We take stock of the most important news of 2020 in the video game industry, the facts, names and titles that have marked an unpredictable year.
No one would have imagined that 2020 was going to leave us with a calendar full of information like the one we have experienced during the last twelve months. As every year, at FreeGameTips we say goodbye to the course on New Year’s Eve with our particular yearbook, a meeting where we recall what the medium that unites us has given us. This time with the particularity of having been disrupted by a pandemic from which this sector has also been affected.
2020 has been the year of the new generation, but also of the titles that accompanied us during confinement; the year of Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda for a dizzying amount of money; the year there was no E3; the year where there was no Nintendo Direct. The year where the video game became more important than ever within the expendable luxuries of life. The year, in short, where delays and communication invite deep reflection.
This is how this unforgettable year 2020 has been in the world of video games,
The departure of Dan Houser, Rockstar co-founder and GTA producer
Dan Houser, Creative Vice President of Rockstar Games and head of series such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, was leaving the company this February. A news of scope, not so much because of the media impact of his figure, but because of what his person has meant in the genesis and growth of the North American firm, that is capable of publishing a video game capable of selling more than 135 million copies in seven years. He and his brother were both two of the four founding partners of Rockstar Games in 1998; Since then, a multitude of commercial successes, the writing of unforgettable stories and the construction of worlds that, even today, remain immersive and imposing despite the fact that many of them have already passed several decades. Who knows if one day we will find out what his last creative contribution was before leaving.
Rod Fergusson’s departure from The Coalition and his signing by Blizzard
The year 2020 started with showers before the storm, there is no doubt. February also left us with the departure of Rod Fergusson from The Coalition (Xbox Game Studios) after finishing his work on Gears 5. The manager signed for Blizzard, an unexpected move that translates into the change of Gears for Diablo. The Canadian producer, who had led the start of the saga at Epic Games back in 2005 and 2006, became part of Blizzard Entertainment to take over the Diablo saga, which is currently continuing to polish that highly anticipated Diablo IV as project supervisor. .
Kazuhisa Hashimoto, creator of the Konami Code
Kazuhisa Hashimoto, Japanese Konami developer and creator of the mythical trick known as “Konami Code”, passed away at the end of February. They never like to give news of this kind, but in this case they help us to translate their departure into a sincere thanks for their contribution to the medium. Although his profile was not well known today, he is responsible for one of the most popular cheats or codes in the video game industry, a combination of buttons on the control pad that helped players of the eighties to overcome the most difficult levels of many of the games of the Japanese company. To highlight, the “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A and Start” of Gradius for NES. The transcendence of this sequence of code reached works of sagas like Gradius, Contra, Castlevania, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dance Dance Revolution, Metal Gear, Silent Hill and many more. Even today he is honored.
E3 2020 is canceled; COVID-19 suspends face-to-face meetings
The State of Alarm in Spain had not yet been decreed – there were exactly two days left – and the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) announced the obvious: E3 2020 was being canceled. All previous fairs related to the technological ecosystem, from PAX East to For the Mobile World Congress, they suspended their face-to-face plans for fear of that virus that was emerging from Asia and was beginning to hit half the world with force, insisting on its nature beyond a simple flu. The video game industry was thus given a stroke of reality: the most important video game event of the year was not going to be held for an extraordinary reason for the first time since 1995. “After careful consultation with our partners on health and safety From everyone in the industry – E3 fans, employees, exhibitors and partners – we have made the tough decision to cancel E3 2020, planned in Los Angeles June 8-11. “
From then on, everything else was canceled, meetings such as Gamescom, held digitally, were reformulated, and highly meritorious alternatives were promoted such as IGN Summer of Gaming, which featured exclusives, as well as Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest, which had the support of the big publishers.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the pandemic game
Nintendo has released half a dozen major Animal Crossing installments in its history; some with better success than others on the calendar, all of the above with a reduced fan base in relation to what it has become now. The success of New Horizons was brewing from Nintendo 3DS, where New Leaf made it clear that the series of Canela, Tom Nook and company had little niche, that it was very serious. Hard proof – which is by no means trivial – is the success of farm simulators on the independent scene, with a special emphasis on the more than 10 million buyers in Stardew Valley, for many the perfected vision of Harvest Moon. If we add to that the intelligent movement of publishing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp in 2017, an app halfway between a traditional video game and a management application adhering to common free-to-play practices, the name of Animal Crossing grew and grew until launch from the next new title in the series, this time for Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console that would borrow the best of both worlds, the portable and the home.
