Gamers, and the game industry as a whole, can be a little too focused on what’s next. Recently released blockbusters can fade from public consciousness in a matter of days, while the “next generation” of console hardware or a highly anticipated, years-in-the-making sequel can dominate headlines.
In an environment like that, it can be useful to review the major trends shaping the industry over a period of time over a few days. Taking a look at the big gaming news of 2022, some clear stories emerge.
Big game publishers get even bigger
If there’s one trend that will define the games business in 2022, it’s giant companies acquiring each other to make each other even bigger. This was the year major conglomerates spent major money to fill holes in their portfolios, as Sony spent $3.6 billion destiny manufacturer Bungie; $12.7 billion spent on Take-Two farm Ville Producer Zynga; Or Embracer Group scooping up parts of Square Enix, Limited Run Games, and more.
But a proposed merger was above them all; The $68.7 billion marriage proposal that Microsoft offered to Activision Blizzard back in January. The move could be seen as an opportunistic one for Microsoft, as Activision’s market value has fallen significantly in 2021 amid several harassment and discrimination scandals and investigations. It’s also an acquisition that could give beleaguered Activision CEO Bobby Kotick a golden parachute to escape turmoil.
The major concern for gamers following the announcement was whether or not Activision liked the franchise. Duty Will still be allowed on PlayStation and other non-Microsoft platforms. Microsoft has tried to ease those concerns with a series of increasingly fervent promises that it doesn’t want to lock Activision’s games to Xbox.
Those assurances have so far not proved enough for Sony or antitrust regulators who are now poised to put the proposed merger in serious jeopardy. After prodding by US senators, the Federal Trade Commission officially filed suit to block the merger, citing antitrust concerns. UK and EU regulators are also in the midst of serious scrutiny that could lead to similar efforts to block the merger.
Despite all the drama, the market currently appears relatively confident that the deal will go through.
year of weird portables
For decades now, portable gaming has been dominated by a single company: Nintendo. After the death of Sony’s PlayStation Vita, no one bothered to release portable gaming hardware to challenge Nintendo’s Switch or the popular mobile gaming devices in everyone’s pocket.
2022 was the year that began to change in a big way, as several companies pushed out some decidedly off-kilter gaming portables. It started with the Analogue Pocket, which was technically slated to launch in late 2021 but started shipping in bulk to pre-order customers this year. Out of the box, the Pocket’s solid industrial design and high-end screen make it great for replaying thousands of cartridges from Nintendo’s classic Game Boy and Game Boy Advance lines. But it was the introduction of new emulation cores this year that really made this FPGA device a must-have for retro gamers.
This was also the year that Valve forayed into portable hardware. The Steam Deck has been at or near the top of Steam’s own sales charts since its launch, even though a lack of initial supply has given way to wider availability. Hardware has some limitations- screen quality, battery life, absolute bulk and anti-cheat compatibility among them. Still, the Linux-based device has proven to be “good enough” to put thousands of “Deck Verified” or “Deck Playable” titles in the hands of PC gamers. No wonder Valve is already talking about a follow-up. On the other end of the mass market spectrum, the quirky and delayed Playdate used 2022 to prove that portable gaming can be cute, light, and fun. The bright yellow portable doesn’t even have a backlight or color screen, but it does have a novel crank controller and a variety of inventive indie games powered by a strong homebrew community.
This year also saw a few companies release dedicated portable hardware focused on the streaming gaming market. Logitech’s G Cloud and Razer’s Edge 5G pair with generic dual-stick controls, as well as a generic, Qualcomm-powered Android device, allowing easy access to various streaming services and classic emulators. It’s too early to say whether these devices will find a significant market that isn’t served by existing smartphone controller attachments. Regardless, their mere existence helps cement the fact that handheld gaming in 2022 isn’t just Nintendo anymore.
NFT? Gamers Say “No Phing Thanks”
As 2022 begins, large parts of the games industry seem poised to deliver on their promise of NFTs and “unique,” salable digital collectibles, either as in-game items or glorified trading cards. Companies like Square Enix, Konami, and GameStop were some of the biggest names teasing their big NFT plans at the start of the year, buoyed by stories like Peter Molyneux’s startup raising $54 million in NFT sales in a single week. And while companies like Sega were publicly wary, Ubisoft was actively defending an in-game NFT program slated to launch in 2021.
As the years wore on, however, NFTs began to blossom in a big way. xi infinity– once held up as a prime example of a successful “play to earn” game – saw its economy crumble, but not before a major crypto hack wiped out any remaining faith anyone had in the game or its crypto tokens. was left over GameStop’s NFT marketplace eventually launched to slow sales, which slowed even more as time went on, though it proved a boon to scammers selling unlicensed games. Meanwhile, Ubisoft cynically botched its own NFT sales and later tried to pretend it never had an interest in the space. Such high-profile failures—and the widespread drop in crypto and NFT prices in general—have led to a massive shift away from NFTs among many game companies. play from eve online to minecraft to grand theft auto explicitly rejected the use of NFTs, at least partly because they had already created highly lucrative in-game economies without blockchain technology. The International Game Developers Association said it would take a “strong stance” on the ethics of NFTs. And Sony went out of its way to note that its new line of PlayStation digital collectibles did not use crypto or blockchain in any way.
There are still plenty of proponents of NFT gaming, and there will still be investors willing to make large monetary bets in 2023 on a still unproven space. Items will power the “next big thing” in the industry.