As 2018 draws to a close, we decided to turn to our incredibly smart panel of PC games industry experts to see what the biggest trends and stories of the year were.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be picking the brains of our PC Pulse boffins to see what the most important stories, trends and games of 2018 were, as well as looking into the crystal ball for a glimpse at what 2019 holds
I hope that the discussions around workers' rights in games will have the most impact. Obviously, as a person trying to do a lot of advocacy for games workers, I'm biased... but I'm extremely impressed by how salient this discussion has been. I wasn't sure people would still be talking about the fallout of the Telltale layoffs or the Rockstar crunch story months later, but they are. Gamers are beginning to care about whether or not their games are made under ethical conditions, which is huge. If this trend continues, it could cause real change in our industry.
A few weeks ago, I have no idea what that would have been. Now? The Epic Games Store announcement. And this is not just the fact that Epic has a large user base already using its client, but it is the new revenue share it is offering, the fact it will also be an Android store, and the fact it can open the door of PC gaming to a generation that has been playing only Fortnite.
• China's games freeze affecting companies like Tencent and Western publishers.
• Diablo Immortal's pushback and fallout
• Major studio closures and the cancellation of titles, such as Telltale Game and Boss Key Productions.
For me, the most impactful thing that happened this year was all the big triple-A titles that have started moving off Steam and launching on their own platforms so they don't have to pay the 30 per cent. It's good news overall, especially for smaller studios, because it means we have less triple-A stuff to compete with for the top-selling spots
Within the industry, it was a big year of learning we still have a long way to go in regards to treating our workforce compassionately. Between stories about ArenaNet, Riot, Telltale and Rockstar, there were few months in 2018 where devs weren't discussing the wear and tear of working in games. Whether you're an indie or in triple-A, we can do a lot to improve the lives of the hardworking people in our industry - and from a business standpoint, this would also allow companies to have a longer, healthier trajectory too.
Although not PC-specific, the current debate surrounding the ethics and legality of loot boxes has potentially major implications for the games industry as we know it. Love them or hate them, loot boxes have become an important monetisation mechanic that many games rely on to exist. This may all end up being a bit of a damp squib, or it could lead to new or revised monetisation models, or we could begin to see a more fractured landscape where certain features or entire games are simply not accessible in certain territories. However this is resolved, there’s going to be at least some change afoot.
For the PC specific space there was a number of stories over 2018 looking at toxicity either of some gaming sub-communities or of the experience of being a developer and having to deal with it or within the workplace. It's an issue the industry started taking steps towards, but there is a long way to go. This was a good read on the subject (Ed - thank you!). I would also add the continued rise of the Chinese market on the PC space is a major story - one which applies to game-per-se. In terms of games as a whole and if, like us, you're based in the UK then I'm sorry to say Brexit has been there too - while it's only started to gain more traction as we come to the end of 2018, it is there in many of the conversations I have with developers.
Fortnite made headlines throughout the year and rightly so. Epic rallied around its emerging hit, not just reaching a vast scale but sustaining audience interest through rapid product evolution, creative live-ops and smart player engagement campaigns. They kept the game highly accessible, extended it with well-designed console and mobile versions, and reaped the benefit of cross-play. This approach took the game to the level of cultural phenomenon, and now gives Epic an incredible platform from which to launch their own PC game store.
In a word, Fortnite. That game expanded the market for games and changed how games are perceived by the surrounding world. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.