In terms of technology, the top trends of 2021 were just as much about what didn’t happen as what did. One year after the ninth generation of game consoles is the top story of the year a chip deficiency this continues to cause headaches and overloads (for at least another year with no sign of relief). Even so, we’ve seen some exciting announcements and advances that will lay the foundation for the next year and beyond. Here are the biggest tech stories of 2021.
The chip shortage
If you’ve tried to buy one of the most popular gaming gadgets this year, you probably know these two words: “semiconductor shortage”. Global supply chain problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic have restricted the supply of the components needed for high-end electronics worldwide, leading to production delays and bottlenecks in consumer products across the board. The waves of scarcity can be felt in everything from rising inflation to Final Fantasy XIV server queues, but PC graphics cards and the PS5 and Xbox X Series have been hit particularly hard, making it nearly impossible to find these high-priced items at the advertised prices.
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight as many industry leaders have said the chip shortage will stretch through 2022 and likely through 2023.
Ninth Generation Consoles: One Year Later
It’s been more than a year since Microsoft and Sony released the Xbox Series X and PS5, but they are still some of the most sought-after and hard-to-find gadgets on the market today. Persistent chip shortages have kept stocks tight, and when they hit digital store shelves, they are quickly caught by bots to be resold at a huge markup. Nevertheless, both consoles have sold large numbers in the first year and their future looks promising.
For people who have managed to get hold of a console, we’ve seen continuous improvement in hardware and software throughout the year. One of the biggest issues that both consoles were criticized for at startup was the minimum internal storage sizes, especially for the PS5, which only offers 667GB of usable space and started up with no option to expand. Last summer, Sony finally released a firmware update that allows PS5 owners to open their console and Install your own M.2 SSD to expand storage. While it may seem intimidating to some, the process is pretty straightforward and there are a number of SSD options available. Meanwhile on the Microsoft side, additional configurations for the proprietary memory expansion card have hit the market, giving Xbox Series X users more options to contend with a growing library of game installs.
Peripheral support also continues to increase. the Xbox Design Lab returnedso people can build bespoke Xbox controllers with personalized color schemes, rubber grips, and metallic finishes on the triggers and D-pad. The PS5 took on some personality this year as well, when Sony launched a handful of new DualSense and console faceplate colorways.
On the Sony front too, the PS5 finally has an answer to the Xbox Elite thanks to the controller manufacturer Scuf Reflex Pro, a PS5 controller with remappable back paddles, interchangeable thumbsticks, and customizable colors. It is a welcome addition to the controller landscape and we hope that more companies will follow suit in 2022.
The revival of gaming handhelds
The mega-hit Nintendo Switch ensured that handheld games never really died, but a handful of newbies have arrived recently, each with their own approach to off-screen gaming.
Most notable is that Valve steam deck, a handheld gaming PC running SteamOS. When it arrives, it promises to finally give PC gamers a way to take their game libraries with them on the go (or on the couch). Steam Deck was announced with a start date for this holiday season, but the same chip shortage caused that date to be postponed to early 2022.
Analog pocket – gameplay pictures
Steam Deck wasn’t the only exciting handheld of the year, however. The long awaited Analog bag is a slim handheld that plays Game Boy cartridges without emulation, and it finally started its first wave of units in December. More are on the way, but – yes, again because of the chip shortage – they are now $ 20 more expensive and will be shipped in waves on the first-come-first-served principle: first in early 2022, followed by late 2022.
We finally have the Playdate, a quirky little handheld that you can charge with a mechanical crank on the side. It plays a selection of experimental or otherwise non-traditional games from well-known indie developers. It should appear this year, but it was pushed into the year 2022.
Regardless of the launch dates or their particular approaches, these new devices are showing a real renaissance in handheld gaming alongside the ongoing success of the Switch and its brand new OLED model.
Cloud gaming is making great strides
Cloud gaming is nothing new, but by 2021 this emerging technology has made great strides.
Nvidia announced in October a new subscription level for the GeForce Now platform that allows you to effectively rent a PC with an RTX 3080. While cloud gaming still poses some problems, access to that feat is welcome considering how difficult it was to buy an RTX 30 series card in real life.
As for Microsoft, it has built a lot of momentum with Xbox Cloud Gaming. The service was launched on Android devices last year, but launched in 2021 Apple devices, that Xbox PC app, and Xbox consoles. The increase in device support means that more and more people can easily try the service and experience a game without the need for local gaming hardware that is currently difficult to buy. It also means that exclusive new generation products like Starfield will be playable on Xbox One, or your phone.
Again, cloud gaming has its quirks – it depends entirely on the quality of your internet connection. The medium still has a long way to go before it could completely replace traditional console or PC hardware in most gamers’ living rooms – if we get that far – but support and growth on both device and on Show platform level that cloud gaming will continue to be an important part of the gaming landscape in the years to come.