Thursday, September 28, 2023

Summer Game Fest: Where Have All the AAA Games Gone?

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Shreya Christina
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It’s been a weird year for video games. We’re 19 months into a new console cycle, and support for the PS4 and Xbox One is finally waning as developers shift their focus to the PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC cloud gaming platforms. The pandemic has slowed or halted the development of a generation of games, and studios of all sizes are being absorbed by the biggest names in the room. The industry is in flux and the rest of the year reflects this instability. Simply put, not many big games are coming out in the second half of 2022.

Right now, the video game space is made up of delays, big promises, and more delays. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to — between indie and AA developers, cloud libraries, and Netflix mobile games of all companies, this transition period will still be jam-packed with things to play.

The 2022 holiday calendar certainly looks thinner than it did a few months ago, but the first half of the year was fairly busy with games like Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Gran Turismo 7, Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands† And that’s just the well-funded releases with big, shiny ads – the year was also good for indie and AA titles like Neon White, The Quarry, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, Sifu, TunicOlliOlli World and Salt and Sacrifice already available. Summer is peppered with even more small but great looking games, like the cyberpunk cat simulator strayedSam Barlow’s Immortality and the long awaited cup DLC, all slated for late July.

Studio MDHR

Oddly enough, Netflix is ​​also helping to fill in the gaps with another push toward mobile gaming, and the latest titles are a treat. pointpythe new game from the creator of Downwell, is extremely addictive. Netflix also publishes the following titles from the studios behind it Monument Valley and Alto’s Odysseyand they’re all free, with no ads or microtransactions, as long as you have an active Netflix subscription.

Plus, medium-sized publishers like Devolver and Annapurna always have a steady stream of high-quality weird games. And, of course, there’s Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus Premium, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, and even Google Stadia — cloud gaming services that bring hundreds of classic and new titles to virtually any device with a screen.


U.S. two

So yes, plenty of new games are coming our way this year; it’s just that there won’t be many AAA blockbusters from Microsoft or Sony. Like it or not, these studios are setting the pace of the industry, and gaps in their release schedules can make it feel like development has stalled across the board. And right now there are a lot of AAA gaps. Making matters worse is the fact that Microsoft and Sony have announced and then halted several major projects over the past few years, leaving us all with something concrete to miss in each showcase.

In late 2019 and 2020, Microsoft announced massive games, including: Fable, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Everwild, Avoced and Outer Worlds 2, and it hasn’t said much about these projects since then. In addition, a lot of things are happening at Bethesda, the largest brand under the banner of Xbox Game Studios. Bethesda’s shiny new sci-fi RPG, starfieldwas delayed to 2022 earlier this year along with Arkane’s online vampire shooter, redfall† Meanwhile it seems Elder Scrolls 6 has at least another five years in development, and fallout 5 may not be available until the next generation of consoles. The biggest Xbox exclusives to come in this year are High in lifeWhen dusk falls and penancethree medium-sized games, two of which were announced verbatim this month.

Sony is in a similar situation. It has more AAA exclusives coming to market in the second half of this year than Microsoft, with pronouncedGod of War Ragnarok and The last of us remake on the calendar, but there are still plenty of unknowns in the PlayStation lineup. Final Fantasy XVI was a highlight of the PS5 announcement stream in 2020, but we only was given a Summer 2023 release window for that. There is zero to little information about other games that Sony has been in the works for years, including Wolverinethe Knights of the Old Republic remake and Spider Man 2† A standalone multiplayer mode for The Last of Us is still MIA, and we have yet to get details on the “multiple game projects‘ which Naughty Dog is also working on.

There are a number of big cross-platform games coming out this holiday season, including: Hogwarts Legacy and The Callisto protocolbut the fanfare for these titles has been fairly muted so far.

As for Nintendo, it plays by its own rules, as always, and it has Splatoon 3 and Pokemon Scarlet and purple on this year’s roster, plus whatever it announces at its next Direct showcase. Of course it has its own problems – Breath of the Wild 2 was pushed back to 2023, and then there is Metroid Prime 4which was announced in 2017 and… yes.

Breath of the Wild 2


The sense of inadequacy in the industry this year is the result of the console makers announcing things too early, with too much fanfare and too many impossible release windows. Of course the pandemic didn’t help, but as it stands, these studios promised the world and then went silent on multiple massive franchises, and the silence is particularly deafening as we enter an anemic six months of AAA releases. Fortunately there are this much great indie games available now and coming later in 2022, and between cloud, mobile and PC services there are more ways to play these titles than ever.

As Jonathan Blow would say, time is a construct anyway, and viewing life in terms of weeks, months, and years is a futile attempt to contain chaos logically. Long story short, there is a lot to look forward to in the video game universe. It might not all come this year – or the next or the next – but with more games to play on more platforms than ever before, we should all be enjoying ourselves.

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