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Here's what shook the video game world in 2023 — and how 2024 is looking

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

2023 was a great year for playing video games - Baldur's Gate 3, Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Resident Evil 4. But for the industry itself, it was a year of uncertainty and disruption. There were massive mergers, layoffs and questions about emerging technology. Today, Shannon Liao, deputy gaming editor of Inverse, is here to take stock of all of that and talk about what it means for the video games that we will see coming out this year. Hi, Shannon.

SHANNON LIAO: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: All right, Shannon. Let's, first of all, start with the games that we know are expected to come out in 2024. What are you most excited about?

LIAO: Yeah, 2024 is looking to be a jam-packed year as well. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is the big one that everyone is looking forward to.

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TYLER HOECHLIN: (As Sephiroth) It's upon us - the reunion, when worlds merge.

LIAO: And Rebirth is looking to do more with those, like, iconic characters, like Cloud Strife and Sephiroth and other folks. So that's, like, the big one that everyone is waiting with bated breath for.

I would also say, like, Princess Peach: Showtime...

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LIAO: ...We're just getting to explore more of that typical princess character you saw in all the Super Mario games. But finally, she gets to be the center of attention and do a lot of different activities, like, you know, fighting with swords or, like, baking cakes and doing kung fu.

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UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: The stage is set. Our leading lady is ready for the spotlight.

LIAO: I think one that doesn't get talked about as much is, like, Tales of the Shire, which is going to be a cozy farming simulator with "Lord Of The Rings." And, you know, there's been so many "Lord Of The Rings" games. And this time to see one that is set in the Shire and where you can be a Hobbit should be fun for people.

SUMMERS: Shannon, as we were talking about, there was a lot of disruption, and there were a lot of shakeups within the industry last year. I wonder if you could just remind us of some of the highlights and tell us how you think all of that will impact what we see from the gaming industry in 2024.

LIAO: Looking back at 2023, it was a huge year for mergers and acquisitions - just the fact that Microsoft closed a deal to buy Activision Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Diablo, for almost $69 billion. And as a result, now, you know, the same people who own Xbox and Halo now own Guitar Hero, Crash Bandicoot, Candy Crush, and so I'm really curious to see what they do with all of these different franchises.

And another big thing from last year was just a lot of layoffs. So it's been, like, popularly said, like, it was a very good year for video game releases, but not so good for the studios that make those games. And the employees on some of these, like, well-liked, franchises and a lot of these companies have come out with statements saying, like, oh, it's because, you know, in the pandemic, when people were staying home, a lot of people were playing our games. And in 2023 - last year - like, people were starting to go outside more, and they weren't just spending as much money on video games. And that's just been this overarching trend that might, you know, lead into 2024, where people - financial analysts are not certain about what the state of the industry is this year and if companies will continue to cut costs, or if those employees who are still looking for jobs can finally land on their feet.

SUMMERS: Yeah. As you think about the upcoming year in gaming, I'm curious, just as a reporter who follows this industry so closely - what's the biggest question that you have that you're hoping to answer this year about the state of gaming?

LIAO: Personally, I'm very curious to see if the role of AI, which has been, you know, very hyped up last year with tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion - if they are going to play a role in the kinds of graphics - quality of games that we see this year - 'cause, like, I talked to studios about the use of AI, and they are, you know, at one point, thinking, like, it could make video games look better, more immersive and be cheaper to produce. So - but at the same time, it could be, you know, automating parts of a video game that a human was once making and also come at the cost of jobs. So I'd be curious to see, you know, how that massive tech trend is going to shake up the world of video games.

SUMMERS: That's Shannon Liao, deputy gaming editor at Inverse. Shannon, thank you.

LIAO: Thanks, Juana.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOJI KONDO'S "GROUND THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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