Video game design is a trend-led process, with the most successful titles tending to influence a cavalcade of rival developers in the decisions they make with their own efforts.
As 2020 gets underway, here are just a few of the trends that will be shaping the game releases that are on the horizon this year.
Image Source: Pixabay
Microtransactions are here to stay
While they’re seen as the bane of the modern games industry by many critics, it is inevitable that many of the triple-A games to arrive in 2020 will still come with microtransactions baked into their designs. From battle royale shooters like Fortnite and Apex Legends to sports games like FIFA and even story-driven single-player experiences like Assassin’s Creed, having to pay for bite-sized pieces of additional content and loot boxes has become the norm.
The main issue that those who oppose microtransactions have, especially in a loot box context, is that it makes competitive games more like an online casino, but without any of the regulation and accountability that comes with gambling services.
EA is making record amounts of cash as a result of this state of affairs and it is not the only one; the good news for players is that at least Nintendo seems to be bucking this trend by keeping microtransactions out of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
VR will get its first killer app
Virtual reality has been hailed as the next big thing in gaming for many years now, but while the technology has got better and the cost of ownership has fallen, there have not really been any key experiences available exclusively on VR headsets that have made it seem truly essential.
That is all set to change when Half-Life: Alyx arrives in March, ushering in a new era of story-driven VR gaming which will let players return to the Half-Life universe in a single player campaign that aims to be immersive and uniquely geared towards the capabilities of modern virtual reality hardware.
Hopefully, Valve’s decision to launch a VR title which is not just built around a couple of gimmicks and will instead match other flagship games in terms of its quality and length will inspire other studios to push their VR projects to new heights.
Remakes will reign supreme
Remaking and remastering old games to run on new hardware is not a new trend, but 2019 laid down the foundations for great things to come and really showed that it was worth the time and effort to re-imagine classic hits entirely, rather than going for the quick and lazy cash-grab route.
Resident Evil 2 was regarded as one of the best games of last year, for example, and Capcom is wasting no time capitalising on this success with the Resident Evil 3 remake. Equally exciting is the impending arrival of the Final Fantasy VII remake, which will be a PS4 exclusive in the short term and will feature a whole slew of overhauled systems to go along with its prettier visuals.
This is perhaps the most important trend of all, proving that there is an appetite amongst gamers for remakes that are more than just mere aesthetic upgrades, but also feature major changes to the mechanics.
Streaming will play a bigger role
The launch of Google’s Stadia in late 2019 may have been met by mixed reviews and questions over the effectiveness of game streaming on current internet connectivity options, but there is no denying that the concept of running games on remote hardware and letting players enjoy gorgeous visuals on low-end devices is appealing.
2020 will give game designers more freedom to create graphically demanding games without worrying about whether they will run on home consoles or the average gaming PC, since streaming services offered by Google, Microsoft and Sony amongst others will be more widely adopted and accessible. This is thanks in part to the rollout of 5G networking, which will give mobile players a faster and more consistent form of mobile connectivity.
Games will of course still need to be optimized to run well regardless of this, but if developers are only catering to a smaller potential hardware pool it will hopefully improve the experience for everyone.