OK, so 2021 hasn’t quite brought the full recovery from the pandemic that many of us had hoped for. But here in Japan, where new cases of COVID-19 have somewhat taken hold (at the time of writing, anyway), the final months of the year seemed to offer a silver lining. About 80% of the population is now doubly vaccinated, businesses are mostly open and although many people are still generally cautious, a fragile sense of normalcy reigns.
As 2022 shifts into high gear, there is a hint of optimism in the air.
Amidst all of this, the video game industry is in a strange state of flux. Blockages around the world have contributed to a huge increase in game sales over the past two years, as people spend more time staring at screens and controllers in hand – and spending more time and money than ever before. on games.
Yet the many challenges of game development in a pandemic have resulted in relentless delays for some titles. And in Japan, where the shift to telecommuting has been sudden and difficult, many game companies are still struggling to adapt.
In my column around the same time last year, I predicted that Japanese gaming giant Nintendo would follow its relatively quiet 2020 with a glut of game releases that had been delayed into 2021. The reality was that only a few- a few of those predicted titles hit the shelves, with Metroid Dread and a massive DLC expansion for Animal Crossing being the highlights. Other games, like the untitled sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Bayonetta 3, have been given release dates in 2022 instead.
Nintendo has had another amazing year, releasing the improved Switch OLED model and selling an estimated total of 20 million consoles in 2021. But the slow pace of exclusive game releases has suggested their development teams may still adapt to it. the new normal.
On the bright side, that means this year we should actually get this sequel to Zelda – one of the most anticipated games out there right now.
Another of the most anticipated games also comes from Japan: Elden Ring, produced by the developer of Dark Souls FromSoftware.
Elden Ring has been leading the most searched polls for a few years now, with its brutal, highly skilled gameplay and a storyline co-written by Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin. IGN Japan’s coverage of a network test for the game in November 2021 became one of our most-watched content of the year, with our 30-minute gameplay video accumulating 650,000 views and counting. When the game finally releases in February 2022, the internet may well melt.
What else can we expect in 2022? I feel like this question is getting harder and harder to answer, as the world continues its trend of unpredictability. Delays and postponements are now part of the course, and any release date should be taken as a guide rather than a guarantee.
That said, if all goes according to plan, other trending Japanese titles in the first few months of the year are expected to include Pokémon Legends: Arceus in late January and Gran Turismo 7 in March.
Anything farther than that really sounds like a fantasy at this point. Forspoken, a new game from Square Enix that brings a modern twist to a Final Fantasy-style RPG by starring a modern-day New York girl who is transported to a parallel dimension of magic and monsters, is currently slated for release. released in May 2022..
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, a new action RPG set in the Final Fantasy universe and developed by revered Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja, is slated for June.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, a DLC expansion for last year’s popular Monster Hunter Rise, has a vague “summer 2022” release window, which these days can mean anything until mid-fall.
And Sonic Frontiers, a new “open area” game starring the Blue Blur, is slated for the 2022 holidays, which usually means November or December. Others are simply slated for “sometime in 2022,” including the aforementioned sequels to Breath of the Wild and Bayonetta as well as Splatoon 3.
It seems inevitable these days that some of these games will slip away, maybe even until 2023. But assuming they don’t, this is an incredible lineup of games from Japan.
Each of the titles I’ve mentioned so far has the potential to sell millions of copies worldwide, a feat that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago in the PlayStation 3 era, when the majority of Japanese games have spectacularly failed to find an audience. abroad.
In recent years, developers here have regained the trust of gamers, catching up with Western development technologies to deliver top-notch experiences filled with the kind of creative world-making that Japanese developers excel in – a true throwback to the form. At this point, we have the impression that we will forgive them a few delays here and there.
4K phantom switch
However, we are facing some problems. Global chip shortages and supply chain disruptions have kept the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles extremely hard to buy – more than a year after their launch. And this is especially true in Japan, where supply appears to be disproportionately low.
This of course means that some developers are reluctant to make games exclusive to the new hardware because the user base is limited. The flip side is that many players in Japan are unable to get their hands on these new games which
Plus, this is all pure speculation, but we still haven’t seen any signs of the long-standing 4K Switch Pro rumor – could Nintendo’s plans have been affected by these global resource shortages? It’s possible that if such a system exists (which Nintendo has never officially confirmed, so it might not) then the difficult PS5 and Xbox Series X launches might have discouraged Nintendo from releasing it at this time.
Go to the big screen
2022 also promises to be a year when Japanese game characters continue to move from game consoles to other forms of entertainment. Yes, if all goes as planned, 2022 will see the release of films based on both Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog – the rival gaming mascots of the ‘Console Wars’ of the 1990s.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the sequel to the surprisingly successful 2020 live-action movie starring James Marsden as Sonic and Jim Carrey as his nemesis Dr. Robotnik. The sequel adds Miles “Tails” Prower, Sonic’s boyfriend, and, in an inspired cast, his brother Knuckles the Echidna voiced by the mighty Idris Elba.
The film is slated for release in April in the United States. Given the critical and financial success of the first film, hopes are high.
The Untitled Mario movie is a block of questions in itself. Currently slated for December 2022, this is an animated film from Illumination, the studio behind the Despicable Me, Minions and Sing franchises. His voice cast includes Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt as Mario, alongside Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong and Jack Black as Bowser. (And no, I’m not making that up.)
We haven’t seen any footage yet, and only a very short plot synopsis, so it’s hard to say how this will play out. But you can bet Nintendo is careful not to repeat the mistakes that led to the atrocious 1993 Super Mario Bros. live-action flick. This one is sure to be much, much better.
Finally, after hosting a somewhat successful hybrid event in 2021 that included a small-scale media exhibit and an online showcase for the public, the Tokyo Game Show organizers committed to putting on a physical show of a certain capacity at Makuhari Messe in September. This year.
While we still don’t know what will happen with global exhibitions such as E3 (typically held in June in Los Angeles) and Gamescom (typically held in August in Cologne), it’s heartwarming to see a calendar date for a real event. TGS person this year.
As with any game release date, we should look at these TGS dates as a goal rather than a promise – who knows what will happen over the next year or so. But the scent of optimism is intoxicating and can even eventually cross oceans to the rest of the world.
It’s another year of Japan’s must-see video games!