The year 2020 was a year that brought a lot of us excitement, life adjustments, and new experiences. For me, it brought various conversations about themes, writing, art, and IP’s that really explored areas I wanted to see in games.
Although COVID-19 has changed the blueprint for the gaming community, I feel like we still had an excellent year full of new titles from across the board. So, without further ado, I want to share my personal opinion for this year in review for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
Sony was awfully quiet for most of the year; the silence made a lot of us ponder what was happening with the PlayStation 5. We knew Sony was working on it, and we had an idea about some of it with Marky Cerny’s tech discussion back in April. In June, Sony released an hour-long State of Play that showcased a variety of games coming to PS5 and PS4 and the reveal of the new system’s… well, let’s say intriguing architecture. Now, I cannot lie: it’s not sexy, but it’s something artistic from a design point of view. It’s here, and people have adjusted to it.
Surprisingly, though, Sony has not let up on the quality of games that they released. The Last of Us Part II, despite the controversy, has won many awards and received praise from critics as well as various players in the community. Sony Worldwide Studios knocked it out of the park in the summer with their release of Ghost of Tsushima. Finally, when the PS5 released, Spider-Man Miles Morales, Astro’s Playroom, and Demon Souls were all released and upped the ante of showing what next gen will look like.
Even though Sony did have a few hiccups this year with a pre-order fiasco with their new consoles, lack of marketing for Dreams, Iron-Man VR releasing without much promotion, scalpers easily obtaining PS5 systems, and Cyberpunk 2077’s removal on PSN, they still had a decent year in the gaming universe. Things have quieted down for Sony recently, but it feels like the calm before the storm because their 2021 is looking promising with support from indies, third parties, and the arrival of Unreal Engine 5.
I have to say Sony surprised me more than I had expected. Even though I do plan on getting a PS5, I’m not in a rush to buy it right away with the deep lineup of games I have backlogged from 2020.
4 out of 5 Yoshi Coins
During the 2019 Game Awards, Microsoft started the show by allowing us to “Power Our Dreams” with the reveal of Xbox Series X. Even with the reveal of Hellblade 2, we were getting a glimpse of what Microsoft had ready for 2020. Watching Digital Foundry breaking it down gave us the impression that the Series X was a beast of power for a console. Later in the year, Series S—which is a smaller, digital games-only box—was revealed for an affordable price that rivals the cost of the Nintendo Switch. Though the Series S has some weaker specs, it still is a comfortable and exciting piece of hardware. While we anticipated the price and a reveal date of the Series S/X, we were shown two Inside Xbox presentations (I’m proclaiming that as the name for their direct) that revealed Halo Infinite running on their new Slipspace engine. We expected this vast look in graphical ability the same way Guerilla Games Decima engine powered Horizon: Zero Dawn and Death Stranding but on a different level.
As for games, it wasn’t that big of a year for them, but it was still decent. Ori and The Will of The Wisp was once again a breathtaking experience that pretty much carried conversations about an indie game creating such wonderful gameplay, art, and themes. You also got the early access title Grounded with its Honey, I Shrunk The Kids appeal. In the summer, the highly rated Microsoft Flight Simulator ruled the PC crowd with its mind-blowing exploration of countries and cities from the air. We also got Wastelands 3, Bleeding Edge, and Gears Tactics hitting the console scene. With a light first-party release schedule, Microsoft has been focusing on the future with the announcements of Fable, Perfect Dark, and more titles to be revealed for Series X.
What was eye-opening for me were the positive moves Microsoft has made, such as adding Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Minecraft Dungeon to Switch, adding EA Play to Game Pass, and acquiring ZeniMax, which allows more outlets for people to play. These decisions give Microsoft the edge that it needs for consumers to enjoy games when they want to and how they want to. Also, DESTINY AND ALL OF ITS CONTENT ON GAME PASS? WHAT???
Even with all of the good news from Microsoft and Xbox, they still had their upsets: the response to Halo Infinite’s gameplay and appearance, Series X becoming more of an upgrade for older games rather than “powering your dreams,” Cyberpunk problems on older Xbox consoles, Cyberpunk still on the console store due to a marketing deal, and concern about ZeniMax games not coming to other platforms. Also, scalpers and pre-order problems occurred, but they were not that bad compared to Sony’s.
Overall, I believe that Microsoft has placed itself in a good position to grow for this year. Its 2020 wasn’t as grand as it could have been, but that’s ok. The company released a new console and some lovely titles, and Game Pass continues to grow a huge library of games.
3 Out Of 5 Yoshi Coins
Who would’ve thought Nintendo would dominate in another year of gaming? Even though the Nintendo Switch has been the number-one selling console consistently for 2 years, they sold even more units in 2020, which saved gamers and even brought a new crowd of non-gamers in during the pandemic. With announcements and changes in Nintendo Direct with mini-partners and indies, the company showed there is something for everyone on Nintendo’s platform. A highlight was watching the Smash Directs with Sakurai and everybody screaming “WHAT?” collectively as Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII was introduced as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (the memes arrived seconds later). Also, Ring Fit Adventure even became a hot item since gyms were closed and people needed an outlet to work out.
It’s all about the games, though, and you cannot deny that Nintendo delivered on that front: Tokyo Mirage Session #FE, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, Good Job, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Xenoblade Chronicles: DE, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, Paper Mario: The Origami King, Super Mario 3D Collection, Pikman 3, Part Time UFO, Mario Kart Home Circuit, and Hyrule Warriors: Age Of Calamity. Those are some standout titles from Nintendo alone and very unexpected during this time.
Just like the others, Nintendo hasn’t been all squeaky clean (and some issues were not their fault). Closer to the end of the year, Nintendo hit multiple groups and people with cease-and-desist notices, including The Big House for its Smash Tournament and Alex Blake with the Etikons. The Splatoon tournament was cancelled due to Smash players’ standing against Nintendo with #freemelee in their name (only for those same people to turn around and love Nintendo for the Sephiroth release), the limited 6-month sale of Super Mario 3D All-Stars for its physical and digital versions incited criticism, and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon also got a limited release window. Additionally, even though this was not something that Nintendo was directly involved in, there were many allegations against the Smash community for their tournament players being sexual predators, and the community received backlash for its toxicity as well.
Last but not least, Nintendo still gave us Nintendo Directs in some sense. Due to COVID, we were getting short Partner Showcase Directs for upcoming third-party games and even some cloud gaming hitting the Switch (Hitman 3 coming soon and Control Definitive Edition now). Indie World also brought us games like Hades, Spiritfarer, and a lot of cat games (LOL)! Once again, a lot of diversity for Switch.
5 Out of 5 Yoshi Coins
With all of that being said, we still had a pretty great 2020, even with the pandemic hitting us hard around the world. No matter what console you played games on, there was a lot to engage in and a lot to discuss and love. Even if people felt some games were better than others, we all were given fantastic titles that told us moving stories, showed us gorgeous art, allowed us to be enticed by certain characters (yes, Hades made a lot of people go to horny jail), and really gave us great moments with friends, other online players, and a passionate community (though the toxic part still needs work).
For me, I would have to rate this year a 4 out of 5 Yoshi Coins overall and, hopefully, I get more into PC gaming this year. If not, I see 2021 being big for Microsoft and Sony while expecting surprises from Nintendo. Let’s have a great 2021 in video games, everyone!!