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Antitrust unions mark a difficult year for the video game industry

The more than 180,000 million dollars that the video game industry generates every year is a clear sign that it has no rival in the field of entertainment. Nor does it give the impression that numbers will be declining in the near future, especially when this year has been characterized by profitable launches that have been enthusiastically received by the press and audiences.

However, beneath this apparent stability lies a complex, delicate and changing reality. As the industry recognizes the questionable working conditions, monopoly is threatened. The context of legal disputes, material shortages and new business models is ideal for looking ahead to the key moments of 2022.

In a way, the year ends the way it began: in anticipation of Microsoft’s million-dollar acquisition of the Activision Blizzard studio. Almost 12 months after the announcement, various regulatory bodies still need to give their approval for it to be implemented. So far, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition and Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense have granted permission, but the US Federal Trade Commission opposes it because it violates free competition.

At the same time, other companies are absorbing smaller companies. This is the case of Sony taking over Bungie (maker of Halo); Take-Two Interactive (owner of Rockstar Games and 2K Games), which bought Zynga; and Tencent (owner of Riot Games), which acquired Sumo Group, Inflexion Games and 1C Entertainment, in addition to becoming a shareholder in Spain’s Tequila Works and Novorama. In an effort to continue its battle with Apple — another litigation of the year — Epic Games (Fortnite), also partially owned by Tencent, acquired Bandcamp to expand beyond video games.

Multiplatform narratives are not new, especially in a sector that has always been associated with adaptations, whether from video games to movies or vice versa. But if anything makes a difference in 2022, it’s not just the growing number of products, but also their adoption. At the end of 2021, Arcane opened the door to the arrival of a quality adaptation that seduced both its players and a larger audience.

For this reason, while Tom Holland’s Uncharted was overlooked, Sonic 2’s blockbuster. The film indicates that the audience is ready to fill the rooms if the opening suggestions are offered. But serials have worked best, at least when they’re animated. Because where Resident Evil faltered, other Netflix offerings – and this is no coincidence – such as Cuphead, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and Dragon Age: Absolution have flourished.

Related to the previous trend is Elden Ring (FromSoftware), Game of the Year according to The Game Awards and many players. Created by Hidetaka Miyazaki, it features the collaboration of novelist George RR Martin, internationally known thanks to Game of Thrones, his television adaptation of the saga of ice and fire. Its complex story, the rich world it presents, and the challenge of playing it have made it an icon, similar to what the hardest games call Soul.

Beyond its own undeniable merits, the passion that Middle-earth has awakened is linked to the rise of immersive video games with huge maps full of lore (hidden stories) and enemies, well-developed narratives and the ability to explore for hours. This is the case of Horizon Forbidden West, God of War: Ragnarök, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and the remake of The Last of Us. Even Sonic Frontiers added an open-world flavor, and even Kirby and the Forgotten Land flirts with said model. On the other hand, Disney Dreamlight Valley is the entertainment giant’s answer to the life simulator boom, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II continues to sell unabated. In other words, while delays are still the order of the day, there are not a few premieres that have taken place throughout 2022.

Some previous ingredients are shared with more alternative works, such as Immortality, Bayonetta 3, Sifu or Tunic, whose combination of narrative and action offers adventures that are both demanding and engaging. But there is life in the indie realm beyond fads, sequels, and famous sagas, excuse me back to Monkey Island. Norco took over with its temporal surreal dystopia, Cult of the Lamb with its sectarian roguelikes, and Signalis with its devotion to pixelated survival horror.

Meanwhile, OlliOlli World added a fun touch of color, Temtem emerged as a Spanish alternative to Pokemon Empire, Neon White deftly combines cards and shots, and Trombone Champ was a musical discovery. A variety of offerings in terms of duration, platforms, tone, and style that appeal to the growing audience of video games.

In September, Google announced the shutdown of its cloud subscription service Stadia. From the giant, they wanted to offer the ability to stream games without the need for additional hardware. However, the project will be discontinued in January 2023 after failing to reach the desired number of users. One that has managed to keep the community alive is Microsoft, which has made its GamePass a strong commitment. The combination of both greatest hits and new releases appeals to gamers who value a monthly selection of titles at a fixed price rather than navigating a vast offering.

For its part, Netflix is ​​betting more and more on video games by creating five of its own development studios. These new players can change the landscape, which will also be affected by the regulation of loot boxes. Especially in Spain, the first country to have specific legislation against lottery boxes to prevent underage gambling. In addition to microtransaction controls, video games that feature such elements will receive a PEGI +18 rating.

The new generation of consoles, released at the end of 2020, has once again changed due to the semiconductor crisis that has been weighing on the sector for several years. A shortage of microchips has made the PlayStation 5 as expensive as it is hard to find, giving way to speculation about stock and resale. Similar to the Xbox Series X | The case of S, whose demand was higher than supply.

As a result, hardware sales fell, while prices either stayed the same or rose. This is compounded by the dearth of next-gen exclusive games for each device. Therefore, they could not consolidate. However, a new console has been launched: Valve’s Steam Deck, a portable whose arrival was delayed due to a supply crisis, but was very well received by the community.

Rockstar Games was the victim of the industry’s largest cyber attack in September. As a result, unpublished material saw the light, which included both videos and the source code of the new title of the Grand Theft Auto saga – which was not announced at the time. Although the teenager associated with the group Lapsus$ who posted the stolen 3GB was arrested, this type of hacking has been repeated on a smaller scale throughout the year.

For example, 2K Games suffered a computer attack that same month, similar to what happened to Final Fantasy XIV servers in October. Also very popular was the ransomware attack on Bandai Namco, the hack of the Overwatch 2 world premiere, and the leak related to a new installation of The Sims. Thus, the security of large technology companies has been called into question, which may have suffered losses. At the same time, workers will suffer, either because their work is more controlled or because the ability to work remotely is limited.

Activision Blizzard has been in the spotlight for more than a year due to a situation of harassment and discrimination by the company’s employees. Labor conditions came to the fore once again, this time by two unions formed by some of their workers (first at the Raven Software studio and then at Blizzard Albany), the first at a major video game company.

This has not been an easy task, as the Communications Workers Union of America (CWA) has accused Blizzard of spying and sabotaging its employees as they deal with labor organizing issues. The question now is whether the spark will light and the syndicate will spread.

The recent Pokémon Scarlet and Purple reflects the current state of the industry: it was the biggest release in Nintendo’s history, despite its significant gameplay issues. As such, it serves to highlight how controversy will continue to define the world of video games, as it is clear that complaints have no discernible impact on sales.

In any case, it seems that the status quo is being questioned by a section of players who demand better development conditions and reject such questionable practices as NFT. Next year will allow us to see if the situation that marks 2022 manages to promote a real transformation in an industry that continues to expand in the midst of crisis.

Source: El Diario





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