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Gaming

The key theme of Summer Game Fest turned out to be ‘Winter is coming’

- June 14, 2024 3 MIN READ
frozen gaming console
It’s cold and wet outside, and now we know there’s not much to play. Source: DALL-E.

 

The mercury may be dropping across Australia, but don’t expect to cosy up to your console or gaming PC this winter.

By virtue of the seasons, Australia’s colder months are usually a great time to game. Last year, it was difficult to decide what to play first over the June-July period.

That’s because over in the Northern Hemisphere, titles are released in droves to coincide with US, European, and Japanese summer holidays. This buzz of activity is often kicked off with Summer Game Fest — a series events and presentations which have more or less replaced the gaming mega event E3.

The first week of June usually comes bundled with announcements on both imminent and upcoming games.

But despite the hype of this event and genuine excitement for future games, the whole event more or less confirmed what many would have suspected. There just isn’t much coming out this year. Even some of the games announced for 2024 were bereft of a release month or date, making them more likely to be bumped to 2025. (Great wrap of the major event announcements on Gamedev Relay here.)

The gaming industry is cyclical. We are currently in a down year, following one of the best years in gaming to date. Indeed, 2023 had the highest number of top-ranking video games ever recorded, including Baldur’s Gate 3The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and Diablo 4, to name a few.

Go back ten years, and 2014 was perceived as one of the worst years for game releases to date, following a bumper 2013 which saw the release of Grand Theft Auto V, BioShock Infinite, and The Last of Us. History is repeating.

But the structural changes at play here do cast a shadow over the industry’s ability to pump out new release titles on a regular basis and could lead to a longer down-cycle than usual.

  • Console sales are flatlining, with minor announcements on hardware. The expected mid-generation console refresh from Sony and Microsoft is yet to be seen. The best we got was a new Xbox console with a bigger hard drive. We’re still waiting on new hardware news from Sony and Nintendo.
  • Over 10,000 people have been made redundant from the gaming industry globally this year. This will undoubtedly have a flow-on effect on new release titles. Summer Game Fest made no mention of this, but industry pundits are well aware of it.
  • New games are struggling to budge audiences off live-service titles. It’s over a decade old, but Grand Theft Auto Online is still one of the world’s most-played games.

The silver lining: A lack of AAA titles is providing more oxygen for smaller indie games to shine. It’s arguable that titles like Animal Well would have received a lot less attention if it had launched last year. Given this tends to be the space where Australian game developers shine, with titles like Hollow Knight, Untitled Goose Game, and Cult of the Lamb, there’s scope here for success in our local games industry.

This winter is not completely bereft of new titles either. Elden Ring‘s hotly anticipated new expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree, is out this month. Final Fantasy 14 Online’s new expansion, Dawntrail, is releasing a week after it (after its launch date was moved to accommodate the hype for Elden Ring). Both are sizeable titles that will keep players occupied.

At an absolute minimum, a next-generation console running a high-end game can be known to warm a room and stave off the chill. But I’d rather use these devices for their actual purpose and not as a makeshift winter warmer.


What I’m playing: Elden Ring

A phrase you’ll see a lot when playing Elden Ring…

I’m back in The Lands Between this week, training for the release of Shadow of the Erdtree. I’m finding my second playthrough much simpler after initially beating the game when it first launched in 2022. It’s worth revisiting from the start too, as Elden Ring is littered with missable plot beats and story interactions that are very easy to skip the first time around.

For those that missed it back in 2022, Elden Ring was a masterpiece of gaming. It bundled Soulslike gameplay with a truly massive open world, combining exploration with tight combat mechanics. With it, creator FromSoftware essentially reinvented the genre they birthed into existence with the release of Demon’s Souls in 2009.

The great thing about playing Elden Ring two years on is that there’s a plethora of online resources for your playthrough. Unsure what to do? There’s an online guide to point you in the right direction. Like a particular weapon? There are videos on how to build your character to use it effectively.

Even Elden Ring’s fascinating, but incredibly cryptic, story (which was written by Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin) is explained in YouTube videos these days.

Elden Ring is already one of the most accessible FromSoftware games, but these just take the edge off that bit more. If you haven’t tried this game, give it a crack. There’s a reason it’s one of the world’s most acclaimed and celebrated titles — and it’s not because it’s impossibly difficult.

Worth trying if you like: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Ghost of Tsushima, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S

 

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