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38 reasons why 2019 was not all bad

From charitable acts to crank-powered consoles, we round-up the best things to happen in the games industry over the past 12 months

It's true that 2019 has been a rough year for many reasons.

Rebekah did a superb (if depressing) round-up of those reasons, but as the year draws to an end, it's important to also reflect on the positives -- whether that's our favourite games of the year, the growth of the global games market, or some of the wonderful companies and individuals driving us forward.

And, lest we forget, we work in an industry dedicated to video games, an immersive form of entertainment specifically designed to elicit joy or exhilaration from its audience.

Through this lens, there has been plenty happening in 2019 to be happy about, and we thought we'd round off the year with a collection of all the very best examples.

So, in no particular order...

1. "You're breathtaking"

Let's start with the obvious, right? Keanu Reeves' surprise appearance at E3 2019 won the hearts of gamers everywhere, thanks to two simple words.

2. Swery and Suda51 get so drunk they can't remember the game they designed

Two notable Japanese games developers finally collaborating together is already newsworthy. The fact that whenever they have met up so far, copious amounts of alcohol have prevented them from remembering their ideas and decisions (resulting in them essentially brainstorming live on stage) was an added delight. Oh, and the publisher said to be bringing this project to market has no knowledge of any such agreement. Not the biggest story of the year, but it's one that just keeps on giving.

3. Nintendo gets the obvious Bowser joke out of the way

After Nintendo of America's popular president Reggies Fils-Aime retired, the wonderfully named Doug Bowser took his place. Bowser got his most public outing to date in Nintendo's E3 2019 Direct and the platform holder couldn't resist the opportunity for another riff off his name.

4. Early payout for Psychonauts 2 investors after Microsoft acquisition

Microsoft's slew of studio acquisitions continued in 2019 with the shock purchase of Tim Schafer's studio Double Fine. The Psychonauts 2 developer is now part of the Xbox family of game studios -- and this turned out to be good news for investors in the upcoming adventure. Because Microsoft also spent $1 million on Fig's publishing rights for Psychonauts 2, every $500 share people had taken in the game saw a 139% return. Fig also said it will be paying out a dividend of 85% rather than the previously listed 70%. Not a bad result for those Psychonauts fans.

5. Untitled Goose Game gets a shoutout at a Blink-182 concert

The mischief-based goose 'em up reached a level of mainstream attention that few indie games achieve when Blink-182 vocalist and bassist Mark Hoppus shared his love of the game on stage.

House House's title got a less organic mainstream crossover recently at The Game Awards where it became the centre of a skit with fuzzy entertainment icons, The Muppets.

6. Star Control legal dispute finally resolved... through beekeeping

It's true. The long-running battle between Star Control publisher Stardock and two of the series' creators was not only settled over a mutual love of keeping bees but the pastime was also written into the legal agreement. Having previously gone to great lengths to block each other's games, the two parties eventually arranged to share technology, expertise, and honey. Bee-autiful.

7. A new Half-Life was finally announced

No, it's not Half-Life 3. Obviously. But, as we're sure you'll agree after watching the trailer below, Half-Life: Alyx is certainly looking impressive and the closest thing to a 'killer app' that virtual reality has had to date. The game is being developed with the help of former Campo Santo developers.

8. Shenmue III finally exists

Brendan dedicated an entire People of the Year article coming to terms with the sheer wonder of this. After 18 years, Ryo's story finally continued and held true to the gameplay and structure that made the originals so iconic. Designer Yu Suzuki has even started talking about a Shenmue 4 -- hopefully it won't take another two decades before such a dream becomes reality.

9. Rami Ismail's game-a-day Meditations collection

While most games focus on generating competition, adrenaline, tension and other less-than-relaxing feelings, Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail kicked off a project in January to provide a whole year of calmer gaming experiences. Meditations was a free downloadable launcher for PC and Mac which offered one game per day. Each title is designed to take no more than five minutes to play and has no text, ranging from minimalist puzzlers to games exploring personal and sensitive topics. Ismail worked with more than 350 developers, with a full list due to be published on December 31. The next day, the collection kicks off again for anyone who missed it this year.

