Sarah Doyle

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9.10.2020

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12 mins

What can we learn from the trendiest games of the summer?

The past seven months or so have been bizarre but this isn’t another blog about Covid-19’s effect on our daily lives, rather the backdrop to an explosion of interest in the games industry. Perhaps this stems from the rest of the arts sector facing some serious strains on viability and financial stability. I want to look at some popular games over that time period and explore what made them such massive breakout hits. (This is my personal selection based on interesting and a variety of platforms/genres that may have been factors that made them popular rather than a top sales list just as disclaimer!)
Nintendo, Animal Crossing: New Horizons


Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Released March 2020


Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a cute, family friendly open ended social sim released in March by Nintendo. As of 30 June 2020 it has shipped 22.4 million units making it the second most popular game on the Nintendo Switch. It is a well loved series that is nearly 20 years old and has released on nearly every major Nintendo platform at some stage. 


Part of the appeal of Animal Crossing at the time of release was the escapism and optimistic uplifting vibe as the world went into the first weeks of lockdown and people were in need of some desperate distraction. And as a result it hooked many casual and first time Nintendo Switch players, leading to the console itself being sold out with many retailers in April. There were no barriers to entry which really helped the game appeal to people outside of the target audience further boosting the visibility of the game. 


Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, Mediatonic


Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Released August 2020


Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a frantic online multiplayer game with up to 60 players competing in a game-show stylized winner takes all frenzy. Developed by Mediatonic an indie studio and released for free on Playstation Plus (and paid for on Windows) in August. It was an instant success, attracting gamers with it’s hilarious and frustrating fails and competitive tests of skill and luck. The bright aesthetics and design was very appealing and gameshow theming brought an additional element of fun. 


Many brands were very keen to partner with Fall Guys and with some clever social strategy and quick thinking this lead to a campaign to let brands try to bid for a custom in game skin with the highest donation going to Special Effect charity. The winner turned out to be from a group of influencers; MrBeast, Ninja, Aimlab, and G2 Esports, but in total all of the brands raised well over $1,000.000 which is awesome!


Among Us, InnerSloth


Among Us

Released June 2018


Among Us is a bit of an anomaly, it is an indie released over 2 years ago it is only just peaking in popularity, it’s free on mobile and cheap on PC. It is a social deduction game played with 4-10 people where players try to deduct who is the imposter among them (get it? sorry) without getting killed. It’s similar to the real life game Werewolf, players use the chat to persuade other players to eject guilty players. The appeal is each game is different, tense, mischievous and engaging.


Its massive rise in popularity is due mainly to Twitch streamers and the multiplayer aspect so people share it with different groups of friends. It has many influencers on Youtube and Twitch playing it even some who don’t usually play games. Just recently AOC herself streamed Among Us to over 400k viewers breaking Twitch streaming records and making it the #3 most watched stream ever. 




The Last of Us Part II

Released June 2020


The Last of Us Part II is an emotive followup to one of the most critically acclaimed AAA games of the decade developed by Naughty Dog, released in June. Naughty Dog are well known for their storytelling and narrative within games and this was no exception and was hotly anticipated by fans before release. As it turned out the story turned out to be quite controversial amongst a few fans causing some quite toxic backlash from reviewing bombing to threatening the game creators and actors. Perhaps you could argue that because of this divisive fan response it created even more attention and intrigue around the game, as supporters clashed with ‘haters’.  


The Last of Us Part II also really pushed the Playstation 4 hardware and was an enormous technical triumph with some of the most beautiful graphics, realistic physics and brilliant animation & motion capture. Every element of the game was a master class in subtlety and you could feel the dedication and attention to detail. 

Hades, Supergiant Games


Rising Stars

Some of my personal interests in up and coming games are the indie game Hades and the mobile game Genshin Impact. Hades is an indie game made by Supergiant Games, it has already received excellent reviews, rated #5 of the best games of 2020 and a strong contender for GOTY. A lot of positive buzz has been generated around the game, it also has a gorgeous artstyle and accessible hack and slash addictive game play.

Genshin Impact, miHoYo


Genshin Impact borrows elements from very popular games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ & Nier Automata from visuals to gameplay elements, and looks absolutely gorgeous. It is really pushing what mobile games are capable of technically. It’s free to play and uses gacha mechanics which is one of the highest grossing game mechanics due to it’s gambling nature. I believe it has international appeal and also will capture existing players who currently play gacha games or anime style games.


What do you think will be the next biggest gaming trend or breakout?