2022 Industry Trends: Our post-mission log

At MPG, we don’t just create games, we also analyse them. Our Analytics team are constantly scouring the market to bring our partners the latest insights of the gaming industry. With 2022 officially over, let’s wrap up the interesting trends we spotted last year.

It started off so well…

While 2022 started out with a lot of promise, it turned out to be an odd year for games. Take Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite for example; both had a lot of momentum heading into 2022, and while the former did very well for Xbox, the latter has struggled. Meanwhile, we saw Elden Ring debut to critical and commercial acclaim.

Cautionary business news and weak economic headwinds began to circulate, while many majorly anticipated releases were postponed until 2023. Despite this, Xbox Game Pass continued to see success in 2022, with several promotions boosting their subscription numbers, compelling PlayStation to relaunch their subscription service structure.

The year ended with some big releases out in time for the Christmas season such as Modern Warfare II & God of War Ragnarök- we'll be keeping an eye on those and newer games throughout 2023.

What we spotted

Whilst we were conducting our end-of-year review, we noticed some intriguing trends. Here are 3 key insights:

1. Xbox Game Pass titles boomed

In 2022, we took an in-depth look at the trends across Xbox releases over the past 5 years.

Whilst Fortnite was the standout game for PlayStation during Covid, Minecraft fulfilled that role for Microsoft, likely due to the easy accessibility, paired with the convenience of Game Pass. Forza and Mortal Kombat also have Game Pass to thank for their soaring audience, but also as a consequence of a large American audience, FIFA is rarely featured on the podium.

Roblox as a PC/Xbox exclusive continues to prove to be a big winner for Microsoft - a notable success considering the age of the game. Creeping past Rocket League, we can see there is opportunity for Microsoft to move players away from Epic games here because of the close connection with Sony.

On the other side, Halo Infinite has struggled, with a large launch followed by stagnation. We’re interested to see what happens with this game, as well as Call of Duty in 2023, to see if these mass Multiplayer, seasoned franchise titles have the legs their predecessors have previously enjoyed. We'll see what happens to Halo Infinite and other multiplayer titles in the new year.

2. Steam-ers weren't feeling the love

We calculate that the percentage of positive reviews on Steam for 2022 is around 86%, the lowest since 2018 when platform changes stopped a long decline in sentiment that began in 2010.

While sentiment was down across the board, we can see from the animation below that a few games saw their fair share of negativity. For example, Lost Ark was not well received, whilst Elden Ring had some launch issues that it eventually overcame. Tale of Immortal, whose fans blasted the game after it announced an off-platform, third-party alternative to Steam Workshop, was the year's first major negative review bombing, and VR Chat was chastised by its fans for the developer's commitment to Easy Anti-Cheat. Later in the year, Mirror 2: Project X annoyed fans and FIFA 23 players complained about a poor PC port.

However, it's worth noting that with an average sentiment of 86%, the positive massively outweighed the negative. Though Elden Ring had a rough start, it eventually became a huge net positive on the platform. From Stray, to Cult of the Lamb to Dwarf Fortress, 2022 has seen some extremely well-received games, so we shouldn't overlook these amazing successes simply because of a decline in sentiment on average.

3. Big titles lead all the major genres

In 2022, Fortnite drove Shooter, Minecraft drove Simulator, and FIFA drove Sports. Whilst that might not come as a surprise, there were still some interesting market changes, with indie-games-turned-blockbusters like Brawlhalla, Fall Guys, and Rocket League continuing to gain traction. As you can see from the animation below of PlayStation’s Top 20 Genres over the past five years, Need for Speed Payback helped boost driving in 2020, whilst Detroit: Become Human raised the puzzle genre in 2019 by both going free on PS Plus. The fighting genre has maintained its momentum with a number of well-received titles that provide several incremental jolts to their player numbers since 2017, such as Marvel’s Spider Man, Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X and MultiVersus in 2022.

On the other end of the spectrum, some genres have been dwindling. Rainbow Six: Siege has been keeping the tactical genre afloat, but as the game enters its eighth year, both the game and the genre have begun to plateau. The Music genre has also been disappointing, and with no big titles to spearhead a revival, the genre has remained dormant.

So, how did 2022 hold up?

The year has been strange for numerous reasons. The effects of Covid are still being felt as publishers continue to push their game releases back, although this means that 2023 is likely to be pretty exciting, with a hoard of highly anticipated titles like Starfield, Hogwarts Legacy and Redfall being pegged to launch in the next 12 months.

The delays of major titles made room for unexpected triumphs such as Powerwash Simulator, Stray and High On Life and contributed to a level of success that no one could have predicted.

Time will tell if Xbox continues to close the gap to PlayStation but with more PlayStation exclusives moving to PC and Xbox, we can only question how much longer Sony can hold off the opposition… watch this space!

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