Table of Contents
Another year is almost over, and as the last days of December wind down, we’re taking a look back at what’s been a monumental year for the video game, entertainment, and tech industries.
Rockstar Games perhaps stole the show in 2023 with its Grand Theft Auto VI reveal, while Mario’s new voice, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan’s retirement, and Microsoft spending a cool $69 billion on Activision Blizzard elsewhere kept us busy elsewhere. The industry also suffered from devastating layoffs too, however, with thousands of developers losing their jobs.
Barbenheimer kept us entertained on the film front, releasing against the backdrop of colossal strikes that effectively brought Hollywood to a standstill. Three new Star Wars films were announced too, including a sequel to the controversial Sequel Trilogy starring Daisy Ridley. Titan franchises struggled elsewhere, as the likes of Marvel and DC struggled to make waves with several disappointing premieres each.
And 2023 was also the year artificial intelligence became a regular topic of discussion. Entering the public consciousness with exciting new chat functionalities, AI soon became the center of debate in myriad industries including gaming and entertainment. Elsewhere in tech, scientists achieved a nuclear-fusion ignition in a laboratory setting in 2023 for the first time in human history.
Picking through so much nws was therefore a hard task, but IGN has put together this list of the 20 biggest news stories of 2023.
20. Baldur’s Gate 3 Is 2023’s Surprise Smash Hit
With Resident Evil 4 Remake, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, and lots more launching in 2023, no one really expected a somewhat niche Dungeons & Dragons-based role-playing game to emerge as a the game’s biggest hit. Looking back, however, and it’s impossible not to mention Baldur’s Gate 3 among the biggest news stories of the year.
With an unprecedented number of choices and consequences that genuinely reward players’ imaginations, few other games captured the attention of gamers as much in 2023. IGN deemed it a masterpiece in our 10/10 review, but it was the range of emerging wild and wacky stories that truly propelled it to smash hit status.
From having sex with a druid disguised as a bear, stacking a dozen crates to skip to the top of a fortress, using the Dark Urge excuse to be as evil as possible, and reverse pickpocketing bosses to kill them instantly, players spent hours, days, weeks, and months exploring every inch of Baldur’s Gate 3. Developer Larian Studios kept the fun going too by releasing huge updates with almost comically long patch notes, adding all sorts to the game including new endings, dialogue options, and characters.
19. Sony Reveals Some New Hardware
It’s hard not to get excited about video game hardware and, despite launching the PlayStation 5 just three years ago, Sony released three new pieces of kit in 2023. Though the PlayStation VR2 was revealed in 2022 and released in February this year, the PlayStation Portal and PlayStation 5 Slim were both revealed and released in 2023.
The former brought back fond feelings of everyone’s favourite handheld the PlayStation Vita, though the Portal is definitely just an accessory to the PS5 and not an independent gaming device. This comes despite the likes of the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck reinvigorating the handheld market, but the Portal firmly requires a PS5 to use as it streams the entire system over an internet connection. IGN deemed it “the best PS5 Remote Play solution available” in our 8/10 review.
As for the PS5 Slim, its announcement still came as a surprise despite the past generations indicating it was on the cards. The original hardware was reduced in volume by more than 30% and the Slim Digital Editon came with the option of adding an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Drive for an extra $79.99. The new machine was released November 29, just in time for the holidays.
18. Mario Gets a New Voice
This year marked the end of an era for one Nintendo icon, as Mario voice actor Charles Martinet announced he was retiring and transitioning to a “Mario Ambassador” role. Martinet had voiced the icon since 1996’s Super Mario 64 but hung up his boots ahead of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which arrived on the Nintendo Switch in October.
“Charles is now moving into the brand-new role of Mario Ambassador,” Nintendo said at the time. “With this transition, he will be stepping back from recording character voices for our games, but he’ll continue to travel the world sharing the joy of Mario and interacting with you all.”
The internet shared their love for Martinet before immediately seeking out his replacement, though Nintendo kept the internet waiting with bated breath before finally announcing the new voice of Mario. It was finally revealed Kevin Afghani took over the role alongside that of his brother Luigi.