With an unbeatable panorama, a platform that sold like hot cakes and a license that was living its best moment, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and left us all for almost three months confined to our homes. If the coronavirus had completely interrupted our routines and had compromised our mental health, there was that haven of peace where all problems have solutions; where there is always an umbrella capable of cheering up your neighbors on a rainy day; where a couple of stones and wood can become the ax you need to cut down a tree and craft a nice bench to sit with your friends. Those that you had not seen for months and that, through Animal Crossing, made it seem that everything was much closer. A video game released on the auspicious console, at the right time. That has been Animal Crossing: New Horizons, “the video game” that will be remembered the most of 2020 in millions of people.
Warzone, another way of understanding Call of Duty; an auspicious launch
That Activision has been hitting some of its business movements for a few years is a fact that is difficult to refute. The generation has ended for them much better than how it started, where their fetish series, Call of Duty, was blindsided by inheriting mechanics from others, traveling into space or jumping off walls. Everything returned to normal through the quality of his works and knowing how to understand what his audience wanted. Call of Duty: Warzone was the perfect complement to Modern Warfare (2019), the most recent iteration as of earlier this year. If Treyarch decided to incorporate Blackout – the battle royale mode of Black Ops 4 – into the game, Activision decided to separate that toll of 70 euros to turn Warzone into a free video game under a free to play business model. In other words: anyone who wanted to play the new multiplayer battle royale from the authors of Modern Warfare was going to be able to do so … and he was going to be able to do it on dates where, heck of fate, millions of teenagers were going to be left without going to class for a few months. Again, an unbeatable business outlook at an opportune moment. Warzone has been renewed based on seasons, content, crosses even with Black Ops Cold War and brands that have fed the whole to make Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone a marvel capable of billing in the sum of console and PC more than Fortnite last November. Warzone is not a joke, it is here to stay and it is also one of the big names of 2020.
Halo Infinite is delayed a year; it all started in july
Prevention is better than cure. Thus we can summarize the situation of the video game most awaited by Xbox fans, the video game that had previously sold hundreds of thousands of Xbox Series X and the starting point of the new Xbox Game Studios, the one that has been in the making since 2017 led by Phil Spencer under the umbrella of 15 internal studios plus the 8 from ZeniMax Media, which makes up all of Bethesda. The approach was clear: November was synonymous with a new generation on Xbox and a new era for Halo Infinite. 343 Industries will even launch its multiplayer mode as free to play, but what we saw that exhilarating afternoon in July translated into a title below expectations. It is useless now to look for guilty, the truth is that the reaction was quick. The months should not be used as a throwing weapon, but as a sign that this product, while Halo felt, did not look like a new generation Halo. In addition, internally there were going to be internal changes in positions of responsibility that did not presage a healthy outlook. The solution? No hurry. For many fans, knowing that Halo Infinite will launch in fall 2020 is just a show of commitment, to display the saying that others have been expensive: Halo Infinite will come out when it’s ready. And so it will be. There is another undeniable element: 2021 is going to be a year that will require a lot of patience from Xbox Series X | S players.
