2019 has been a great year for video games, though it has been relatively quiet compared to other years when it comes to large triple-A title releases.
With the two major players taking somewhat of a backseat this year, we take a look at a few companies that did something different this year, companies whose original ideas might lead to big things in the new decade of gaming starting in 2020.
Is a video game really a videogame if it’s taking part in the real world? Well, if you’re controlling the game on your computer screen via a WiFi connection then yes, it is.
Surrogate mix the real and digital world by allowing users to control physical games, such as RC racing and Batman pinball, via an online connection. That means that someone can play a real pinball machine in Stockholm from Tokyo, with minimal latency, simply using their keyboard inputs.
The company recently announced it’s teaming up with some of the world’s biggest esports teams alongside its first major game release, the SumoBots Battle Royale game.
For SumoBots, as players are eliminated, sections of the arena (below) are removed. The Fortnite-like concept has a special twist though — viewers vote and choose which arena sections are removed as the game is played.
Surrogate has developed its own real-life game-development engine called SurroRTG in order to enable anyone to build their own real-life online game and seamlessly play it on the web. What’s more, Surrogate’s games are completely free to play.
2. Nomada Studio
Nomada Studio took the concept of video games as art to a whole new level this year. The company was co-founded by Barcelona-based artist Conrad Roset, who started out doing designs for clothing outlet Zara, alongside game developers Adrián Cuevas and Roger Mendoza.
While the company’s first videogame, GRIS, was released on the 13th December 2018, it has picked up accolades throughout 2019, including The Games for Impact Award at this year’s Game Awards.
The side-scrolling platform adventure game has you control a young woman who has lost her voice due to a traumatic event that occurred in her past. As you progress, the protagonist gradually recovers her voice.
Color, in the form of splashes of watercolor, is also gradually introduced back into the game world, signifying her coming to terms with her past.
The indie game’s narrative expertly progresses to an emotional, cathartic climax. Proof, if people still need it, that video games can be so much more than the stereotypical shoot-em-up. We can’t wait to see what Nomada Studio has to offer in 2020 and beyond.
While this article is about companies that are doing something new and original, we’d be remiss not to mention the way one of the most established videogame companies in the world continue to push the boundaries in different ways to their competition.
While Sony and Microsoft aim to keep upping the technological prowess of their consoles, Nintendo sacrifices graphical capability for unique and original designs. They did this with the Nintendo Wii’s motion controllers, and this year, they continue to push their incredibly popular Nintendo Switch console with new outside-the-box ideas.
Games like this year’s RingFit Adventure fitness game, and continued support for Labo, make Nintendo’s console the place to go for alternative titles that aren’t scared to be different.
The Nintendo Switch made it into TIME Magazine’s list of top gadgets of the decade. On a list largely dominated by Apple, Nintendo’s hybrid console was the only gaming console mentioned.
4. Tender Claw
2020 is set to be a big year for VR games. There’s just the little matter of a new Half-Life being released exclusively as a VR game.
In 2019, a year in which VR gaming has made great strides, The Under Presents by Tender Claw showed how the medium can be used to give gamers a wholly unique experience.
The game isn’t only a VR experience, it is also a form of immersive theatre. Enter the game at the right time and you will see improv actors within the virtual world.
We could imagine this concept becoming huge in the future. Imagine being able to step into a virtual world where you’re not sure who’s an actor, who’s another player, and who is simply an NPC.
5. Kojima Productions
It takes guts to take a multi-million dollar budget and make a videogame about being an Amazon delivery man in a post-apocalyptic future, but that’s just what Hideo Kojima did.
The company, created after Hideo Kojima was asked to leave Konami, released its first game, Death Stranding, in 2019. Despite being so different it actually put some gamers off, Death Stranding gave gamers an experience they had never seen before. The game became the PS4’s second-biggest launch day release in the UK in 2019.
2019, and indeed the decade, has undeniably seen a lot of great games released. However, it’s the games that dare to be different, and that strive to push the boundaries of the medium, that really get us excited about what’s in store for 2020 and beyond.