“Incredibly proud to have voiced Mario and Luigi in Super Mario Bros. Wonder,” Afghani said of the news. “Thanks to Nintendo for inviting me into the Flower Kingdom.”
17. Redfall Is a Disaster
Redfall was the first big Bethesda game to launch as an Xbox exclusive and the pressure was on. But as a stylish, cooperative game about killing over-the-top vampires being developed by Arkane, the studio behind Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop, there’s no way it could be bad. Right?
Wrong. Redfall was a disaster at launch, so much so that even Xbox boss Phil Spencer personally apologized for it. It seems everything that could have gone wrong did, as Redfall was criticized for having bland missions, unengaging combat, poor AI enemies, abysmal performance, endless bugs, a weak story, an always online requirement, and so on.
Post-launch support didn’t come quickly either. It took over a month for Arkane to release its first big patch for Redfall, and not even the Xbox Series X version had 60 frames per second support until October, five months after its release. Furthermore, Arkane upset fans again the following month when it released another patch that was headlined by a new sniper rifle instead of highly requested features like an offline mode. Its dependence on online also doesn’t bode well for Redfall’s future, with its player count sitting at around 1% of its launch numbers, at least on Steam.
16. PlayStation Boss Jim Ryan Is Retiring
President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Jim Ryan announced he would retire in March 2024 after 30 years with the company.
“I’ve relished the opportunity to have a job I love in a very special company, working with great people and incredible partners,” Ryan said. “But I’ve found it increasingly difficult to reconcile living in Europe and working in North America.
“I will leave having been privileged to work on products that have touched millions of lives across the world; PlayStation will always be part of my life, and I feel more optimistic than ever about the future of Sony Interactive Entertainment. I want to thank Yoshida-san for placing so much trust in me and being an incredibly sensitive and supportive leader.”
Ryan has been in his current role since 2019 but started at PlayStation’s European branch in 1994, the same year as its original console launched. News of his retirement brought in love and support from around the industry, including from Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who called Ryan “a great contributor to our industry and a fierce leader for PlayStation”.
15. Disney Announces 3 New Star Wars Films
Star Wars Celebration 2023 was packed full of big reveals, but none bigger than when Disney announced three new Star Wars films are on the way. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny director James Mangold is writing one about the dawn of the Force. Dave Filoni, the mind behind Star Wars animated projects The Clone Wars and Rebels, and the likes of The Mandalorian and Ahsoka, is also making a film that will seemingly tie up all of these shows. And Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is directing the third, a Sequel Trilogy sequel starring none other than Daisy Ridley: Rey Skywalker herself.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told IGN that all three films are “pretty far along” in development, though little has been said about their progress since and a schedule shake-up at Disney has already pushed the next Star Wars film, whatever it may be, back to 2026.
Kennedy later said she wants to eventise Star Wars films — of which there have been none since 2019’s Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker — going forward, though three are set to release within 19 months of each starting May 22, 2026. Fans have otherwise expressed frustration at the state of Star Wars’ schedule, with films from Taika Waititi, Rian Johnson, and more all missing, and some previously announced like Kevin Feige’s project fading into obscurity before being silently cancelled.
14. PlayStation and Xbox Secrets Accidentally Revealed by the FTC
Microsoft’s battle for control of Activision Blizzard had lots of bizarre ups and downs (and more on that later) but perhaps none more so than its trial against the United States’ Federal Trade Commission, which saw not just Xbox but PlayStation bare all in an attempt to have the deal approved and blocked respectively.
The drama came in two parts, as executives of both Sony and Microsoft took to the stand to argue their cases in the actual trial, and a few months later a data breach saw several court documents released online that unveiled even more. The trial itself revealed Xbox boss Phil Spencer seemingly decided to make all ZeniMax games Xbox exclusives in a 2021 meeting, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wanted exclusive games to be null and void altogether, Call of Duty is worth $800 million to PlayStation alone, The Last of Us Part 2 cost more than $200 million to make, and so much more.
The leaked documents revealed even more bombshells, including that The Elder Scrolls 6 will be an Xbox console exclusive, Activision was briefed on a Switch successor in 2022, Microsoft is planning to release updated Xbox Series X and S models in 2024 and a whole new generation of consoles in 2028, and again, lots more.
