Videogame industry to face severe setback from COVID

As the daily COVID infection figures just keep on bloating, the world of video games may well endure many delays in 2022.

Could 2022 be a bad year for video games? That's what is feared following the recent postponement of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: The Heart of Chernobyl, a highly anticipated FPS for Xbox Series X owners. Initially scheduled for April 28, the game ended up being pushed back to December 8. So, should we be worried?

Omicron, a highly contagious variant

It's been almost two years to the day, and the global coronavirus pandemic is still poisoning our lives. The latest manifestation of COVID, the Omicron variant, has been declared particularly worrying by governments around the world. Very easily transmissible, this variant is now present in 128 countries around the world. Omicron could even hit more than 50% of the European population within the next 8 weeks.

It is this rapid transmission of the virus may cause some problems for the release schedule, as it has led to a worrying and sudden rise in hospital cases. And recent experience has shown that when health systems start to break down, the entire industry - including video games - will start to follow.

Despite the various measures taken by the authorities to contain the spread of the virus (vaccination, promotion of safe behaviour), the rate of infection has not really changed.

Leading titles being postponed into 2023?

2022 was supposed to to star such titles as God of War Ragnarök or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. But there is now real cause to worry about their release dates.

As a pertinent example, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: The Heart of Chernobyl was postponed, and its developer made this comment:

These extra months of development were necessary to fully realise our vision and reach the desired level of the game. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is the biggest project in GSC's history and requires more testing and polishing. We believe that the design stage should take the time it needs, especially for a project like this.

From this excerpt, we can foresee a series of complications when it comes to the development of the more ambitious games on the menu. The sheer level of detail and busywork required on the largest productions on the market implies the use of a very large crew. The coming of the Omicron variant has undermined this, forcing publishers and developers to constantly adapt to an ever-shigting work force.

Can the world of video games afford to seek a compromise, torn between its obligations to public expectations, the bottom line, and managing a health crisis? This year is sure to bring many lessons to this industry...

The most anticipated releases of 2022

January 28: Pokémon Legends: Arceus (Nintendo Switch)

February 18: Horizon Forbidden West (PS4, PS5)

February 25: Elden Ring (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

March: GTA V (PS5, Xbox Series X)

May 24: Forspoken (PC, PS5)

November 11: Starfield (PC, Xbox Series X)

In 2022: Bayonetta 3 (Nintendo Switch), The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (Nintendo Switch), God of War Ragnarök (PS4, PS5)

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