10 Biggest Game Industry Disappointments of 2023


Game industry disappointments
Game industry disappointments

It’s no secret that the games industry has its fair share of controversies and problems, but it feels like 2023 has seen more issues than most years. It’s genuinely disappointing to see so many issues in the industry, especially during a year that’s boasted so many amazing games, but we can’t celebrate the best that this year has to offer if we don’t acknowledge the more disappointing decisions and actions that were taken in the gaming industry during this year.

From shocking business decisions, the growing prevalence of tools like AI which already is threatening the livelihoods of many within the industry, to some genuinely baffling gaffes that you can’t help but just laugh at, 2023 has been rather disappointing in a lot of ways. If you’d rather focus on just the games that were disappointing, we have a list for that too.

With that in mind, take a look at the biggest gaming industry disappointments of 2023.


10. The Rise Of AI

T-800 – Terminator 2
Terminator 2

Films, books and TV for the past few decades have tried to tell us that AI will lead to our downfall, but that hasn’t stopped all of the major tech companies from running with arms outstretched into the world of AI. Now, it seems like gaming is going to be doing the same, with Microsoft in particular making the biggest moves in that department. They’ve got long-term relationships with OpenAI, and are even partnering with companies like Inworld to “empower game creators”.

In gaming, AI is always marketed on how it’s going to make lives easier for developers and creators, and while the potential is there, the end goal of AI is inevitable. As soon as big corpo get the sense that AI can do what humans do but faster and cheaper, creators and developers are going to be out of a job. It’s already happening in the games media space, as outlets layoff writers in favor of uploading AI-written crap, while voice acting is under constant threat from AI too. It’s only a matter of time before development jobs and more are on the chopping block too.


9. Subscription Service Price Increases

Xbox Game Pass Core
Xbox Game Pass Core

Gaming is an expensive hobby, we can all agree, so subscription services like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass are enticing because they allow players to access a wide variety of games for a reduced price. When money is a little bit tighter, but you still want to play some of the latest and greatest games on the market, investing in either PS Plus or XGP makes a lot of sense, until Sony and Microsoft jack the prices up anyway.

2023 has seen inflation hit prices across the board, inducing a real cost of living crisis for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean those who are struggling deserve to be pushed out of the gaming medium because costs are rising. It just seems cruel, especially when Sony and Microsoft inevitably start boasting about their record profits and impressive numbers. Inflation is slowing heading into 2024 though, so hopefully these price hikes are the only ones we’ll see for a while.


8. Digital-Only Releases

Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2

It’s a fact of life that the gaming landscape is skewing more towards a digital media landscape, and while removing physical media has both its positives and negatives, the industry truly thrives when players are given the choice between the two. Taking a risk on a new game is easier to justify when you can buy the game physically for cheaper, but being able to play a game at midnight on release date is cool too. That’s why games like Like A Dragon Gaiden, Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 received criticism, as they dodged physical media entirely.

We’ve already devoted a whole article about Like A Dragon Gaiden and Alan Wake 2 skipping discs entirely, so instead we’ll focus on one positive that came from this disappointment. Larian Studios, developers of Baldur’s Gate 3, announced a physical deluxe edition version of the game, available on all platforms, which will be launching early next year. Not only does it include everything the digital deluxe edition offers, but also includes lots of physical tat too, and the warm reception to its announcement might convince Remedy and SEGA to release their own physical deluxe editions.


7. PS5’s Detachable Disc Drive

PS5 Slim
PS5 Slim

A hardware refresh for the current generation of consoles was to be expected, so it wasn’t a surprise when Sony announced that the PS5 would be receiving a refined version that improved the overall size and weight of the console. What was surprising was the announcement of a detachable disc drive for the new version of PS5 Digital Edition, allowing players to make use of physical media even if they bought the cheaper version of the console.

The detachable disc drive sounds like a great idea in theory, even if it’s a little bit reminiscent of the Xbox 360’s HD-DVD drive, but in execution, the detachable disc drive reportedly fails in the one area it was supposed to succeed at: physical media preservation. The drive often needs a live internet connection in order to properly work with your PS5, meaning that once the servers for that drive go offline, you won’t be able to play physical games on over half of the PS5’s out there. Finding out that an expensive piece of hardware, and all the games you’ve bought for it, can be arbitrarily rendered into an oversized paperweight is incredibly disappointing, no matter how you slice it.


6. PC Ports (Jedi Survivor, TLOU Part 1)

Star Wars Jedi Survivor
Star Wars Jedi Survivor

If we were to do this disappointing game industry moments list every year, bad PC ports would probably feature every time. Despite the fact that the PC gaming market is the biggest platform in the industry, it feels like a lot of big name developers struggle with releasing their games on PC. To be fair to the developers, PC hardware isn’t as simple as consoles, as the sheer varieties in set-ups and hardware means it’s impossible to test for everything, but when the vast majority of gamers are experiencing issues, questions need to be asked.

Two of the biggest offenders of the bad PC ports this year include Star Wars: Jedi Survivor and The Last of Us Part 1, with both experiencing a range of glitches, slowdown and other, more weird issues around launch. Most of these problems have been ironed out now, but it’s another reminder that as much as people like to joke about the “PC gaming master race”, playing AAA games on PC often feels like a burden.