13. The Perfect Dark Reboot Still Years Away
Perfection takes time, and that’s certainly the case with the highly anticipated reboot of the beloved N64 shooter Perfect Dark. Despite being announced in 2020, IGN revealed in June 2023 that the Perfect Dark reboot is currently two or three years away from release.
Several former and current employees of developer The Initiative revealed the project has seen roadblock after roadblock, with problems such as a fraught co-development partnership, a pandemic, technological challenges, an ongoing exodus of significant talent, and unclear direction from management keeping the game in development limbo.
“It was not that we didn’t know what we wanted, it was that we kept making things that weren’t what we wanted,” said one The Initiative developer. “We’d do it over and over again. The levels we had when I left weren’t the same ones we’d had three months prior, or three months prior [to that]. I don’t know why people just kept hitting the reset button. That was definitely contributing to that feeling that we weren’t making any progress. People kept starting over.”
12. The Day Before Crashes and Burns
The Strange Saga of The Day Before
The Day Before — once Steam’s most wishlisted game — was finally released (in Early Access) in 2023, but instead of being the incredible open world MMO survival game that was promised, it was an unmitigated disaster. Things were growing worse and worse even ahead of launch, when developer Fntastic was accused of ripping off other games like The Division, Call of Duty, The Last of Us, Cyberpunk 2077, Grand Theft Auto 5, and more, on separate occasions.
A trademark dispute complicated things too, and seven months after it promised no more delays, Fntastic delayed The Day Before again, this time indefinitely though its PC version would arrive in Early Access just a month late. This launch did not go well, as players flagged that essentially nothing Fntastic promised was actually in the game.
And finally, just four days after launch, when player count had dropped 90% and The Day Before entered Steam’s worst ten games of all time list, Fntastic announced it was closing down and everyone who bought the game could receive a refund. In our rare 1/10 review, IGN said: “The Day Before is easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played, to the point where I’m afraid to continue running it on my PC — and if you didn’t manage to try it, you can count yourself as one of the lucky ones.”
11. Insomniac Suffers a Massive Data Breach
Shortly before the holidays, Insomniac suffered a massive data breach that saw the release of a host of personal information, as well as internal materials like early game builds and Insomniac’s roadmap for the next decade. The damaging theft was among the worst the games industry has ever seen, on par with those suffered by Rockstar and Capcom, among other developers. As of the writing of this article, the games industry is still sorting through the fallout of the breach. One way or another, its effects are likely to be felt for years to come.
10. Superheroes Aren’t Doing So Super
While Marvel and DC have always been exchanging blows at the box office, both companies appeared hit with a Kryoptonite blast in 2023 with neither performing particularly well critically or commercially. A year into Phase 5 and Disney has released Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Secret Invasion, Loki Season 2, The Marvels, and What If..? Season 2, and while a couple of these were pretty good, some were pretty bad too. Viewers aren’t responding as they once did either, as Quantumania and The Marvels both bombed at the box office for a Marvel Cinematic Universe entry.
Secret Invasion also proved a dud despite Disney needing a win despite having so much potential as a no-nonsense, six-episode series based on one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved stories. Its cast was stacked too, with Samuel L. Jackson, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, and Don Cheadle all starring. Somehow that potential ended up becoming an utterly mundane and monotonous MCU entry, and a far cry from its source material.
On the DC front, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, and The Flash made little impact, giving the mediocre DC Extended Universe a mediocre send-off. The Flash in particular had a lot of potential as a mash-up of DC properties that brought Ezra Miller’s Flash together with Michael Shannon’s General Zod, Michael Keaton’s Batman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, and more in what could have been DC’s take on Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Instead it was a CGI-flooded cameo-fest that, while not necessarily bad, left many fans disappointed.
9. Mario Jumps Beyond Video Games
Super Mario Bros. Wonder may have arrived in 2023 as the latest 2D side-scrolling entry in the long-running franchise but Mario was by no means restricted to just video games this year. The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a huge success, bolstering the franchise to even greater heights as a pop culture icon. It quickly jumped beyond the $1 billion mark at the box office, while Bowser’s (Jack Black’s) song Peaches went viral online too.
