As the gaming industry continues to evolve into this evermore corporate beast, we’ve come to expect a certain flavour of gaming moments in the industry politics of 2019. In some cases, beloved studios die and rise up again from the ashes. In others, we see studios strike out on their own, breaking free of the contractual shackles of a shady publisher deal. Whatever the move, the tumultuous gaming industry guarantees the highest of stakes. Whatever the result, success or controversy, the fallout trickles down to us -- the gamers.
This is an article for those interested in the ebb and flow of the games industry. It’s no secret that, by now, that ebb and flow is a thicker soup of political intrigue than that of Game of Thrones in its heyday. You couldn’t be blamed for simply forgetting the more important game industry moments from earlier in the year. We hope you join us in recounting all the dramatic gaming moments of 2019.
January -- March
Jan 10 -- Bungie terminates its publishing deal with Activision, maintaining rights to the Destiny series
It’s no secret that Destiny 2 came into a grim bout of disrepute among gamers in 2019. The notion of its lacking endgame, however wrong that may be today, remains to hang around the game like a bad smell. As Bungie was no doubt aware, frankly, it was Activision’s fault. Activision Blizzard have made quite the name for themselves this year in their relentless pursuit of monetisation. Starting out with Destiny 2, this did Bungie no favours where player retention was concerned. The first of the big gaming moments of 2019 would be a very ballsy move indeed.
Bungie would make one heck of a gamble for the survival of the studio. They’d split from Activision, left to fend for themselves for the first time ever. Newly free from contractual obligations, Bungie has since set about making it up to fans. Destiny 2 is now free to play and comes with the DLCs Warmind and Curse of Osiris. That’s quite the value proposition! Surprise, surprise -- players are returning in droves. To learn more, check out Bungie’s blog post about Destiny New Light. You might check out our very own Destiny 2 page, where you’ll find a host of guides.
Jan 25 -- Metroid Prime 4 development cancelled and restarted
Much to the disappointment of fans, the long awaited Metroid Prime 4 got got delayed considerably as the project had to be restarted. The disappointment felt by fans was palpable as, near the end of the previous year, a teaser video revealing the game’s logo was revealed. It felt like an incredibly jarring U-turn.
Bandai Namco had originally been working on Metroid Prime 4 but the nuts and bolts of the project just weren’t aligning. As a result, Retro Studios is now returning to the series for renewed development of Metroid Prime 4. Perhaps the only silver lining of this whole event was an apology video from Shinya Takahashi, Senior Managing Executive Officer for Nintendo. It was basically a big lesson to the likes of EA and others on how to speak to fans respectfully where disappointing news is concerned.
Feb 12 -- Activision Blizzard lays off 8% of its staff
Activision Blizzard may be pushing hard on the monetisation of its games. We may not like it. Alas, it seems to be working well for them. Activision Blizzard announced record earnings for this quarter. Despite this, Blizzard would go on to lay off about 8% of its staff. In other words, 775 people, primarily from non-development sectors, were suddenly out of a job.
Activision Blizzard neglected to say specifically why this decision was made while things were going so well. This would prove to be a controversy sampling compared to what the gaming giant had in store for us later in the year.
Feb 13 -- THQ Nordic acquire Warhorse Studios
If Warhorse Studios rings a bell, it’s likely because at some point, you’ve messed about with Kingdom Come: Deliverance. At the time of release, the game was janky. Riddled with bugs, disappearing NPCs and invisible walls in narrow stairwells. Despite all this, people had a lot of love for Warhorse. They were clearly a team filled with passion for their project. They had gone to great lengths in the fields of realism and historical accuracy -- apparent gaps in the gaming market that people were hungry for.
In hindsight, the adventures of Henry arrived with us too soon. Kingdom Come was a largely crowdfunded project and Warhorse had to get it on the shelves quickly to keep the lights on. Patching would have to come later. THQ Nordic having acquired the studio means Warhorse and all within can breathe a sigh of relief. Whatever they cook up next, THQ Nordic can keep those lights on and with such support, this truly talented team should create something beautiful. For more, take a look at our Kingdom Come: Deliverance review. We also revisited the game a few months after release, looking for those much needed fixes!
March -- May
March 19 -- Google announces ambitious plans for Stadia
In one of the more surprising gaming moments of 2019, Google announced its intention towards video games on a big scale. Set to release later in the year, Google unveiled its cloud game streaming platform, Stadia. The concept of Netflix for video games set online discussion ablaze. We all knew it would be a natural progression for video games. Yet here it was in the here and now, almost ready to be consumed.
