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The biggest gaming trends of 2019

What's a battle pass? These gaming trends dominated 2019

The video game industry continues to morph and evolve every year, and in 2019, we saw several trends emerge that can help us predict just what the future holds. From the types of games being made to the different ways companies are allowing us to play them, we saw clear patterns over the course of the year, and they were mostly for the better. We’re still getting a wide variety of video game releases, and we’re extremely excited about what is to come in 2020. These are the biggest gaming trends of 2019.

Cross-play is the new standard

Who would have thought – even just a few years ago – that cross-platform play would have been both possible and increasingly commonplace by 2019? There is no longer any real barrier left between game platforms, with several titles supporting Xbox One and PS4 cross-play. In fact, what began as a smaller trend in 2018 is quickly becoming the industry standard, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare even had the feature enabled from the very beginning.

Even games that had some degree of cross-platform play added even more in 2019. Chief among them was Minecraft, which upgraded PS4 to its “Bedrock Edition” and allowed Sony’s players to experience the game with friends on everything from mobile to Nintendo Switch. As we enter 2020, it will be strange for games to not support cross-play.

Publishers give you more places to play

Alongside supporting cross-play on a wider number of devices, game publishers have also begun simply giving you even more places to enjoy your favorite games. Third-party titles still release for Nintendo Switch at an alarming rate, including enormous role-playing games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and certain titles even have save compatibility between PC and Nintendo Switch so that you can keep playing from the same file on the go. Sony even made a surprise announcement late in the year, revealing that beginning in 2021, it will release the MLB: The Show series on more than just PlayStation consoles.

For those who prefer to ditch their consoles, of course, there is also now Google Stadia. The service is in its infancy and is off to a slow start, but it will be joined by at least the full release of Project xCloud in 2020. These services let you play full-scale games on practically any platform, including a television using a traditional controller.

The battle pass replaces the season pass

Fortnite Chapter 2

We can thank free-to-play games like Fortnite for one of this year’s biggest trends: The “battle pass.” With paid expansions no longer in style — as we determined last year — game publishers have moved away from selling season passes containing a collection of things like multiplayer maps and modes. Instead, “battle passes” are being offered in their place, coming with their own objectives and tasks that players can complete in order to unlock additional gear.

Battle passes still have some kinks to get ironed out, but moving to this system not only keeps players together, but it also means that you’ll still feel like you are earning the equipment you get in a game. Provided that plenty of cosmetic content is still available in the base game you purchased on launch day, the battle pass just might be a monetization solution that makes everyone happy.

Accessibility becomes a major talking point

Since their very earliest days of existence, video games have been somewhat exclusionary to those with physical disabilities, and the conversation rose to the forefront of the industry in 2019 with the release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The game’s difficulty and the inability of certain groups of people to play it, got designers, critics, and everyday players talking about steps that could be taken to make games more accessible.

We didn’t get a clear answer to this problem in 2019, but the conversation became public, and will likely get designers, studios, and publishers to consider more carefully the role accessibility should play in their games. With any luck, that will translate to video games that can be played and enjoyed by even more people.

Classic games get full remakes

We saw countless games get the “HD remaster” treatment near the beginning of the generation, improving the resolution and potentially improving the framerate for the jump to PS4 and Xbox One. Now, however, we are seeing game companies make much larger changes to classic games. Resident Evil 2 received a full-scale remake, complete with a fresh camera perspective on the RE Engine, and it transformed the game into something perfect for a new group of fans. Next, Capcom is giving Resident Evil 3 the same treatment.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening took a slightly different approach, keeping the core gameplay of the original Game Boy title but completely changing the art style. It created a unique blend of old-school nostalgia with fresh, colorful visuals that feels perfect on Nintendo Switch.

Dormant franchises come back from the dead

As long as your favorite forgotten franchise wasn’t Splinter Cell, there is a pretty good chance it was revived in 2019! After 11 years, Devil May Cry fans finally got the sequel they dreamed of in Devil May Cry 5, which further refined the series’ stylish action and even pushed its story forward in interesting ways. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare returned for the first time since 2011 with a darker and more grounded take on the sub-series, without being a direct sequel.

It wasn’t all for the best, however. Shenmue III — in the works for years — failed to justify its own existence with gameplay that was almost completely unchanged from the original two games. And while we were big fans of the first-person shooting and powers in Rage 2, its cheesy narrative didn’t capture our attention in the same way.

Spiritual successors overshadow the original games

Blazing Chrome blasting enemies

You may have been waiting years for your favorite games to receive new installments, but why do that when another game has picked up the torch, instead? In 2019, we saw several new games that captured the spirit of their inspirations, often doing so better than those inspirations’ more recent entries.

Blazing Chrome blew Contra: Rogue Corps out of the water, and Wargroove certainly helped ease the pain we’ve felt waiting for a new Advance Wars game. Perhaps the most notable of these was Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a spiritual successor to the Castlevania series that may have just proved to players that they don’t really need Konami anymore.

Single-player games make a comeback

Is multiplayer the future? It’s something we’ve had fed to us for the last decade, but in 2019, it was single-player games that reigned supreme. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Metro Exodus, and Control all made huge waves, with critical and commercial success despite including minimal microtransactions and no interactivity with other players.

Even the games that still included multiplayer modes didn’t do so at the expense of a campaign. Gears 5, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare featured excellent and varied campaign modes, as did Mortal Kombat 11. When the internet went down, you could still enjoy your favorites without issue.

Huge-scale games crash and burn

Perhaps the importance of single-player, contained experiences seemed even more important in 2019 because of some other high-profile games’ complete failure. Electronic Arts and BioWare released the online action-role-playing game Anthem to scathing reviews, criticizing its shallow story and world-building, uninteresting missions, poor loot system, and limited endgame content.

In October, Ubisoft followed with the botched launch of Ghost Recon Breakpoint, an online-only sequel to an open-world game that tried to please everyone by including role-playing mechanics and far too many variables. In the end, it was a mess, and Ubisoft is making an effort to more greatly differentiate its games in the future. After all, when Ghost Recon no longer feels like Ghost Recon, what’s the point in keeping the name?

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