2022 promises to be one of video game’s biggest years ever Opinion

There were some really amazing video games in 2021. But when it comes to significant, big releases that get the whole company talking, it was definitely a quieter 12 months.

Xbox delivered some great titles in Halo and Forza, and Capcom had a strong year with Monster Hunter and Resident Evil. But Sony’s biggest release was a Ratchet & Clank, and Nintendo’s most successful launches were all remasters or remakes of older games. Activision, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Warner Bros. and many of the major AAA publishers had a reduced board last year, with many of their major titles delayed.

It did not mean much. Big legacy, service-based games kept fans engaged, the big new consoles were pretty much permanently sold out, and there were still some good things to be found. In addition to the aforementioned games, there were a handful of strong titles like Deathloop, Returnal, Psychonauts 2, Age of Empires 4 and Metroid Dread, all of which were very good and all of which had a chance to shine.

2021 was the year we felt the effects of the pandemic. Big games were delayed as some developers struggled to adapt to working from home, and the chip shortage slowed the rollout of the PS5 and Xbox Series X and S, even though both managed to surpass the sales of their predecessors.

On paper, 2022 right now looks like a significant year for new AAA releases

As a result, 2022 looks like a significantly busier year for everyone. And perhaps one of the biggest years for major AAA titles in over a decade.

In the console field, PlayStation lists three of its largest franchises. First up is Horizon: Forbidden West in February, which is the sequel to 2017’s breakout new IP, which moved ten million devices in two years and has become posting big numbers on the PC. Gran Turismo 7 in March is another big release. The series is historically PlayStation’s biggest IP, and although that was not the case on the PS4, it’s still a huge favorite; from last year, GT Sport had almost ten million players. Finally, there’s God of War: Ragnarok, another sequel to the PS4 hit, which in itself is approaching 20 million sales.

The Nintendo Switch also has a year filled with big sequels. Splatoon 3 will be released in 2022. The second game sold only 13 million copies on Switch, and the series has quickly established itself as a significant IP. Another important Switch game is Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. The original Ubisoft-developed game released in 2017 to critical acclaim and has since sold over 7.5 million copies. And then there’s the sequel to Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One of the highest rated games ever, it is still on the map today and has sold over 24 million copies globally.

Beyond that, there’s the ambitious new Pokémon game, Pokémon: Legends Arceus, coming out this month. Bayonetta 3 is ready to arrive this year and there is a promising Kirby game coming out in March. It’s quite unusual to know so much about Nintendo’s line-up so far in advance, so we might as well see some more surprises.

Next month's Horizon: Forbidden West kicks off a busy year for PlayStation with three of their biggest franchises heading to their consoles

Next month’s Horizon: Forbidden West kicks off a busy year for PlayStation with three of their biggest franchises heading to their consoles

Xbox’s line-up is not quite known right now (still waiting for GoldenEye), but the big one is undoubtedly Starfield, which is due out in November. It is without a doubt Xbox and Bethesda’s biggest new IP in their respective stories, and when you think about the massive success of Fallout and Elder Scrolls, you can well understand why. Bethesda Game Studio’s last major single-player game, Fallout 4, shipped 12 million copies in 24 hours.

It is the big exclusives that are covered and there is currently also a strong board from third parties. Ubisoft has a new Rainbow Six this month, and when you think about how Rainbow Six: Siege has over 70 million registered players, it’s something to keep an eye on. Then there is the Fire Ring in February. It may be a new IP, but it’s from Dark Souls developer FromSoftware and Game of Thrones writer George RR Martin, and could prove to be Bandai Namco’s biggest global success.

Maybe 2022 will be the year we start to see the effects of the industry’s obsession with engagement

After some quiet years, Warner Bros. probably has its largest game selection ever with Hogwarts Legacy, Suicide Squad, Gotham Knights, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and MultiVersus all coming this year. Take-Two also boasts a major line-up this year with its relaunch of the WWE game series, a Borderlands spin-off in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, the arrival of GTA V on the new consoles and Marvel: Midnight Suns, a superhero strategy game from renowned developer Firaxis.

And then there’s Total War: Warhammer 3, Sonic Frontiers, Dying Light 2, Saints Row, and Ubisoft’s Avatar games. Bethesda has two new IPs in Redfall and Ghostwire Tokyo, Square Enix also has a new project in Forspoken. You get the picture. On paper, 2022 right now looks like a significant year for new AAA releases.

The question, the nagging doubt, of course, is just how many of these will be delayed?

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with development plans (including more important things). 2021 was also set to be a big 12 months, remember? And many of the titles I mentioned above were originally planned for last year. Meanwhile, the language of some publishers suggests caution about current dates: Nintendo said they were ‘aiming’ for a 2022 release for Breath of the Wild 2, for example.

But we have been living with the pandemic for almost two years now. Studies are getting smarter to understand the effects of working from home on their production plans. Analysts in our latest prediction function were in doubt as to whether 2022 will be a repeat of 2021 or not. It’s safe to assume that some of these big titles will find themselves in 2023, but there are reasons to believe that 2022 will remain an important one for games.

It is exciting. The gaming industry is trying to hold on to all of its new customers, it attracted during the various lockdowns, and a release list like this one should help keep them engaged in this medium.

And it will be fascinating to see how they will fare. The sales performance of some of last year’s new games was disappointing. Our latest survey, we did of Call of Duty players, suggests that players no longer feel the need to rush out and buy the new shiny thing. They do not lack for things to play, watch or do, whether it is service-based games like Fornite or subscription platforms like Game Pass or Netflix. Maybe 2022 will be the year we start to see the effects of the industry’s obsession with engagement.

It’s always a silly game to predict what the future may bring for video games. But I’m optimistic that next year will be one of the most exciting 12 months we’ve had for new games in a generation.

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