Why gamers experienced an exceptional year in 2023

Great releases and considerable advancement in technology took the industry up a level

Fornite, one of the year's most popular titles, had 235 million active players last month. Pawan Singh / The National
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In recent years, gaming has witnessed a significant rise in popularity thanks in part to behaviours during the pandemic and the release of consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S.

Gaming today is a broad and varied experience, offering players a multitude of options to enjoy. From indie titles on the Nintendo Switch to virtual reality experiences. If you ask me, it has never been better to be a gamer.

Closing out 2023, it’s time to look back at a period many have dubbed the “best year in gaming”, but how true is that statement? And what have been the highlights of the year?

The year had some of the biggest game releases, from Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, which elevated the Jedi force-wielding experience, to October's Alan Wake 2, which breathed new life into the survival horror genre.

Several consoles also experienced a bumper year with sales. The PlayStation 5 sold more than 22.5 million, according to the Financial Times, while Nintendo’s dynamic Switch continued its success, with more than 130 million units sold to date, per the company's quarterly financial results released in September.

These numbers prove that there’s a real hunger for gaming across the board. More and more people are exploring the different types of games available to them. Memorable experiences were also created by way of many of the most famous franchises, which released plenty of new titles in the past 12 months.

Those playing on the Nintendo Switch enjoyed the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which arrived six years after the release of the last in the series. The game sold more than 19 million copies by September and won several awards, including the Best Action/Adventure Award at The Game Awards last month.

On the PlayStation 5, gamers experienced a busy year with titles such as the aforementioned Jedi: Survivor, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3. Towards the end of the year, Alan Wake 2 was released by Finnish studio Remedy; the game ushered in a new experience in storytelling and gameplay.

It shows that an important marquee release can come from a smaller studio and still advance the medium. Those who played Alan Wake 2 attest to the incredible graphics as well as the gripping storyline.

Elsewhere, the year also marked a continued interest in games such as Fortnite, which registered more than 235 million active players last month.

Cyberpunk 2077, which was first released in 2020 to a disastrous reception due to a multitude of bugs and crashes, returned this year with a more fleshed-out experience. It offered gamers new downloadable content, which earned a better reception from players.

It also reminded players that titles do need more time to arrive ready to be played, rather than being rushed to the market.

Funnily enough, the most talked about and exciting gaming moment of last year centred on a title that won’t be released for possibly two years. After a decade of anticipation, gamers finally received confirmation from Rockstar Games of its next instalment in the Grand Theft Auto series.

The trailer for the new game, titled Grand Theft Auto VI, racked up more than 120 million views in the first 72 hours after its release. Today, the video has more than 160 million views. And while the trailer ends with a potential release date of 2025, excitement will only grow from here for, possibly, the most anticipated game to date.

Updated: December 31, 2023, 1:01 PM