2019 retrospective: streaming, controversies and next gen on the horizon

2019 retrospective: streaming, controversies and next gen on the horizon
It is difficult to find a single theme as a characterizing element of 2019, a year certainly of transition but also extremely important for the launch of numerous initiatives destined to persist and modify the videogame landscape. The games are not really lacking and some great titles have been released in 2019, which if we want can be characterized by the tendency to a return on the scene of Japanese games with global relevance such as Resident Evil 2, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Monster Hunter World: Iceborn , or the relaunch of the single player but there are also many productions that escape any trend and therefore demonstrate how 2019 was simply a year truly full of releases.

In addition to the games themselves, however, great news have also materialized from the point of view of services and the very use of video games, such as the consolidation of streaming as a gaming platform, the expansion (with attached controversy) of new emerging stores with disruptive force and the progressive strengthening of trends such as video game streaming through specific platforms such as Twitch and the like. At the end of the year, emblematically on the eve of what would later be a 2020 dominated by the release of the next gen, we cannot fail to remember the surprise presentation of Xbox Series X, in December 2019.

The streaming revolution

One of the most important themes of 2019 was definitely streaming, intended perhaps for the first time as an alternative and truly credible gaming platform, thanks to the presentation of Stadia by Google in March last year. The technology in question has been present for several years now and some services had already reached a considerable diffusion, such as PlayStation Now, but when a giant like Google moves in this direction it is clear that the consequences are destined to be more far-reaching, or at least this is what we thought looking at the presentation last March. We do not know exactly how it went, because there are no certain numbers on Stadia subscribers or on purchases made, but if nothing else, video game streaming has become a much more widespread and accepted concept than before, consolidating the idea of ​​a future brought to cloud gaming.

Also in 2019 we witnessed the beta of Project xCloud by Microsoft, which further cemented the concept: even the Redmond company can count on a server infrastructure of enormous diffusion and represents a main player on the streaming market, even more so with the introduction of xCloud within the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which was announced at the end of the year and was then made in 2020. In 2019 the scenario that could dominate the videogame market of the future began to take shape, with cloud gaming services from Microsoft, Google, Sony (which in the meantime has signed an agreement with Microsoft itself for the use of Azure servers. ) in addition to the alternative provided by Nvidia with GeForce Now and other solutions that emerged later as Amazon Luna, waiting to understand what Nintendo intends to do.

The controversies

A The recurring element of 2019 was the controversy: perhaps an indication of a moment of greater relaxation from the point of view of releases on the market, the controversy has often and willingly spread in videogame environments, between social networks, forums and various communication systems, for different reasons. Already in the first months of the year, several mass layoffs between Activision and Electronic Arts made the somewhat negative vision of the videogame majors re-emerge even in the eyes of the players, but the worst was yet to come, in particular for one of the two.

Epic Games Store, the new digital delivery of Epic Games born in December 2018, started in 2019 a long series of exclusive agreements, which effectively deprived Steam and the other stores of some games, creating an unprecedented situation in the PC world and unleashing vehement controversy from many users, several of whom still intend to boycott the store for these reasons. Particularly known some specific cases, such as that of Metro Exodus, which was removed from Steam following the exclusive agreement taken after the start of pre-orders on the Valve store.

Another historical controversy was that that preceded the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield, when it emerged that the games would contain only creatures belonging to the regional Galar Pokédex and not to the general one, thus presenting a much lower amount of pokémon than one would have expected. This triggered major boycott threats from several fans, but they don't seem to have had any particular effect on game sales. Staying in the Nintendo arena, last year also saw the spread of the now famous Joy-Con drifting problem, which turned out to be chronic and linked to the construction of the Nintendo Switch controllers itself, with much of accusations and class actions against the company.

Finally, we cannot avoid mentioning the famous Blitzchung case, which merged political issues in a rather unprecedented way with official positions of videogame companies, in this case Activision Blizzard: a October 2019, during the Hearthstone Grandmasters streamed, Blizzard censored and banned Ng Wai Chung, aka Blitzchung, from the professional circuit for expressing support for Hong Kong's protest riots against the Chinese government. The episode aroused great outrage among a large part of the Western public, including among the company's many fans.

