The Good, Bad and Ugly of Gaming in the Pandemic
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Lockdown and the pandemic have affected us all. From a gaming perspective, there have been highs and lows and I’m sharing a mixed bag of these here.
What follows is a selection of the good, the bad and the ugly...
It was inevitable really but the pandemic led to a long list of delays and may even lead to cancellation of some long sought after titles. Sure, there’s a chance these delays would’ve happened anyway but certainly, some would not. Headline postponements include Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2, Marvel's Avengers, Halo Infinite to name a few.
TV shows filming mid-season such as Supernatural (in it's 15th and final season with only 6 episodes to go. Billions knowingly began airing mid-lockdown despite having only two thirds it's episodes finished (but we're still glad it did).
Even movies took a hit with the likes of Godzilla vs Kong and our bi-annual dose of Fast and Furious being bounced to next year rather than endure a straight-to-stream fate…
On the flip side, we also saw some of the greatest releases of the current generation! Keeping us busy during lockdown we were fortunate to be able to enjoy; Final Fantasy VII Remake, Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing, The Last of Us part 2, Ghost of Tsushima and Flight Simulator which all did make it to us.
Meanwhile, those of us with kids got to watch Trolls World Tour and Scoob on constant repeat for the duration of a 2 day Amazon Prime rental…Don’t get me started on that Disney + Launch too…
The Cooking Mama fiasco
Yes, maybe we were all scrabbling for news in a quiet month but the story surrounding Cooking Mama in April was quite unique. A tale including rumours of blockchain leading to cryptocurrency mining, spontaneously combusting Switch consoles, and a phantom PS4 release left us all confused. The reality was far more disappointing, involving the rights holders being unhappy with the final product and the developers publishing the game regardless. Ultimately the Switch version of the game got physically released to lukewarm reviews much to the disappointment of many of the original series fans...
For myself and several of my friends' lockdown was the final push we needed to actually do some real online gaming. We all knew It was long overdue but we were still sceptical. Thankfully for me, I had my daughter's entertainment (along with my own sanity) to consider so purchasing 3 copies of Overcooked 2 and distributing them in a socially distanced fashion happened early and made being stuck indoors with the family an awful lot easier. Apparently I'm not a nice enough person to play Overcooked with alongside adults though, so copies of Far Cry V, Dauntless, A Way Out, Nine Parchments and more were also purchased to give us some variety. Mixed results achieved but one thing was for sure - Comfort has been found in the virtual arena and the future id bright.
Shortages and inflated prices
PS4 wasn't all that I played online. Mario Kart has been a safe bet since getting my Switch from Santa this year but with only limited people owning the hardware it wasn't as easy to race online. Fear not! Being locked down left many with spare cash early on so a handful of my friends who had been on the fence about owning the console decided it was finally time. To their shock the only places in stock were those with Marketplace setup (including Amazon, Game etc.) and Switch's being in short supply were fetching a price tag of up to £599.99 if you were desperate. Many of us dusted off the Wii and those who no longer owned there's went back to CEX where they'd traded it in half a decade before to find that they were again selling for up to £100..(it was £179 at launch in the UK).
The reason many wanted the Wii back in their life was to get some exercise indoors. I hadn't noticed that my copy of Ring Fit purchased alongside my Switch fell into shortage before the lockdown started and these were joining the marketplace model at circa £200 around the same time. The only thing making it worse was the fact the ads were still on TV and Free DLC was being reported for the lucky few who did own it, much to the anger of everyone else...
Just to round it off, you were left for the longest window an XBOX One SAD has been full price since it launched!
Nintendo isn't known for being shy of a bit of legal action. It's understandable that you'd want to protect your IP but they've been known to take things too far. One of the events of lockdown had them on the receiving end, much to the satisfaction of the average gaming enthusiast. Joy-Con Drift is the anomaly that your controller detects movement when there isn't any (just as frustrating as it sounds). Originally filed in July 2019, a class action suit alleges Nintendo is fully aware of a defect which causes Joy-Cons to drift, causing unintended movement.
Whilst the case continues, during a Japanese Q+A meeting (via Nintendo Life), Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa finally apologized for the "inconvenience" caused by Joy-Con drift. It's rare that a problem is acknowledged before a legally binding decision is made so this simple comment reached the gaming headlines.
Sadly most will consider it too little too late.
For obvious reasons many great conferences have been postponed or simply cancelled this year. Whilst many like Sony have taken to making their own remote announcements it's sad times for the main events circuit, comic con, Rezzed, E3 and the whole E-Sports arenas. Summer has always typically been a quiet time for the gaming industry and it often took the anticipation created by E3 in June to give us the boost we needed to stay excited during the dry patch. This year arguably it was needed more than ever.
Free Stuff & Cheap Stuff!
I'll say it. I've never wanted a Stadia. But a free month to play Gylt was a welcome treat. I was also sceptical when Microsoft originally announced Game Pass at launch but given that the PC access to the service is running at £3.99 a month currently and I don't even need an Xbox to enjoy it, it's a good time to stay indoors! Sony even threw us a free copy of Journey and Uncharted Collection early on which isn't to be sniffed at (even if some of the PS+ offering have been off the mark as of late. Come on Sony, Erica is my 10 year anniversary present!?).
Next-Gen Console Announcements
Whilst Microsoft's offering of the Xbox Series X was slightly muted in hindsight, what got everyone excited was the confirmation of Sony’s PS5 offering. A blitz of the games we'll be playing at the end of the year and beyond certainly helped fill the void left by E3 (even if I have to play through GTA V again) and to be honest there's nothing quite like the advent of a new console generation...
Nintendo has been expected to surprise everyone with news of a more powerful Switch but given the existing console’s relatively still early in its lifespan and continues to break sales records (several during lockdown specifically), I wouldn’t hold my breath.
But Hey! It’s important we have something to look forward to right now!
How has your gaming been affected in the last few months? Video games are a great means to escape reality for a short period and when enjoyed responsibly can provide a lift in these trying times.
This list is intended to be light-hearted. This pandemic has had much farther reaching ramifications for some people and indeed continues to do so. Please take this article as intended which is to be an interesting, light summary of recent events and their impact. Above all please stay safe, be sensible and support one another in this difficult time.