Every year that passes seems to be a landmark one for gaming. The 2020s in particular have really upped the industry’s momentum with landscape-changing business deals that will undoubtedly have an impact for decades to come. Some of gaming’s less flattering developments have been just as instrumental, with workplace scandals slowly changing what happens behind the scenes.
With that in mind, there’s no reason to think 2023 will be a slow year. Not only is it set to be a big one for software thanks to titles like Final Fantasy XVI and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, but we’re likely to see some major stories unfold in 2023 that will shape the future. Some are as simple as technology teaching its full potential, while others are potentially monumental business shifts that will trickle down to players one way or another.
That impending wave might have you looking for a life vest before heading into what might be a complicated year of news. To help prepare you for what’s to come, here are four predictions about where the gaming industry could be heading in the next 12 months, for better or worse.
The FTC changes the game
Heading into 2023, all eyes are on Microsoft. The company dominated the gaming news cycle in 2022 when it announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard for an astronomical sum of money. At the time, people wondered if such a deal could even be legal, citing potential antitrust concerns. It turned out that the Federal Trade Commission felt the same way, as it closed out 2022 by filing to block that plan.
If you care about the video game industry, this is going to be a must-watch story in 2023. The government historically doesn’t pay too much attention to video games unless it’s in the context of gun violence debates. Studio acquisitions tend to happen under the FTC’s radar, with sales like Bethesda and Bungie going off without a hitch. The Activision Blizzard situation shows that those tides are changing, as gaming’s massive financial success is becoming hard for outsiders to ignore.
No matter what happens here, the FTC filing is instrumental to gaming’s future. We’re currently living through an arms race as Sony and Microsoft try to consolidate major third-party studios under their umbrellas. If the FTC blocks the Activision Blizzard deal, it could put an end to that. That could mean less games going console exclusive, which is a positive for fans. If the deal goes through, however, expect to see Sony get more aggressive than it has been historically, potentially making plays for major third-party studios like Square Enix down the line.
Unionization gains ground
In a lot of ways, 2022 could be seen as a battle for the industry’s soul. You saw that in everything from pushback against an impending web3 push to battles to create safer workplaces. The latter is the part to watch, as last year saw the industry beginning to flirt with the idea of unionization thanks to workers at Activision Blizzard and Vodeo Games.
In 2023, you can expect unions to be the hot topic of the year across the industry. There’s currently a lot of momentum for organization thanks to the success of recent efforts. Previously, unionization was a pipe dream in the video game industry that seemed unobtainable. Now that a few unions are operating in North America for the first time ever, that’s likely going to inspire confidence in workers across the board.
You may not think the topic affects you as a player, but it ultimately will. Unionization has the potential to change the way games are made, creating more safeguards for developers that can trickle down. A cutback on crunch, for instance, may lead to less rushed games coming out loaded with bugs (see Cyberpunk 2077). It could also go a long way toward reducing burnout, ensuring that there’s less turnover caused by talented developers leaving the industry. Healthier working environments could raise the industry’s bar for quality in the long run.
Next-gen finally becomes next-gen
When the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launched in 2020, it seemed like we were on the precipice of an exciting new era. The ultra-powerful consoles were poised to deliver high-tech experiences that would make gamers feel like games were progressing. In reality, the last two years have been a bit staler than expected. Most major console titles are still cross-releasing on last generation’s hardware, leaving games like Horizon Forbidden West feeling less spectacular than players might have hoped.
That may change in a big way this year. So far, 2023 is shaping up to be the year that developers finally ditch the PS4 and Xbox One to focus on truly current-gen experiences. We’re already seeing that in games like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, which looks absolutely spectacular thanks to its focus on recent tech. We’ll see even more games like that early in the year, from the PS5 exclusive Forspoken to a technically promising Dead Space remake.
If you’ve yet to invest in a new console, now might be the time to do so. With games like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 skipping PS4, it’s unlikely you’ll get to experience many of this year’s biggest releases unless you plop down some cash. This isn’t related to just core consoles either. Gear like the PlayStation VR2 and the Razer Edge will raise the bar for hardware in their respective niches too. Be prepared to budget if you want to keep up.
Embracer Group takes over
Though it was hard to keep track of all the acquisition news in 2022, there was one name in the rat race that stood out: Embracer Group. The publisher made some enormous power plays last year, grabbing everything from Square Enix’s Western studios to the Lord of the Rings IP. The company made it very clear that it intends to be more than a AA company operating on the edge of gaming’s established players.
While Embracer’s 2022 moves were more setting the stage for its future, you can expect to see the company’s name a lot more in 2023. According to the parent company’s financial reports, Embracer currently has 234 games in development, which are set to come out by March 2026. We know a few of those games, like Dead Island 2 and Alone in the Dark, but much of its slate is a mystery at the moment. That number becomes especially intriguing considering it now holds the rights to several classic IPs.
With so much potential, you might want to familiarize yourself with Embracer Group’s logo before heading into E3 2023. There’s a good chance you’ll see it plastered over more games than any other publisher. It’s been a while since we’ve seen such a seismic shift in the publishing world, but with enough success, Embracer might just become the next EA.