History of video games/2020-2029




The game industry booms, as people hunker down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] Some game retailers initially resisted closing down during lockdowns by declaring themselves essential businesses, to widespread criticism.[2] Numerous high profile games are delayed due to COVID-19.[3][4] Game development companies move to work from home, with some such as Square Enix planning to allow work from home after the pandemic ends.[5][6] Animal Talking leverages the Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a medium to create a highly successful talk show that rivals and outcompetes traditional media during early pandemic restrictions.[7]

In contrast to many other economic sectors that are drastically affected by the pandemic, the video game industry has been more resilient. Most video game developers, publishers, and operators have been able to maintain operations with employees w:remote working to sustain game development and digital releases, though some productivity issues arose.[8] With many people globally at home and unable to work, online gaming has observed record numbers of players during the pandemic as a popular activity to counter physical distancing for society, a practice recommended by the w:World Health Organization[9] that helped boost revenues for many companies in the gaming industry.[10][11]

The pandemic simulation game Plague Inc., which was originally released eight years prior in 2012,[12] gains massive popularity, with the developers releasing an update to enhance the educational experience of the game in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.[13] The developer of Plague Inc. also donated $250,000 to CEPI and WHO to help fight the pandemic.[13] The older 2008 flash game Pandemic 2 also experiences a surge of popularity.[14]

As things began to reopen, masks were still common at gaming events, such as can be seen here at the 2021 Taipei Game Show.

In 2021 the Truck Simulator series held a virtual trucking event in solidarity with real truckers delivering COVID-19 vaccines.[15] Players from around the globe organized a virtual graduation ceremony using Minecraft.[16]

COVID-19 increased the public profile of virtual reality applications,[17] potentially increasing interest in VR gaming as a result. AR gaming proved to help some seeking reprieve from isolation.[18] As gyms closed, interest in Exergaming greatly increased by those looking to get fit while isolating.[19][20]

Though its launch was delayed by COVID-19, the first Super Nintendo World theme park in Osaka, Japan was shown in a video tour online by Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.[21][22]

Groups dedicated to tracking the availability of game consoles during the shortages sometimes assisted in finding COVID-19 supplies.[23]

Games as a Political Vehicle


In the run up to the 2020 United States elections, politicians used online multiplayer games and game streaming to reach out to voters safely during the pandemic.[24][25] The Biden campaign operated a custom Fortnite island with its own minigames.[26] In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which supports user made content, digital yard signs were distributed by the Biden campaign.[27] Though the official Trump campaign mocked campaigning in games,[28] independent efforts by his supporters also made Animal Crossing signs,[29] as well as using the massively popular game Among Us to promote their candidate.[30] Following the election a video was posted of President Biden playing Mario Kart Arcade GP DX with Naomi Biden at Camp David.[31][32]

Developer Welfare Concerns


Concerns for developer welfare continued from the previous decade into the 2020's.

In particular there were a number of high profile incidents at major game developer companies.[33][34] This lead to increased calls for, and corporate pushback against, unionizing.[35][36][37]

Concerns of child labor in the industry were also raised.[38][39]



A Manhattan GameStop is boarded up in the turbulent year of 2020. Many American retailers boarded up their windows in preparation for turbulent events.[41]

Apple vs. Epic


In August 2020, Apple and Epic begin disputing payment systems on the Apple App store, resulting in the game Fortnite being removed from the App Store.[42] Coupled with increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, Apple reduces their cut from 30% to 15% for developers making under a million dollars annually, a move said to benefit indie game developers.[43][44]

Ninth generation of video game consoles


The first ninth generation consoles launch in November 2020.[45] 3D audio, SSD storage, and raytracing support is a common trend in this generation.[46][47] Initially supplies of new PS5 and Xbox Series consoles are quickly bought up.[48][49]





GameStop Stock

GameStop stock chart from 2021.

Defying expectations, in January 2021 Redditors send the stock of the physical game retailer GameStop soaring over 1600%.[50][51] This had broader implications for the overall market, as the reactions from some firms caused some members of Congress to begin looking into the event.[52]


CryptoDragons, one of many NFTs which attempted to find a niche in gaming.

Some game developers and game artists turn to non-fungible tokens as an additional revenue stream, with concerns over environmental impact and issues with rights leading to controversy.[53][54][55]

Major PC game distributor Valve banned games using blockchain, NFT, and cryptocurrency from it's distribution platform Steam by October 15th, 2021.[56] Competitor Epic continued to allow such games on it's Epic Games Store.[57]



Collectables soared in value, with a sealed and graded copy of Super Mario 64 selling for over 1.5 million US dollars.[58][59] This was the first publicized instance of a single copy of a video game selling for over one million US dollars.[60] This was quickly surpassed, with an unopened copy of Super Mario Bros. selling for 2 million dollars.[61][62]



The United States Mint mixed game collecting with coin collecting with the production of the manganese-brass 2021 New Hampshire American Innovation $1 coin, which honored Ralph Baer, and the development of the Magnavox Odyssey.[63] The reverse of the coin was designed by artist Christina Hess and depicted gameplay generated by the Odyssey prototype, the "Brown Box".[63][64] Upon release the coin proved to be popular among collectors, selling 785,700 coins in 6 days.[65]

This is recognized as the first time the United States Mint created currency featuring a video game.[66]



2021 also saw increased investment in gaming companies by sovereign wealth funds.[67]



Neural Implants


In 2021 the game Pong was used to demonstrate a wireless neural implant to the public.[68]

Xbox 2042


In October 2021 Microsoft released a speculative concept of what an Xbox might look like in 2042.[69][70] Technologies included in this work of speculative fiction included a holographic interface, a neural interface, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and quantum technology.[71][72] The fictitious console were touted as being "90% smaller", while using 1 exaFlop of performance to ouptup 32k video in between 240 and 480 frames per second.[73][74]

Nuclear Handheld Game Console Mod

Tritium radioluminescence is responsible for powering the mod.

Ian Charnas attracted much attention in 2021 with the development of a nuclear powered handheld game mod.[75]

The modded console captured the output of 25 vials luminescent Trintium vials placed between 2 conventional solarphotovoltaic cells, and then stored the continuous 1.5 microwatts of output energy in thin film solid state batteries.[76][77][75] The console was not capable of continuous operation, but could play a clone of Tetris for 55 minutes[76] once every one to two months.[75][78] The system power source should last for 25 years,[76] though some media sources stated the system to have an operational life of 100 years.[75]

The system was raffled to raise proceeds for the charity Chernobyl Children International.[79][80]



For the first time, the Hugo Awards included video games as finalists in 2021.[81]

The International Olympic Committee hosted their first esports event, the Olympic Virtual Series, beginning on May 13th, 2021.[82][83] The opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games on July 23rd, 2021 included music derived from a number of video games.[84][85]

Some American politicians cited video games as a negative factor in society.[86][87][88]

Fall of Kabul


Following the collapse of the Afghanistan government, gamers in Afghanistan feared that games would once again be banned in their country.[89]



Gaming in Russia


Major console manufacturers left the Russian market, though they were not popular with gamers there due to a preference for PC gaming.[90]

Notable Cross Platform Games of the 2020's


Umurangi Generation


A 2020 photography game set in an future apocalyptic Tauranga, New Zealand.[91] The game was developed by a Māori developer, and was noted for it's themes of colonization from the perspective of the colonized.[92][93]

Read more about Umurangi Generation on Wikipedia.


External Resources



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  9. Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named who video games
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2010-2019 · Computer games