Big Three Predictions 2021

The new year would not be complete without a healthy chunk of industry predictions. My second post ever on Max Frequency was my 2020 predictions. It is a sacred pastime and one I enjoy throughly. Before we recap my 2020 predictions and look into my crystal ball for 2021, here are the rules I have set for myself:

  • Everything written down must come true for the prediction to be counted as correct.

And that’s it. I do three predictions each for Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. I also close them all out with a “Kiefer”-level prediction. This is some outlandish, over-the-moon prediction inspired by the wackiness of having Kiefer Sutherland be the voice of Venom Snake in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Let’s see how I fared in 2020.

Nintendo

  1. The next 3D Mario game is revealed and released in 2020.
  2. Switch revision with more power is announced. Switch lifetime sales will surpass 70 million units.
  3. The next Mario Kart game announced.

No strictly new 3D Mario game was announced nor was released in 2021. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was announced but is releasing on February 12, 2021. So some new 3D Mario content, but off by two months!

No new Switch model, despite earlier rumors. The Switch console most assuredly surpassed 70 million units sold though. The last official numbers were reported on November 5, 2020 with 68.3 million units. That specific quarter was 6.86 million consoles alone. Since this was before the traditional holiday shopping season, I feel safe claiming that the Switch has surpassed 70 million units by the end of 2020. We’ll find out officially on March 31, 2021 when the annual shareholders meeting occurs. Still doesn’t give me the point though.

Not quite what I had envisioned, but a new Mario Kart game was announced and released this year! If only I didn’t have carpet in half of the new apartment…One point locked for the Nintendo chunk!

PlayStation

  1. PS5 will be fully revealed in a Wired article with a press event around E3 that reveals price and date. Backward compatible with all systems, including PS3 and Vita.
  2. Horizon Zero Dawn sequel will be launch window title for PS5.
  3. PS VR 2 will be mentioned by Sony. 

So believably wrong. The reveal of the PS5 was whacky, cancelled E3 or not.

What is a launch window anyway? Completely subjective, I’m sure. The closest thing to a release date for Horizon Forbidden West is a window of the second half of 2021. While it possibly could happen within the first year of the PS5, I don’t think it counts as a launch window title. Wrong again.

While Sony didn’t talk about the PS VR 2 in the way that I had hoped for, they did talk about VR on the PS5 and the future of their VR plans.

“PlayStation believes in VR. Sony believes in VR, and we definitely believe at some point in the future, VR will represent a meaningful component of interactive entertainment. Will it be this year? No. Will it be next year? No. But will it come at some stage? We believe that…” – PlayStation CEO, Jim Ryan in an interview with The Washington Post on Oct. 29, 2020

Is that specifically mentioning PS VR 2? Who’s to say? No one is here to stop me. So I give myself the point.

Xbox

  1. Series X will be the only “next-gen” Xbox available this holiday shopping season.
  2. While Halo Infinite will be a lunch title, it will have some differentiating feature from the Xbox One edition of the game, despite being cross-generational.
  3. The Initiative’s first game will be revealed.

I just did not believe the idea that Microsoft would launch two consoles simultaneously and undercut themselves in price, performance, and game design limitations. I do think that them launching two consoles and Sony launching two variants makes for a far more interesting, if not unprecedented, market.

My Halo prediction could still come true, except for the part about being a launch title.

All hail Geoff Keighley and The Game Awards. This was almost too close for comfort. I never played Perfect Dark on the N64, but this new game seems pretty dope. I am curious how building an entirely new studio from scratch to revive an old IP will pan out.

Lastly, there is the matter of last year’s Kiefer prediction:

The next 3D Mario game will be Super Mario Odyssey 2 and will launch this summer, while Nintendo’s big fall game will be the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Oh so very wrong. Well, maybe we could drop the “very.” Like I mentioned before, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is on the horizon. While Nintendo’s big Fall game wasn’t the sequel to Breath of the Wild, we did get the prequel to it with Age of Calamity. Maybe we can say I was “oh so close, yet so far away.”