Such online discussions ended up very polarised. Some believed the next generation of console gaming was doomed before it even arrived. Others believed the commercial graphics chip industry was no longer a requirement for PC gamers. Mostly, sceptics shouted the loudest (as they always do). They believed that this fledgling game streaming tech couldn’t possibly operate smoothly right out the gate. We would all find out for sure later in the year…
April 15 -- Reggie Fils-Aimé retired as president and CEO of Nintendo of America.
Fils-Aimé had become a beloved face of Nintendo of America ever since he started his CEO position in 2003. For many close to the Nintendo brand, Reggie’s departure would be one of the more emotional moments of gaming in 2019. He became known to many with such lines as “my body is ready” and “I’m about kickin’ ass. I’m about takin’ names. And we’re about making games”. He was replaced by Doug Bowser (really).
Nintendo fans, Reggie has a message for all of you. Please take a look. pic.twitter.com/EAhaEl5oEJ
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) February 21, 2019
May -- September
May 1 -- Epic Games acquires Psyonix of Rocket League fame
It’s no secret that Rocket League is a cult classic. For those of us who aren’t into it, I think we can all admit to being harassed by friends to install it at some point. Now that Epic owns Psyonix, the already steady stream of content and events will remain just so. With Epic holding the reins, we don’t think Rocket League will be disappearing, let alone slowing down any time soon.
June 9 -- Xbox Game Studios acquires Double Fine of Psychonauts fame
Many of our readers will likely have a strong affection for Double Fine. After all, they are a studio that has carved themselves a place in the industry with little more than witty writing. Gone are the days where we play through games, keen to see what witticism lays around the corner. Double Fine is one of the few frontline studios keeping up the “cut-above” writing in gaming storytelling. Anybody who played Broken Age will likely agree.
From here on out, if we do get another Brutal Legend, we’d better be in possession of an Xbox. Microsoft’s great annexation of game devs in preparation to win the next gen includes Double Fine. If you hunger for more witticism from the team, perhaps Xbox will be your next gen purchase?
June 9 -- Microsoft announces Xbox Project Scarlett
On this day, Microsoft also announced their plans for their next generation Xbox. At this point in time, it would be called Project Scarlett. The announcement would come far ahead of any official news from Sony about the PlayStation 5. Despite this, Microsoft would insist that their next generation console would be the most powerful on the planet and that ray tracing would change the game forever.
After buying up a considerable amount of prolific game devs, this early announcement begins to paint a picture. Microsoft is not taking their defeat this generation lying down. Soon after the announcement, the internet would be abuzz about a great many Xbox related features. Xbox Game Pass, Play Anywhere and Project X Cloud all appeared to be well constructed ideas looking to the future. While, from Sony, we’d hear nothing. Whether this is ignorant complacency on Sony’s part remains to be seen. However, if a possible Xbox dominant 9th generation is an idea you find intriguing, check out our coverage about how Microsoft could be set to smash the PS5 if it plays its cards right. Reading the comment on that on was… hard.
June 11 -- 13 -- E3 is held in San Fransisco
Yet another June; yet another year of E3 for the games industry. The typically highly anticipated event seemed a little deflated this time around. The sense of hype had definitely taken a dent with the absence of PlayStation for the first time ever. It felt like losing a limb. Many believed it opened the way for Microsoft to dominate in a time where, post-Scarlett announcement, it was time for Sony to fight back.
In the end, many were in agreement that Microsoft “won” this year’s E3. That was thanks a historic Cyberpunk presentation from Keanu Reeves. This will likely be fondly remembered as on of the most “breathtaking” gaming moments of 2019.
For us, a fun part of E3 is the yearly Devolver Digital presentation. In the 2018 Devolver Digital presentation we met the fictional sales character of Nina. She made waves with her profanity ridden railing against the “consumerist gobbling masses” and lootboxes. Her performance has been repeated in many a disgruntled YouTuber’s video. With good reason. Many look on Nina as a voice of reason in the games industry. If you’ve never been bellowed at by her, now is a great time to start. Nina came back for her 2019 Devolver Digital presentation that poked fun at the Nintendo Direct style of conference. All the profanity and gore remaining, of course.
July 22 -- RDR2 DLC rumour fools many an outlet
It was around this time of year that basically everybody was in love with Red Dead Redemption 2. Perfect timing then, for a very convincing rumour. A member of staff from inside Rockstar had reportedly spilled many beans. We were lead to believe that the studio was cooking up an aliens related DLC, much akin to Red Dead’s original Undead Nightmare. This seemed realistic to many as players had begun reporting close encounters of the third kind while on their travels across the Wild West. To sweeten the deal, we were also told Red Dead Redemption was getting a full remaster with RDR2 voice actors returning for the project.
