The 5 biggest questions in gaming I want answered this year
Happy New Year! This special edition of gaming news, boiled down, in 4:44 minutes.
Despite the downfalls of 2020, it was a great year for gaming. From the release of the new generation of consoles to the record number of new gamers, this year saw the industry flourish in so many ways. With 2020 behind us, what should we be looking out for in 2021?
5. Will CD Projekt Red be redeemed?
I know, I’ve written about this game studio a lot. With a definite class action lawsuit on the horizon, several more potential ones, and a disgruntled fanbase, CD Projekt Red will likely have more to answer for in the upcoming year for the buggy release of Cyberpunk 2077. Luckily, we have some hints of what to expect.
We now know the studio plans to defend itself from the allegations and will release free DLC (downloadable content, essentially add-ons for the game) this year. Despite the studio seemingly in damage control mode, CD Projekt Red has a great track record of being quick to action on feedback as seen with their previous flagship title The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
My opinion: The studio will fix a majority of the bugs and make the necessary improvements to the game to make it run better on current and last generation consoles. Unfortunately, nothing they will do will skyrocket the quality of the game to the heights that were touted pre-release. I’m optimistically cautious.
4. Will a Nintendo Switch Pro be released?
Three years after the base PlayStation 4, the PlayStation 4 Pro was released. Three years after the base Xbox One, the Xbox One X was released. These were incrementally upgraded versions of the base consoles that ran games at higher frames per second (essentially higher quality video) and with better graphics, but not as good as the current generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
Well, it’s been three years since Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo made minor hardware improvements via an upgraded battery in mid-2019 and released the Nintendo Switch Lite (handheld only version) not long after, but nothing in regards to making the console more powerful. Will they follow in Sony and Microsoft’s footsteps? History says likely not. But the leaks and rumors say yes.
My opinion: Despite the Nintendo Switch releasing all the way back in 2017, it still sells out frequently to this day. These upgraded consoles boosted the sales of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but for Nintendo it seems like sales don’t need boosting. However, the reason why Nintendo Switches were so hard to find this year were largely due to reported production issues. With everything going back to normal hopefully some time this year, demand may not keep up with restored supply, which is where the Nintendo Switch Pro could come into play.
Keep in mind, Nintendo’s core strength has never been insane graphics or high frame rates – it’s in their proprietary catalogue, such as Super Mario, which frankly doesn’t need insane graphical detail. Having said that, I believe the rumors, but think it will be released in the 2021 holiday season instead of early 2021 as predicted by analysts.
3. Will game streaming services gain momentum or be a fad?
Game streaming / cloud gaming is like Netflix for video games — it allows gamers to stream games directly to a device remotely from a server. Pretty cool, right? On paper absolutely, but when it doesn’t work as intended it can be a disaster.
As you can imagine, latency (the time delay between what is inputted on the controller and the corresponding action on screen) is among the largest issues with these services. Without a strong internet connection the gameplay experience is subpar, effectively excluding potential customers in internet-restricted areas. In addition, data usage for these services is upwards of 4.5 gigabytes per hour, which can be an issue for people with data caps. It’s also costly, as gamers must purchase the service (usually a monthly fee) in addition to purchasing games.
It may be due to these shortcomings that the cloud gaming scene has experienced slow growth thus far, such as 5 year-old PlayStation Now with 2.2 million users as of May 2020.
My opinion: With game install sizes and system requirements reaching unprecedented heights, the appeal for cloud services is strong for people like myself who don’t have a powerful gaming rig. As these services make their way to more devices such as Apple’s App Store, increased accessibility may be the boon cloud gaming needs to go mainstream.
The bottom line for me is that it’s simply too expensive right now for the non-optimal experience you get in return. I’m no tech expert, but I’m not so certain that these companies can remedy the aforementioned issues within the year. Having said that, Microsoft may be on the right track to proving me wrong with xCloud.
2. Will inclusivity and diversity improve?
Diversity in the gaming community is stronger than ever. Slowly but surely, this trend is being reflected in games as well. Insomniac’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales gave us the first Afro-Latin American playable superhero. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us 2 gave us a lesbian main character. CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 gave us a character creation system that blurs the lines between sexes.
Off-screen, the wide majority of game developers are Caucasian males, with only 24% identifying as female and 2% identifying as black. With the industry pledging to take action, such as through establishing outreach programs to enhance diversity in the workforce, hopefully these statistics will even out in the coming year.
In addition, gaming has become more friendly to disabled individuals with the graciousness of charities such as AbleGamers and Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller. On the esports front, which is essentially male only, many organizations are working to make teams and tournaments more inclusive.
My opinion: It’s in everyone’s best interests to include as many as we can in the gaming community. For studios, it can mean greater sales. For developers, it can mean enhanced opportunities and unique perspectives. For gamers, it means higher player counts and more potential friends (or people to call noobs). I believe these advantages are widely known, but it’s unfortunate that such change has been slow. With accountability and reputability of the upmost importance, I believe this year will be of great change as we see more diversity on and off-screen.
1. How will the “console wars” pan out?
Do you have any of the new video game consoles? Me neither (thanks scalpers). Although no official sales numbers have been touted by either side, unofficial data suggests the PlayStation 5 is outselling the new Xbox consoles by almost 2-to-1 on the resale market. The thing is, Microsoft doesn’t care.
This console generation, Sony and Microsoft have very different strategies. Sony’s is much more straight forward — sell as many consoles as possible and keep gamers locked in with exclusive games. Microsoft cares much more about their ecosystem — enticing gamers through their console, Xbox Game Pass, PC, or xCloud and keeping them locked into these offerings for generations to come. Both strategies are extremely viable, with Sony leaning in on console sales while Microsoft is gearing towards services.
My opinion: The PlayStation will outpace sales of the new Xbox consoles handsomely this year. Thus, corresponding game sales will be higher on PlayStation but will be much more even between the two platforms compared to console sales. I believe these are in part due to PlayStation’s strong competitive awareness: a solid console with extremely high-quality exclusives.
Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with the disastrous launch of the Xbox One, which seemed to favor TV watchers more than gamers. Microsoft did rectify the issues, but by then it was too late to regain the lost goodwill built by the Xbox 360. Coupled with the fact that the Xbox One really didn’t have a strong exclusive games lineup over its life allowed the PlayStation 4 to outsell the Xbox One by more than double. That momentum will carry over to this new generation, which is why Microsoft may be future-proofing themselves for the death of consoles.
Thank you so much for reading, a follow would be much appreciated! Any and all feedback is valid and welcome. All opinions are my own.