2020 has been a ride. It’s been a year that will go down in history for all of the wrong reasons. No matter where you live, we all witnessed the widespread tragedy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and will likely still experience it deep into 2021. With lockdown procedures in effect worldwide, more people than ever have been resorting to gaming as a form of escapism. It’s been an anchor in their lives; a way to keep them in positive spirits and detract from the difficulties of day-to-day living. With an estimated 2.7 billion people diving into video games in 2020, and the current state of the world, 2021 is gearing up to be the most important year in the history of the games industry.
It’s important to reflect on the failures of the past year while learning from the best that gaming had to offer. It feels equally as important to vocalize the issues from a communal perspective. Maintaining stable communication between developers and users is now as crucial as ever, and both sides need to be receptive to each others’ ideas. With regards to gaming in 2021, here are a few ideas that should be given more thought. The new year is fast approaching, and there are lots of decisions and products that can be used as talking points and points of reference for the future. Subscription services, one of the worst launch failures of all time, and the latest Call of Duty lay the groundwork for companies to build around – or avoid – in 2021.
Gaming in 2021 should be focused on affordability and its relation to quality. The rise of subscription services during lockdown procedures and the financial struggles that such procedures entail puts this idea under the microscope. Digital delivery and ease-of-access have accelerated its growth under current living conditions and have added a level of scrutiny to the existing models on the market. Certain companies should be questioning some of their practices in the new year regarding prices and quality. Some have already chosen to ignore it. It’s imperative now that gaming corporations search for the best way to maintain their audience and create an inviting atmosphere to attract newcomers. Here are 3 examples of companies operating within the same space, each with a different approach, and why it has or hasn’t worked.
Not by coincidence, our current living situation has caused a spike in video game subscription services. Industry giant Microsoft reported that its premium service Xbox Game Pass surpassed 15 million users, a growth of over 50% since April of 2020. It’s the best bang for your buck, offering a staggering amount of great titles at an affordable price across 3 separate plans. The overwhelming success of Game Pass should be the standard for other companies looking to launch their own subscription model. Instead, a developer like Ubisoft remains stubborn and delusional in an effort to promote their own service.
Uplay+ is Ubisoft’s answer to the demand for subscription models and is also the most overpriced one on the market. Coming in at a whopping $14.99, it’s more expensive than a standard Game Pass subscription, and only $2 cheaper than an Ultimate upgrade. Not only is the price point off the mark, but the library of games is also laughable in comparison. Instead of celebrating the best titles that Ubisoft has to offer, it serves as a showcase for its recent mediocrity and lack of diversity. If you enjoy 6 franchises and all of their worst titles, Uplay+ is for you.
Perhaps the biggest doozy on the market is the Fortnite Crew service, provided by Epic Games. The multi-billion dollar company decided to double down on their mid-pandemic greed and release their own subscription centered around cosmetics. Priced at $11.99, it’s a shameless exploitation of their consumers. For the same price as a Game Pass membership, players receive an exclusive outfit and 1000 V-bucks every month in addition to free access to each Battle Pass. Not only does it sound insane to launch a subscription service for a virtual wardrobe, but the Battle Pass itself is also taking longer than ever between seasons. Fellow staff member Hayden H provides some interesting talking points on the service here.
We Don’t Need Another Call of Duty in 2021
Forgotten about amidst the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077 was the debut of Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War. The most recent entry in the long-running shooter series also happened to be the most unfinished one yet. Not long after its release, the bug reports and clips started to flood the online forums. Cutscenes are dropping frames regularly, the game was crashing on all platforms, and a strange bug even caused PS4 controllers to turn off during a specific mission. These kinds of issues only confirm what we already knew: we didn’t need a Call of Duty game this year.
Considering the strength of Modern Warfare and its Warzone battle royale, I’m not sure why we needed a new Call of Duty title in 2020. It’s been reported as of May that Warzone has gained as many as 60 million players since its launch. That’s an enormous player base and should have made Modern Warfare the sole focus for years to come. Look at fellow shooter Rainbow Six Siege, closing in on its sixth year of ongoing support and success. Warzone has that level of potential. Instead, a messy launch for an unnecessary game is creating distractions. The cracks in Activision’s yearly releases have been showing for a while; Modern Warfare finally remedied that and breathed new life into the series. The release of Cold War has only bolstered the case that we didn’t need a new title in 2020 – and we definitely don’t need one for gaming in 2021.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of video games releasing in an unfinished state. Cyberpunk 2077 is the latest culprit and will go down as one of the worst launches in video game history. It’s unfortunate to see a game with all-time hype fall flat on its face like this. What’s worse, developer CD Projekt Red might never recover. Stock prices in the Polish developer have dropped by as much as 40%, and there’s mounting frustration between the Cyberpunk team and management. Major updates are being rolled out as relief efforts, but the damage is done. CDPR may never reach Witcher 3-levels of reputation again, but they should be regarded as martyrs.
The disaster of Cyberpunk 2077 is a wake-up call. People are fed up with games released in their buggy, half-baked states. Games that need post-launch work done just to feel playable. Updates should be quality of life improvements, not life support. Companies should also be paying close attention to the internal ramifications of Cyberpunk‘s release. The tension between employees and management is a dangerous concoction. We’ve seen how it can cripple studios, look at the infamous shutdown of Telltale Games in 2018. Watching it unfold with a renowned studio like CD Projekt Red should have the industry on notice. Unrealistic deadlines that force crunching and leave games in a broken state leads to dissatisfied employees and angry customers. Continuing down this beaten path will all but ensure that gaming in 2021 will be full of disappointment.
The Importance of Gaming in 2021
Looking ahead to next year, more people than ever will be gaming. It’s important that both developers and players are coming together to make it the best experience possible. We thank the developers out there that are working under these extreme circumstances and recognize their efforts. Their contributions to the industry will be more important than ever before in 2021. We need gaming, and we need to make sure that both sides are communicating with each other effectively. Developers need to be transparent with their player base. Players need to continue to be constructive and vocal about issues. Helping each other out is what this community is built upon. Let’s continue to push forward together in the new year.
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