Despite global events throwing a lot of working routines into a tizzy, 2020 was still a banner year for video games. We saw major releases from popular franchises like Doom and Animal Crossing (at the same time), exciting new triple-A titles like Ghosts of Tsushima and Cyberpunk: 2077. Due to everyone staying inside a lot more, online gaming hit new records of participation and revenue. Most important of all was the release of the latest consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
However, this might just be a small preview of the gaming goodness we might get in 2021. Read on to see what we can expect.
The Real Beginning of Console Generation Nine
Yes, it was mid-November of 2020 when The Xbox Series X/S and the Playstation 5 debuted, but like a lot of roll-outs, people focus more on the minuses than the pluses. First off, it was very difficult to find either console on digital shelves thanks in part to scalpers, so a lot of us aren’t going to get our hands on the console until 2021, anyway.
On top of this, there weren’t that many new games available on either console, although it was nice that Watchdogs Legion was available on both, so you could explore the streets of London, sometimes with escort style missions, and get good reviews. This was especially true with Microsoft, as the initial flagship release title for SeriesX/S – Halo: Infinite – was pushed back to 2021.
Playstation had a handful of appealing releases (a remake of Demon Souls, a new Spiderman, Bugsnax), but it’s clear that these games could also play on a Playstation 4 without that much of a drop in graphic or performance quality.
No, it will be 2021 when these consoles begin their times of conquest. As more game designers have access to development kits (or just get used to using them more) they can figure out what the abilities and limitations are at their fingertips. Games will actually look and feel more like the next generation is finally here. Speaking of which…
Massive First Party Exclusive Games
Business relationships in the video game industry come and go, are made, and are broken. Some gaming franchises will appear on more than one console (your Call of Duty, your sports (NBA, Madden, FIFA, The Show), your Doom, your Witcher, your GTA), but with Microsoft and Sony buying up smaller development studios, a lot more big games are becoming exclusive to only one console. This is going to become all the more apparent in 2021 and beyond.
Playstation 4 was a monster seller, but some of its most acclaimed titles came late in its lifetime. It debuted in 2013, but Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War came out in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Both of these titles were Sony exclusives, and over the summer of 2020, it was announced that these games were getting sequels that were scheduled to come out in 2021. While no one wants to jinx it by just coughing the word ‘delay’, it would be incredible for the PS5 if they had these two earthshaking titles come out in the same year.
On the Xbox side of things, we already mentioned that Halo: Infinite was delayed an entire year, with projections saying it will arrive in the fall of 2021. While obviously disappointing to fans (and to sales projections of the new console), it at least matches up perfectly with the twentieth anniversary of the release of the various first Halo game on the original Xbox console.
While many in the industry have noted that Microsoft has struggled in creating another exclusive franchise that is as popular as Halo, when you have really deep pockets, there are ways around that problem. This is why it is very exciting what 2021 will mean for Bethesda Softworks, the gaming studio behind The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and the Doom series because Microsoft bought them outright in 2020. What this means going forward is that all games from these iconic series might just become Xbox exclusives, so there’s never been a time when you really, really needed an Xbox.
Don’t Sleep on Nintendo
With the oldest of the big three gaming companies in the middle of the lifecycle of their latest console (the sometimes tv, sometimes handheld Switch), one might think that Nintendo would try to stay out of the way of their competition. But they would be wrong. There have been plenty of reputable rumours that they are going to release a pro version of the Switch, with better graphic specs and an expanded hard drive space (even in 2017, the year of its release, the 32 gigabytes in came with wasn’t much).
While 2020 was eventually the year that the company celebrated Mario’s 35th anniversary had plenty of re-releases, expansions, and swag, it seems that in 2021, Nintendo’s other big franchise will get the same treatment. It will be The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary, and since we already know that a sequel is in the works to the masterpiece of the latest title in this series, Breath of the Wild, fans are already in a froth. Any announcement regarding bringing older, critically acclaimed titles to the Switch (maybe all the 3D Zeldas from Ocarina of Time to Twilight Princess in collection form? Or a HD deluxe improvement of the eternally underrated Skyward Sword?).
Although beyond Zelda is the lesser-known Metroid series, which has been around just as long but never got the recognition it deserved. It was originally a 2D side scroller maze shooter in the eighties and nineties and effortlessly graduated to 3D with the Metroid Prime trilogy being released between 2002 and 2007. That means fans have been waiting for over a decade for another game, and little bits of information have trickled out, suggesting 2021 might be a big year for protagonist Samus Aran.
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