Yoshinori Ono leaves Capcom
In August we learned that Yoshinori Ono, producer of Street Fighter, was leaving Capcom after 30 years. The head of Capcom’s quintessential fighting license left the Osaka firm without making it clear what he was going to do now, but the Street Fighter license would go ahead without him. “I’ve been in the Street Fighter franchise for a long time, experiencing good times, bad times, and even a few nonexistent ones. […] My heart fills with appreciation for those players who have been giving warmth and support to the series, especially during the last decade, when all the activities of the Street Fighter franchise have returned to shine and grow. In the absence of knowing if we will have Street Fighter VI soon, surely many remember that Street Fighter IV was the starting gun for the current new youth of two-dimensional fighting titles. Part of that credit belongs to Ono. Thanks, teacher. Shoryuken!
Apple and Google vs Epic: Fortnite leaves the App Store and Google Play
Epic Games ‘battle with Google and Apple as a result of the change in commission percentages for in-app purchases (Epic raised a 20% savings through the direct payment of V-Bucks compared to their partners’ solutions) resulted in the exit of the successful video game of the App Store and Google Play. It can continue to be played on Android by downloading the game from the Epic Games Store or Galaxy Apps Store (Samsung), but on iOS it cannot be played natively, thus saying goodbye to more than 116 million players out of the 350 million players registered to the title. An atrocity. Alternatives like Nvidia streaming with GeForce Now are similar to Google’s with Stadia for iOS, which uses Safari, but the experience is far from optimal, at least for now.
Amazon, one of the four technology giants, has an answer for everything and, paradoxically, by now it had not made its foray into video games. Jeff Bezos’ firm, always aware of future trends, presented Amazon Luna, a clear response to Stadia, PS Now and Xbox xCloud, a video game service in the cloud through streaming compatible with a multitude of devices and a catalog of more of 100 titles in exchange for $ 5.99 per month. Capable of offering content at 4K resolution and 60 FPS, unlike Google’s service, here we will receive content on demand after paying a fee. Notably, in that hundred launch games – their arrival in Spain is expected in 2021 – we find Resident Evil 7, Control, Panzer Dragoon, A Plague Tale: Innocence, The Surge 2, Yooka-Laylee, GRID, Abzu or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and more. Ubisoft will have its own “channel”, a separate subscription to access all its works.
Michel Ancel retires to dedicate himself to animals and nature
If this news caught you by surprise, you are not the only ones. Miceh Ancel, a creative emblem of the sector that unites us, announced his retirement from the industry after 30 years of contributions. A very personal statement was summed up in a desire to dedicate oneself to life away from the spotlight, away from the screens; close to animals and nature. Far from the motivations behind this movement, the possible wear and tear that came off his story and the respectable decision of the French artist, the message also reached the sentiment of the players, who wanted to know what was going to happen now with Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Wild: “Don’t worry, since the teams have been autonomous for a few months now and the projects are going very well. Wonderful things will be seen soon. We look forward to it and, above all, we thank Ancel for what he has given to this industry. His name should be part of this yearbook.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, a fleeting phenomenon
We have talked about Animal Crossing, Warzone, Among Us … but not least is Fall Guys to understand the video game in 2020 from the prism of virality. Mediatonic, which at the beginning of the year published one of what for us is a real sleeper, Murder by Numbers, burst in August under the backing of PS Plus with Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. To understand it well, publishing on PS4 through its subscription service was going to guarantee, as a base, free availability for more than 45 million players. The result? In short, a kind of Yellow Humor video game and the one known in Spain as Grand Prix. Luckily, Fall Guys is much more than that and has merits as a multiplayer title: lots of tests, extravagance in the skins of its characters, personality in them … and laughs, lots of laughs, at a time of year where we needed to laugh. Accompanied by the broadcasts of the great content creators, Fall Guys was a phenomenon, and we speak in the past because its current figures are light years away from what they were in August and September, when it was impossible not to see it in the top-10 billing monthly or on the list of most downloaded titles of the month. Who knows if Season 3 will revitalize the play or if it was one of those deciduous phenomena; the industry is increasingly competitive and being a protagonist is becoming more and more expensive.
