2020 was one of the greatest years for gaming in more than five decades of history. Off the back of strong growth in 2019, the gaming industry saw explosive growth in the first few months of the new year with downloads of mobile games increasing by around 17% and hyper-casual games doing even better with around double this growth.
The final few months of the year saw the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X. These new consoles have flown off shelves, with retailers and manufacturers unable to keep up with demand. Sony sold around 2.5 million units of the PS5 on day one alone, and almost 5 million by the end of the year.
This is unlikely to change for the first few months of this year. Sony is predicting that it will sell around 17 million units of the console in 2021, with plenty of big game launches planned over the next 12 months to help support this.
So with the New Year upon us, what games can we expect to be popular?
Released with much fanfare on the 10th of December last year, Cyberpunk 2077 was tipped to be one of the greatest games of recent years. It received a broad release, with versions for both old and new consoles as well as for PC.
However, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions have received a huge amount of criticism from fans and commentators after huge issues with the graphics, lag from slow frame rates, and regular crashes. The issues weren’t exclusive to these two machines, but they suffered the most. This led to Sony removing the game from its PlayStation Store.
Despite this, the game’s developer CD Projekt Red is working hard to fix the myriad of bugs contained in the code to get it to a more stable and enjoyable state.
With patches 1.02 to 1.07 now available for download and two major updates called “Patch #1” and “Patch #2” expected in January and February, it is hoped that most of these issues will be fixed. If CD Projekt Red can pull this off, Cyberpunk 2077 will be one of the most played games of the year.
Unlike Cyberpunk 2077, online poker has been around for much longer. The first sites began appearing in the late 1990s, including some of the big names that we know today. They enjoyed a period of rapid growth during the early 2000s as the “poker boom” created a wave of excitement around the game across the US, Western Europe, and other parts of the world.
Online poker platforms like PokerStars have evolved a lot since then, offering mobile apps that let users play in cash games and tournaments on the go, and providing guides on how to play poker that covers both the basics and more advanced strategies.
2020 was another great year for PokerStars, seeing increases in average weekly spend from its customers across the year and enjoying several strong financial quarters. These trends were also seen across the whole iGaming industry too and 2021 looks like it will be even better.
Grand Theft Auto Online
Many people compared Cyberpunk 2077 to Grand Theft Auto V when it first launched, but as players have explored the former further they’ve found many areas where it just doesn’t live up to the standards set by the original behemoth.
For example, driving your car the wrong way down a highway in GTA will lead to cars swerving out of the way. In Cyberpunk, NPC vehicles will just drive as though you’re not there and crash into you.
GTA, then remains the gold standard of open-world crime games, with players still playing the seven-year-old GTA V. In early 2021, the game will be released for the second time, with a native version for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X. It will include new content and an expanded map, giving players something new to explore.
GTA Online has continued to keep players engaged over the best part of a decade by releasing new content like The Diamond Casino & Resort, Cunning Stunts, Open Wheel Races, and The Cayo Perico Heist.
With more updates expected in 2021, don’t expect GTA to lose popularity anytime soon.
Call of Duty: Mobile
While Fortnite battles Apple in court over the fees charged by the App Store, Call of Duty: Mobile lets players battle each other in classic COD maps. The game remains available to download in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store and broke records in 2019 and 2020 for being the fastest game to 100 million and 250 million downloads.
Like other free-to-play first and third-person-shooters, Call of Duty: Mobile operates a battle pass system, giving players regular updates with new maps, weapons, skins, characters, and more.
The Call of Duty brand is one of the best selling franchises in video game history, giving it a huge advantage over rivals like PUBG Mobile and Fortnite. Players who are familiar with releases on PC and consoles are more likely to choose the mobile game over others, particularly as it gives them the ability to play classic maps from previous games.
With all these factors in its favor, Call of Duty: Mobile looks set for another strong year in 2021.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the second-best-selling game for the Nintendo Switch in 2020, beaten only by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It’s the fifth main game released in the series, with versions also available for the Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, DS, and 3DS.
It is a “life simulation” game, similar to games like The Sims where players have a customizable character that moves around an island, interacting with other characters on the island.
The slow pace of the game, its cute anthropomorphic animal characters, and the freedom to move around and do what you like are all factors that made the game such a success.
It’s started 2021 as the best selling game in the first week of the year, beating out Mario Kart, FIFA 21, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto V, and will likely remain in the top 10 for some time.