Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest and Microsoft's Xbox + Bethesda showcase have come and gone. With no other major publishers hosting their own major summer preview events in the month of June, we now have a decent look at what the rest of 2022's major game releases will look like.
We also have a chance to revisit our predictions from before the show, and evaluate if our video game showcase radar is working well, or needs to go into the shop for maintenance. Both Summer Game Fest and Xbox + Bethesda Showcase were surprisingly muted affairs, leaving other broadcasts like Day of the Devs, Guerilla Games Collective, and the PC Gaming Show to show off standout games.
There's always value in looking back and admitting what you got wrong. It's also delicious to gloat about what you got right.
Our top-level predictions focused on the regular drumbeat of high-profile teasers and announcements, the trend of remakes, reboots, and remasters, a new wave of Hollywood crossover titles, and reveals from newer studios founded by triple-A game veterans.
Surprisingly, it was our prediction that we'd know more about big, unannounced games that held up the worst. In 2021, Summer Game Fest showed off the first footage of Elden Ring, along with a release date. In 2022, the same blockbuster timeslot was dedicated to The Last of Us Part I, which leaked an hour before showtime.
Xbox and Bethesda also played it cool on the big franchises resting under their tentpoles, but to be fair, showing off Starfield and Redfall footage made up for a lot of lost ground.
Why so few large titles? Some may have had their big reveals punted due to COVID-19 delays, while other publishers might see the lack of an E3 as an opportunity to host their own standalone events that could command more attention. Square Enix and Capcom did secure some high-profile opportunities to announce Street Fighter 6, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and show off new Final Fantasy XVI footage, but that was at PlayStation's State of Play showcase, held a week before Summer Game Fest.
Speaking of Resident Evil 4 Remake, it would seem our predictions about remakes and remasters proved accurate. News of a remake for The Last of Us was unsurprising, but what was surprising at how difficult it was to differentiate the two different games. The PS4 edition of the game holds up quite well!
Nightdive studio showed off footage of its System Shock remake at the PC Gaming Show, and look, while Flashback 2 is technically a sequel to the 30-year-old Amiga game, we're gonna slot the franchise's sudden revival under this category.
Hollywood did swing by the Summer Game Fest, though not in the form we expected. Dwayne Johnson appeared for a few minutes at Summer Game Fest to...promote the film Black Adam. We also saw a new game inspired by Aliens with Aliens: Dark Descent.
Netflix's Geeked Week showcase did pay off in a big way, with both news of a game inspired by the series Queen's Gambit, and revelations of an animated Dragon Age series.
What we didn't see? With no Ubisoft on hand, there wasn't a chance to confirm if Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora would be out in 2022. Bethesda kept mum about MachineGames' Indiana Jones game, and none of the big "platform" games like Sea of Thieves, Fortnite, Fall Guys, etc. announced any major motion picture crossovers.
This muted trend may be more head-scratching than the lack of major game franchises. IP exploitation (sorry, sorry, I hate the word too) is a big buzzword among entertainment industry and game industry executives, and there was little of it on hand despite Keighley's Hollywood connections.
Lastly, Blizzard Entertainment alumni-founded Frost Giant Studios did appear to show off its strategy game Stormgate, but indicated the title was so early in development that it couldn't display proper footage. We're actually pretty grateful for this transparency, since it helps give a measuring stick on what we should be expecting from companies with similar pedigrees. Frost Giant Studios surfaced in October 2020, and was raising funds for its game as late as January 2022.
If similar studios like Twin Suns Corp., That's No Moon, and Archetype Entertainment are chugging along at getting games to market, we'll likely start seeing output from them next year.
Space Horror Game Fest
Our predictions for Keighley's showcase turned out to be way loftier than what was expected. Bloober Team was on hand, not to show off a Silent Hill game, but rather Layers of Fears (whose name is really difficult to pronounce).
Capcom did show up with more Street Fighter 6 footage, which seemed to be the belle of the ball at Keighley's in-person Summer Game Fest event. Only Sonic Frontiers seemed to be attracting similar interest, though that may have been out of morbid fascination rather than true belief in the game's potential.
What we didn't predict was that Summer Game Fest would show off so many space horror games. Sure, The Callisto Protocol was already announced, but the debut of Fort Solis and resurfacing of Routine did a lot to remind us that space is pretty dang scary (and a reminder, we do have a Dead Space remake on the way).
What's driving this particular trend? Probably several teams identifying a market niche around the same time they entered production, with few major competitors to distract from their surprising similarity. We should at least tip our hat to the developers behind Routine, who seem ready to bring their game across the finish line after ten years of development.
Xbox is thinking a year ahead
Xbox's thin 2022 schedule for first-party games would stand out less if Microsoft hadn't banged a marketing drum emphasizing that it has a long runway of games for the next 12 months. On the one hand, Starfield and Redfall both look poised to do well in 2023, with strong gameplay showcases attracting audience attention. On the other hand, calling out 12 months of games without highlighting any major holiday 2022 releases feels like sleight-of-hand.
Phil Spencer spent some time before the show touting the benefits of a gameplay-focused event, but there were still some missing games (and game studios) that probably should have been present. No time was made for upcoming Halo Infinite content. Obsidian Entertainment showed off the instantly-charming Pentiment, but had no updates on Avowed. Ninja Theory seems to still be heads-down on Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, and Undead Labs was mum about the state of State of Decay 3.
Its most prominent offering from a non-Bethesda studio turned out to be the (gorgeous-looking) Forza Motorsport from Turn 10 Studios.
While Xbox Game Studios' first-party offerings were a bit thin, the company still deserves praise for bringing so many third-party studios in to fill out the value of Xbox Game Pass. Live games like Gunfire Reborn, crafting games like Lightyear Frontier, and stealth action game Ereban: Shadow Legacy all getting featured as GamePass titles made a strong case for keeping those subscriptions fresh.
The Game Pass package itself might be a strong enough holiday offering for Microsoft this year, particularly since it can tout the company's improved cloud computing offerings thanks to the surprise reveal of a Samsung TV app.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen game publisher revenue spike, new interest from investors in the business, and weird hype around "the metaverse." The fever over Web3 and blockchain games didn't overcome Summer Game Fest season, as the notion of NFT games was often derided by presenters and developers onscreen.
We're now entering a period where many games being slated for release either began development shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, or midway through it. Development disruptions that began in 2020 may still be rippling out to now, and it's likely this will impact release schedules.
But a slower summer season for game marketing raises questions for the future. Will increased inflation impact the sales prospects of the games showcased this week? Will next year's dueling E3 and Summer Game Fest events attract interest, or drive it elsewhere? And are publishers who either kept out of the usual June hype-fest or downplayed their participation preparing bigger reveals down the line?
Or is everyone dealing with games they'd hoped to debut this year being delayed into 2023?