2022 was our biggest year for gaming research at Spotless. We’ve been reflecting on our insights, looking back at what gaming trends shook up 2022, and what we think 2023 will bring.
We have sat down with our Design Researcher Kevin and Senior Design Researcher Mark (who also happen to be the biggest gaming enthusiasts at Spotless!), to discuss the biggest game releases and trends from 2022.
We’ve delved into the impact of cloud-based and subscription model gaming, the introduction of NFTs in the gaming world, and the consequences of Microsoft and Sony’s recent acquisitions.
Learn about the work that Mark and Kevin have been doing at Spotless, including the creation of online communities, the importance of pinging systems, and the challenges faced by women in the gaming industry. For aspiring game design researchers, they provide valuable advice and resources to help kickstart your career in this exciting field.
So, get your gaming gear ready and let’s jump into the world of gaming!
Hey guys, what would you say were the biggest game releases last year?
Kevin: It’s definitely been a big year for video games! We saw Elden Ring, from the Japanese studio FromSoft, go toe-to-toe with Sony Santa Monica Studios’ God of War Ragnarök for Game of the Year. Showing the massive market for story-driven (mainly) single-player experiences.
Mark: We also witnessed the pivot of Meta to go all-in on their XR Meta-verse projects, hopefully leading to exciting new experiences in the future. Indie games (independently produced games) also had a good year. Newcomer Vampire Survivors flipping the bullet-hell format on its head. With great success and already ported to smartphones and PC.
Can you share with us what were some of the biggest, must-known trends in the gaming world last year? I’m sure our readers would love to hear your expert take on this!
Mark: Sure! There was an introduction of NFTs in gaming. It seemed like many publishers and developers were keenly discussing NFTs in some way at the start of 2022 but, entering 2023, it seems most have started backpedalling. The biggest example in 2022 to incorporate NFTs was Ghost Recon Breakpoint along with the launch of Ubisoft Quartz. It was mostly rejected by players and NFT collectors with a reported 15 sales made on the entirety of the project. Sales of NFTs have dropped significantly from their peak in January 2022 so may be part of a wider rejection of NFTs by the public.
Kevin: Cloud-based and subscription model gaming had a hell of a year, with Microsoft’s Game Pass continuing to lead the pack. Competition is showing healthy buds of growth though as Sony finally unveiled their competitor service with an update to their PS Plus plans.
What exactly is happening there?
Mark: The PS Plus tier revamp comes in 3 different editions, Essential, Premium and Extra. It has a wider selection of games but does not feature day one releases like Game Pass. Anecdotally, many think the premium tier is not worth buying as all the classic PS1, PS2 and PS3 games are only available on cloud streaming which, for most, delivers an inconsistent frame rate and input lag. Xbox has managed to support most of its back catalog of games to be played directly on the console and provide additional bonuses like FPS boosts to old games and HDR available. We’re looking forward to seeing how both schemes develop and some healthy competition to improve value for users.
How do you think these trends impacted the way games were designed and developed?
Kevin: An interesting effect of this has been to change how success is measured for games present on these services. In a recent interview with NME, Feargus Urquhart (Founder of Obsidian game studios, makers of Fallout: New Vegas) shared “…alongside sales estimates, games are now judged by how many millions of hours of gameplay they’ve driven on Game Pass, with Microsoft keen to drive subscriptions and keep Game Pass players on the service for longer.”
Another consequence of this subscription model has been primary console manufacturers Microsoft and Sony going on an acquisition footing, with Sony purchasing Bungie and Microsoft buying Activision-Blizzard in the biggest gaming acquisition to date. This has brought them into contention with regulatory bodies in the UK & EU, with the latter issuing an antitrust warning over the acquisition of the WoW giant.
Wow, so much is going on in the industry! On that note, what have you been working on at Spotless?
Mark: Last year we worked on some great gaming projects including understanding how people choose what games they buy and how online communities are formed. For these projects we used a JTBD-approach, where we dug into each stage of either acquiring new games or starting a new online community to uncover some of the key needs at each stage.
Kevin: Many multiplayer games now include pinging systems (e.g. Apex, Overwatch 2), as most players don’t tend to want to chat with random online players. When players want to find new friends to play with now, they would often go to sites like Discord or Reddit to find like-minded players and organise gaming sessions off console. The increased use of Discord means cross-platform gaming and chatting is becoming even more important and Sony is set to capitalise on that with the release of Discord on PS5.
Mark: Pinging systems are also good for those who tend to experience abuse when playing online. Women in the research reported hiding the fact they were a woman in online games to avoid harassment.
What advice do you have for aspiring game design or user researchers?
Mark: Check out the Games User Research Special Interest Group (GRUX SIG) and try to connect with some mentors in the community. Steve Bromley also has a book called ‘How to Be a Games User Researcher’ which has a lot of great information. I’d also push my favourite article on Games User Research ‘The time I tried to ruin Halo 2’.
Kevin: What Mark says, but also, play loads of games! Work out what works for you and what doesn’t. Why does it work? How does it work for others? We’re seeing an abundance of creative games, with AAAs and Indies able to reach a massive market. There’s so much variety out there that you can explore different approaches to similar problems. And of course, listen to the community. If gamers have difficulty with a game, they’ll make it known!
What are you personally most looking forward to playing in 2023?
Mark: The Resident Evil 4 remake! Even more excited having seen how well the recent Dead Space remake has been received.
Kevin: Elden Ring DLC, and more big-budget horror games! There’s a Scottish studio, No Code, based in Glasgow that’s made some great horror games in the past (Observation and Stories Untold) and they’ve got the IP for Silent Hill. Based on their earlier work I’m excited to see what they do! Plus hopefully more info on whatever Kojima is working on next, they’re keeping us waiting.
Stay tuned for part 2 where Kevin and Mark will explore common player behaviours based on their research conducted at Spotless and give you an overview of our research on VR.
If you’ve missed our recent ‘Service Design Trends in 2023‘ release, check it out!
Ben is on hand to answer your questions.