Things didn’t stop there though, as Super Nintendo World also opened in 2023 as Nintendo again defined itself as a household name beyond its most famous video game business. The highly anticipated theme park lets Nintendo fans explore the real life Mushroom Kingdom, race in Mario Karts, meet the likes of Peach and Luigi, and more.
In our 9/10 review of the park, IGN said: “Super Nintendo World brilliantly reinvents and gamifies the theme park experience, while offering an unprecedented level of immersion and — most importantly — fun. It’s a fitting tribute to Super Mario on the series’ 35th anniversary that will fill your heart with joy.”
8. Grand Theft Auto VI Is Finally Revealed
What will likely be the biggest game of the year, the decade, and perhaps all time was announced in 2023 as Rockstar Games finally unveiled Grand Theft Auto VI. The GTA VI trailer — which reintroduces fans to Rockstar’s take on Miami, Vice City — quickly broke records, dwarfing the likes of Cyberpunk 2077’s reveal trailer in terms of views. Lasting 90 seconds, it featured a ton of intricate details (here are 99 things IGN spotted) and plenty of references to wild and wacky real life events too.
While the game was revealed alongside the 2025 release date for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S, PC players were left frustrated, though not necessarily surprised, that their platform was left off the list.
They weren’t the ones a little peeved though, as several developers from Rockstar itself took to social media to express their frustration at the trailer leaking early. In fact, the entire industry shared their disappointment that the exciting moment was dampened. Several streamers were also hit with content strikes and takedowns in the wake of the leak.
7. Barbenheimer Dominates the Summer Box Office
What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? The summer box office had its own version of that question in Barbenheimer, an irreplicable event that truly felt like something from the pre-streaming era, with fans flocking to cinemas to enjoy Barbie and Oppenheimer. The internet got a kick out of it too, of course, making mountains of memes, mashups, and more.
Barbenheimer was a box office phenomenon, with the perfectly pink exploration of femininity on one side and the dark, as stunning as it is terrifying biopic on the other. Barbie surpassed The Super Mario Bros. Movie as the biggest U.S. domestic box office opening of the year at $162 million, and has now amassed $1.442 billion worldwide as the biggest film of 2023. Oppenheimer sits in third place, behind Mario but with a solid $952 million of its own.
“I’ve been in the business of tracking and analysing box office trends and movies for 30 years now, and I’ve never quite seen anything like this,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told IGN in July
6. Elon Musk Blows Up Twitter
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover was one of the more turbulent stories of 2022, but looking to go even further this year, the Tesla CEO actually killed the brand for good. Twitter was rebranded as X, tweets became xeets, and the internet couldn’t really tell if Musk was serious or not.
The change came just a few weeks after some other bizarre changes, like Musk imposing a limitation that stopped verified users, meaning those who paid to use the social media platform, from seeing more than 600 posts a day. Verified accounts could only see 6,000 too, but Musk quickly walked this back and insisted it was a temporary measure to stop system manipulation.
Twitter users therefore didn’t know if the X rebrand was a joke or a temporary change or whatever else, but the change has, of course, turned out to be permanent. Musk is a big fan of X when it comes to branding (SpaceX, X.com etc), and is the name for his planned “everything app” that would encompass functions such as paying for bills and ordering a taxi, inspired by the all-encompassing WeChat in China.
5. Hello, AI
AI Week Roundtable: Meet the Games Industry Experts
Though it’s appeared in many forms over the past few years and decades, artificial intelligence really took off in 2023. AI chat services like ChatGPT were first to make headlines, but excitement and possibilities soon turned to concern and doubt. Other projects like a Seinfeld inspired AI show emerged, promising nothing, forever, while AI art of all kinds was slammed by major figures of several creative industries.
Video games have already endured a particularly complicated relationship with AI too. Embark Studios, the developer of smash hit shooter The Finals, was criticised for using AI voiceovers by myriad actors and even other developers, for example. Embark told IGN that “making games without actors isn’t an end goal” and claimed it uses a mix of both recorded audio voices and audio generated via AI text to speech tools for its games, however.
