The game software market is eerily quiet this summer. Q1 provided a busy calendar of big hit releases, such as Horizon Forbidden West, Halo and Forza – all of which were overshadowed by one of the biggest gaming launches ever – Elden Ring. The highly anticipated release gathered 3.4 billion YouTube views in 60 days, dwarfing the previous title holder, GTA5 at 1.9 billion. Even now the game is several months old, it continues to captivate gamer audiences as they forage – or should I say, scramble – through backlogs for games to fill the time created by the summer drought of triple-A releases.
Although this is a recurring phenomenon for the gaming industry, as publishers typically target colder months and holiday season to release new games. But 2022’s pipeline looks particularly slow and somewhat barren of anticipated blockbuster releases.
The limited release pipeline for 2022 may actually be a good thing for the industry. With a range of big-name publishers choosing to sit this season of releases out, by postponing their titles to 2023, the stage is now primed for smaller, lesser-known studios and indie developers to come forth and seize this opportunity.
Indie games often boast creative and refined gaming mechanics, alongside inventive narratives with a defined start, middle and end as well as creative visuals.
Despite being often lost in the swarm of smaller games on the marketplaces, plagued with tiny development and marketing budgets (often boot strapped) as well as smaller teams, indie/AA developers still prove capable of producing some absolute gems. Some honourable mentions here go to Subnautica, The Stanley Parable, Among Us and, in recent times, Cuphead.
Also capitalising on the drought are gaming subscription services, who will pick up the slack from big publishers, but also act as a vehicle for discovery for a lot of the smaller games on the market.
PlayStation is going through the paces of launching its new Plus subscription services in key markets. With a gap in new game releases, this is a perfect opportunity to give access to a catalogue of games from previous generations. With PlayStation users, it’s likely the summer months running into early 2023 that will be spent playing old favourites.
Xbox on the other hand remains enthusiastic about indies and sub triple A game releases on the GamePass. In fact, indies bear a strategic importance to keep players going with quality content between big title drops, and in turn, disincentivising players from cutting their subscriptions short.
Microsoft fosters indie talent through its ID@Xbox programme. In part through funding unique concepts, but mostly through marketing – giving standout indies a platform to generate hype and eagerness to play among Game Pass followers. Xbox has tremendous influence in this regard, via social media, but also running showcases and streams on Twitch.
Postponed to 2023 titles include Starfield, Redfall, Forspoken, STALKER 2, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and (probably) God of War: Ragnarok. There are some worthy mentions scheduled for 2023 – latent 2022 delays or reboots – such as Saints Row, CoD: MW2, Hogwarts Legacy and Overwatch 2. However, despite the big pull, content-centric games like Fortnite, APEX, Valorant and the like, keeping the lights on, the gap in big hit releases still feels wider than ever.
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