2020 was one of the biggest years for gaming yet. Sony and Microsoft released their latest consoles, Nintendo had a smash hit with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Activision broke records with Call of Duty: Mobile.
Other big releases included Cyberpunk 2077 (though it did have a troubled launch), Microsoft Flight Simulator, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and DOOM Eternal (two years after it was announced).
But it wasn’t just new releases doing well. Games that have been on the market for several years enjoyed continued popularity, including Hearthstone, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2. These titles were particularly buoyed by their success in the esports market.
Now we know what did well last year, what games are expected to be big in 2021?
Grand Theft Auto Online
Released way back in 2013, you’d expect Grand Theft Auto V to have been relegated to the bargain bin in supermarkets and video game stores by now. But that simply isn’t the case.
Continued updates from Rockstar Games have helped GTA V to remain in the top-10 best selling list for much of the last decade. Some of the most influential additions to the online portion of the game have included the Los Santos Summer Special, The Diamond Casino & Resort and its subsequent heist mission, and the Southern San Andreas Super Sport Series that included loads of vehicle racing functionality.
The end of 2020 saw an even bigger update: The Cayo Perico Heist, which added a whole new island to the GTA Online map, providing new opportunities to explore the open-world game.
2021 will see a remastered version of the game released to PlayStation 5 and the GTA Online portion made free-to-play. This will help this mammoth title remain popular this year and probably for much longer still.
PokerStars is one of the biggest brands in online poker, thanks in part to it being one of the oldest companies in the market and in part to its broad global presence. In 2019, the last year that full annual financial information is currently available, the brand’s parent company almost doubled its poker revenue in the UK from the previous year.
In 2020, much of the iGaming industry saw strong growth, particularly from mobile users. PokerStars has a strong mobile offering, with apps for both iOS and Android devices that pack in all of the features available with its desktop software, so it’s likely that it also benefited from this.
With the brand recently launching in Pennsylvania, it’s expected to strengthen its presence in the United States throughout 2021 and strengthen its popularity overall.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The Mario universe has broad appeal in the gaming market with a range of different games released featuring the Italian plumber over the years, including the popular racing series Mario Kart and the classic 2D platformers.
Another series featuring Mario and his friends is Super Smash Bros, an arcade fighting game that brings together many of Nintendo’s best selling characters.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released on the Nintendo Switch back in 2018, but it continues to be incredibly popular today. It sold 16 million copies after one year and surpassed 20 million by mid-2020. It is the third-best-selling game for the console and continues to be enjoyed by millions around the world.
It’s one of the few Nintendo games to feature in esports competitions, including EVO 2019 and the inaugural Smash World Tour in 2020.
Its simple but fun mechanics make Super Smash Bros. Ultimate a game that can be enjoyed over and over again, something that will make it popular throughout 2021.
With no news on a Grand Theft Auto VI release, fans were excited that Cyberpunk 2077 promised to be a revolution in open-world gaming. Reviews, trailers, and screenshots showed incredible graphics and exciting new features, but after its release in late 2020, gamers were left disappointed by bugs, crashes, lag, and toned-down visuals.
Cyberpunk 2077 was released to much fanfare, with an aggressive marketing campaign. However, it was quickly pulled from the PlayStation Store by Sony and its developer, CD PROJEKT RED, was forced to issue refunds to many unhappy customers.
The company has been releasing many updates, patches, and fixes in the weeks that have followed and is expected to push large updates by the end of February that will address the bulk of the issues.
If the company can overcome these, then Cyberpunk 2077 should be able to move past its initial stumbles to become one of 2021’s most-played games.