Changes, acquisitions and transformations

Numerous events have changed the organization of many companies of the first level in the gaming industry and curiously several of these events happened during 2019. The year began with the separation of Bungie from Activision, through the premature conclusion of the publishing agreement that gave back total freedom to the team action. Shortly thereafter, THQ Nordic showed that it wanted to continue its expansion with the acquisition of Warhorse Studios, the Kingdom Come: Deliverance team. Still in the context of acquisitions, Epic Games acquired Psyonix, authors of Rocket League, while Sega made his team Two Point Studios. Among the most notable acquisitions are Microsoft's Double Fine, with Tim Schafer's team joining Xbox Game Studios and Sony Interactive Entertainment's acquisition of Insomniac Games, ending with the takeover of Slightly Mad Studios by Codemasters.

Big changes then occurred at the top of Nintendo and Sony during 2019: as regards the first, we found ourselves greeting the legendary Reggie Fils-Aimé, who gave up the role of president of Nintendo of America to Doug Bowser, giving rise to the obvious skits considering the surname of the new American boss of the company. Sony's situation is more complex, which implemented a sort of substantial internal reorganization whose consequences, in terms of moving to the West, are particularly visible today: Kaz Hirai left Sony Corp, after 35 years of service, followed later by Shawn Layden , who left the role of CEO of SIE Worldwide Studios. The reorganization was completed by the replacement of Shuhei Yoshida by Hermen Hulst (head of Guerrilla Games) in command of the internal worldwide studios.

Games: the return of Japan and the single player

Many i major games released in 2019, but among these we can find at least one particularly evident trend: the revival of Japanese school games. The trend had already begun in previous years but consolidated in the first months of last year with the release of Resident Evil 2 and Kingdom Hearts 3, followed by Devil May Cry 5, which also sealed the return of Capcom in style. at the center of attention. The launch of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was nothing more than the further confirmation of the importance achieved by From Software in the international arena, moreover with a title with a markedly Japanese atmosphere, while Shenmue 3 practically represented the realization of a dream. The worthy conclusion of the special made in Japan vintage was represented by Death Stranding, the new and particular creature by Hideo Kojima, destined moreover to a somewhat polarized reception. In between, several Nintendo games (albeit mostly from Western teams too, to be honest) such as Yoshi's Crafted World, Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Luigi's Mansion 3 and Pokémon Sword and Shield to fuel a year of great activity for Nintendo Switch.

Another theme attributable to 2019 can be the confirmation of the return of the single player to the center of attention, which can be summarized a bit by case Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which with its success has shown on the one hand the public's affection for this type of single-player games with strong narrative elements and has convinced a publisher who seemed rather reluctant like EA, just a few months after the Anthem disaster, which instead pointed in the opposite direction (but after the enormous success of Apex Legends, which however showed how competitive multiplayer is still beautiful alive and well).

Other major games include Days Gone, Gears 5 and two RPG pearls that have shown how the genre still has so much to offer, namely The Outer Worlds by Obsidian but above all Disco Elysium, considered by many to be a true masterpiece capable of collecting the legacy of classics such as Planescape: Torment and further evolving the role-playing game in the form of a video game.

Hardware: next gen on the horizon

Let's close this long retrospective of 2019 also talking about hardware, given that the next gen was practically around the corner throughout the year and the inevitable evolution was beginning to make itself felt some pressure on gaming platforms. Nintendo has simply continued in its own way by proposing an alternative version of its phenomenal console, or Nintendo Switch Lite, able to further increase the success of Switch around the world and taking it to stratospheric levels, demonstrating how the Kyoto house is intent on to follow its own path apart from all the others.

On the PC front, the launch of Nvidia RTX graphics cards with Turing architecture officially took place in 2018 but it was the following year to see their greater diffusion, and with this an increasing attention to ray tracing, which in those months would become one of the major topics of discussion in the field of new graphics technologies for video games, together with a progressive shift of attention towards high-level solid-state memory media speed.

As for the consoles in December 2019, during the evening of the Game Awards, Phil Spencer sgan this surprisingly his bombshell presenting Xbox Series X, or the next gen console from Microsoft that has materialized just recently, starting the long wait for the new generation with that first and spectacular presentation trailer, still able to bring the chills.

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