Video games are more expansive and impressive than ever before. But the industry is more sprawling, too. It ranges from big-budget blockbusters like Call of Duty: WWII to indie games made by a single person. With so many developers going in different directions, it can be hard to keep track of what’s new. To help make order of the chaos, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest video game trends to look for in 2018.
1) More loot boxes
They drove controversy after controversy last year but, like it or not, loot boxes are here to stay in 2018.
Loot boxes are randomized bundles of digital goodies you can unlock in games like Overwatch, Destiny 2, and Star Wars Battlefront 2. You can usually buy loot boxes using in-game currency you earn just by playing, but video game publishers hope you’ll be hooked enough to drop real-life money on them, too.
Why aren’t loot boxes going away, when so many people resent them? Because they make tons of money.
As TVs get more pixels and gaming hardware becomes more powerful, video game budgets also balloon. But since no one wants to spend more than $60 on a new game, publishers have to find new ways to keep squeezing money from customers to make up the difference. Despite occasional fan outrage, loot boxes sell, so don’t expect them to go anywhere in 2018.
2) More games as services
Related to loot boxes is the concept of “games as a service.” These are games designed to consume every free hour you have. With titles including Destiny 2, Diablo 3, Grand Theft Auto Online, and Splatoon 2, these games continually receive new content and new reasons to keep you coming back. Games as a service want to keep you playing — and keep you paying.
With games like Anthem, Sea of Thieves, and Skull & Bones heading our way this year, you can expect “games as a service” to keep trending in 2018.
3) The firehose of indie games on Switch will ease up
Ever since the Nintendo Switch came out in March of last year, we’ve seen a deluge of indie games hitting the eShop each week. And at least in early 2018, there’s no indication that’s going stop.
What’s fueling the indie tidal wave on Switch? A new platform is always appealing to indie developers, especially one with as much momentum as the Nintendo Switch. Also, a number of indie developers are reporting their sales on Switch have far outpaced sales on Steam and other platforms. Clearly, Switch owners are hungry for awesome games.
But with so many games rushing onto the platform, they can’t all become mega-hits. Expect the indie game onslaught to slow down as 2018 marches on.
4) Nintendo will bring more Wii U ports to Switch
The Wii U was home to many fantastic games. But because the console didn’t sell very well, most gamers never got to play them.
With the Switch, these misfit Wii U games can have another chance at life. We’ve already seen Nintendo bring ports of Wii U titles like Mario Kart 8 and Pokken to Switch, and the first two Bayonetta games are coming in 2018. There’s little reason to think Nintendo will stop there.
Don’t be surprised if we see ports of Wii U games like Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Super Mario 3D World come to Switch. Nor should the excellent remasters of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess languish on a defunct system. Count on Nintendo to bring at least some of these Wii U titles to Switch in 2018.
5) Sony will keep killing it with exclusives
With games like God of War, Spider-Man, and Days Gone, Sony has already announced most or all of its exclusive game lineup for 2018. That’s a killer set of exclusives, but there’s no way Sony is done announcing big games. At trade shows like E3 and the PlayStation Experience, expect to see a new slate of PlayStation exclusives announced in 2018.
6) Microsoft will keep struggling with exclusives
While Sony has announced tons of exciting PlayStation exclusives over the past few years, Microsoft has been busy canceling games (like Scalebound) and closing studios (like Lionhead). Sure, we get a new Forza racing game every year, plus the odd release like Cuphead now and then, but not nearly at the same rate as PS4 owners get exclusives.
While I’d love to say that’s going to change in 2018, it doesn’t look like it will. Xbox chief Phil Spencer recently told Bloomberg that Microsoft is thinking of starting or acquiring studios to make exclusive games in the future. That sounds great, but making a modern big-budget game takes a minimum of two to three years. Any games Microsoft starts making in 2018 won’t land until 2020 or later.
It’s not all bad news for Xbox One owners, though. Despite Microsoft struggling in the exclusive department, don’t be surprised if we get a glimpse of Halo 6 this year.
7) The big game you’re looking forward to will be delayed
They say nothing’s certain in life but death and taxes. We might as well add game delays to that list. Modern games get delayed all the time, with Far Cry 5 and Red Dead Redemption being the most recent high-profile delays.
There’s little chance of that changing in 2018. Expect some of the most anticipated games this year to get delayed. Massive online games like Anthem and Skull & Bones are likely contenders for delays, but you can count on seeing many more as the year continues.
8) Rumblings of PS4 and Xbox One successors
The Xbox One and PS4 launched in 2013. With their fifth anniversaries coming up this year, those systems are starting to look long in the tooth. So don’t be surprised if you hear rumblings about the next generation of consoles in 2018.
Sure, the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro recently launched. But those were stop-gap consoles designed to make games look better on 4K televisions. They don’t play any exclusive games, which means they’re focused more on the past than they are on the future.
You can bet Microsoft and Sony have spent the past few years hard at work on the next generation of their game consoles. Either through rumors or official teases, we’ll probably get a glimpse at next-gen gaming sometime in 2018.