Out of all the predictions, I nabbed 3/10. That is terrible. I hurt myself with some two-sentence predictions. Don’t worry, I’ve learned my lesson. I will fare much better in 2021.

Nintendo

  1. Nintendo will acknowledge the GameCube’s 20th anniversary.
  2. For The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary, Nintendo will release a 3D Zelda collection, just like they did for Mario in 2020.
  3. There is no new “Pro” Nintendo Switch model released in 2021.

2021 is a huge anniversary year for the Big N. The biggest by far is The Legend of Zelda. There was a huge celebration when Zelda had its 25th anniversary, most notably with the release of Skyward Sword. I can’t imagine a 2021 where Nintendo doesn’t celebrate Zelda’s 35th anniversary. It also happens to be Metroid’s 35th anniversary, but hoping for any major form of celebration is a fool’s hope.

The other notable anniversary is the launch of the GameCube, arguably my favorite Nintendo console of all time. Ideally (read as another fool’s hope) Nintendo would do some sort of GameCube library like they currently do for the NES and SNES on Switch Online. The GameCube is the second Nintendo home console (I see you Virtual Boy) to not have any sort of digital presence on Nintendo’s current consoles and shops. It’s time for the GameCube to get the respect it deserves.

Since the rumors were so prevalent heading into 2020, I’m deciding to swing the other way when it comes to the Switch Pro. I think Nintendo is happy riding out one more year before releasing the Switch Pro. That’s not to say they won’t announce it this year, but I don’t see it releasing in 2021.

PlayStation

  1. Sony will buy Bluepoint Games.
  2. Naughty Dog’s next project will not be announced in 2021.
  3. Backward compatibility will come to the PS5 for more than the PS4.

Sony and Bluepoint Games have an incredibly tight second-party relationship. I think Sony will look to lock that in as a first party. Sony has an incredible library of games that would thrive off a full-blown remake from the best of the best. Demon’s Souls being a launch title for the PS5 continues to showcase the prowess of Bluepoint Games and Sony’s hardware. It’s time for Sony to lock Bluepoint down.

Historically, Naughty Dog doesn’t wait long to announce their next project. I say they pivot and fully embrace the silence that they took for the bulk of the development of The Last of Us Part II. Now, I could be proven wrong in January or February when they announce a PS5 port of The Last of Us Part II with some fully featured multiplayer game, but I’m thinking the Dogs may be quiet for awhile.

This is my vague way to say that Sony better let us play those digital PS1 and PS2 games we bought back in the day. Heck, go the way and figure out PS3 compatibility and bring along the PSP and the Vita. Make the PS5 the end-all-be-all PlayStation.

Xbox

  1. Halo Infinite is delayed again.
  2. At least two games previously confirmed for cross-generational support will drop their Xbox One versions.
  3. Microsoft will announce that the Xbox One consoles will receive an xCloud app, turning them into streaming boxes.

As much as it pains me to write it, I feel like Halo Infinite is going to slip again, likely to early 2022. Maybe 343 will release a multiplayer beta to soften the blow, but I think Chief slips one more time.

Which some what ties into my next prediction, I think this cross-generational support is going to slowly vanish from Xbox. I can’t see Halo Infinite making its way to Xbox One. Throw Fable, Forza, or whatever else in there too. It’s already begun with Microsoft Flight SimulatorAfter both Sony taking the “announce cross-gen titles as they come” approach and the utter debacle of Cyberpunk 2077’s console launch, I can’t imagine Microsoft will want their studios to support six different platforms.

And building upon the blow that would cause, I think Microsoft will announce that an xCloud app will come to Xbox One consoles. Most likely the One S and One X, since they both can output 4K video. If my phone can “run” The Master Chief Collection, I think the One S and One X can stream some games. Not only would this technically mean that you can play these games on your older hardware, but it also helps bolster Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions, which is what Microsoft and Xbox really want their customers to sign up for.

I’ve kept you waiting for my Big Boss Kiefer-level prediction, haven’t I? Well no longer! Behold!

