Players, and the gaming industry as a whole, can be a little too focused on what’s next. Recently released blockbusters can fade from public consciousness within days, while the “next generation” of console hardware or a highly anticipated sequel, which has been around for years, can grab headlines.
In this type of environment, it can be useful to review the major trends shaping the industry over a period longer than a few days. Thinking back to the big game news of 2022, a few clear storylines emerge.
The big game publishers are getting even bigger
If there’s one trend that’s defined the gaming industry in 2022, it’s giant corporations that have acquired to become even bigger. It was the year the big conglomerates spent a lot of money to fill the holes in their wallets, like Sony spending $3.6 billion to Fate maker Bungie; take two spending $12.7 billion to farmville Zynga manufacturer; or the Embracer group picking up parts of Square Enix, Limited edition gamesand more.
But one merger project stood out above all; the $68.7 billion marriage proposal that Microsoft offered Activision Blizzard in January. This move could be seen as opportunistic for Microsoft, as Activision’s market value dropped significantly in mid-2021. numerous bullying and discrimination scandals and surveys. It’s also an acquisition that could offer Activision’s beleaguered CEO Bobby Kotick a golden parachute to escape the storm.
The main concern of players after the announcement was whether Activision franchises like it or not Call of Duty would still be allowed on PlayStation and other non-Microsoft platforms. Microsoft has attempted to allay these concerns with a series of more and more fervent promises he doesn’t want to lock Activision games on the Xbox.
These assurances so far have not been proven for Sony or for antitrust regulators which now seem on the verge of seriously jeopardizing the merger project. After pushed by US senatorsthe Federal Trade Commission formal complaint filed to block the merger, citing antitrust concerns. Regulators the UK and the EU are also in the midst of serious investigations that could lead to similar attempts to prevent the merger.
Despite all the drama, markets currently seem relatively confident the deal will be done.
The Year of the Weird Laptops
For decades, handheld gaming has been dominated by one company: Nintendo. After the death of Sony’s PlayStation Vitafor years no one even bothered to release handheld gaming hardware to challenge Nintendo’s Switch or popular mobile gaming devices in every pocket.
2022 was the year that started to change in a big way, as a number of companies pushed some decidedly quirky gaming laptops. It started with the Analogue Pocket, which technically launched in late 2021 but started shipping to pre-order customers in large numbers this year. out of the box, the Pocket’s solid industrial design and premium screen make it ideal for replaying thousands of cartridges from Nintendo’s classic Game Boy and Game Boy Advance lines. But it was the intro of new emulation cores this year, it really made this FPGA device a must-have for retro gamers.
It was also the year Valve got into wearable hardware. The steam bridge has been at or near the top of Steam’s own sales charts since its launch, even though first supply shortages gave way to wider availability. The hardware has certain limitations: screen quality, battery life, size and Anti-cheat compatibility among them. Yet the Linux-based device turned out to be “good enough” to put thousands of “Deck Verified” or “Deck Playable” titles in the hands of PC gamers. No wonder Valve is already talk about a follow up. At the other end of the mass market spectrum, the eccentric and deferred Playdate used 2022 to prove that portable games can be cute, light and fun. The bright yellow laptop doesn’t even have a backlight or color display, but it does have a new crank controller on the side and a wide variety of inventive indie games Powered by a robust homebrew community.
This year, a few companies have also launched dedicated portable hardware focused on the streaming game market. Logitech G Cloud and Razer’s Edge 5G Pair generic dual-stick controls with a generic Qualcomm-powered Android device, allowing easy access to various mainstream streaming services and emulators. It’s too early to tell whether these devices will find a significant market which is not served by existing smartphone controller attachments. Either way, their mere existence helps cement the fact that handheld gaming in 2022 isn’t just for Nintendo anymore.
NFT? Players say “No, thank you”
At the start of 2022, large parts of the gaming industry looked ready to go all-in NFTs and their promise of “unique” and salable digital collectibles, either as in-game items or as glorified trading cards. Supported by stories like Peter Molyneux’s startup raises $54 million in NFT sales in a single weekcompanies like Square-Enix, Konamiand GameStop were just a few of the biggest names teasing their big NFT projects earlier this year. And while companies like Sega were publicly suspiciousUbisoft was actively defend the in-game NFT program it was launched in 2021.
As the year progressed, however, the bloom started to come off, the NFT increased significantly. Axie Infinity– once touted as the best example of a successful “play to win” game –saw its economy practically collapse before a major crypto hack destroys any remaining confidence in the game or its cryptographic tokens. GameStop’s NFT Marketplace Finally launched to slow down sales this got even slower over timealthough it turned out to be a boon for scammers selling unlicensed games. Ubisoft, meanwhile, wisely suspended its own NFT sales and after that tried to pretend it had never been so interesting in the space. High profile failures like these – and a broader collapse in crypto and NFT prices in general – has led to a massive mood shift away from NFTs among many game companies. Game of Online Standby to Minecraft to Grand Theft Auto explicitly rejected the use of NFTs, at least in part because they had already built highly lucrative gaming economies without blockchain technology. The International Association of Game Developers says he would take a ‘stronger stance’ on the ethics of NFTs. And Sony seemed to go out of its way to note that its new line of digital PlayStation collectibles did not use crypto or blockchain in any way.
The NFT game still has a lot of supporters, and there will always be investors ready to place big money bets on the still unproven space in 2023. But by the end of the year, there are fewer and fewer people who seem publicly convinced that blockchain-based gaming will power the “next big thing” in the industry.