The Biggest Gaming Disappointments Of 2022

The Biggest Gaming Disappointments Of 2022

Between Elon Musk destroying Twitter, terrible game launches, and Bobby Kotick still being employed, 2022 kinda sucked, huh?

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A photo shows Muppets Waldorf and Statler sitting together.
Photo: Eric McCandless / Disney General Entertainment (Getty Images)

Congrats everyone, you all made it through another awful pandemic year! 2022 is nearly at an end, meaning that it’s a good time to look back at all the terrible and disappointing shit that happened over the last 12 months. It’s enough to make me crave a distraction from it all, maybe even hop into a dead metaverse to escape from this hell or finally learn to use Mastodon.

But instead of running from it all, I’m instead going to examine some of the biggest disappointments of 2022, including terrible trends, bad news, shitty things, and just generally not-so-great moments. I recommend grabbing a drink and pacing yourself as you read. One can only handle so much negativity. Let’s hope 2023 is better! (It can’t be much worse!)

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Bobby Kotick still has a job

Bobby Kotick still has a job

A photo of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick walking outside.
Photo: Drew Angerer / Kotaku (Getty Images)

The universe sucks and the rich and powerful of the world face few consequences for their actions. A good reminder of that is a year later—after we previously noted how much it sucked that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was still at the company—he’s still there. And sure, he took a pay cut last year, but don’t be fooled. He’s still very rich and donating to both democrats but also incidentally republicans who buy into the Trump-fueled conspiracy surrounding the 2020 election results. And he likely will remain there even after Activision Blizzard’s terrible treatment of women, seemingly endemic problems with sexual harassment, and generally toxic workplace, all of which was reported in 2021.

Even after multiple lawsuits, numerous investigations, and a procession of executives leaving, apologizing, or both, Kotick, the head honcho who is arguably responsible for the company he oversees, has remained, like a kernel in your teeth after eating too much popcorn. Even after multiple industry leaders spoke against his leadership, and staff walked out in protest, Kotick still remains. At least he gets to watch as his staff begins to unionize as a direct result of just how shitty his company has treated its employees. But that still doesn’t excuse that a year later he’s still in charge and likely will end up much, much richer once Microsoft’s consumption of Activision is approved.

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Buggy, broken, and messy game launches

Buggy, broken, and messy game launches

A screenshot shows the three starter Pokémon from Violet and Scarlet.
Screenshot: Nintendo / The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

Video games are hard to make. We’ve reported as much countless times on this website, often with details that reveal crunch conditions that still didn’t prevent the buggy game from happening. But video games still need to work when they are released, ideally under better working conditions. This seems like a pretty simple request. I don’t even mind if the game itself turns out to be bad. But games, even bad ones, need to function.

Yet this year we’ve seen countless big games, like Pokemon Violet/Scarlet, FIFA, Overwatch 2, Gotham Knights, Saint’s Row, and more ship in pretty terrible, lousy states. Many of these games do eventually fix all their bugs, performance issues, and other problems with patches and updates. But if companies want to charge more for games, as they are now starting to do with the advent of the new generation, they probably need to make sure they work at launch. Speaking of that…

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The rise of $70 video games

The rise of $70 video games

An image shows Batgirl standing near a pile of money.
Image: WB Games / DC / Kotaku / The Studio (Shutterstock)

Playing and enjoying video games has always been expensive. But this already pricey hobby is becoming even more expensive as we enter the era of $70 games. For many, $60 was already too much to stomach. Now games cost even more, and that’s not even factoring in taxes, potential DLC, or skins.

And all of this is happening during record-high inflation around the globe and when it seems every other big release is marred by bugs and other nasty problems. There’s no denying it’s getting more expensive to make games, but slapping $10 extra on the price tag without addressing other big industry issues seems like poor timing. Perhaps paying CEOs like Bobby Kotick fewer millions could help save some pennies instead.

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Video Game companies consuming each other

Video Game companies consuming each other

The Microsoft logo floats in front of a blue and black void.
Image: Microsoft / Kotaku

Last year saw some video game companies buying other companies, sure, but in 2022 we saw even more of these deals across the industry, happening in ways that may signal some not-so-great industry changes. Sony now owns Bungie. Microsoft is buying up Activision. Epic bought up Harmonix. Take-Two spent billions on Zynga. Netflix is buying up game studios. And Embracer and Tencent are in a race to consume whatever is left as fast as possible.

