Jan 3, 2022 - Technology

The year ahead in gaming

screenshot from video game

Image: Courtesy of Sony

As we kick off 2022, there are a handful of topics we expect to hear more about — from ongoing conversations about unions to increased interest in NFTs.

Why it matters: The big gaming stories of 2021 inform the trends that will continue into this new year.

A stuffed game release calendar

  • 2021 featured an unprecedented number of delays on games, thanks to complications from the pandemic, as employees continue to adjust to working from home and the physical and mental repercussions of COVID.
  • This year's lineup includes games pushed from their 2021 dates, such as Horizon Forbidden West, Dying Light 2 and Hogwarts Legacy, to highly anticipated titles like Elden Ring and Bayonetta 3.

A huge year for video game movies

  • The "Uncharted" film, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," and Nintendo's Super Mario movie (starring ... Chris Pratt?) are all slated for this year — an impressive lineup featuring iconic characters that may finally break the cycle of bad gaming movies.

An increased focus on workers' rights and labor conditions

  • 2021 was a tipping point for the largely non-unionized video game industry, with workers at Activision Blizzard beginning those efforts in earnest with employees signing union cards. Their success would not only be a huge win for those developers; it would act as a blueprint for other AAA studios.
  • Independent studio Vodeo Games became the first developer in North America to unionize, paving the way for those conversations to continue.
  • Developers are also beginning to embrace four-day workweeks, including Bugsnax developer Young Horses and Guardians of the Galaxy creator Eidos-Montreal. More companies are likely to follow suit.

NFTs are here to stay

  • NFTs— non-fungible tokens, IDs that can be associated with digital items that, in theory, make something like a JPEG or virtual piece of property scarce — were one of the biggest (and most unpopular) trends of 2021.
  • Companies such as Ubisoft and GSC Game World, as well as legendary designers Will Wright and Peter Molyneux, enthusiastically announced plans to dive into NFTs with in-game NFTs or NFT-based games. (GSC Game World later backtracked on its NFT plans after player backlash.)
  • Despite blowback from the community, companies continue to announce their plans to pursue NFT projects. Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda recently published a letter to shareholders about blockchain gaming and NFTs, in which he said he expects them to "become more commonplace among the general public."

So is the metaverse, for that matter — at least as a buzzy word to drum up excitement among investors.

The Cyberpunk redemption tour

  • After a disastrous launch, many mea culpas and hundreds of bug fixes, Cyberpunk 2077 is expected to launch for new-gen consoles — a shot for CD Projekt Red to win back favor with fans, or at least begin to rebuild its reputation.

Wild card prediction: The Switch will lose its luster, says Axios Gaming editor Peter Allen Clark.

  • When last year’s OLED Switch refresh failed to beef up any of the console’s internal specs, it cast doubt on the immediate future for the already dated-feeling handheld hybrid.
  • Even though Nintendo fans are eagerly awaiting expected bangers like Breath of the Wild 2 and Bayonetta 3, cracks have begun to appear in how the almost 5-year-old system can handle new titles.
  • Additionally, Nintendo taking its time with new hardware leaves something of a vacuum that could be easily filled by new portable devices like the upcoming Steam Deck or the Playdate.
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