Earlier this summer, I read a text – not naming names as I have no interest in embarrassing certain people – sorry how dry 2021’s video game release calendar is. I only have one thing to say in response: Hahahahahaha [deep breath] hahahahahaha. The numbers also say something else.
Last night, Mat Piscatella of NPD Group, an analytics firm, shared a chart on Twitter describing how many more games have been released in 2021 compared to 2020. Over a year-to-date period-1. January to October 7. The Nintendo Switch catalog jumped 34 percent, up from 1,152 releases to 1,543. PlayStation and Xbox, meanwhile, saw even bigger jumps: 66 percent (704 to 1,171) and 61 percent (551 to 889), respectively.
These numbers have been steadily ticking up for years. In 2019, for example, there were 1,097 games on Switch, 692 on PlayStation and only 453 on Xbox, according to NPD data – all lower than the numbers in 2020, but not much. 2021 is so far a remarkable standout in how much these libraries have swelled year after year.
Told Piscatella Kotaku that 2021 is “probably” the biggest year on the NPD record, but noted that he had not pulled the data for every single year, so he could not say for sure. Although the holiday season threatens, it brings with it a bunch of party tent games Forza Horizon 5, Back 4 Blood, Battlefield 2042, and Halo Infinite– the total annual figures are unlikely to change much.
“The big driving force for the count is the many small releases that are put on the market with a little fanfare or pre-launch marketing so we can see the gap grow further,” Piscatella said. “A little hard to say.”
In other words, quantity does not necessarily equal quality. Digital shop windows align with shovel goods and the ever-continuing threat of asset-flips — basically finished gaming assets — licensed at a dime and sold for a little more—which Nintendo’s eShop is currently flooded with. And then there’s Steam, the PC store that has seen a staggering increase in releases over the last few years. According to the tracking site SteamSpy, 9,724 games launched on Valve’s platform last year. That’s up from 7,907 in 2019. In 2016? Fewer than 4,500.
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“One could argue that this could potentially flood the market with lower quality titles, or that having so many releases coming on the market in such a short time could make it harder for hidden gems to find an audience,” Piscatella said. “However, it is clear that the software market for consoles has become much more competitive, although the market in general has continued to grow.”