If there’s one thing it’s nigh impossible to predict in gaming, it’s the trajectory of the major and minor genres.
New genres emerge or assert themselves every year (Vampire Survivors-alike, co-op horror), and dormant ones stage dramatic comebacks. We’re lucky to belong to a hobby that’s this unpredictable, frankly.
As we stare down the end of 2023 and look at next year’s calendar, I’ve asked my fellow PC Gamer writers and editors to give their best projection about what’s going to happen in the genres they love most next year. They say the winds are changing in the world of FPSes, RPGs are entering a new era (again), and PC finally feels like it’s part of the fighting game conversation.
These are what we believe will be the biggest genres of 2024 and what we think it’s going to mean for those of us playing them every day.
Extraction shooters become the new battle royale
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: Five years ago, a studio wanting to break into the shooter market looked to battle royale for the answer. But there are no more new battle royales. Instead, devs have been toying with the play-your-way potential of extraction shooters, and the genre is on the rise.
Outside of the early successes of Escape From Tarkov and Hunt: Showdown, first wave extraction shooters have struggled, but now that big-budget studios are taking notice of the format’s strengths, 2024 could be the year they really blossom. The kid-friendly Hawked just entered early access. Bungie’s next big game, Marathon, is an extraction shooter. As is Arc Raiders from the studio that just released The Finals and Exoborne from the Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodhunt devs.
My only hope for extractions shooters in 2024 is that they expand their horizons beyond Escape From Tarkov. Not every one of these games has to be about filling a backpack with loot and completing checklist quests from vendors—Hunt: Showdown is a loot-light take that focuses on PvE boss fights and excellent gunplay.
(Image credit: Crimson Herring)
The post-Disco era of RPGs begins
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: It takes a long time to make a game like Disco Elysium, an RPG defined by the number of words in it, and their quality. While heist adventure Sunday Gold was arguably the first Disco-like, it’ll be 2024 before we really see how much Disco Elysium has influenced other developers. Expect multiple RPGs with hardly any combat, text that scrolls vertically down the side of the screen, and narration that includes interjecting voices from inside the protagonist’s head.
The steampunk Victoriana of Sovereign Syndicate should be first out of the gate, and fantasy buddy-cop mystery Esoteric Ebb may follow later in the year, but I suspect 2024 will contain several more games with something of the artful wordiness and political weight of Disco Elysium.
And then in 2027 we’ll start to get a serious number of post-BG3 RPGs, of course.
The “cozy” game explosion is going to get really weird
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: The battle to name this umbrella of games has been won and “cozy” has been crowned the victor. Though it’s already started, in 2024 marketing teams will have fully caught on that this is the trendy, searchable, recommendation list bait term of the year for their farm sims, puzzle games, and narrative-led adventures. We’re going to see more games calling themselves “cozy” than ever before and I think some of the self-proclaimed cozy games in 2024 are going to be really weird because of it.
Content creators and players are all so hungry for more though that I don’t think being spoiled for choice is going to make anyone upset. If anything, there may be a sort of grassroots push to draw lines around what is and is not a cozy game. That battle may have already been lost though because I have seen quite a few people on TikTok recommend Skyrim as a cozy game. I mean sure, in a way. This is going to be our “is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” crucible.
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)
Fighting games fully flourish on PC
Mollie Taylor, Features Producer: This is a little bit of copium on my part, but PC is increasingly becoming the place to play fighting games. It’s the platform of choice for myself, my friends and a ton of pro players across the board. We’ve already seen a ton of tournaments host their Street Fighter 6 games on PC, which is certainly helped by the fact that loads more fighting games are releasing in a really good state over here. With Tekken 8 releasing with crossplay in January, it’s the next big opportunity for PC to shine.
The biggest roadblock to making it the go-to platform right now is that it’s much easier to lug 10 identical PlayStations to a tournament than it is to lug 10 PCs with wildly varying hardware that might potentially pose an advantage or disadvantage. It’s a big step to get over, but we’ve already proven it’s possible.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: I think fighting games have a really bright future on PC for a few reasons—Mollie pointed out crossplay, which now keeps PC players from being siloed off in big games like Street Fighter 6. Steam has also become the testing ground for adding rollback netcode to tons of old fighters like Guilty Gear Xrd, giving them new life. PC players are more likely to have quality low latency monitors, too, which can give you a small edge even if fighters are still locked to 60 fps. Six years ago it was a huge deal when Dragon Ball FighterZ launched to a peak concurrent player count of 44,000 players, according to SteamDB, and this year Street Fighter 6 peaked at more than 70,000 players. I have a feeling Tekken 8’s going to crack 100,000 at launch—and then Riot Games’ Project L will blow the doors off whenever it finally arrives.
Two major MMO expansions risk being wax wings for the genre’s future
Harvey Randall, Staff Writer: While I’m not sure the MMORPG will make the comeback I’m secretly hoping for, I do think the genre’s future is going to fly or plummet on the wings of two key expansions from the genre’s twin giants: Final Fantasy 14 and World of Warcraft.
In FF14’s case, Endwalker was a triumphant bow on 10 years of storytelling while Dawntrail seeks to start a new journey entirely—complete with a graphical overhaul. Meanwhile, WoW’s new expansion The War Within kicks off the Worldsoul Saga, an attempt to capitalize on the playerbase’s cautious goodwill (which has been slowly repaired during Dragonflight). It’s not out of the woods yet certainly, but you can at least see the canopy again.
Both games have a ton riding on these expansions. If both—or even one—is a hit, we don’t have a problem. If they both fall short though, I feel like the genre’s in some real trouble. There are certainly other great games like Guild Wars 2 for players to migrate to, but with no MMOs of their scale on the horizon I can’t help but wonder what’d happen to the genre at large. If WoW sucks and FF14 sucks, where do you go to get that same fix?
(Image credit: Overseer Games)
City builders will get more macro and more micro
Chris Livingston, Senior Editor: We’re in the midst of a city builder boom, and there are city building games for just about every genre you could ask for: strategy, survival, puzzle, cozy, and even roguelikes. In 2024 we’re going to start seeing city builders expand in different ways, by zooming out to get much bigger in scope but also zooming in to let players do more at street level.
Alt-history city builder Kaiserpunk was announced in November, a city builder where your city’s production chains fuel your war effort. In addition to building and managing your city you’ll also have to deal with the world at large, fighting wars and engaging in diplomacy with over 100 different regions. Manor Lords, due in April, also has you build a village that’s part of a much larger world, as other regions may invade your town (and you may invade them right back).
Pocket City 2, a mobile city builder I played this year, lets you pop down to street level and actually live in your city. You can buy a house and decorate it, shop for clothes, attend festivals and fairs, and even build an animal shelter and then adopt a pet from it. I bet we’ll start seeing more city builders that, in addition to managing your city from a god’s eye view, will let you shrink down and live in it right alongside your citizens.