Biggest Gaming Stories of the Year in 2021: From Activision Blizzard to NFTs

Source: Carli Velocci / Windows Central

Congratulations, we’ve made it through the year, and what a year it has been. 2021 was the first full year for the next generation of consoles, with the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PS5 all available for purchase, at least in theory. To look back but also forward, we’re going to go over the best stories in the game over the past 12 months, the ones that helped define 2021 as a year.

Even with many significant delays due to the ongoing pandemic, there have been many big launches, some of which have joined the ranks of the best Xbox games available. Yet there have also been big changes, things that, for better or for worse, leave a permanent mark on the gaming industry. Let’s dive into it.

6. Lucasfilm Games is relaunched

Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic Remake RevanSource: Aspyr

To kick off, January 2021 saw the revival of the Lucasfilm Games brand, eight years after the closure of Lucasarts by Disney. The brand is global, covering all games licensed by Lucasfilm in the future. While Electronic Arts (EA) still holds the Star Wars exclusivity until 2023, new developers and publishers are already working on games that will launch after the exclusivity ends.

Some of the upcoming titles include Ubisoft’s untitled Star Wars game, Quantic Dream’s Star Wars: Eclipse, a Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake, and a rumored sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn Entertainment. Meanwhile, the developer of Wolfenstein MachineGames is working on an Indiana Jones game.

After several years of canceled titles and missed opportunities in Star Wars games, with few exceptions, Lucasfilm Games is announcing a huge change as Disney insists the Star Wars license will be open to all locations.

5. The rise of NFT, blockchain and crypto nonsense

Ubisoft quartz imageSource: Ubisoft

Blockchain technology has been around for a few years, but it wasn’t until 2021 that it really took over the game in harmful ways. Publisher Ubisoft has joined Ubisoft Quartz, offering limited, serial-numbered digital cosmetics in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. EA noted on a financial results call that it is exploring the uses of blockchain, although there is nothing solid yet. STALKER 2 had planned to auction NFTs before backing down after criticism from fans. Fable creator Peter Molyneux has announced that his upcoming Legacy game will sell virtual plots as NFT. And it’s not over.

Yet there is some resistance. Steam has banned blockchain-based games from its platform, while Xbox director Phil Spencer told Axios that blockchain-based games feel more “exploitative than entertaining.”

For better or worse, this is just the start of the NFT and blockchain trend in video games, and we’ll certainly see more of it in 2022.

4. Google is shutting down Stadia Games and Entertainment

Stadia Games Entertainment ImageSource: Google

Less than two years after the launch of Stadia Games and Entertainment, the family that owns Stadia, Google called for it to shut down before a single new game was launched or even announced. While not the end of Stadia as a whole, it marked the end of Google’s investment in the original games, significantly hampering its ability to grow.

Just weeks after Stadia Games and Entertainment closed, former director Jade Raymond founded a new team called Haven Studios, partnering with PlayStation to release the team’s first game. Haven Studios has also attracted many other former Stadia developers.

Meanwhile, most of the now-defunct Typhoon Games team – a team acquired by Google for Stadia Games and Entertainment – came together again to open Raccoon Logic, while reclaiming the rights to their game. , Journey to the Savage Planet.

Yet even as Google shut down its proprietary teams, another platform grew dramatically.

3. Microsoft completes the acquisition of ZeniMax

Starfield Key ArtSource: Bethesda Softworks

While Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax Media in September 2020, it underwent a few months of regulatory review. In March 2021, the deal was finalized and Bethesda Softworks joined Xbox Game Studios as a member of the Xbox Ownership Group. The upshot is that apart from a handful of existing contractual obligations, Bethesda studios are now focused on making exclusive games for Xbox and PC, or more specifically “platforms where the Game Pass exists.”

Upcoming titles Redfall and Starfield, an immersive shooter from Arkane Austin and a sci-fi role-playing game from Bethesda Game Studios, respectively, are the first wave of games in this acquisition. The two games are scheduled to arrive in the summer of 2022 and November 11, 2022 respectively.

Before these titles even appeared, the addition of Bethesda to Xbox instantly increased the value of Xbox Game Pass, with the entire Bethesda Softworks back catalog added to the service. This means that games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Doom Eternal are now part of the subscription, as are all new Bethesda Softworks games.

2. Epic Games trial against Apple

FortniteSource: Epic Games

Following the “Free Fortnite” movement it launched in 2020, Epic Games met Apple in court. Due to documents such as unsealed email conversations and not kept out of the public eye – as a result of the trial held at bay due to the ongoing pandemic – a truly mind-boggling number of secrets from the industry and interesting treats were revealed during the test.

There have been many massive disclosures that have unfolded informally, like how Epic Games offered to pay big bucks to get Sony titles from the Epic Games Store for PC, details of marketing deals, or who was aware of which conversations. . The guts of an open-mouthed industry were overturned, as companies accustomed to operating without any scrutiny suddenly had their ideas tested in court – all in the public eye.

As for the lawsuit itself, things have gone mostly in Apple’s favor, with the exception of a ruling that Apple can’t prevent developers from signing into other payment methods. Naturally, Epic Games and Apple continue to seduce.

In any other year, this would easily have been the biggest story of the year. And even…

1. Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard's walkout voice still mattersSource: Carli Velocci / Windows Central

In July, the biggest gaming story of 2021 erupted. It was announced that a lawsuit has been filed against Activision Blizzard, alleging the company has allowed systemic sexist practices and abusive behavior to develop without punishment, among other issues. From there, the company’s response, viewed as lackluster by Activision Blizzard workers, saw fervor intensify with walkouts and calls for reform.

Things continued to escalate in the months following the trial, with a new report alleging CEO Bobby Kotick was in the know and helped suppress allegations of sexual harassment at the company. More than 20 employees have been fired, others have been sanctioned, while others have voluntarily resigned, expressing a lack of confidence in the management of Activision Blizzard, which notably backs Kotick at the time of writing.

More than 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have called for Kotick’s resignation, as have several publications, including Windows Central. Developers and outlets weren’t the only ones to take note, with heads of PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo all commenting on the situation.

Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, reportedly told employees he was “discouraged and frankly stunned”. Xbox Director Phil Spencer said he was “disturbed and deeply disturbed by the horrific events and actions” and that Xbox “is evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard.” Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser called the situation “explosive and disturbing.”

It is not yet clear what the next steps or events will be, but it is absolutely clear that this situation is not even remotely defused and will continue to unfold, one way or another.

What awaits us?

With these events now in the past, we are just starting to see the consequences and benefits of what has unfolded through 2021. Even though analysts note that they expect more game delays in 2022 , there is much to look forward to. New games will be released, companies will take bold action, and the gaming industry, a truly unique intersection of science and entertainment, will undoubtedly be once again full of the unexpected.

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