10. Berlin hosts exhibition on LGBTQ gaming history

Back in January, the German city's Schwules Museum explored the queer history of the games industry in an exhibition that featured art, merchandise, video interviews and playable games spanning 30 years. The event was co-curated by Dr Adrienne Shaw, who also founded the LGBTQ Video Game Archive website back in 2016, and was designed to show that, while we're seeing more and more titles explore different lifestyles through the medium, "this kind of content has always been in games."

11. Launch of Gayming Magazine

Having first been introduced to the public during the London Games Festival in April, onling games publication Gayming Magazine finally launched on June 1, creating an LGBTQ+-focused destination for video games content. Since then the site has been giving voice to a diverse roster of writers, and even run a week of live events in London.

12. Formation of the Playing for the Planet Alliance

The games industry can be a competitive one, so it's always wonderful to see so many rival firms united -- especially around a topic as important as the future of this planet. An initial 21 companies announced they were working with the United Nations as part of the new Playing for the Planet Alliance, using their resources and reach to hundreds of millions of gamers to help raise awareness of the climate change crisis. Each company also made their own pledges to reduce the impact of climate change in their own way, whether it was Xbox's promise of carbon neutral consoles, Sony's low-power suspend mode for PS5, or Football Manager director Miles Jacobson's call for everyone to ditch plastic packaging.

13. Frontier Developments' support for a terminal Elite Dangerous fan

If you missed this wonderful account of how the Cambridge-based studio rallied to make 15-year-old Michael Holyland's final week more tolerable, do so now. What began as bags of signed merchandise, well-wishing tweets and visits from the developers escalated into the production of a full novel and audiobook set in the world of Elite Dangerous -- with Michael as the star. It's a beautiful example of game makers taking the time to support dedicated fans in their time of need.

14. Best Places To Work Awards UK winners

20 different companies scored highly enough with their own employees to pick up a badge at this year's awards, plus there were eight special awards for particularly outstanding developers, covering workplace aspects such as health and wellbeing, corporate social responsibility and best boss. We also had a great turnout for the new conference element of the event, where experts from the industry discussed the key factors behind a supportive workplace, including accessibility and diversity.

15. GI 100 Women In Games

Our third annual GamesIndustry.biz 100 was dedicated to celebrating some of the most influential women in the UK games industry. We say 'some' because while there was only room for 100 in the list, there were more than 450 nominated. Over 600 people attended our winners' event alongside EGX Rezzed in April, which enabled this wonderful group shot.

16. First female player in NBA 2K League

As esports continues to grow, some of the biggest players are finally starting to diversify their player rosters. Notably, 2K Games and the National Basketball Association welcomed Chiquita Evans as the first female player in the NBA 2K League -- a drafting that prompted the room to erupt with cheering. We spoke to Evans about her achievement earlier this year.

17. First woman to win a Hearthstone tournament

No amount of protests and internet boycotts could drown out the victory of Xiaomeng 'Liooon' Li at this year's Blizzcon as she stormed the Hearthstone GrandMasters. Li thrashed her opponent by three-nil during the global finals, earning her the grand prize of $200,000 and a place in history as the first woman to win any major competition at Blizzcon. Speaking on stage, she said, "I want to say for all the girls out there who have a dream for esports competition, for glory, if you want to do it and you believe in yourself, you should just forget your gender and go for it."

18. Work begins on Universal Studios Japan's Nintendo land

A lot of exciting things will happen in Tokyo next year, what with the Olympics and everything. But can we all admit the thing that really had us looking up affordable flights and accommodation was the first tantalising glimpse of these Mario-style hills?

