On yet another stop on the way to 2021, I figure it’s important to take note of the bad as much as the good. Positivity is great and all, but burying our heads in the sand and trying to forget bad news won’t help us learn anything. But that doesn’t mean we’re just gonna do a Everything Awful in 2020 list. Instead, this is a “highs and lows” gimmick, with each negative paired with a similar positive. That way we can have our cake and eat it, too. And I really like cake.
The Highs and Lows of Gaming in 2020
This is the obvious one so we’re getting it out of the way first. The COVID-19 pandemic is a thing that happened this year, and it pretty much ruined everything for everyone except for a few billionaires. In the gaming sphere, the pandemic impacted things like events, with E3 especially being totally cancelled. Several games have also been delayed, and we’ve also seen layoffs throughout the industry.
Despite all of that, there were some strange positive outcomes from the pandemic. Videogames as a whole saw a huge bump of interest, since everyone was stuck at home. That alone isn’t a great thing, but a side effect was specific types of games getting unprecedented attention. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a record-breaker, and a small mobile game called Among Us went from a relative unknown to a massive success. People were desperate for ways to connect while staying home, and games ended up being a powerful solution.
Low: Disappointing AAA launches
We saw several large, AAA game releases this year. Many of them hyped up for multiple years of development and mystery. Unfortunately, some of them landed with more of a thud than an impact. Two huge efforts in Marvel’s Avengers and Cyberpunk 2077 landed in super rough shape, and will likely cost the developers in some unfortunate ways.
High: Great AAA launches
On the other hand, there were plenty of bangers as well in the blockbuster gaming space. Final Fantasy VII Remake landed after years of demand and development controversy, and it was great. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, and more happened with sustained hype from fans and critics.
The games industry is like any other big business space, meaning people are working together and everything that comes with that. Ubisoft found itself under a big spotlight, in a “Me Too Moment” that exposed the company’s culture for being a hot zone of harassment and worse. Ubisoft’s leadership responded with firings, resignations, other internal investigations and oddly-placed YouTube videos. The long-term ramifications are still developing.
High: Black Lives Matter
This is an unfortunate positive to have, but it’s a good sign nonetheless. After protests rocked the United States following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, several communities and companies reacted with financial support for progressive movements. This includes Square Enix, The Pokemon Company, platforms like Humble Bundle and itch.io, and more. Millions of dollars were raised for Black Lives Matter, bail funds, and more.
Low: New console woes
There are new consoles! The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S! But nobody can get their hands on one. Due to the pandemic and other challenges, supplies have been limited in a way that isn’t normal. Retailers haven’t been handling it well either, with random website drops and advertisements for tiny shipments and little defense against bots.
High: New consoles tho
But like, the new consoles are pretty rad. They didn’t land without issues, especially the PS5 with crashes and other instabilities. But as the kinks get ironed out, the hardware is definitely justifying its presence. Performance and load times are the key components of this generation, with games capable of running at high resolutions, frame rates, and sometimes both. We haven’t seen a ton of exclusives land yet, so we’re far from seeing what these boxes can really do.
Low: Kazuhisha Hashimoto
Hashimoto’s name might not be one you recognize. But I guarantee you know what the words “Konami Code” mean. A specific string of button presses have never been more powerful, printed on millions of t-shirts and featured in so many games over the years. Hashimoto is credited with the Konami Code, its origins being a way to help test Konami’s difficult games during development. He forgot to turn it off in one game, and the rest is history. Unfortunately, Hashimoto passed away early this year. What a legend.
High: Yuzo Koshiro
There are plenty of storied careers in videogames, especially in Japan. But those legendary creators don’t always get to return to the classics they contributed to. But in 2020, we got to see composer Yuzo Koshiro return to Streets of Rage, the series that arguably put his name on the map globally.
While Koshiro has always been around for things like the Ys and Etrian Odyssey series, Streets of Rage 4 was the first sequel since the mid-90’s. He also contributed to the Sega Genesis Mini, composing original music for the UI menu. Being a legend after a multi-decade career and being able to see and participate in later generations on your own legacy must be a hell of an experience.
I opted to stick with a list of five categories for our Highs and Lows of 2020 list. That’s ten paragraphs overall! We can’t overstay our welcome, especially during the holiday season. Can you tell my brain shorted out for conclusion time? Let us know what you think of this content over at Prima Games’ Facebook and Twitter channels, and feel free to drop your own addendums to the list!