Among Us, the phoenix
It was released in 2018, but we didn’t hear from it until well into the summer; in fact, its emergence as a phenomenon took place after Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (Mediatonic), which failed to hold the guy in the way that the single InnerSloth title has done, which at this point needs no introduction. Available on iOS, Android and PC, its simple multiplayer proposal where part of the narrative is eminently emergent, everything depends on the role of each participant, has led Among Us to be one of the great favorites of the great streamers, an authentic ball of snow where everyone wins. Thus, games capable of gathering millions of spectators have led to a phenomenon that, although it is difficult to label it as “without antecedents”, we have certainly never seen them in this way. His arrival on Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch before the end of 2020 is the confirmation that there is an interest far from having said his last word. With more than 500 million active players in November alone and an upward trend in searches, downloads and views, we will have Among Us for a while.
The 35th anniversary of Super Mario… for a limited time
Nintendo’s plan was probably very different, something closer to what Luigi’s anniversary was in 2013 or the plumber’s twentieth anniversary itself, but there haven’t been few plumber-related products in 2020. We haven’t had an announcement of one eventual sequel to Super Mario Odyssey, it has not been possible to inaugurate Super Nintendo World (which is going to February), no special Nintendo Switch themed models have arrived, nor has it been possible to fit the premiere of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury before New Year’s Eve , if at any time it was planned for this year, but the flagship product has: Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Although millions of players grew up with Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, many others knew about the three-dimensional adventures of the mustachioed with Galaxy and, therefore, despite the improvable product, that he was lazy and forgot about Galaxy 2, this compilation has allowed, for the price of a single video game, the more than 68 million users of Nintendo Switch have accessed three of the most important works in the history of the genre of 3D platforms … only for a limited time, because the 31 March 2021 will no longer be available. Unpublished.
However, we can criticize the form, the price, the treatment, the limited availability, but the 35th anniversary of the first Super Mario Bros. has resulted in a title that has been asked for years and that has been transferred, for the first time in nineteen years, Super Mario Sunshine to a platform away from the GameCube.
Microsoft buys Bethesda
If you allow us, this is the news of the year. “Xbox buys Bethesda.” September 21, 2020 will go down in history as the day that one of the technology giants made public the purchase agreement – which will materialize at the beginning of 2021 – for ZeniMax Media. “Today is a special day, as we welcome Xbox to one of the best studios in the video game industry,” began Phil Spencer in a note that is still hard to believe today. The Xbox leader made official the transfer of more than 2,300 workers and, what interests the players most, the guarantee that all present and future titles of Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios are included in that operation and will be part of Xbox Game Pass. If we add that EA Play has also been part of the service since November, Xbox has strengthened its infrastructure in a difficult way to quantify, which now consists of 23 teams within the Xbox Game Studios label. The future looks exciting.
A story not to believe it. Neither April nor September, nor November, Cyberpunk 2077 was released in December… and it was pulled from the PlayStation Store in December as well. We could dedicate dozens of paragraphs to talk about this story. We will, but not now, because that story is not over. Cyberpunk 2077 has been the biggest event in the industry since GTA V (2013) and it will surely take us years to see something like this. The makers of The Witcher 3, CD Projekt RED, announced this work almost eight years ago and it has been the perfect example to expose the meaning of hype. It was justified. They promised us a video game from another era, the beginning of the next open worlds, a masterpiece, as has been recognized in this house in its PC version; However, the console version (the one aimed at more than 150 million gamers) did not live up to not only expectations, but a finished product. Cyberpunk 2077 landed with its blue and green skins in stores around the world on December 10 – 8 million copies sold only as reservations – and an uncertain projection that currently stands at 13 million after deducting the returns process . Yes, returns, because the title was released in an unworthy state for a work of this caliber, recognized by CD Projekt RED itself, which authorized refunds on digital purchases for PlayStation and Xbox and accepted Sony’s request shortly after withdrawing the game from its digital store, PS Store, until further notice. We will start 2021 and nothing will appear when entering “Cyberpunk 2077”. PS4 and Xbox One players do not have a version to match, so wait until the end of February, when the last patch for consoles is expected to be ready. The next gen version is still planned for 2021.
