2022 Year in Review
Contributed by DJMMT
It’s impossible for me to cover every topic in a single post, as too much gaming related controversy goes on in a given year. So, I’ve narrowed it down to a short list of five topics that most encapsulates the state of gaming this year. In no particular order, here we go.
Personally, I’m against Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard for various reasons, none of which have to do with any desire to play COD on PS5, or any platform. And thein lies the real problem. This discussion has taken months and centered around COD. Why the hell are people debating a garbage competitive FPS among a sea of other garbage competitive FPS franchises? They’re a dime a dozen, and all play pretty much the same. Who cares? There are so many more important topics to be considered in the discussion of a hardware distributor purchasing one of the largest third-party publishers in the industry after having already purchased one of the other largest third party publishers in the industry a year ago. The fact that so many people, gaming journalists, and other companies have made this entire discussion about COD exclusivity is maddening.
Additionally, I really hate the toxic nature of how gamers have discussed this topic as end users. Mostly what I’ve seen isn’t XBOX users happy that Microsoft will add a publisher and ideally more games. It’s XBOX users happy to see PlayStation users lose access to games. Why? Why is anyone happy that other people will have access to less games? And let’s be clear. The same exact thing would be happening if Sony was buying Activision Blizzard. So much of the gaming community today is just man-children fighting each other about which company gets to have too much of their money for little in return. It’s angering. If it didn’t personally affect me as a gamer when stupid people do stupid bootlicking things, I’d say they all get what they deserve. Another part of this debate that really angered me was people getting angry at people voicing their disagreement through the proper legal channels. The entire system of governance in any democratic system is the ability for people to voice their concerns and know that they have been heard and considered. That does not mean that everyone who complains will get what they want. But the idea of denying them the right to voice their concerns is horrifying.
It’s good that people contacted their local representatives in multiple countries about this issue. It’s good that multiple government agencies took an interest in vetting this purchase. This is an issue that tax paying, adult citizens care about. Whether or not everyone agree with how important it might be is besides the point. We should absolutely support the idea of people being able to voice their concerns over an economic decision that will affect their purchasing power and access to products they want as consumers. Anyone who disagrees is a fascist, regardless of your personal opinion on whether or not a company should be able to buy another company.
My personal takeaway from the Pokémon franchise this year is that a great many changes need to happen but won’t because the sales numbers will never weaken. Pokémon Legends: Arceus was one of the best games I played this year. Not just one of the best Pokémon games. Just one of the best games in general. It was everything I always wanted from a Pokémon game. 3D graphics, active and dynamic gameplay, stealth Pokémon hunting, and real motivation to keep catching the same Pokémon encounters multiple times. While I wouldn’t say it was a perfect game, it was truly amazing. Proof positive that the classic Pokémon model is not only dated, but ready to be replaced with something new. The fact that the game wasn’t given more recognition at The Game Awards is honestly ridiculous. Truly a victim of having released too early in the year to be remembered.
The problem is that Arceus seems to have been a one off, or at best an experiment that might have value at a future undisclosed date. I wish Scarlet/Violet had implemented this new gameplay model. I want to play Scarlet, but I honestly don’t know if I can. Not only did they go back to the boring old model, supposedly with some changes from what I’ve read, but the game is apparently a bug-ridden mess. I’ve seen many people say that this is the most fun traditional mainline Pokémon game ever made, gameplay wise, but everyone also says that the bugs are rampant. One of my friends bought it day one and ranted at me via text the same day about how bad the performance is.
The major issue with Pokémon is that they’re now doing way too much with the franchise too quickly. Why were Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Scarlet/Violet both released this year? There was no need for that. We have tons of recent Pokémon content. The show is still running, people are still playing Pokémon Unite, and Arceus was worthy of a GOTY nomination, even though it ultimately got snubbed. Why shoehorn in more Pokémon games this year? They should have delayed Scarlet/Violet and got it working properly. Pokémon Sword/Shield was released in 2019, so I understand the argument of it’s about time for a new generation. However, that calculus isn’t taking into account modern content management factors that didn’t apply back in the old days. Sword/Shield got two huge DLC expansions in 2020. Diamond and Pearl remakes were released in 2021. And lets not ignore spin-off games like New Pokémon Snap! and Pokémon Café ReMix. That’s a lot of content.
Game Freak/Nintendo needs to chill and leave these games in the oven long enough to cook properly. It’s not like people will forget about Pokémon if they don’t do a new gen every 1 – 2 years. It’s a shame, but it keeps happening because people keep buying them day one. Scarlet/Violet made record sales, even in the face of all those glitches.
ENOUGH WITH THE PS4
I’ve written multiple posts stating this, such as back in November in this post about God of War Ragnarök. Sony, and by extension all their developers, needs to stop supporting the PS4 with new AAA games. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow; but the quality of new games is being hindered by having to support last gen hardware.
