Whether you agree or not, 2020 was an exceptional year for the video games market. A lot of factors played a crucial role in this boom, including the pandemic and arrival of next-gen Xbox Series X and PS5. The rise of digital-copy game sales and the uptake of mobile games in countries like India also helped. That said, 2020 was a year filled with a number of controversies too in the sector. From the ban on PUBG Mobile in India, the Apple vs Epic Games lawsuit to the troubled launch of Cyberpunk 2077, here are the five biggest gaming controversies of 2020.
India bans PUBG Mobile
Perhaps the biggest story in the video game industry this year is none other than the ban of PUBG Mobile in India. In the month of September, the central government decided to ban PUBG Mobile, alongside 117 apps with links to China due to alleged national security risks. The mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, better known as PUBG Mobile, had close to 175 million installs prior to the ban, making it the most popular mobile game in India. But a few days later, PUBG Corporation, the South Korean company that develops and publishes PUBG, said it would drop Tencent as the publisher of its PUBG Mobile game in India. The developer also promised to re-launch as a game that will be ‘created specifically for the Indian market’. The company also pledged to invest $100 million in India, and even announced that PUBG Mobile would be hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
Apple versus Epic Games lawsuit
Next on the list is the much-publicised antitrust lawsuit filed by Epic Games against Apple. In August, Epic added a “direct” payment processing services option to its massively popular Fortnite game. The move was an effort to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase system and its 30 per cent commission. In response, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, and Cupertino reacted sharply by saying Epic had violated Apple’s App Store rules. The fight between the world’s most valuable tech company and the multibillion-dollar developer behind Fortnite is still ongoing. The legal fight between Apple and Epic Games has raised a number of relevant questions about whether companies like Apple and Google have become too monopolistic in the way they control the major app stores.
PS5 and Xbox Series X/S scalping
A PS5 for $2000? Yes, that’s the price you have to pay for Sony’s hottest next-generation game console. Before you question Sony for this seemingly irrational pricing, better have a word with scalpers who buy the PS5 at retail and then resell the console at exorbitant prices on sites like eBay. Scalping has always been an issue in the video game industry, especially whenever a new console hits the market. But this year scalpers have reportedly made nearly $60 million in profits by selling the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S since the consoles’ launch. Given that the consoles are being sold mostly online and the pandemic has disrupted the production of the next-generation consoles, particularly the PS5, scalpers used bots to make fake accounts and tricked retailers to buy the new consoles. Not just the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, scalpers made huge profits by selling new graphics cards from both Nvidia and AMD. For the first time, the problem of scalping has been highlighted at an international level, when a group of British MPs urged the government to bring legislation that would prevent consoles from being bought by scalpers in bulk and sold at higher prices.
Cyberpunk 2077’s launch
Seven years in the making and a mammoth scale that could match the likes of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, did not help CD Projekt Red’s ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ from becoming the butt of jokes on launch. No one would have thought the biggest game of the year, starring Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, will be panned for its technical issues and graphical failures. The public angst towards the futuristic action-adventure game seems genuine – after all, CyberPunk 2077 is barely playable on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Because of that, Sony had to delist the game from the PlayStation store. Soon after, Microsoft promised to expand its refund policy to the game. It’s of little surprise that the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077 has resulted in a class-action lawsuit against CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk’s Poland-based developer. The developer managed to sell 13 million copies of the game in a matter of three weeks. The botched launch of Cyberpunk 2077 has hit hard the reputation of Project Red, best known for the critically acclaimed “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” RPG.
Microsoft delays Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite was supposed to be the big-ticket launch title for the Xbox Series X/S, Microsoft’s next-generation consoles. However, the video game which was previously due out for this Holiday season, is now set to launch in autumn of 2021. The delayed launch of a new Halo game is seen as a setback for Microsoft and the brand Xbox. While Microsoft cited Covid-19 as the reason for the delay in a next-generation AAA title, many believe that the first gameplay trailer didn’t receive positive feedback. Some thought that while the game looked fine – its graphics looked dated for a title that will be a big pull for people to buy the Xbox Series X/S. Some reports even claim that Microsoft had to delay the release of the highly-anticipated game because of the departure of Chris Lee, Halo Infinite’s director. Halo Infinite, which is being developed by Microsoft-owned 343 Industries, was first announced at E3 2018.