trade.
The trial itself passed off in Could and descended into rapid chaos as Fortnite followers obtained a maintain of the trial’s Zoom hyperlink. Gamers flooded the decision with cries to “free Fortnite,” whereas others simply plugged their YouTube channel. The case itself was simply as bizarre, with attorneys discussing whether or not or not Mr. Peely, the sport’s banana hero, was technically nude.
The case concluded on September 10 with neither aspect actually popping out on high, however each claiming victory. Whereas Decide Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers largely sided with Apple on 9 out of 10 counts, Epic did get one key win. Rogers dominated that Apple might not block builders from linking to exterior storefronts to make purchases. Apple can nonetheless take a 30% reduce of app gross sales, however builders now have a workaround on the subject of in-app purchases, which is massive information for Fortnite (although the sport stays banned on iOS).