Harry Potter, The Last of Us and Kingdom Hearts are likely to be the stars of the year – but streaming could change everything
Video games are a fast-moving form of art and entertainment, and that makes the games industry a notoriously difficult one to predict. Sure, new Fifa and Call of Duty games will arrive every year and sell predictably well, there’ll probably be a new Assassin’s Creed, and Nintendo will usually deliver a fresh take on Mario, Zelda or Pokémon – but who could have foreseen that 2018 would be obliterated by Fortnite, a colourful cartoon shooter that launched to little fanfare in 2017 but became a global phenomenon over the course of last year? Or that one of 2018’s most critically acclaimed games would be a psychedelic virtual-reality version of 80s obsession, Tetris?
Games are now almost as varied as the people who play them – more than two billion of all ages, across the world, playing on phones or PCs or PlayStations. But apart from Rockstar’s western epic Red Dead Redemption 2, whose £550m opening weekend made the kind of splash seen only every few years, the biggest earners of 2018 were games that have been around for years: Clash Royale and Pokémon Go on mobile, League of Legends and Counter-Strike on PC, and the omnipresent Fortnite. The money that these established, evolving mega-games make is astounding: it’s estimated that Fortnite now earns its creator Epic Games about $100m (£78.5m) a week. In terms of revenue, any new game released in 2019 will struggle to compete.