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Why Video Games Are Primed for a Big Comeback in 2023

Between a generous slate of new games and stronger subscription services, it's a fantastic time to be a gamer.

Oscar Gonzalez Former staff reporter
Oscar Gonzalez is a Texas native who covered video games, conspiracy theories, misinformation and cryptocurrency.
Expertise Video Games, Misinformation, Conspiracy Theories, Cryptocurrency, NFTs, Movies, TV, Economy, Stocks
Oscar Gonzalez
4 min read
Xbox Game Pass on an Xbox Series S
Dan Ackerman/CNET

The video game industry suffered serious whiplash from the impact of COVID-19. Hardware and software sales skyrocketed in 2020 as people were stuck inside their homes with little else to do. But those same lockdowns hobbled the development of upcoming games, resulting in a barren slate over the last two years. There was a serious dropoff once you got past Elden Ring and God of War: Ragnarok

Now, with the industry well past the COVID lockdowns and with development back to full steam, 2023 could mark a huge comeback year for gamers. Piers Harding-Rolls, research director for UK-based market research firm Ampere Analysis, said he expects a rebound after spending in this area declined by 4% this year. 

One reason spending should rise is that gamers are primed for new games. Getting a next-generation console like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X wasn't easy over the last two years, but supply constraints have finally loosened up to the point that you could realistically get something in the last few months. 

This year also saw the release of Valve's Steam Deck, a portable gaming device that was similarly hard to buy early in 2022 but became more available by the end of the year. More gamers with the latest hardware means more gamers looking to buy the latest titles. 

As important as it is for gamers to have hardware, it's equally critical that they have new games to play. Due to delays stemming from COVID lockdowns, titles planned for release in 2022 were pushed to 2023. Combine these delayed games with others already planned for next year, and the result is what could be a stunning year for game releases.

"There is really a lot of content coming next year," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "I would say it will be the biggest since 2019."

Some of the big-budget games that were pushed from 2022 to 2023 include Starfield from Bethesda Game Studios, Diablo 4 from Blizzard Entertainment and Nintendo's Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Add those to other titles planned for 2023 release, including Final Fantasy XVI, Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Street Fighter VI, Resident Evil 4 Remake and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and you've got a stacked lineup. And there's a good possibility that more games planned for 2023 will be announced next year. 

COVID debuffed 2022 

Although this year saw the release of some amazing games, including Elden Ring and God of War: Ragnarök, there were long empty stretches between these few quality titles in 2022. Between May and October there were only a handful of critically acclaimed games released, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and niche indie games Stray and Neon White. Even some of the high-profile games, such as Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, felt like they needed time to smooth out a lot of wrinkles. 

That was the impact of the lockdown finally hitting gamers. With developers stuck at home and unable to effectively collaborate on big projects, publishers delayed one title after another. But because the industry already had a backlog of games ready during the height of the pandemic, gamers didn't feel much of a drought in 2020 in 2021. 

The situation was akin to what the movie industry faced when a number of weekends saw few if any big film releases and theaters remained empty. Major films were delayed this year and pushed into 2023, including Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the Mario movie, Aquaman 2, Madame Web and The Flash

And like the gaming industry, there are predictions of movie theaters rebounding in 2023 with a number of hotly anticipated titles. 

Ignoring the drought

Even with few big-budget games coming out for most of 2022, gamers didn't pay much attention as their own back catalog of games grew thanks to subscription services from Microsoft and Sony. Both companies stepped up their efforts in 2022, making for an abundance of gaming at such an affordable price. 

This year saw Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax Media – which includes award-winning game developers such as Bethesda, id Software and Arcane Studios – continue to bear fruit for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. One of the best games of 2021, Deathloop, came to the subscription service after its exclusivity period on the PS5 ended. Then some classic Bethesda games went to PC Game Pass, including Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire, Quake 4, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard and Wolfenstein 3D. Next year, Game Pass subscribers will be able to play some big titles on Day 1, such as Starfield, Redfall and Forza Motorsports. 

Next year could be even bigger for Game Pass if Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard gets approval. The almost $69 billion deal would likely mean Activision Blizzard's catalog of games, including Call of Duty, Diablo and Starcraft, will be on Game Pass. However, Microsoft is facing opposition from regulators in the US and EU over concerns that the Xbox-maker is becoming a monopoly. The Federal Trade Commission earlier this month sued to block the deal, even as Microsoft offered to make several concessions, including bringing the Call of Duty franchise to the Nintendo Switch and allowing Sony to add the military shooter series to its subscription service, PlayStation Plus

Sony, meanwhile, improved its standing with gamers by revamping its PlayStation Plus service this year. The PlayStation-maker now offers a tiered subscription for gamers to play some of the latest games from the PS4 and PS5, or pay a little more to run classic titles from the PS1, PS2 and PS3 generations. While PlayStation Plus still doesn't outshine Xbox Game Pass, it's a far better alternative than what Sony offered previously. 

Taking those three factors into consideration – hardware availability, big-budget game releases and competitive subscription services – 2023 is poised to be a massive year for video games.