19. Detective Pikachu wasn't rubbish

Video game movie adaptations don't have the best track record (or a particularly promising future), but thankfully there are exceptions and this year's came in the oddly-realistic-yet-fitting form of Pikachu. Detective Pikachu, specifically, voiced by Deadpool's Ryan Reynolds and based off a 3DS spin-off series that remains unresolved (until the Switch sequel arrives). The movie took $161 million globally in its opening weekend, with subsequent showings driving this to $436 million -- the highest-ever for a film based on a video game. And, as a lot of people keep telling me, it's brilliant and you should go watch it. Now.

20. A hand crank-powered games handheld was announced

This industry is so wonderfully weird. While Microsoft and PlayStation are talking about solid state drives and Google is pushing streaming as the future of gaming, Firewatch publisher Panic is making a Game Boy-esque console that you need to literally wind up to play some of its games. The Playdate has been in development for four years and is due to ship in 'Early 2020'. And doesn't it look glorious?

21. Humble Bundle passed $150m raised for charity

The pay-what-you-want bundles have been doing the rounds since 2010, and as of this summer have raised more than $150 million for various charities around the world. Even though the founders have left, the company continues to press on with its altruistic mission.

22. YouTuber aims to raise $500 for trans charity, passes $340,000

Charity livestreams are an increasingly common occurrence, but this one was particularly special. In the wake of an attack against Mermaids, a British charity that aims to raise awareness and support around gender nonconformity in young people, YouTuber Henry 'H.Bomberguy' Brewis decided to do a livestream marathon as he tried to complete Donkey Kong 64. The aim was to raise $500, but support came flooding in as he was joined on the stream by famous industry faces such as the game's composer Grant Kirkhope and Doom developer John Romero. He even had US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the broadcast, as well as a host of journalists and streamers. By the time he finished the game, which took just under 60 hours, he had raised $340,000. Incredible.

23. Fortnite World Cup winner takes home more than Wimbledon champions

2019 saw the first (of no doubt many) Fortnite World Cup, which saw US player Kyle Giersdorf take home a prize of $3 million -- a little more than had been awarded to the winner of the recent men's competition at Wimbledon. Fun facts: the chap who came in second was from the UK, took home $2.25 million, and his mum once threw away his Xbox to make him concentrate more on his schoolwork.

24. Apex Legends updates less to protect developers

The surprise launch of Apex Legends was undoubtedly one of 2019's big success stories, but Respawn's attitude to updating the game was also worth noting. The same day that a report on crunch conditions at Fortnite developer Epic Games emerged, Respawn CEO Vince Zampella explained that Apex Legends would have less frequent updates in order to maintain a decent quality of life for its developers. Despite the game's initial success and calls from fans for weekly updates, Zampella stressed that, "We don't want to overwork the team, and drop the quality of the assets we're putting out. We want to try and raise that."

25. Alan Wake 2?

Now, there's nothing official but it's hard for fans of Remedy's ghost-fighting author not to get excited by the news that the studio has reclaimed publishing rights to Alan Wake. The IP was previously owned by Microsoft, but Remedy has been branching out and targeting multi-format releases, starting with this year's seminal Control. An Alan Wake was in the works, but never got off the ground. Time to dust off that design doc, perhaps?

26. Skatebird hits Kickstarter goal in one day during E3

It's hard enough to make your voice heard during E3 without asking people to donate cash as well. Yet Glass Bottom Games managed to pull off a successful Kickstarter campaign during the busiest week of the gaming calendar, not only reaching its target of $20,000 but doing so within 24 hours. To quote studio boss Megan Fox: "[incoherent birb screaming] [AAAAA]"

27. No smoking in Gears 5

Video games feature many of life's vices: drugs, gambling, alcohol, rummaging through bins. But Gears of War developer The Coalition decided to take a stance against one in particular -- smoking. Partnering with non-profit Truth Initiative, the studio announced Gears 5 would not feature smoking or tobacco use of any kind. Sure, it would still involve chainsawing aliens in half, but at least the COG soldiers doing it would have healthy lungs.

