From loot box controversies to the announcement of PewDiePie’s retirement,looks at some of the issues for gamers over the past year, and speculates on some of the developments for 2020
1. PlayStation 5 announced
We knew it was coming, but not like this. Sony’s announcement of the next-gen PlayStation was so low-key it could have been a Leonard Cohen song.
We still don’t know what the console looks like, but we have a good idea of its technical capabilities, with custom hardware under the hood providing 8K resolution and ray-tracing. (In layman’s terms, better-looking games and faster loading times).
The PlayStation 5 will release around this time next year, but no price or date has yet been confirmed.
2. Xbox Series X
Not to be outdone, Microsoft also announced its next-gen console this year. Called the Xbox Series X, it too will be released towards the end of next year and will be backwards compatible with existing generation games.
That’s about all we know about the machine for now, although we have been shown what the console looks like – unsurprisingly, it’s a large black rectangular box.
Microsoft have said little else, but we suspect Cloud gaming and Xbox Game Pass will feature heavily, with Halo Infinite being a launch title.
3. ‘Surprise Mechanics’
Surprise! With gambling-like micro-transactions pervading some of gaming’s most successful titles, such as Call of Duty and FIFA, a UK House of Commons committee called developer Electronic Arts (creator of FIFA and other titles) to explain their stance.
The company’s vice-president of legal and government affairs called the offending loot boxes ‘surprise mechanics’ and claimed that they were ‘quite ethical and quite fun’, comparing them to the surprises in Kinder Eggs.
Needless to say, neither the UK government or gaming community were impressed with the response and there have been calls for better regulation as a result.
4. Fortnite Chapter 2
The titular two weeks has turned into two years, with Fortnite taking over the world since its launch.
A key part of that success has been Epic’s ability to reinvent the game at breakneck pace – although some people have criticised the pressure this places on the development team.
Fortnite Chapter 2 is the biggest shake-up yet, transforming the Fortnite island completely and adding many new features and adjustments. It literally changed the Fortnite landscape for years to come.
5. Fallout 76
Not every talking point has been exciting. Sadly, the tale of Fallout 76 has been a torrid one, for gamer and developer alike.
Bethesda, creators of all-time classic series The Elder Scrolls and former darling of the industry, came crashing to Earth this year with the nuclear failure of Fallout 76. Based on a beloved franchise, Fallout 76 was intended to be an interactive online world for players to live in the Fallout universe.
Instead, it became the poster child for everything wrong with micro transactions and quality control in modern video games, with each failure even worse than the last.
6. Half-Life Alyx
Over the last decade, gamers have made a meme of twisting anything developer Valve does and linking it to the existence of a third game in the Half-Life series. Valve announces a 33% sale? Gamers promptly declare: ‘A third off? A third? Half-Life 3?’
After more than a decade of waiting, the third game in the series was announced for real in November 2019 – but it’s not Half-Life 3. Instead it’s an experience built for virtual reality and it looks amazing. While some gamers complained about Alyx being exclusive to VR, this may well be the killer title to launch VR further into the mainstream.
7. Breath of the Wild sequel
Every breath you take, we’ll be watching you. Nintendo has some pretty intense fans – but in this case, we can’t really fault them. The Nippon kingpins left us all breathless when they announced a full sequel to arguably the best game in recent years.
Breath of the Wild 2 (unconfirmed title) was revealed in June 2019 and while we don’t know much yet, the trailer showed a resurrected zombie Ganon appearing to lift Hyrule castle out of the sky. We’ll be counting our breaths until it releases in 2020.
8. Keanu Reeves at E3
No, dear reader, you’re breath-taking. If that reference is lost on you, then you must have missed Keanu Reeves’ wonderful E3 festival cameo promoting one of 2020’s biggest releases.
Reeves appeared on stage to reveal that he will be playing Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077, the sci-fi game being developed by the same team who brought us The Witcher 3.
While on stage, Reeves claimed the game was ‘breath-taking’, prompting a fan to shout ‘You’re breath-taking’ to the star, who responded in kind. When A-List Hollywood stars are creating ad-lib viral content for a game, you know it’s going to be big.
9. Cloud streaming
What’s on the horizon? Well, it’s a whole bunch of clouds. Whether they bring rain or cover will depend on the biggest names in tech. Sony, Microsoft and Google all announced, launched or heavily promoted cloud-streaming gaming platforms this year, to various degrees of success.
Cloud streaming allows people with decent internet connections to stream a game to play instead of needing the required hardware or physical game.
This year will be remembered as the beginning of an inevitable cloud-based future for gaming – let’s hope it doesn’t cast a shadow over traditional gaming consoles.
10. PewDiePie takes a rest
The end of an era? Unlikely, but (face)time waits for no man.
PewDiePie, better known as Felix Kjellberg, has announced that he is ‘very tired’ and taking a break from YouTube in early 2020. Kjellberg is the face of gaming on YouTube, for better and worse, so this feels like the beginning of the end for a huge personality.
At 30 years of age and with a net worth of anything from $20-$30m, perhaps Kjellberg has simply decided to ride off into the sunset, leaving a trail of up-and-comers to take his place in 2020.