At the end of every year, there’s one article I always look forward to writing. I try to put the “Trends” in Digital Trends” by predicting where gaming is headed in the coming year. It’s a fun thought experiment that puts my expertise to the test as I try to pull together narratives and pin down what the industry is building to. Sometimes I’m spot-on. Other times, I’m hilariously off.
As I began to think about this year’s edition, I decided to look back to what I’d written almost exactly one year ago on New Year’s Day 2023. Some of my predictions were right on the money, but others were more sobering. I expected some major growth moments and devastating layoffs occurred instead. Some of those were hard to see coming — especially in the bizarre case of the Embracer Group. Still, my reflection on what I was expecting reminded me of what a tough industry games can be even when its pumping out historic titles. This year, I’m peeling back the curtain to talk about what I got right and wrong about a tumultuous 2023.
Prediction: The end result of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) investigation into Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition would have a major impact on the industry no matter how it went. If Microsoft was successful, I expected Sony would respond swiftly with a host of acquisitions. If the deal was blocked, I thought it might end the current arms race between Sony and Microsoft.
What really happened: This was already a loose prediction, so it was going to be tough to tell if it really came to fruition in 2023. At the moment, I’d say that the prediction has yet to be proven right or wrong; it’s too premature to be either. The FTC ruling undoubtedly will have an impact on the industry, but it’s not the kind of thing we’ll fully see the results of right away. Microsoft only beat the FTC in July, so there hasn’t been much time for Sony to respond. It could be planning some purchases, but we just don’t know yet.
This is one of those areas where unforeseen circumstances may have put a dent in Sony’s plans. The company has had a strange year, to say the least. Its PlayStation VR2 headset failed to garner mainstream attention, President Jim Ryan announced that he’s leaving the company, and Sony’s live-service plans have reportedly shifted behind the scenes (the recent cancellation of The Last of Us Online seems to support those rumors). It’s possible that Sony has too much on its plate right now and can’t pull off a string of major investments to compete with Microsoft. We’ll have to wait for 2024, which should be more telling.
Right or wrong? Neither … yet.
Prediction: After a successful unionization push at Activision Blizzard in 2022, I predicted that unions would be top of mind for the industry. I said that we’d see more gaming unions sprouting up and that it would continue to be a major talking point going forward.
What really happened: As expected, the momentum continued in terms of unionization. Workers at companies like CD Projekt Red and ZeniMax Media gained union representation this year, marking significant pushes at some of the industry’s top companies. It’s clear that the union drive at Activision Blizzard had an impact, inspiring others to follow suit.
Don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. If anything, 2023 proved why those unions are necessary. It’s been a devastating year for the video game industry, as layoff waves have left thousands of developers out of work. Even massive companies like Bungie and Naughty Dog were part of that, showing that no amount of notoriety or success can protect a worker’s job. That trend is sure to cause a firestorm that keeps unionization at the top of mind for game workers in 2024 and beyond.
Right or wrong? Right.
What really happened: This was the most accurate prediction of all, even if it was a little easy to figure out at the end of 2022. Both Sony and Microsoft began launching their new releases as new system exclusives rather than supporting the PS4 and Xbox One. Games were more impressive because of that as a result. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is a technical feat that could only be possible on
Now that the seal is broken, expect PS4 and Xbox One to fade into the distance in 2024. We’re already seeing third-party developers ditch the systems more consistently, signaling the end. Games like Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space are only available on new consoles, showing that major studios are prepared to cut off a big player base in the name of bigger games. We’ll still see indies and smaller releases release across platforms, but if you want to play next year’s biggest games, you’ll need a new system.
Right or wrong? Right.
Prediction: After spending 2022 buying key studios and even the UP rights to The Lord of the Rings, I predicted that the growing Embracer Group would become a top name in gaming in 2023. The lofty prediction was that it would rise to the ranks of a company like Tencent, becoming a corporate megapower pumping out a stream of notable releases.
What really happened: Well, that didn’t go according to plan, did it?
OK, look, it was hard to see Embracer Group’s fate coming. How was anyone to know that its success would hinge on a $2 billion deal with Savvy Games Group, a powerful company backed by the Saudi Arabian government? And who could have known that Savvy Games Group would unexpectedly back out of that deal, leaving Embracer high and dry? Even if you were suspicious of the company’s absurd buying spree in 2022, this was the case of a freak business accident gone awry.
And boy did it go awry. The fallout of Embracer’s failure has been the single most devastating event in the video game industry this year. It would trigger mass layoffs across several Embracer studios and even shutter some entirely. Free Radicals, which was working on a TimeSplitters reboot, is now entirely gone. Developer Volition suffered the same fate after its underwhelming Saints Row reboot. The self-implosion is sure to damage Embracer’s reputation permanently, though don’t expect the group to fade away entirely. It still owns a ton of studios and has seemingly stripped down its ambitious plans to something more realistic. That should help it stay afloat, even if it’ll likely never be on the same level as Sony or Microsoft.
Right or wrong? Very, very wrong.
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