Companies have also emerged to create solutions to AI too like voice actor Cissy Jones’ Morpheme, a start-up trying to embrace the new technology in a way that’s ethical for the talent its based on. “There’s a paradigm shift that’s been going on in a very short period of time with AI, which is that originally you had all of these AI companies coming out that were using — they’re basically scraping the internet and developing synthetic voices that couldn’t be authenticated,” Morpheme advisor Scott Mortman told IGN in November.
4. E3 Is Really Dead This Time
Once a titan of the video game industry, and a cause for celebration among fans of Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox alike, E3 has faced a tough few years. It began wobbling as publishers broke away to host their own shows, but after attempting a valiant return to form in 2023, the event was cancelled a few months ahead of its taking place.
Half a year later, in November 2023, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced E3 was ending for good, 28 years after its first event took place. “After more than two decades of serving as a central showcase for the video game industry, ESA has decided to end E3,” the company said. “ESA remains focused on advocating for ESA member companies and the industry workforce who fuel positive cultural and economic impact every day.”
E3 began life in 1995 with a show at the Los Angeles Convention Center and stayed at the venue throughout its near 30-year existence, apart from a two-year sojourn to Atlanta in 1997 and 1998. It became synonymous with big video game announcements at flashy press conferences, with some of the most exciting reveals of all time happening within its walls.
3. Xbox Completes Its Activision Blizzard Buy-Out
Every Video Game Franchise Xbox Owns After Acquiring Activision Blizzard
Xbox finally completed its historic acquisition of Activision Blizzard in 2023 and with it gained control of some of the biggest franchises in video game history. Not mincing words, Xbox now owns the best-selling video game each year in Call of Duty, plus franchises like Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga, Diablo, Hearthstone, Guitar Hero, Spyro and more.
The $68.7 billion acquisition going through in October was celebrated by Microsoft with an emotional trailer showing off all these franchises, with glee unsurprising given how difficult, complicated, and long the process was. Microsoft had to overcome concerns from U.S. senators, Wall Street doubt, an investigation and even a from the UK government, a lawsuit from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and much more.
The internet had plenty to say about the deal, with fans, developers, and analysts all weighing in on the biggest video game acquisition of all time. The Communications Workers of America union also expressed delight at the deal going through.
2. Two Strikes and Hollywood’s Out
Months of rumblings finally erupted into two strikes that decimated Hollywood this summer. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced that its members would be going on strike on May 2 following what it called a “wholly insufficient” response from studios when asked to comply with several important issues. These were centred around proposed changes to accommodate for the way the streaming model has changed the entertainment landscape.
Increasing more pressure to studio executives, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voted to go on strike on July 13. “We are being victimised by a very greedy enterprise,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. “At some point you have to say ‘no, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’”
The strikes essentially brought North American cinema and television to a standstill, affecting several titles including Games of Thrones spin-off A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, Big Mouth, Blade, Daredevil: Born Again, Spider-Man 4, Stranger Things, Yellowjackets, and many more. A deal was eventually reached for both groups, however, as the WGA ended its strike on September 27 and SAG-AFTRA ended its on November 9.
1. Layoffs Devastate the Video Game Industry
For as many highlights 2023 had for the video game industry, each peak must be taken in the context that thousands of developers also lost their jobs this year. The lay-offs were among the worst in industry history, with myriad studios of all sizes affected. Dreams’ Media Molecule, Cyberpunk 2077’s CD Projekt Red, F1 Manager’s Frontier Developments, and Assassin’s Creed’s Ubisoft all suffered lay-offs. Destiny 2 developer Bungie was also affected, causing a “soul crushing” atmosphere at the studio. IGN learned in an investigative report.
Colossal companies like Embracer, who owns the likes of Borderlands developer Gearbox Software and Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics, Fortnite publisher Epic Games, and Dungeons & Dragons owner Hasbro also saw sweeping job losses. Embracer laid off 5% of its workforce, amassing to 904 staff in total, Epic laid off 16%, or 830 employees, and Hasbro cut close to 20%, meaning around 1,100 staff.
Entire studios were also closed, including Embracer’s Campfire Cabal and Saints Row developer Volition Games, plus the studio behind TimeSplittlers Free Radical.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.