Did The Game Awards Pack The Same Punch With A Virtual Show This Year? 

 

The biggest winners, game announcements and…Vin Diesel?

Capping off a strange year, The Game Awards 2020 has come and gone, leaving the audience brimming with excitement over what 2021 and beyond will bring the video game industry. Many wondered what this year’s show would be like or if it still should be held in the same reverence in the current pandemic landscape. 

 

The Highs of the Night

It may be corny to say, but Geoff Keighley on a stage talking about the challenges and successes of another year in video games is the kind of calming, balancing energy we needed to end 2020. It’s foolish to say things will “go back to normal” in 2021, but the yearly hype train we all go on — guessing what will be revealed that night solely based on the color of a mug in the background of some developer’s Twitter image a week before — leading up to the event and Geoff’s excellent job hosting the show provided a sense of normalcy.

As expected, the audience tuning into the stream was treated to a large amount of reveals across various platforms throughout the night. While many fans speculated we’d hear something about Mass Effect — which received a quick teaser toward the end — and everyone betting between Sora from Kingdom Hearts or Jonesy of Fortnite being the next Super Smash Bros. fighter (Spoiler: it was Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth), they were also surprised with big announcements like a Perfect Dark reboot and Back 4 Blood, a spiritual successor to the Left 4 Dead franchise. 

One such announcement, Ark 2, had me cackling at the screen — in the best way possible — with the reveal of Vin Diesel’s starring role. Thinking back to how the internet basically broke at E3 2019 when Keanu Reeves walked on stage to announce he was going to be in Cyberpunk 2077, seeing a pre-history-outfit-clad Diesel was not what anyone was expecting. Couple this with the reveal of the animated tie-in series (and the star-studded cast) and memes flooding the internet (here’s looking at you, Past and the Furious), this was one of the higher points in the night. 

Another surprising high for the evening was Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former COO of Nintendo, presenting the Innovation in Accessibility Award to The Last of Us: Part 2. This new award highlights the efforts that are being made to provide better accessibility to all players. As companies continue to strive to make games more accessible, it was nice to see these efforts sharing the spotlight and bringing more focus for the need to innovate. In addition to the innovation award, Sony’s exclusive lineup had quite the night; taking double-digit awards across a variety of categories, including The Last of Us: Part 2’s Game of the Year win. 

Given the blockbuster titles up for the award and after the industry collectively sunk hours and hours trying to escape the Underworld as dark and dreamy protagonist Zagreus in indie darling Hades, it was nice to see it win Best Indie and Best Action, and be nominated for Game of the Year, too. 

 

The Lows of the Night

The Game Awards provides some stellar looks at upcoming titles, heartfelt speeches from the winners and the right amount of musical overtures to balance out the awkwardness seen with other virtual shows this year. One downside that felt more prevalent than years past was the sheer amount of commercials throughout the show. Even understanding the need to monetize the night so the high-quality show can go on, it really felt  like we were collectively experiencing some back-to-back, unskippable ads on a YouTube video. 

I say this (mostly) in jest, but the lack of any more Bayonetta 3 information after the no-one-saw-this-coming teaser dropped back at the 2017 show was soul-crushing. As someone desperate for any morsel of information aside from a throwaway “it’s still coming!” comment, surely the third installment would get a proper trailer three years after it was announced, no? No. Adding to my disappointment was the improbable hope that Reggie Fils-Aimé would be dropping the first look at the long-time-coming Metroid Prime 4 being dashed while taking the virtual stage.

 

Announcements and Reveals

As promised by pre-show teases and press releases, there was a hearty amount of reveals and additional content announced at The Game Awards 2020. Here are some of the biggest announcements from the show: 

  • Halo made the jump to Fortnite with The Master Chief set shadow-dropping the night of the show along with a new map
  • Hazelight, the makers of A Way Out, released a trailer for It Takes Two, a unique co-op game with a Friend’s Pass system, akin to Nintendo DS: Connect
  • Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139, a remaster of the 2010 game received a fast-paced gameplay trailer and release date of April 23, 2021
  • Striking Distance Studios’ Callisto Protocol received an intriguing cinematic trailer featuring a dark world filled with sci-fi staples
  • Open Roads (by Gone Home developer Fullbright) received a teaser trailer showing the setup of a mother-daughter road trip with a hint of mysteries to come
  • In an action-packed cinematic (sorry, Mario), Super Smash Bros.’ latest fighter, Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII fame was announced — causing a steady flow of Kirby-As-Sephiroth memes to flood Twitter
  • Back 4 Blood by Turtlerock received a surprise announcement and gameplay showing that this spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead is willing to innovate while keeping the what made the original franchise so good
  • Among Us revealed a new map, The Airship, arriving early 2021 
  • Dragon Age 4 received a new trailer, showing off some unique (futuristic?) visuals to keep fans excited for what’s next
  • Xbox’s new studio, The Initiative, released a blockbuster trailer for Perfect Dark, a reboot of the hit first-person shooter originated by Rare
  • Mass Effect is receiving a next-generation follow-up after a sleek teaser dropped (which I 100 percent thought was the start of a Metroid Prime 4 first look trailer)
  • Studio Wildcard really threw us a wildcard with the trailer for Ark 2, featuring Vin Diesel in the starring role
  • The reveal of Season, PlayStation 5’s newest exclusive from Scavengers Studio, showed off impressive, stylized visuals 
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator is making the jump from PC to consoles in 2021 
  • Endless Dungeon, a new rogue-like by Amplitude Studios was revealed with crisp, saturated visuals

The Verdict

Though the bloat of game commercials throughout the night overstayed their welcome, Geoff Keighley and the team pulled off another successful show with just enough reveals and award winners to keep fans talking (and passionately arguing) on Twitter well into the new year. Given the challenge of putting on a show remotely and safely for those on site, the production crew deserves their own award for a job well done. Whether it be remote, in-person or hybrid, I am eagerly awaiting what the 2021 show has in store. 

Article Written by Nate Pressler