5. Destiny 2’s Community Management Nomination

Destiny 2 Witch Queen Levelling up
Destiny 2 Witch Queen Levelling up

While this is disappointing, it’s also hilarious in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” kind of way. As we’ll get into later, the gaming industry in 2023 was subject to an almost unprecedented level of layoffs from bigwigs looking to maximize their profit margins. One studio in particular, Bungie, laid off about 100 employees around October, including popular community manager Liana Ruppert, which was met with a lot of criticism initially. However, the story takes a left turn into comedy a few weeks later, when The Game Awards announces that Destiny 2 has been nominated for Best Community Support.

As far as comedic timing goes, a Destiny 2 nomination for Best Community Support is like the perfect gag, so much so that Liana herself took the news in stride. If we were more optimistic, we’d probably say that a moment like this would ensure that CEOs don’t see their community management staff as expendable, as their work has value to those who love the game, but that’s not going to be the reality, is it?


4. GameMill Living Up To The Name

Skull Island Rise of Kong
Skull Island Rise of Kong

Anyone who’s ever lurked on relationship advice or AITA subreddits long enough will probably be familiar with the phrase “if someone tells you who they are, listen”, so to that end, when a games publisher calls themselves GameMill, we should expect them to crank out games on the regular. Quite the lengths that GameMill would go to however seem to be ridiculous, as news emerged that Skull Island: Rise of Kong, one of the worst games of this year, was created in just a year thanks to GameMill’s ridiculous demands.

When you look at the quality of Rise of Kong, it’s not hard to see that the game was clearly made under crunch conditions, which then begs the question of other games in their vast library. The Walking Dead: Destinies is another stinker with GameMill attached as the publisher, so was that another unfortunate victim of crunch? Of course, crunch is something that has followed the gaming industry around like a nasty smell for decades now, and GameMill is far from the only accusation made this year.


3. Embracer Group Shenanigans

TimeSplitters 3
TimeSplitters 3

Embracer Group have had a bit of a nightmare this year, and it’s hard to feel sorry for them really. The publisher spent the past few years acting like the Thanos of retro game properties, hoovering up franchises like TimeSplitters, Alone In The Dark, Destroy All Humans, Red Faction and tons more. The promise was that Embracer, through its various subsidiaries, would deliver a brand new wave of retro-inspired games, alongside a host of new and established AA and AAA franchises.

Unfortunately, that plan seems to have gone down the toilet in the most spectacular fashion, as Embracer were reportedly preparing to be bought for $2 billion by the Savvy Games Group, the investment group backed by the Saudi Arabian Royal Family’s Public Investment Fund. The Savvy Games Group have been slowly increasing their stakes in the gaming industry, and while it’s great to see that this deal with a group of human rights stomping journalist murderers fell through, it’s been the studios within Embracer that have paid the price.

Embracer immediately went into downsizing mode after the deal fell through and one of the first on the chopping block was Volition. The Saints Row devs were the unfortunate sacrificial lambs for someone else’s mistake, with Embracer also threatening closure for the recently reformed Free Radical, putting the TimeSplitters revival in serious jeopardy. The fact that Embracer Group went on to layoff over 900 workers, despite posting a quarter that included a 13% gain in net sales, is the turd icing on this rubbish cake.


2. Unity’s Business Decisions

Oh boy, where to start with this one? The rise of subscription services across all platforms has led some companies to try and devise new ways of making cash, but perhaps none were as egregious as Unity. During this year, Unity proposed changes to their licensing model that would essentially force developers and publishers to pay Unity for every time a game was installed on a device. Not every purchase, but every installation, meaning you could install a game a bunch of different times and force the devs to pony up the cash.

Naturally, the game developer community, and the gaming community at large, was outraged at these proposed changes, mostly notably developers who have upcoming partnerships penned with Xbox Game Pass. It didn’t take long for Unity to walk back a lot of those proposed changes, but there were still many who felt that their trust with Unity had been completely shattered. Still, now that the then-CEO John Riccitiello has been forced to resign, fingers crossed that Unity will buck their ideas up going forward.


1. All Of The Layoffs

By far the most disappointing aspect of the gaming industry in 2023 has been the sheer amount of layoffs we’ve seen. It’s an unfortunate part of the industry that when games flop, jobs are lost, which is what happened to developers at Striking Distance (The Callisto Protocol) and Ascendent Studio (Immortals of Aveum), but what was most disappointing about a lot of this year’s layoffs was how egregious they felt.

We spoke earlier about the ongoing shenanigans at Embracer Group, which came about purely because the top brass couldn’t execute a deal, but there’s more. SEGA caught a lot of flak for the random cancellation of the upcoming extraction shooter Hyenas, laying off multiple developers at Creative Assembly in the process. Hyenas received a positively reviewed beta test, and was generating decent hype, but was still culled regardless.

Meanwhile, Epic Games, developers and publishers of licensed money printer Fortnite, also laid off a significant portion of its staff, gutting Fall Guys devs Mediatonic in the process. It’s disappointing and baffling that Epic Games, a company worth billions of dollars, feels the need to layoff a significant portion of its employees, especially just before Fortnite’s most successful period ever in the Fortnite OG season, but it’s a trend that’s become all too common in 2023. Fingers crossed that next year we’ll get just a bit of stability instead.

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