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The start of 2021 looks sleepy for PC gaming

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Where are the big games?

After a lively end of the year, PC gaming looks a little like it’s stuck in bed at the start of 2021. Our new PC games calendar reveals just a few major, exciting new games on the horizon, and even less of the mid-tier stuff that we often enjoy more. Here’s what I see over the next three months: 

Large, juicy video games we’re excited about

  • Jan 18 – EverSpace 2 early access
  • Jan 20 – Hitman 3 
  • Feb 5 – Nioh 2
  • Mar 25 – Yakuza 6
  • Mar TBD – Disco Elysium Final Cut

Other notable or promising games

  • Today – Yaga
  • Jan 13 – Skellboy Refractured
  • Jan 28Olija
  • Feb 16 – Hellish Quart 
  • Feb  23 – Persona 5 Strikers
  • Feb TBD – Apex Legends Season 8
  • Mar TBD – A major Legends of Runeterra expansion
  • “Q1” – Dead Cells: Fatal Falls
  • ??? – Loop Hero (no firm release date, after playing it for 25 hours my instinct says it’ll release in the next three months)

Don’t get me wrong, Hitman 3 looks fabulous—in the words of our Andy Kelly, it’s “shaping up to be a fine end to a spectacular trilogy.” I am excited to solve/deliberately botch a Knives Out-style murder mystery. As someone who doesn’t have strong feelings for the series, I think it’s the first Hitman I’ll actually finish. But that’s partly because the competition is so thin at the outset of 2021.

There are promising games on the way from smaller studios. Aside from what’s noted above, I’m curious about Nebuchadnezzar, a city builder game about ancient Mesopotamia. Even if we don’t know their release dates, there’s a greater chance of something like Evil Genius 2 or Boyfriend Dungeon sneaking into March than something from Ubisoft.

But given that we’re living in something like a six-year golden age for our hobby, I’m underwhelmed by what I see in front of me. The next three months pale when compared to, say, April 2020, when we got Gears Tactics, Cloudpunk, XCOM: Chimera Squad, SnowRunner, Streets of Rage 4, and the Resident Evil 3 remake.

This isn’t meant as an ungrateful criticism against the gaming industry. We can’t ignore the influence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed dozens of projects last year and is understandably continuing to impact the post-holiday calendar. An extra measure of understanding and patience is warranted. Many of the bigger games of the year—Resident Evil Village, Gotham Knights, Dying Light 2, Age of Empires 4, Far Cry 6—are still without clear release dates, and I suspect one or two of them could miss 2021 altogether.

The other recent event at work here is the deflating release of Cyberpunk 2077, a game that cast such a skyscrapingly tall shadow that I think we ignored what was on the other side of it. Many of us assumed Cyberpunk would be the next Grand Theft Auto, a permanent fixture that captured our attention for months as various Vs crawled Night City’s sprawl. Cyberpunk 2077 is doing just fine, averaging about as many players as Apex Legends on Steam in recent days, but one month later it feels like it’s drifted outside our conversation. Personally I’m waiting for a green light from someone on our team who’s completed the game to let me know when another layer of polish or two has been added.

The good news is that, if the last 12 months have proven anything, we can’t predict what’s going to capture our collective interest and SSD space. What’s the next Phasmophobia, Among Us, or Genshin Impact? In 2019, Apex Legends fell out of the sky in February and instantly became one of the most popular games in the world. The left field is wide open for something unexpected—even something old—to swoop in and capture our hearts. Rust is making a good show of it so far, currently hitting all-time records for concurrent players off the back of popular streamers turning their eye toward it. If 2020 taught us anything, some deus ex machina PC game will rescue us from a dull start to the year. May I suggest: another Deus Ex?

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