Game Awards Still Shows Single-Player Focus Alongside Hollywood Reliance

Illustration of a video game-themed trophy
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

Since its 2014 inception, the Game Awards have always spotlighted the most prestige examples of video games achieving artistic resonance within the craft.

While awards for all categories of games are given out, Game of the Year has almost always gone to single-player, narrative-driven games, except for Blizzard’s “Overwatch” in 2016. Seven years later this is still the case, with FromSoftware and Bandai Namco’s “Elden Ring” taking the 2022 trophy Thursday.

Still, the Game Awards have always doubled as E3-like presentations, with most of the runtime devoted to world premieres and updates for new and existing games on the horizon, which is when many live services and other games aligned with industry trends are advertised.

It was likely a welcome change of pace for many gamers that some of the biggest entities at the show last night chose to tease more single-player titles, some of which were new originals entirely.

This included new originals shown by Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive in the form of “Immortals of Aveum” and “Judas,” respectively. The latter title is the first new game from “BioShock” trilogy creator Ken Levine following Take-Two's dissolution of developer Irrational Games in 2014, with Levine eventually creating a new team, Ghost Story Games, under Take-Two.

“Immortals of Aveum” wasn’t the biggest EA game shown, as EA debuted a new trailer for “Star Wars Jedi: Survivor” and revealed its March release date. A sequel to “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” and obviously tied to Disney IP via Lucasfilm Games, “Jedi: Survivor” is not as original of a game as others but is nevertheless another AAA single-player title from a publisher otherwise known for its aggressive focus on live services like “Apex Legends” and EA Sports games that net the company significant revenue from in-game purchases.

A company known more than any other entity for its prioritizing of single-player and original games, Sony Interactive Entertainment is undergoing its own strategic shift toward building out a robust slate of live services intended to broaden the company’s revenue streams.

Still, Sony chose to unveil a sequel to 2019’s “Death Stranding,” a critically acclaimed game from “Metal Gear Solid” mind Hideo Kojima, rather than any of its live services in development. Despite its praise and Kojima’s rock-solid reputation, “Death Stranding” has sold over 5 million copies vs. nearly 18 million for “Elden Ring” and more than 33 million for the “Marvel’s Spider-Man" franchise at Sony.

Meanwhile, more niche gaming sectors such as cloud gaming are losing visibility.

Bandai Namco announced MMORPG “Blue Protocol” in partnership with Amazon Games. As a multiplatform title, the game will be available on PlayStation, Xbox and PC... but not Amazon Luna.

Given that Google is sunsetting Stadia in January, you would think Amazon would take advantage of the situation to expand Luna’s prominence, making it strange that Luna is increasingly being put on the sidelines when it comes to first- and third-party games published under Amazon. The tech giant’s “New World” and “Lost Ark” MMORPGs are still only available to play on PC.

Regardless of strategy at specific companies, the Game Awards are still a Hollywood-focused spectacle of an awards show that attracts and promotes celebrity talent. The ceremony kicked off with Al Pacino presenting the award for best performance to “God of War’s” Christopher Judge, who was ecstatic to share the stage with Pacino and gave a long, heartfelt speech about working in games alongside more traditional mediums associated with Hollywood.

As much as the Game Awards highlights the artistic validity of such games, the industry’s increasingly codependent relationship with Hollywood is undeniable. DLC shown for CD Projekt’s “Cyberpunk 2077” revealed Idris Elba (“Thor,” “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”) had lent his voice to the sci-fi spectacle, while DLC for Sony’s “Horizon Forbidden West” featured an actual cameo of the Hollywood sign for the game’s post-civilization Los Angeles setting, a possible nod to how a TV adaptation of the franchise is underway at Netflix. The streamer was also the recipient of the ceremony’s first award for video game adaptation via “Arcane.”

The Game Awards has always maintained a loose, censorship-free tone unlike the Oscars and other entertainment accolade ceremonies, but like the Academy in March it too fell prey to an unexpected programming interruption.

While not as severe as the actor-on-comedian violence exhibited by Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock, the end of the Game Awards saw what appeared to be a teenager join the FromSoftware team on stage as they accepted their GOTY award for “Elden Ring.” After the team’s speech, the teen audibly interrupted the end of the show to make a bizarre joke about wanting to nominate his “reformed Orthodox rabbi Bill Clinton” for an award before being escorted off stage.

Besides the obvious lapse in security, host Geoff Keighley has said the show set viewership records yet again, proving the night to still be an essential event for the gaming industry at large and the other sectors of entertainment intertwined with it.