Something about this rumour made it the most convincing red herring of the year. It fooled all the top outlets that reported on it almost as if it were actual news. In the end, things exploded so much that the originator of the rumour had to come out publicly and explain the falseness of it all. We’d been lifted up so much and just a few days later, came crashing right down again. In the end, our cynicism proved the best tool in hindsight. Rockstar would indeed go on to leave out story DLC altogether in Red Dead Redemption 2, instead favouring a monetised route for its online component.
August 19 -- SIE Worldwide acquires Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games is a household name for many a PlayStation loyalist. If we go all the way back to the days of the first PlayStation, we have this studio to thank for Spyro. I’m not sure if any of us truly forgot the games Insomniac brought to us. They are no stranger to designing games specifically for PlayStation hardware. As such, they were responsible for many console exclusives over the years.
Another of the surprise gaming moments of 2019 was that Sony Interactive Entertainment finally made their move and acquired Insomniac Games. It’s safe to say Insomniac are more than competent in creating excellent games and with Spider-Man, that’s shown no sign of slowing. Now, under the wing of SIE, Insomniac should be able to work on future projects with reduced worry for all things finance.
August 28 -- LCG Entertainment acquires Telltale Games and relaunches as a new company
As we all know, Telltale Games of Walking Dead fame got into some pretty hot water this year. The studio was hemorrhaging money and its last few projects simply hadn’t turned a profit. Long story short, it looked like Telltale’s game-making days were over.
All this drama made for some great headlines. When the drama was resolved however, Telltale’s fortunate twist of fate was barely to be seen. In the end LCG Entertainment bought Telltale’s remaining assets, relaunched the studio and rebranded itself under the name Telltale Games. So… If you see another game by Telltale, now you know not to be confused.
September -- December
September 17 -- French Steam users get the right to resell games
Valve lost a lawsuit in France which required the company to allow users to resell games on Steam. French consumer rights association UFC-Que Choisir won a big legal battle against Valve which resulted in French consumers being allowed to sell on their “dematerialised non physical goods”… In other words, games on Steam.
While this is no doubt an enticing notion for many, the ruling has only come into effect in France. So it may be some time yet before you’re scrolling through your library, checking the worth of your collection.
September 19 -- Apple Arcade launched
It’s been a pretty mad year for subscription services. Amazon Prime and Netflix continue their expansion into the minds of many. Alongside these major players, we’ve Xbox’s offerings of Game Pass, Play Anywhere and of course, X Cloud is on the way. Here in the UK, we now have a British show streamer called Britbox. It’s all getting a tad tiring.
Just in case you have any more space in your monthly outgoings, Apple Arcade may be a worthy venture. For around a measly $5 per month, the new Apple Arcade is now open to you. It’s no pushover library either. Apple has worked with some big names in gaming with the likes of Sonic and LEGO making the more high profile appearances. The platform continues to carve out a name for itself with exclusives like Shinsekai Into The Depths from Capcom and Sayonara Wild Hearts from Annapurna.
September 30 -- Shawn Layden announces departure as CEO of SIE Worldwide
If the name Shawn Layden doesn’t ring any bells, the man’s face likely will. He has stood at the forefront of Sony’s PlayStation press conferences ever since he began as Worldwide Studios boss back in 2016. Prior to that, he’d worked closely with Sony for the prior 28 years.
Having been such a major player in Sony’s gaming network, we would have thought some explanation as to Shawn’s departure would have come to light by now. We wouldn’t be surprised if the man figured it was simply time for a well earned break.
October 6 -- 11 -- The Blizzard / Blitzchung controversy
The controversy of the year award went safely to Battlefront II this time last year. Today, I think we can all agree Blizzard achieves it with flying colours. Not only did they take a big PR hit with the single phrase “do you guys not have phones” on a disappointing Diablo announcement. They also deprived a Hearthstone tournament champion of his winnings and his platform.
We all know the story of what went down. It stands as a clear warning as to what goes down when game companies mix geopolitical tensions with gaming policy. If you did somehow miss out on the controversy of the year, you can bet we covered it extensively. From Blizzard supposedly preventing protest account deletions, to government appeals and Blizzard staff walkouts. In the end, Blizzard’s handling of the situation would take top position in controversial gaming moments of 2019. For the whole rundown, we made a handy piece on everything you need to know about the Blizzard scandal.