28. Watch Dogs Legion's killer granny

Ubisoft's next outing for the 'go anywhere, hack anything' action series is already one of the most anticipated releases of 2020. Some might say it's the bold promise that every NPC can potentially become a playable character as you attempt to recruit Londoners in your revolution against a drone-controlled state. But, let's be honest, we all just want to see if ruthless pensioner Helen proves to be as kick-ass as she appeared during the E3 demo.

29. There was a Colonel Sanders dating game

Because why not?

30. The global games market value rose

According to Newzoo (as seen in our lovely annual Year In Numbers infographic), video games are on course to generate $148.4 billion in 2019, up 7.2% year-on-year.

31. Ask Ketchum FINALLY won the Pokmon League

It's a testament to the value of perseverance, to that 'try, try again' attitude, to the belief that dreams really can come true. After more than 20 years, 22 series and an unnecessary number of spin-off movies, Ash Ketchum finally won the official Pokmon League in the popular anime series. Fans around the world rejoiced, as did his younger self.

32. We didn't lose Annapurna Interactive

A fair number of the GamesIndustry.biz team are big fans of the games published by Annapurna Interactive -- hence the company's place among our 2018 selections for People of the Year. So we were a tad concerned when parent Annapurna Pictures was potentially facing bankruptcy. Fortunately, less than one month later, further reports emerged that the Hollywood firm had resolved more than $200 million in debt, stabilising the future of the ambitious games publisher. Now here's hoping for an early 2020 release date for 12 Minutes.

33. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

It took six years for the first one to arrive, so many Zelda fans had assumed the chances of another epic outing to Hyrule appearing during the same generation were minimal. Even another announcement would be years away. But we were wrong. So gloriously wrong.

34. Xbox Adaptive Controller used to rehabilitate US veterans

Building on its work with the Adaptive Controller, Microsoft this year teamed up with the US Department of Veteran Affairs to explore the medical benefits of the device. The controller has been rolled out to 22 veteran rehabilitation centres, some of which will be hosting weekly sessions for outpatients. There is even talk of esports events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in July 2020.

35. Microsoft and Dontnod announce game with a transgender protagonist

While there are plenty of examples in the indie space, Dontnod's Tell Me Why is the highest profile project to feature a transgender character as one of its leads. Announced at X019 in London, the episodic game will be released next summer and has been developed in partnership with GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Association Against Defamation. We spoke to Dontnod and Microsoft about this promising title last month.

36. Former AAA devs form a studio that aims to diversify the industry

On a similar note, new developer Brass Lion Entertainment announced its mission to create games that "center on Black and Brown characters, cultures, and stories." Aiming to add some much-needed diversity to video games, the studio is led by Manveer Heir, Bryna Dabby Smith and Rashad Redic. The trio's first game is Corner Wolves, which will follow Afro-Latina proganoist Jacinte through a murder mystery in '90s Harlem.

37. A new BioShock was finally announced

While series creator Ken Levine is off doing... whatever it is he's doing, 2K Games has opened a brand new studio, Cloud Chamber, to bring back the acclaimed first-person shooter franchise. The game will be in development "for the next several years" but at least we're finally one step closer to something that follows up on BioShock Infinite's series-expanding ending.

38. Two next-generation consoles announced

And on top of all that, we got the first taste of the next generation. Sony got the ball rolling with an oddly low-key announce, dropping details into an exclusive Wired article and stubbornly refusing to call its next console PlayStation 5 (until it finally started calling it PlayStation 5). Meanwhile, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Series X -- likely just one of the new consoles the platform holder is working on -- at The Game Awards earlier this month. Both platform holders are talking up the importance of streaming, backwards compatibility and minimal load times. With the two consoles due on shelves by next Christmas, 2020 is already shaping up to be a busy year.

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Latest comments (1)

Rick Raymo Founder & CEO, Self-EmplyedA month ago
Just.
Thank you.
Stellar list work.
This particular instantiation of a human appreciates your efforts.
Query? LuigiLand?
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