The video game industry never slows down, with the holiday season full of video game releases soon transitioning into a busy Q1/Q2 2023. Major gaming brands find themselves in steep competition, each trying to find the leverage to keep their consoles, games, and more at the forefront of gamers’ minds. And sometimes something dear to many gamers still fails. This year began, wildly, with Microsoft’s announcement of its intended Activision Blizzard King acquisition and has ended, as many years do, with major releases ahead of the holiday.
The industry isn’t impervious to the world around it either, and that’s not to mention the volatile nature of the industry itself. There have been plenty of major controversies that found themselves at the forefront of many news feeds, but controversy aside, these are the biggest video game news stories of 2022 in no particular order.
Embracer Group Acquisitions and Shake-Ups
While a lot of eyes have been on Microsoft’s growth with the Activision Blizzard King acquisition, Embracer Group has grown quickly under a lot of noses. It has been doing so for the past few years, but it expanded this year with Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, Square Enix Montreal (which was rebranded and then shut down), Tuxedo Labs, Limited Run Games, Tripwire Interactive, Singtrix, and more. On top of that, it has IP rights to the entire Lord of the Rings franchise and many others through deals such as these.
Embracer Group, however, saw a few shake-ups this year. Saints Row launched under its umbrella to an underwhelming “mixed-to-average” reception that largely trended downward, but the biggest shake-up is easily behind-the-scenes developments with the KOTOR Remake. Announced at the end of 2022, this remake project was undeniably one of the biggest developments undertaken by Aspyr (one of the developer studios under Embracer). Earlier this year, reports indicated that KOTOR Remake was delayed internally and indefinitely at Aspyr after executives were not impressed following three years of work. According to these reports, two major developers were fired, Aspyr was set to look for other work, and hands changed internally from Aspyr to Saber. This means the KOTOR Remake, if it ever manifests, is even further away than before.
The announcement of the G4 revival in 2022 was a wave of nostalgia for older fans, and it was seemingly a great way to celebrate that culture while introducing more into it. There was a lot of build up, but the network officially launched on November 2021. Unceremoniously, however, G4 was shut down just two days after its one-year anniversary. Prior to that, a memo leaked online indicating Comcast’s intent to shut down the network. This memo was a shock to many, including those working on G4, and it was a sad month or so for the industry here. Many were quick to point fingers and there was a lot that could be said, but ultimately some of the reasons for this shutdown were low viewership, no real audience strategy, absent leadership, high costs, and competition with the likes of YouTube and Twitch, which have long dominated the gaming viewership sphere.
Grand Theft Auto 6 Finally Announced, Early Gameplay Leaks Online
It has been a wild year for Rockstar Games. It finally confirmed Grand Theft Auto 6 was in development, said a goodbye of sorts to Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2, and somewhere along the line, suffered one of the biggest leaks in industry history. The entire source code of Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA 6 were apparently stolen by a hacker (or hackers) and EXTREMELY early gameplay leaked online. This has given fans a much more intimate look at the game than anyone intended and certainly a lot to chew on, more than they’d get in years, thanks to a malicious effort to sell these source codes and push all of this information online. The leaker was arrested and reportedly pled not guilty, though the situation has not developed beyond that.
Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard King Acquisition
Microsoft made waves at the start of this year when it announces its intent to acquire Activision Blizzard King for a whopping $68.7 million. It has since seen approval from some regulators, investigations by others, and plenty of critics, but should this deal close, it would undeniably be the biggest in the gaming industry, ever. Such a move would bring beloved IP like Overwatch, Diablo, Call of Duty, Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga (and more opportunities in the mobile market at large), and many, many more under the Microsoft umbrella. It’s unlikely this wraps up anytime soon, so this conversation and its surrounding implications will no doubt be one of the biggest talking points of 2023 as well.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Leaks
Prior to the release of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, neither Game Freak nor The Pokemon Company was particularly giving when it came to new information. Paradox Pokemon were only barely teased before release, after all, and only a handful of new Pokemon was revealed as well. This meant many fans were in the dark going into the new gen, but at the same time, many were not—information from Riddler Khu and Kaka clued fans into several details ahead of then, as long as fans were privy to leaks. And, roughly a week before the release, the entire ROM ended up online, with fans leaking the entire Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Pokedex, gym leaders, the optimal route, and much, much more.