October 29 -- EA returns to Steam
This one may not be such a big deal for console players. However, no matter how “PC master race” you want to be about things, there’s no escaping the need for separate launchers for PC users. Especially if a game is not available on our trusty Steam accounts. Well EA’s library had mostly been absent from Steam since 2011. If you never got around to certain EA titles, well now you can get through them without the faff of EA Origin.
November 19 -- Stadia releases to brutal reviews
After all the debate and fuss about the “console killer”, Stadia had finally arrived. The reviews began to roll in and as many predicted -- this was rushed to market. Many features promised simply weren’t ready. Stadia’s assistant button, pitched as an “instant help from the internet” feature yields a simple “available soon” message. Other features like Family Sharing, State Share and Crowd Play won’t arrive until sometime in 2020. Stadia’s overly lacking arrival broke many promises to the consumer and would become the most disappointing of gaming moments of 2019.
Many critics feel strongly concluded that Stadia is simply not worth the consumer’s money. Some debate could be had as to the morality of Google releasing a product in such a bare bones state. This was not what we were promised. Things really begin to sink in when we see a video of somebody pressing space to jump only to see their Destiny 2 character jump a full two seconds later.
There’s a reason people called it a console killer. One day it could well be. The question is -- will Google be prepared to traverse the many obstacle courses ahead of Stadia or prefer instead to hang up its coat and call it another failed Google project?
December 12 -- Microsoft reveals Xbox Series X
Previously named Project Scarlett, the next iteration of Xbox has been revealed as Xbox Project X. The reveal has since started a few debates online. With few references floating about for just how impressive Unreal Engine 4 will be, we’re wondering if that Hellblade 2 trailer was pre-rendered CG or actual real time gameplay. The discussion about a console’s relevance this day and age has gotten louder than ever with many outlets already questioning the differences, if any, between this console and a gaming PC.
Turns out, Series X is simply the name of the first version of Xbox next gen. As we witnessed this time around, our consoles went through various iterations within the generation. Next generation is tipped to turn out much the same with the Xbox lineup simply being called… Xbox.
Closing Comments On Gaming Moments of 2019
In many ways, 2019 feels like it has been a transformative year. In the year prior, certain game devs were taken to task very publicly over lootbox controversies. While there’s no doubt they have found sneaky ways around any regulation they may be under threat from, it’s been clear to see they’re treading a little more carefully now. Heck, the term “lootbox” is now sacrilegious in conferences and EA has only made fools of themselves trying to defend their shady monetisation practices. At least we have Jedi: Fallen Order as a new hope.
We’ve had a taste for the future of gaming more so this year than any prior. With the 9th generation of gaming consoles around the corner, many things are in a state of flux. The arrival of Stadia may have been a disastrous one, but it’s worth remembering as the remains of the first stepping stone towards total redundancy of gaming hardware.
While stable cloud gaming creeps ever closer, Microsoft has done a great job in the closing moments of 2019 letting us know how many options it has for gamers. That narrative will have all the pieces set for an easy value proposition to those considering Xbox for their next console. All that’s left for Microsoft to do now is reveal the right exclusive at the right time and they’ll seriously have Sony on the back foot. PS4 loyalists who enjoyed Outer Worlds, Hellblade or even Brutal Legend are going to have serious thinking to do if they want to buy into those future titles.
The next generation will yield different consoles for different budgets. This, alongside the successful testing ground that is Xbox Game Pass, could be a powerful thing, after Xbox has learned from losing the price war at the start of this console generation. Conversely, Sony remains comparatively tight lipped. At this late stage in the generation, there is a chance PlayStation execs feel they can afford complacency with such a killer performance this time around. Will it have been enough to buy blind loyalty to the PS5 when we already know so much about how Xbox is playing the field?
VR continues to be the nervous kid keeping quiet at the party. We think it has yet to come out of its shell and get up on the table and dance. While Blood & Truth drew a little attention, the VR scene as a whole failed to provide any real standout gaming moments of 2019. Microsoft seems not to be bothering with it at all, while Sony seems to have gotten themselves in a bit of a rut. We’ve been told today’s PlayStation VR headsets will be compatible with the PS5 with a new headset yet to come. It’s all so far away though, to say we’re definitely getting another headset from Sony is a little too optimistic. This all adds to growing pessimism in the wake of no official reveals coming out of Sony.
Which gaming moments impacted you the most in 2019? Let us know in the comments below.