It’s likely that for some people, this will be a good thing in the short term as their jobs become more stable or they gain access to more resources. But as fewer and fewer companies own more and more of the industry, it becomes rarer and rarer for these giants to take risks. And if one of them ever fails and dies, it could end up taking a third of the industry with it. But hey, at least you get Doom and Call of Duty as part of Game Pass!

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NFTs are still a thing

NFTs are still a thing

A colorful collage shows off a dozens of NFT apes.
Image: Bored Ape Yacht Club / Geoffrey Huntley / Kotaku

Video game fans can pretty quickly accept a lot of bullshit. Just look at how fast people got used to DLC after bemoaning horse armor or how quickly people have turned on battle passes and want fucking loot boxes back. So it was nice last year to see gamers rise up and collectively shout back to tech bros, “LOL FUCK NFTS!” And yet, in 2022, game companies are still trying to make NFTs a thing, even as basically everyone mocks them endlessly.

Sim City creator Wil Wright is still making an NFT game. Square Enix is still trying to make NFTs a thing. Gamestop spent a ton of money on NFT bullshit. Epic let devs release NFT games on its store. And Dr. Disrespect is working on an NFT game, too. Almost all of this will fail, based on how NFT projects have gone down in the past. In fact, the Gamestop NFT marketplace basically has already. But a lot of this stuff was already in development before the world turned on NFTs. And instead of cutting their losses, companies are deciding to ride the storm and hope they land on an island of profits in the end.

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Chris Pratt’s Mario voice 

Chris Pratt’s Mario voice 

Image for article titled The Biggest Gaming Disappointments Of 2022
Image: Nintendo / Kotaku

Hey, that new animated Mario movie looks okay! I like the character designs and the cast mostly sounds great in their roles. One member of the cast, however, feels out of place. Chris Pratt. When he was first announced in Mario’s voice, people rolled their eyes and questioned the decision.

Then we heard a tease of his voice and it just sounded like he would normally. And now that we’ve been able to see that big new trailer alongside a bunch of new footage that’s featured Pratt’s Mario, it’s clear that…yeah it’s just him in a booth, talking kinda normally, and getting paid far too much so Nintendo can attach his name to this film. I don’t even know why Nintendo felt like this movie needed this much star power. You got Mario in it. That’s your star, dumbos.

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More layoffs and studio closures

More layoffs and studio closures

A group of people stands together in front of the G4 logo.
Photo: G4 / Kotaku

In 2022, if there is one thing you can count on, it’s a big company laying people off and closing up studios to save money. This year we saw G4 gutted and killed, Fanbyte destroyed by Tencent (oh hey, look who popped up again on here…), Unity laid off a ton of staff, and Pokemon GO studio Niantic fired 80 people, too. And that’s just some of the layoffs that occurred in 2022. We also saw the closure of Square Enix Montreal aka Onoma just a month after Embracer (oh hey…) rebranded the studio.

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Nintendo keeps treating its fans (and employees) poorly

Nintendo keeps treating its fans (and employees) poorly

Mario stands proudly against a red background while wearing a suit.
Image: Nintendo / Kotaku

Stop me if you have heard this one before. Nintendo fans make something cool or do something cool, often that the publisher isn’t offering at all. And then Nintendo lawyers take it out and destroy it as quickly as I eat up pizza slices at midnight. 2022 saw this happen a few more times, including Nintendo sending legal threats to someone cataloging popular soundtracks online via YouTube and going after people using custom Steam icons.

It also recently caused a bit of commotion over how it handled fan-run Smash Bros. tournaments and licensing deals with these groups. This all lead to a lot of unnecessary drama that doesn’t happen with other esports games. And this is a key thing to remember: Virtually no other publisher is as litigious or weird about its IP as Nintendo is. This is a company that will send out a press release after sending a hacker to prison. Meanwhile, it’s unlikely that Microsoft will shut down a large Halo tournament. Valve isn’t shutting down fan games, in fact, they end up letting them go for sale on Steam sometimes. And most other companies just don’t bother unless things get really out of hand. It’s only Nintendo that, year after year, does such severe things against its own fans in the name of defending its trademark. As always, Nintendo lawyers need to chill.

But Nintendo doesn’t just treat its longtime fans like crap, it also reportedly treats some of its employees and contractors poorly, too. This year we reported on how Nintendo contractors felt like second-class citizens, its testers who faced years of alleged sexual harassment, and how multiple labor complaints were filed against the company. The company also might have fired someone after that person asked about unions. All and all, pretty shitty behavior, and Nintendo seems to have barely addressed it or made any public plans to fix any of this stuff.