For Pokemon fans, it was an interesting time when basically everything was out, yet nothing was official, and at the same time, nothing was done maliciously unlike the GTA 6 leaks. It was a time period that built hype for a lot of fans, keeping all eyes attached to the new games alongside official reveals and their eventual release.
The PS Plus Tier Revamp
This year, Sony launched its PS Plus Extra and Premium services to compete in the subscription space with Xbox Game Pass. While Essential is the same as it was before, PS Plus Extra gets fans a catalog of PS4 and PS5 titles, while PS Plus Premium gives fans a catalog of classic games from PS1-PS3. All in all, there is something like 800 games on there—Sony insists PS Plus has not caught up to Xbox Game Pass, but that’s natural. Its pre-release marketing, launch, and continued addition of excellent games prove that things are only looking up for the service, especially with the plethora of high-quality content being added every month.
The Release of the Steam Deck
The Steam Deck released earlier this year, and while it was quite difficult to get hands-on at first, it has become easier and easier over the year. Valve even gave away a ton of Steam Decks to coincide with The Game Awards ceremony of 2022. This powerful device is, at its heart, a mobile PC capable of playing multiple great games on the go. Fans of the Nintendo Switch will certainly enjoy it, and PC and Switch lovers find the best of both worlds in this device. It hasn’t exactly taken the industry by storm, but it made its mark in 2022, with a bright future ahead of it too.
Sony Acquires Bungie, Haven Studios, and More
Sony Interactive Entertainment has acquired a number of developers this year, with some of its future plans becoming plain to see as well. This year, Sony acquired Jade Raymond’s Haven Studios, which is working on a triple-A multiplayer game. It has also acquired Bungie, the creator of Halo and Destiny, and it is openly using Bungie’s expertise to coordinate future live-service projects under the PlayStation umbrella. That’s the big kicker right there, as Bungie has had one of the most consistently enjoyed live-service models in the industry (even if currently Destiny 2 is struggling a bit). It remains to be seen, of course, but this could see PlayStation active in multiple spaces outside the single-player games fans associate it with. Other acquisitions include Repeat.gg for Esports and Savage Game Studios, which has mostly worked on mobile titles.
Ubisoft Announces New Approach to Assassin’s Creed’s Future
It’s no secret that the Assassin’s Creed fandom has been split for years, with many not enjoying the massive open-world RPG approach and wishing for a return to roots for the franchise. Others, meanwhile, have enjoyed the latest set-ups of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla. It wasn’t really sure what Ubisoft planned to do beyond these games, but at Ubisoft Forward this year, the company made a lot of fans happy when it announced the best of both worlds: more varied approaches to each game in the future. For example, Assassin’s Creed Codename Jade is an open-world mobile game with a completely customizable character, while Assassin’s Creed Mirage is taking fans back to the classic action-adventure roots, focusing on parkour, stealth, and assassination in its gameplay.
But beyond that, Assassin’s Creed Red will continue the open-world RPG format of the past few games (if potentially slightly smaller in scale), while AC Hexe is being billed as a different experience altogether. These two represent the franchise’s future home in AC Infinity, while multiplayer and VR projects are in the works too. The variety here is big news for fans of the franchise, and if Ubisoft follows up successfully, the 15-year-old franchise could see yet another resurgence in popularity over the next few years.
War in Ukraine’s Impact on the Gaming Industry
While many are quick to say “no politics in games,” the simple truth is that gaming is a human habit, behavior, and industry, and the world around it impacts everything about it. Russia’s invasion and war against Ukraine absolutely impacted the industry this year. Ukraine-based studios, as well as worldwide studios with workers (remote or otherwise) who live in Ukraine suffer the consequences of this inane war. The people of this industry and of Ukraine are obviously far more important than games, but this has seen games like Stalker suffer delays, games like Arma used as war propaganda, and
Meanwhile, game companies and gamers around the world have sought to aid those in Ukraine. CD Projekt Red, Humble Bundle, 11 Bit Studios, Bungie, Remedy, The Pokemon Company, Avalanche Studios Group, Epic Games, Kojima Productions, and many more have condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine and made huge donations/hosted huge fundraisers. The impact on the people of this industry is palpable, from devs to gamers, and the impact on the world itself is more so.
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