The hard truth is that every gen eventually ends. It’s annoying and expensive, but it is objectively what’s best for the games. We have already seen multiple PS5 games doing less than they could, because of the need to develop a PS4 capable version of the game and trying to cut costs. With an unlimited amount of time and resources, this wouldn’t be a problem, but that’s not the world we live in. It’s time to accept that the PS4 and XBOX ONE are done. They both need to be retired so new games can live up to their full potential. And I’m saying that as someone who literally just downloaded 20 PS4 games onto my PS5, as I transition my backlog forward to the next gen.
What can I say about Square Enix that hasn’t already been said about the last Star Wars trilogy? In recent years, the company has become a lackluster, disorganized (badly organized?) shell of what it once was. The weird thing about Square Enix is that they are still making some really solid games. But they’re often not the games being talked about, for a number of reasons. Like the Voice of Cards series. These turn-based JRPGs are short, well-written, and beautiful. I even wrote a post about how the first one reignited my love of turn-based RPGs. But these are low budget titles somehow being churned out at a rapid pace and then lost in the ether. Really, that’s one of Square Enix’s biggest problems right now. They’re putting out a ton of JRPGs at a staggering frequency, but not really marketing any of them, save for the occasional Nintendo Direct announcement. Meanwhile, they’re focusing on Final Fantasy titles, often with announcements that sour people’s expectations for them. Let’s also address the fact that the last two or more mainline FF games have been disappointing. Final Fantasy XV is bad, and I’m tired of pretending it’s not. And yes, there’s a post about that too. But there’s also games like Marvel’s Avengers that had so much potential, and a shit ton of content, but the business model was everything that makes people complain about EA. It's just not a good look.
Square Enix’s problems go way past their game management though. They’re also going whole hog against consumer demands and doing crazy shit like selling Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Interactive, arguably two of their most successful studios of the last several years, and the IPs that go with them for money to invest in *checks notes* blockchain gaming? Who the hell thought that was a good idea? I mean sure it’s easy in hindsight for me to call out the company after the fall of FTX, but crypto, NFT schemes were a sinking ship even back in May when this was all announced. It just doesn’t make any sense. To be clear, I don’t see Square Enix going bankrupt any time soon. But I won’t be surprised if Sony or Microsoft ends up buying them in the next few years at a hefty discount as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with terrible decisions. And that Symbiogensis reveal was just the funniest, most disappointing thing ever. Sorry Parasite Eve fans.
It’s very impressive how suddenly game adaptations are making a comeback in a big way. And not sucking . . . a decent amount of the time. Shows like Arcane and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners have seen great success. But it’s not just animation. Live action adaptations are rolling deep, and we continue to see more and more announcements. The Witcher, though that seems to be floundering in all directions now, proved that there’s a big market for game adaptations targeted at adult audiences. Now we have a The Last of Us show soon to release from HBO, a Warhammer announcement, with Henry Cavill in a leading role, and serious talk about a God of War live action series.
Personally, I don’t really need adaptations like these, as I actually play video games. But I can appreciate the idea that there are great stories in video games that deserve to be exposed to a wider audience. Sadly, those larger audiences seem to be pulling these productions away from the source material much of the time. When you haven’t played a game and you watch a show, you have no reason to complain about how much it deviates. But the core audiences making these adaptations possible are usually fans of the games. Deviation is often irritating to them, and producers really don’t seem to care about that. Like even The Cuphead Show, which I’ve watched in its entirety, has no respect for the game it’s based on, story wise. The plot of the show is entirely different and unrelated to the game. From a writing standpoint, I get it. I’ve beaten Cuphead, and I can say that there is no way you could have gotten three seasons of content out of that game by following the plot. The producers knew exactly what they were doing with this show. It’s clearly not built for fans of the game. It’s a kid’s show that just happens to have been visually inspired by a game.
My major issue with game adaptations is that they never adapt anything that needs its story told. They’re not picking well-written obscure games that nobody played. They’re picking mainstream titles that most people already know about, even if they didn’t play the game. I know people who don’t own PlayStation consoles but have taken the time to watch God of War in its entirety on YouTube, because the game is that popular. Why adapt something with that much awareness? Obviously money, but that’s not the point I’m making. Why not adapt something like Legacy of Kain or Star Ocean? Who needed a retelling of Uncharted? And I really liked the Uncharted movie, which isn’t actually based on the games narrative wise. But a game that popular didn’t need its story retold to a larger audience. Especially when that story was just a younger, less educated Indiana Jones to begin with. I wish Hollywood would stop being lazy and playing the safe bets.
I can say with confidence that 2023 is going to be a great year of gaming, for me. Because no matter what garbage ends up happening, I’m still going to get to play God of War Ragnarök, Horizon Forbidden West, and a bunch of other games on PS5. There are also some amazing looking games scheduled to release this year. I’m really excited for Wild Hearts, Wo Long Fallen Dynasty, Forspoken, Fire Emblem Engage, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, among many others. I have no doubt that good games will be released in the coming year. But I’m also fairly confident that industry players will continue to make things worse due to a combination of greed, hubris, and a blatant lack of audience awareness. In any case, happy gaming I guess.