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Elon Musk continues to be stupid

Elon Musk continues to be stupid

A very close up photo of Elon shows him staring right at you.
Image: Kotaku / Theo Wargo / WireImage (Getty Images)

Imagine spending $44 billion dollars (mostly of other people’s money) to buy Twitter and then somehow making what many consider a hellsite even worse than it was before. Imagine ruining something that already kinda sucked in such record time that it lead to prominent figures leaving the service and confusion about which accounts are real and which are fake. Seems like a wild and dumb thing to do, yet, that’s exactly what Elon Musk did and continues to do.

Not only that, but his speedrun of “Destroying Twitter” has come alongside him posting the most divorced-dude-energy shit imaginable, including a fake video game gun next to empty Diet Coke cans and a musket. I know Grimes claimed he’s the ultimate gamer but… well, actually considering how close he appears to be with right-wing chuds and racists, Grimes might have been on to something…

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Games disappearing, shutting down, or going away forever

Games disappearing, shutting down, or going away forever

A screenshot shows the Deus Ex GO title screen.
Screenshot: Square Enix Montreal / Kotaku

Another year, another batch of video games wiped from the face of the Earth for various reasons. Sometimes it is because the servers running the game are shut down or other times it’s because the entire service powering the games begins to shut down. And other times games just vanish into the ether.

Sure, for some games like Deus Ex GO, there are other ways to play them even after they are removed from stores. But for stuff like Stadia exclusive games or MMOs that are shut down, there’s not much the average user can do to play these games again. Game preservation is better in 2022 than in the past, but that’s mainly for single-player games released on PC or console. For mobile games, MMOs, or other titles that require online servers, preservation is damn near impossible without a lot of work or direct help from the devs and publishers. And as history has shown, you can’t rely on big corps to help save game history.

So for now, a lot of games will just become near-impossible to play in 2023. What a shame.

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Overwatch 2 is a bummer

Overwatch 2 is a bummer

A small group of heroes from Overwatch 2 stands in front of a blue sky.
Image: Blizzard / Kotaku

The original Overwatch was another one of the many games in 2022 to bite the dust and when it died it was replaced immediately by its successor. This could have worked. Blizzard could have taken the original game and updated it in a big way and got people excited to play Overwatch again.

Instead, Overwatch 2’s launch was a giant mess with server issues, bugs, broken characters, overpriced skins, phone login requirements, tons of grinding, a shitty battle pass, and no PvE content—a big part of the initial Overwatch 2 pitch. Today, a few months later, Overwatch 2 is in a better place, but it still feels like Blizzard picked the absolute worst way to roll this game out and then screwed up that plan, too.

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Game companies keep disrespecting artists and musicians

Game companies keep disrespecting artists and musicians

A large hand holds up a zombie by the neck in a futuristic-environment.
Screenshot: Bethesda / id Software / Kotaku

The video game industry is massive and many of the biggest companies involved are worth billions of dollars and bring in millions every day. Yet many of them continue to treat artists poorly. This year alone we saw two different composers come out and explain how big companies like Activision and Bethesda-owned id Software reportedly disrespected their creative intentions and distanced themselves from the finished soundtracks. We also saw Epic apparently offer an artist $3,000 for an art piece, while it rakes in millions of dollars selling skins in Fortnite.

Plus, there’s the way many companies still continue to underpay and overwork their staff of mostly non-union artists, designers, musicians, writers, and more. If we want this industry to continue to grow and create great stuff, it has to start being better to the creative people making all this stuff.

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The metaverse isn’t dead yet

The metaverse isn’t dead yet

A lonely digital man stands in an empty warehouse with flags hanging behind him
Image: Meta / Kotaku / Oleg Krugliak (Shutterstock)

Somehow, as we enter 2023, the metaverse isn’t a completely dead concept being laughed out of every room and board meeting for being an unrealistic idea that nobody even wants. Somehow companies like Walmart are still investing a ton of money into trying to create terrible virtual worlds to sell people shit in. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is literally destroying his company’s profits in a desperate attempt to create and then control the metaverse—something he thinks will be like the next internet. And a bunch of tech bros want you to work all day in the metaverse, even though it’s likely this would be terrible and lower productivity.

It’s likely that the metaverse will stick around for a few more years because, as like with NFTs, a bunch of corps and tech bros have already spent a lot of money and time building out plans and companies around the metaverse and by God, they will make sure these terrible plans are completed. So be prepared for at least a few more awful-looking and horrible-to-use metaverses to pop up in the next few years. But don’t worry about joining. They’ll all be dead soon enough, as we repeat the dot com bubble of the late ‘90s.

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