Nintendo will release a 3D Zelda collection that includes an HD port of Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D, as well as Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. The long-rumored HD port of Skyward Sword will be a standalone release.

I think what makes this “Kiefer”-levels is the versions of the 3D Zelda games I chose. The biggest shock would be porting the 3DS remakes of the N64 classics in HD. Nintendo could easily just use their N64 emulation from Super Mario 3D All-Stars and call it a day. I think they’ll go above and beyond for Zelda though and utilize those recent remakes. They already gave the GameCube Zelda games the HD treatment and have been porting Wii U games left and right. Releasing Skyward Sword alone would be inline with other decisions that Nintendo has made with new releases of older games.

2021 feels like it will be a banger of a year for video games to me. There’s just enough shrouded in fog that amps my excitement. Nintendo could really come out with all the pomp and circumstance for Zelda, Metroid, Super Nintendo World (the theme park, not the similarly named, theme park inspired Wii U game Nintendo Land). PlayStation can keep the train chugging along by making big purchases and popularly demanded features a reality. Xbox can continue their resurgence with a laser focus on playing their games on any screen that will have their app. There is plenty of potential, all that remains to be seen is if the industry goes for it.

Favorite Games I Played in 2020

2020 was a wonderful year for video games. The end of the generation always seems to show off developer’s ability to squeeze every ounce of power out of the older consoles and explore the new potential of the next generation of home console gaming.

It was also a year where folks could sink their teeth into their back catalogs and replay their favorite games. Needing to stay inside more than usual greatly lent itself to playing games. At least, that’s part of how I took advantage of being furloughed earlier this year (outside of writing 18,000 words about Naughty Dog).

So here are my ten favorite games I played in 2020 with a little bit on each one. They are listed in alphabetical order, although I’m sure you can guess what my favorite game was this year.

Astro’s Playroom

From a pack-in demo on the PS4 to a VR Platforming marvel to a full-blown launch game pack in, Astro has had quite the rise during the life of the PS4. Astro’s Playroom is a charming and engaging 3D platformer. It masterfully showcases the DualSense controller and its possibilities while making you all nostalgic for PlayStation consoles of year’s past.

Death Stranding

This is certainly not the game I thought I’d come back to this year. Maybe it was because I had time on my hands. Or the fact my friends gave me an impossibly hard time for selling my Death Stranding PS4 Pro for the The Last of Us Part II variant. Kojima out of the shadow of Metal Gear is a sight to behold.

Donkey Kong Country

DKC never looked so good.

On a slightly more serious note, I never actually played the original SNES version of Donkey Kong Country. I only had the Game Boy Color version as a kid. DKC was one of my earlier pickups when I was given a Super Nintendo. I finally decided to play it when I bought a new wireless SNES controller from 8bitdo. No better way to test input lag than with a wireless controller. There is a clear reason why DKC, both the original game and the series as a whole, has stood the test of time as a pillar of platformers.

Hades

I’ve been aware of Hades since Noclip started their documentary series two years ago. I even tried to buy it on the Epic Games Store for my MacBook Pro, but it isn’t available for macOS. I snagged it late-ish November/early December on the eShop because it was on sale and I had points expiring.

What a rock solid action game. I love the constant tug of decision making to increase your chances of making it further in each run. I could see myself get better with each run.

I do wish the narrative sucked me in more. I “beat” the game twice and felt satisfied. I still have eight more runs to see credits roll apparently. I just don’t feel a pull to keep going though.

Halo 3: ODST

Furlough and quarantine presented the perfect opportunity to replay the Halo series with my pals. And ODST is the best campaign followed closely by Reach. Halo is at its best when the stories feel smaller in the sprawling conflict. The way the narrative is stitched together; chef kiss.

Luigi’s Mansion 3

A Christmas present from last year, my playthrough ran into this year. The game is an absolute delight and a treasure for series fans. The animation and art direction will ensure that Luigi’s Mansion 3 will always look good. Just add another feather in Nintendo’s cap of timeless and charming art direction. The only real issue I had was the terrible final boss design. It was definitely a roadblock and totally crushed my pacing in the narrative.