A year without Nintendo Direct is also news
September 2019. That is the last date since the last canonical Nintendo Direct that we remember. Yes, there have been broadcasts with the “Direct” nomenclature for specific video games, the Partner Showcase has been established to offer news about independent video games from partners close to the company; even unannounced broadcasts, which fell in the middle of summer like that, but we have not had a Nintendo Direct as such. Of those that made us stay up late, of those where the next iterations of the great flagships are presented and fill dozens of forum pages in the previous days speculating and sharing clearly false lists of what could be announced. But that’s part of the magic, one that surely only Nintendo knows how to convey to its audience. From the initial expectation to the final recurring disappointment, followed by the desire for the next Nintendo Direct. And so always. But there is an irrefutable fact: Nintendo plans changes for the future. It was communicated in July in the voice of Shuntaro Furukawa, president and CEO of the company: “We feel that the Nintendo Direct is an incredibly effective way to present information directly to our consumers, in a very direct way”, but there is a warning to mariners: “Conversely, times change, and so does the most effective way to promote products; so there is a possibility that there is a new, better way to present that information. ” 2021 will almost certainly be a historic year for Nintendo, which in 2020 has experienced one of the best-selling courses in the entire history of the company.
The new generation begins despite everything
It is not just news, it is an event. Despite the logical doubts we all had, the new generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft hit the stores; although he did so in the face of a panorama that raises more doubts than certainties. Should PS5 and Xbox Series X | S have been delayed? Was it worth arriving in November with this launch catalog? That is a different story, because the reality is that the pandemic has not prevented the new machines that will accompany us for the next six or seven years are already among the lucky ones who have been able to get one. And that’s news. Because of both names dozens, hundreds of news, direct or indirect, have emerged, relating to the new generation, the current generation, which has only just begun. Now, the priority is that the supply of units corresponds to the enormous demand; from then on we’ll be able to talk about a truly exciting lineup of titles at both companies.
The Game Awards casts The Last of Us Part 2 as GOTY
The Game of the Year cannot go unnoticed in this yearbook. The Last of Us Part 2 won no less than seven awards at the most media awards gala of the year, The Game Awards, and currently has more than 100 recognitions as GOTY around the world. Naughty Dog managed to captivate millions of PlayStation 4 players and became a hit with critics and audiences back in June, a few months later than expected due to various delays. The months leading up to its release were tough, with accusations of very severe crunch the weeks before the release, criticism of the management for an improvement in management, or a massive leak. The Californian study went back to the point that now we only remember the result, an extraordinary video game that hit the table in the narrative and exponentially improved its predecessor in playability. The industry has recognized his merits with awards such as Best Direction, Best Interpretation, Best Narrative, Best Game of the Year, Best Audio Design, Best Action / Adventure and Best Achievement in Accessibility. Turning point for Neil Druckmann’s team, promoted to co-president of the company earlier this December.
The Last of Us Part 2
Electronic Arts takes over Codemasters
Although initially it was Take-Two that raised its hand to take over Codemasters and precipitate the desire for a new Midnight Club by the British studio, makers of DiRT, the last decade of Formula 1 deliveries and many other displays of knowledge and devotion for racing video games, came EA. It seemed that everything was done with the Rockstar parent company, that in 2021 an offer approved by the main shareholders of Codemasters was going to be consummated, but Electronic Arts arrived with 1200 million dollars and, consequently, the 815 million euros in exchange that offered Take-Two left the dilemma with an obvious answer. What does this translate to? The first, in a million-dollar operation, one of the largest in recent years; the second, the incorporation of all the development teams of the British firm to the EA seal; the third, that the next Grid, F1, Need for Speed, Burnout, Real Racing or OnRush have Codemasters as a clear candidate to lead their developments. The easy thing is to think that Codemasters will continue to do their thing and that Ghost Games and Criterion will be with the licenses they already know, but who knows. What is certain is that EA fully breaks into the world of driving and takes, as a base, the premier category of motorsport.