It’s hard to keep track of all the gaming news that happens in a single year. The video game industry is an ever-expanding universe and even its most ardent fans couldn’t keep up with everything. It would require being connected to an RSS feed (or Twitter, nowadays) as you would an IV.
Sometimes that news can be so exciting that it makes you feel like you’re living in a historic moment. The year 2021 brought with it a great deal of innovation in technology, game design, and accessibility. From Valve announcing the potentially game-changing Steam deck to Forza Horizon 5 By adding sign language interpreters, there is a real sense that every corner of the industry is evolving.
But there is another side to the coin, and a dark one. An explosive report on Activision Blizzard’s toxic company culture quickly became the defining story of the year, reminding us of the true human cost of those innovations. As much as the video game industry has changed, other parts are depressingly stagnant. And Activision’s response to its own drama shows that it could take a while for those issues to be completely rooted out.
Here are all the biggest video game stories from a year of emotional rollercoaster full of contradictions.
Activision Blizzard Faces Family Scandal
On July 21, an explosive report was released outlining a history of toxicity within Activision Blizzard. The company was sued by the state of California and faced charges surrounding its “frat boy” work culture. The reports are difficult to digest and detail a history of sexual harassment at the company.
The story only got worse as the year progressed. In November, another report alleged that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of the company’s problems and actively tried to hide them under the rug. Kotick was allegedly part of the problem as well, with a former assistant claiming that he threatened to kill her via voicemail. Despite outside pressure from companies like Sony for Activision to take action against Kotick, the company’s board of directors decided to stay with him. Kotick remains the CEO of the company at the time of this writing.
It is a depressingly familiar story. Last year, Ubisoft’s workplace culture scandals featured in our “Top News of 2020” article. The industry in general is still struggling to cope with its dark reality. At the 2021 Game Awards on December 9, host Geoff Keighley began the show with a preamble condemning bullying and toxicity in gaming, though he did not mention names (perhaps because Activision’s Rob Kostich is on the advisory board of the event). Moments later, Keighley presented a trailer for the latest game from Quantic Dream, a studio that has long been struggling with toxic workplace allegations.
These incidents show that there is still a great deal of cognitive dissonance in the gaming world when it comes to these issues. The desire to celebrate the games, but also to hold the companies that hold them accountable, can often collide, leaving players with an existential crisis. There are no easy answers and that makes this story even more frustrating.
Delays define 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, but its effect on games was not felt until 2021. Many of the biggest launches of 2020 were already close to completion when developers had to switch to working from home. But what did that mean for games that weren’t that advanced?
At the beginning of the year, we predicted that 2021 would be plagued with delays, and that is exactly what happened. High profile titles like West horizon forbidden Y God of War Ragnarok moved to 2022, cutting down on the holiday season. While indie developers still loaded the year with hits, gamers weren’t enjoying games like Elden Ring as they expected for the year.
As disappointing as they may sound, delays are a must. Last years Cyberpunk 2077 was a warning to developers after a seemingly rushed release ended in disaster for CD Projekt Red. The studios seemed keen to avoid those mistakes this year, opting to give their games the time they needed. Hopefully, those decisions reduced the employee crisis, which remains a pervasive problem in the video game industry.
Valve Dampers with Steam Deck
For decades, the gaming console landscape has been defined by three companies: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. While there are many other companies that make technology, no one else has created a dedicated gaming device that has really changed that dynamic. That made Valve’s Steam Deck announcement a real shock to the system.
The surprise device is essentially a Nintendo Switch for PC gamers. In fact, it can store and play PC games, unlike devices like the cloud-centric Snapdragon G3x. Pre-orders increased despite the high price. It’s easy to see why there was so much excitement on the Steam Deck. The idea of taking your Steam library on the go is a dream come true, and one that surpasses the aging Switch and its old technology.
Of course, there was a problem. While the Steam Deck was scheduled to launch this month, Valve pushed it back to 2022 right at the finish line. Even the biggest stories of 2021 looked like teasers for next year.
Sony and Microsoft’s latest war heats up
The console wars appeared to be dead and buried as Sony and Microsoft’s strategies diverged, but a new battle has begun. Last year, Microsoft went to great lengths to acquire Bethesda, gobbling up games like The Elder Scrolls VI as exclusive potentials. It felt like the beginning of an arms race and Sony would surely respond.
Sure enough, Sony spent 2021 making power plays. The company embarked on a wave of acquisitions, blocking developers like Return Housemarque studio, as well as Bluepoint Games, which created the Demon souls Redo.
However, Microsoft still played the best trump card. In a real surprise, Sony himself MLB The Show 2021 made it to Xbox Game Pass at launch. It was a move forced by MLB itself, which pushed Sony to release the game on other platforms rather than keep it exclusive. That move showed the power of Game Pass in today’s gaming landscape – it’s a service that seemingly everyone wants a piece of. With Sony supposedly planning its own Game Pass competitor, we could see the battle get even more tense in 2022.
Apple vs. Epic is resolved without a clear winner
Last year, Apple took a massive shot at Epic Games by eliminating Fortnite from your app store. It was a move driven by Epic that was trying to prevent Apple from taking a sizable chunk of its in-app purchases. Epic responded with a lawsuit, setting the stage for a high-profile legal battle that had the potential to decide the future of the industry.
The trial itself took place in May and descended into immediate chaos when Fortnite fans got a Zoom from the test. Players flooded the call with shouts of “free Fortnite, ”While others simply hooked up their YouTube channel. The case itself was just as bizarre, with lawyers arguing whether Mr. Peely, the game’s banana hero, was technically naked.
The case ended on September 10 with neither side actually winning, but both claimed victory. While Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers sided with Apple on nine out of 10 counts, Epic scored a key victory. Rogers ruled that Apple could no longer prevent developers from linking to external storefronts to make purchases. Apple may still take a 30% cut in app sales, but developers now have a solution when it comes to in-app purchases, which is great news for Fortnite (although the game remains prohibited on iOS).
Above article is first published by the link. We curated and re-published.