Night Trap

Night Trap is utterly timeless thanks to its infamy. I had watched a documentary a few years ago and grabbed a copy for Nintendo Switch from Limited Run Games back in 2018. I had never played it and always thought it’d be a fun group game.

This summer I visited my parents and decided that one afternoon would be perfect for it. My wife, my parents, and my friend Logan were all there and we fumbled around the house as vampire ninjas abducted friends left and right.

We were captivated by the cheesiness of it all. After failing on our own a few times, Abby pulled up a guide and was shouting out rooms and timestamps. I bounced the cameras around the home while trying to watch teens dance and vampire ninja’s plot.

We were doing great until a poorly executed command on the final life or death scene; the final boss, if you will. It kicked us back to the half way point. I couldn’t convince the group to sit through another 13ish minutes. What a fun, goofy, unforgettable afternoon.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori is an absolute masterclass in fluidity of movement. I’d be hard presses to think of a game I’ve played in 2020 that had better movement.

The game’s soundtrack gave me Grant Kirkhope and David Wise undertones. The game world gave off both DKC and Hollow Knight vibes. Ori is definitely evocative and engrossing.

While the combat felt great, I wish I was more enticed to swap powers/weapons more. I kept the sword and the health recovery equipped always. I felt like the weapons I found and bought weren’t worth engaging with regularly.

Beyond that, I’d say Ori is an essential metroidvania game for any fan. And it got robbed at The Game Awards 2020.

Super Metroid

A consistent theme I tried to adhere to this past year was playing one game at a time. This also was applied to books and TV shows. I have a bad habit of starting and stopping games.

Early on in the year, Super Metroid was one of my first “I’m gonna finish this” games. I had myself a FAQ from GameFaqs and would play in the morning.It happened to be after buying our new TV. I really started getting my money’s worth out of the Super NT this year.

There’s a reason that “metroidvania” is a term used for exploratory adventure games with upgrades. Super Metroid is part of the reason games like Ori, Hollow Knight, and Guacamelee soar.

The Last of Us Part II

It’s rare for a sequel to not only surpass the original, but to elevate it as well. Despite covering the game so closely, The Last of Us Part II surprised me continually. I played it three times. While this list may be in alphabetical order, this was far and away my favorite game of 2020.

For my spoiler-filled thoughts, check out my review. If you’re interested in the game’s history, check out Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

As a part of research for Chasing the Stick, I replayed all of the Naughty Dog Uncharted games. Not a bad way to research if you ask me. I think this was my fourth time playing the game and it continues to stand tall as my favorite in the series. Some didn’t care for the pivot to a more grounded Drake and adventure. For me, making it personal for Drake, Elena, and Sully was the only way to take Uncharted as a whole to the next level. It’s part of what makes Uncharted 3 better than Uncharted 2 in my book. Uncharted 4 has personal connection and consequences as a cornerstone of its design and it  pays out in spades.

Why is it so Difficult to Emulate Apple IIGS Games?

I am practically at my wits’ end. I just want to play three Apple IIGS games, two of which seem to be exclusive to that particular iteration of Apple’s famous computer. Search after search has led my to various apps and emulators that either run Apple IIe tier games, are not 64-bit compatible, or require odd web browsers and extensions.

Maybe I don’t know enough about older computing commands, coding, etc. I can’t even really figure out if something like the Raspberry Pi can emulate the Apple IIGS and its games. Maybe this kinda of emulation is easier on Windows PC (which would be ironic to say the least).

This strikes me as so odd for this sort of game emulation to be so convoluted. It is easier to jailbreak an iPhone, install emulators, and play Nintendo DS games on the phone. Why does this era of early home PC gaming have such a technological hurdle to even attempt? I’ve even looked into Amiga ports for the games I am looking at and the emulation doesn’t seem any more clear on that front. Maybe it is due to having to emulate an operating system underneath the game’s code?

