The 7 reasons why we will remember 2020

The 7 reasons why we will remember 2020
We will never forget 2020, because the pandemic has begun that has upset the lives of everyone. But there are also many other strictly videogame reasons why this year has been particularly intense. A lot has to do with COVID-19: forced at home, many people have turned to video games in search of a virtual pastime, to keep in touch with friends and relatives or just to try something new.

With sports at a standstill, esports tournaments have resisted the limitations of live tournaments with very popular online editions. And in 2020 we also witnessed Google Stadia's relentless attempts to get noticed, with free months in spring and the recent maxi-offer linked to Cyberpunk 2077, in which the company actually gave away 100 euros worth of products (the Premiere Edition which includes the official controller and a Chromecast Ultra).

It was not a canonical year. First, the outbreak of the pandemic changed everything. Videoludically speaking, the most evident results of a situation that limited movement and, more generally, freedom of movement, were two. The first: the enormous diffusion of export tournaments during the spring, which in Italy is matched by a severe lockdown.

The young Riccardo 'Reynor' Romiti has seen his undeniable talent rewarded in StarCraft 2. Many tournaments have been organized: by the Italian Serie A football, for example, but also by the Formula 1 and of the MotoGP. Unable to enter the field or to race in the real circuits, the sports federations have discovered how much video games can be a vehicle of great interest for a transversal community of fans and can be an excellent way to engage spectators even with the engines off.

Was it a concrete step towards something more or was it just a parenthesis? Difficult to say, although the results have been encouraging: the Italian Serie A will continue with the first real season of the virtual tournament; sportsmen have increasingly followed on Twitch, where they play live productions such as Fortnite, and platforms such as Discord (which have represented a point of reference for players and non-players) have raised millions of dollars in investments.

Esports have made themselves known: now it remains to be seen whether they will become a constant in the programming of sports federations in moments of absence of traditional competitions. In Italy the prizes destined for the export industry were awarded for the first time: the best player of the year was the young Riccardo Romiti for his undeniable talent in StarCraft 2.

The second result of the outbreak of pandemic was the incredible success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. According to official data, over 26 million units have been sold: it is the second best-selling game on Nintendo Switch behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ahead of productions available for much longer, such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (21.10 million ), The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (19.74 million) and Pokémon Sword and Shield (19.02 million).

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has sold over 26 million copies. Was it the right game at the right time? Most likely: although popular, never an episode of Animal Crossing had achieved such commercial results. On Nintendo DS, one of the best-selling consoles in history, Animal Crossing: Wild World, for example, sold 11.75 million copies. The Switch episode more than doubled that result in about 9 months - extraordinary.

It was the right game: a virtual experience in which, unlike the world that surrounded us, the player could leave the house, see friends and give gifts; buy clothes, knick-knacks and plant trees and flowers. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons there was everything that could not be done in many parts of the world and much more, which made this product an inevitable success. It was an escape from a devastating reality.

We will also remember this 2020 because it was a year of communication media disasters in the absence of live events. We will remember how Sony dedicated an entire presentation of PlayStation 5 scheduled at the Game Developers Conference, and then streamed it in response to the dismissal of the physical event in San Francisco, to the technical data of the console: TeraFlops, GHz, cooling and temperatures, leaving a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth of those who expected - given that the event had gone from being a content for a few experts to a live one followed by millions of people - a change of course given the frantic wait for the new consoles .

We will remember the Inside Xbox in which Microsoft only showed trailers to push the "most powerful console in the world" (a slogan stressed by the Redmond company). We will remember how until September, about two months after the launch on the market, neither Sony nor Microsoft had yet announced the prices of the PS5 and the new Xboxes and the chaos that generated the pre-orders: the stocks did not withstand the huge demand.

Microsoft's acquisition of Zenimax Media is a $ 7.5 billion bet on Game Pass. Already in normal times, the demand for new gaming consoles would have been enormous: with the launch of new Nvidia graphics cards, in the midst of a pandemic and with notebook sales rising by virtue of remote working and distance learning, vendors of chips (including Taiwanese TSMC) could not support the consumer electronics industry. Foregone conclusion: stocks run out everywhere for Nvidia GPUs and new consoles, with broken sites and virtual queues at the instant in which Italian retailers announced new availability.

The arrival on the market of PS5 and Xbox Series X | S made us understand several things: the console war will never die and the hardware launches, despite the constant growth of the mobile market and the availability of many games free for PC, they continue to be a magnet to attract millions of passionate gamers. In addition to the fact that we are experiencing a very promising generation for the strategy of the Xbox and the specificities of the DualSense of the PS5, for example, alongside one of the most lively Nintendo consoles ever.

This year not it didn't even miss the big shot: Microsoft has announced that it intends to acquire Zenimax Media (and with it, in particular, Bethesda) for 7.5 billion dollars. One of the largest acquisitions ever in the gaming industry, an operation that says so much about the economic capabilities of a giant like Microsoft and its strategy for the future of Xbox and services related to the brand.

Speaking of giants, another is still looking for a way: Google. In 2020 any form of video game has seen strong growth, we wrote it, and cloud gaming was no exception. To contribute to the mental health of those who remained indoors and to catch the ball, in the spring Google allowed everyone to try Stadia for free for a month (the games, however, had to be bought separately, except for the free ones).

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The launch of Cyberpunk 2077 represents 2020 very well: a big mess. Despite this promotion and the context of very strong attention towards video games, Stadia does not seem to have caught on yet: Google does not want to communicate any number on monthly active users and Stadia Games and Entertainment continues not to announce what it is working on. Overall, the service is still located on the periphery of the industry, far from the idea of ​​a platform that can rival Xbox, Nintendo and PlayStation head-to-head.

Finally, here's the last reason why this 2020 is unforgettable: Cyberpunk 2077 has fully represented an extraordinary year from many points of view. We are talking about a video game announced 8 years ago, postponed several times, expected as a bearer of truth by millions of people. On the nail and without knowing much, 8 million copies have been pre-ordered. At launch, however, everything happened: the PS4 and Xbox One versions were full of bugs and technical problems, to the point of pushing the experience to the limits of playability.

Such a disaster has not been seen for some time: in response to the controversy, CD Projekt lost a third of its stock market value and was also denounced by a shareholder for having deceived and provided false promises; the game has even been removed from the PlayStation Store pending a correction. Did CD Projekt Red play the image built with years of hard work behind The Witcher saga? Maybe: yet Cyberpunk 2077 is already one of the best launches ever with 13 million copies sold, net of refunds and returned copies. A year like this we won't see it again soon: and maybe it's for the best.

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