[Hello and welcome to the final Hit Points of 2021. There’s something I’d like your help with today, so please do stick around to the end for details. Thank you!]
First up, apologies for the lack of an update on Friday. While I had minimal side effects from my first two Pfizer jabs, I got the Moderna booster on Thursday and it knocked me on my arse. It was as if the effect of gravity had doubled overnight. I did, at least, get a useful story prompt out of it.
While the nurse prepared the shot, her colleague asked what I did for a living. I find this increasingly hard to answer these days given the ever-growing variety of things on my to-do list, but rather than spend ten minutes explaining what a videogame consultant does, I just told him I was a writer. About what? Games. Oh, he loved that. “We get all sorts in here! Professional rugby players, fighter pilots, and now a videogame journalist!” I thought the comparison a bit weird — come on, as if those guys are on my level — but chose to let it slide. Moments later, rising to leave (I hadn’t even felt the jab go in; talk about a false sense of security) I was asked the inevitable question. “So, what’s the big game this year? What’s everyone going crazy for this Christmas?” Ah. Well. Hmm.
I explained that there wasn’t one, really. That this was the year the pandemic hit the games business for real, and so the sort of big-ticket games that should have come out this year are now coming in 2022 instead. I could recommend him a few things — I could recommend him a load, in fact — but as Hit Points has observed before, 2021 has rather lacked for bangers.
I’ve been thinking about that question, and the answer I gave, ever since. (In fairness there wasn’t much else I could do for a couple of days besides sit around and whimper.) My answer, I fear, gave the impression that this had been a quiet year, even a boring one; that the medium and the business around it just sort of stood still for 12 months while everyone dealt with the predictable impact of the pandemic.
But that’s not the story of this year, is it? Not the real one, anyway. It has been quiet in one way, sure. The traditional way. But in others it has been one of the noisiest years in games I can remember — one that has brought about an awful lot of change, and loud calls for more to follow.
The way we decide what games to play has been transformed by subscription services; questions like price, value for money and even quality are less important now we can get so much stuff for free, or a modest monthly fee. Traditional barriers to entry have come tumbling down, making players far more willing to take a chance on something they aren’t sure about, or have never heard of.
As such it is perhaps no surprise that this been the indies’ year. Small, unfancied crews of developers have stepped elegantly into the void left by delays to big-budget games and the death of the events circuit. This is something we used to talk a lot about during my final few years on Edge, when we’d regularly have indie titles in the upper echelons of our GOTY list and wonder why so few other outlets were doing the same. Now even the most corporate US websites are spending the final weeks of the year singing the praises of Inscryption, Wildermyth, Unpacking et al.
And it’s not just the media that has rethought things. The tone of the conversation around games, big and small, has changed enormously this year. The big publishers — if we can even call them that anymore — have been notable not for their high-profile, high-quality, big-budget games, but for their grotty scandals, detestable business practices and shoddy launches. Players and media alike are more moved and motivated than ever by hitherto overlooked issues like accessibility and representation, employee treatment and unionisation. The cries for change which have for years struggled to be heard over the din are now impossible to ignore, and the often febrile atmosphere that has arisen as a result has prompted us all to hold not just games, but the companies that make them, to higher standards. It can feel bleak, sure, and I have spent much of 2021 in the doldrums about it all. It is a positive direction of travel nonetheless.
Hit Points seeks to look at the industry holistically: to home in on the big issues of the day, yes, but also to zoom far out and high up, and examine things in a wider context. It has certainly been a good year for that. As I look back on 2021 I see an industry being reshaped before our eyes. It has hurt at times, and there is probably more pain to come. But it is healthy, and no passing fad. I do not expect the current atmosphere to change too much as we head into 2022 and the release schedules start to fill up again.
So, what’s the big game of the year? I don’t know. Frankly my mind is busy with other things and that, I think, is no bad thing. Here’s to the next one.
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YOU WISH ME A MERRY CHRISTMAS
Before we get into the bullets, a polite request aimed at giving Hit Points a boost heading into 2022. I end each edition by asking those of you with whom it has resonated to kindly give it a share. Today I would like to ask each and every one of you to share your favourite edition of Hit Points to date somewhere online, and explain why you like it. If you could also mention that it’s an email newsletter that is free to sign up for, that would be exceptional. For ease of access, you can find the whole archive here.
It could be a Tweet or LinkedIn post, on Facebook if you still use that for some reason, or in an email or group chat or text or whatever, I don’t mind. Add a screenshot if you like; copy-paste a line or two, if that’s your thing. Or just say some nice things and be on your way. Despite the fact that Hit Points is entirely dependent on readers for its existence and growth, I am still terrible at asking for help spreading the word about it. I continue to believe there’s a need and a desire out there for what I do, and that the people who read it agree. I humbly request your assistance in getting us a nice spike on the way into the holidays.
While I was recovering from my booster, GSC Game World walked back plans to incorporate NFTs into the forthcoming Stalker 2, though it doesn’t sound too happy about it. “We’re making this game for you to enjoy — whatever the cost is,” the game’s official Twitter account passive-aggressively sobbed.
Hades is the first ever videogame to win a Hugo award, seeing off competition from the likes of The Last Of Us II, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Blaseball. Richly deserved. Hearty congrats to Hit Points pal Greg Kasavin and the terrifically talented crew at Supergiant.
Tencent has acquired Back 4 Blood and Evolve developer Turtle Rock, which honestly is about as good an exit as the studio could reasonably have hoped for given its track record.
Tributes have been paid to Psygnosis co-founder Ian Hetherington, who sadly passed away last week.
Bungie’s head of HR has stepped down in the light of recent reporting into the studio’s troubled past. Gayle d’Hondt, who had been in the Destiny developer’s employ for over 14 years, says her departure stemmed from a desire to see the studio’s HR team “move forward” and be “largely comprised of people new to Bungie”.
Apparently the PC port of Final Fantasy VII Remake — which ushers in the era of $70 PC games — is an absolute stinker.
Sounds like Ubisoft’s NFT thing is off to a pretty miserable start. Finally, some Christmas cheer.
And there we go! That’s it for 2021. Thank you so much for joining me in this little experiment. While I fret about numbers, and how sustainable it all is, far more than is probably healthy, I still thoroughly enjoy the work, believe it continues to resonate with the people that read it, and has a bright future ahead of it. Thanks for everything you’ve done this year to help.
Hit Points will return on January 5, 2022. To those of you who have kindly taken out a subscription, I’ll pause billing cycles until after the holidays. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas — Assuming our various elected leaders allow us to have one, of course — and a deliriously Happy New Year. See you on the flip.