These past two or so weeks have been incredible frustrating for this little side project. I just want to play a few obscure Apple IIGS games? Is that too much to ask for?

Moving (on Grounded Difficulty)

Been a while since I’ve published here, nearly a whole month in fact. I have spent that time packing and moving to a new home and finishing The Last of Us Part II on Grounded difficulty. This was my 14th move in my life and my third time beating The Last of Us Part II since its release on June 19, 2020.

What’d I miss?

PS5 Backward Compatibility Detailed

More than 99% of PS4 games will be playable on PS5. That sounds like what I expected. Here is what I wrote after the June PS5 event:

The last point I wanted to touch on was actually what kicked off the entire show. There was a montage of big name PS4 games. While not as declarative as Microsoft’s messaging surrounding backward compatibility, this is certainly clearer than Sony’s original statements. This tells the consumer that you can play your PS4 games on PS5, don’t worry. It was a good way to open the show up.

The real question is why did it take so long for Sony to be clear and direct with this messaging.

The Official PS5 Teardown

This thing is a giant, sleek heat sink with liquid metal to help transfer heat from the CPU. Can’t wait to hear how quiet (or not quiet) the console is.

PS5 UI Tour

I have way more thoughts about the UI of the PS5. At this point, I think those thoughts may be better saved for the review I plan to write. At first blush, it appears snappy, integrated deeper into the games and social interactions, and way too big.

Jason Rubin Promoted to VP of Play at Facebook Gaming and launches Cloud Gaming

Co-founder of Naughty Dog has been at Facebook for two years, mostly in charge of Oculus VR partnerships. Rubin was recently promoted to VP of Play at Facebook. This announcement goes alongside the company’s own implementation of cloud gaming. Rather than charge or a subscription or offer some special hardware, Facebook is just using cloud gaming as a way to deliver games and ads for games to their users. You can play right in the News Feed or on their Gaming tab. This approach seems incredibly smart to me. It is integrating cloud gaming, instead of providing a new service, platform, or controller. Cloud gaming will just be one way to play these mobile games, not the only way.

Analogue Duo

Boutique FPGA console maker Analogue has entered the CD-based FPGA console arena with a TurboGrafx-16, PC Engine, SuperGrafx, TurboGrafx CD, PC Engine CD-ROM, and Super Arcade CD-ROM focused console. It is supposed to launch in 2021 at $200 with a limited supply.

XSX Auto HDR in Action

Digital Foundry did a breakdown of the new Auto HDR system-level feature on the Xbox Series X. It will add HDR to games that were never designed with it in mind, which helps make those back compat titles, theoretically, look even better. The feature seems to be hit or miss though, depending on the game.

Uncharted Movie first tease look

I am now strangely hopeful? I just want this movie to be a fun ride. Whether it’ll be fun because it is another poor video game movie or a action-adventure romp remains to be seen.

MacStories iOS 14 Review

Ticci time arrived! Federico Viticci’s annual iOS review is always a treat and 2020’s iOS 14 review is no exception. I am still chipping away at it, but I can’t think of a better place to go to fully explore the impact of iOS 14 on its users.

iPhone 12 line revealed

Welcome back flat sides!

Invincible Animated Series Teaser

Please, please be good.

Amazon announces new cloud gaming service called Luna – The Verge

Amazon announces new cloud gaming service called Luna by Andrew Webster for The Verge

It’s not clear when Luna will launch widely, but it will initially be available on PC, Mac, Fire TV, and iPhone and iPad (via web apps), with an Android version planned for after launch. Amazon says that interested users in the US can request early access to the service starting today. There’s no word on international availability.

The service will be available for an “introductory price” of $5.99 a month during its early access phase, which gives subscribers the ability to play Luna Plus channel games across two devices simultaneously and offers 4K / 60fps resolution for “select titles.” Naturally, it will be powered by AWS, Amazon’s ubiquitous web platform.

I wonder which company will kill their game streaming service first; Google or Amazon?