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Predicting the big stories of 2019

Ooblets

People are currently arguing about sausage rolls on Twitter, which suggests that 2019 isn't going to be all that different from 2018. But as much as it feels like we're stuck in an endless loop of corny discourse, a lot does change, and quickly, especially in PC gaming—it wasn't long ago that the battle royale genre was largely confined to a Minecraft mod, and now every kid you know is flossing. (Don't tell overjoyed dentists that teeth are not involved.)

Trying to accurately predict those changes is a fool's errand, but we've been known to take up more than a few of those. (Chris once tried to make a Cities Skylines city function with only one house.) As we enter a new year of announcements and controversies and wonderful games, here are the big themes we expect to see play out. Let us know your 2019 predictions in the comments.

Valve will announce two new games, expand Steam.tv significantly, and redesign the Steam store 

Though Epic and Discord probably won't offer Steam much real competition in 2019, Valve will get ahead of things and start announcing the other games it's been working on. One will be Left 4 Dead 3 and the other will be a VR exclusive. It'll also build out Steam.tv as a Twitch competitor, with game integration—tools for audience interaction, overlays, things like that—being its best feature. The Steam redesign we've been seeing glimpses of will be live by the end of 2019. All of these things will happen. Please do not look back on and evaluate this article in one year's time. Thanks. —Tyler Wilde

Windows will finally get a Microsoft Store that doesn't completely suck 

The words we've been waiting to hear: "I think we’ve got a ton of work to do on Windows ... I’ve heard the feedback about our Store. I’m going to take a bigger leadership role on what’s going on with the Windows Store, make it really tailored to the gamers that we know want to see the best from what we have to offer." That's from Phil Spencer, Microsoft's big boss of gaming, and an encouraging sign that 2019 will see a heavily revamped Microsoft Store that makes it easier to navigate and manage your games. It's not the first time Microsoft has admitted the Windows Store has issues, but I feel like there's real momentum now. Microsoft has committed hard to games this year, acquiring studios like Obsidian and finding great success in its Game Pass subscription service.

Game Pass is apparently coming to PC at some point, too, and I think we're going to see a lot of activity from Microsoft in 2019 making all of its game options more appealing on PC. I don't know that a Windows Store update will solve some of our deeper, fundamental issues with how UWP apps are packaged and prevent easy modding, but a well-designed store and Game Pass will be major steps forward. —Wes Fenlon

E3 will kind of suck because the new consoles won't arrive until 2020

I feel reasonably confident we're entering the quiet later stages of the console cycle, which affects PC players by virtue of the fact that publishers begin holding back big games for the new generation. 2019 will either bring no new console release or one new console, I reckon—but either way it'll be a slimmer time for big announcements and a quieter year for big games. Big blockbusters we're waiting to see, like Starfield, or whatever Rocksteady is working on, will wait until those consoles are out in the open before making a splashy showing. —Samuel Roberts

AMD's 7nm Ryzen processors will actually win all the important benchmarks

The GPU prediction below is a bit of a long shot, but the CPU side is far more probable. Intel's 10nm parts are extremely late to the party, and we know that TSMC's 7nm process node is fully running—it's already used in Apple's latest smartphone chips. The current 2nd generation Ryzen CPUs are manufactured on a 12nm node, which is quite similar to the previous 14nm node. But 7nm will truly be a major die shrink, and it opens the door to tons of possibilities.

For one, clockspeeds should definitely go up, and probably by more than a few hundred MHz. Second, power and cooling requirements should go down, thanks to the smaller feature sizes. And third, with the ability to cram far more transistors into the same area as before, AMD can add a lot of new architectural features to improve performance. Better latencies and improved bandwidth for the various caches could push the 3rd generation Ryzen parts ahead of Intel's Coffee Lake processors. The last time AMD could truly lay claim to having the fastest consumer CPUs was during the Athlon 64 / X2 era from 2004-2006. Let's hope we see a return to those days. —Jarred Walton

AMD will claim the GPU performance crown

AMD will release 7nm Navi graphics cards at competitive prices that blow the GeForce RTX line out of the water. All the pieces are in place, including a major process node advantage relative to Nvidia's current 12nm Turing GPUs. It's been two years since the last major architectural upgrade for AMD's graphics division, and fans have been waiting patiently. This time, there's no blunders, higher than expected power requirements, and lower than expected performance. Navi will also support DirectX Raytracing, though obviously not Nvidia's RTX specific extensions. (Don't laugh—it could happen!) —Jarred Walton

Subscriptions and cloud streaming will become less avoidable

The store wars will continue to be a major story in 2019 (even if I don't think Epic can meaningfully challenge Steam for another couple years), but something that was less talked about this year was just how much major companies are investing in subscription plans and game streaming services. EA really would prefer it if you became an Origin Access Premier member rather than buying games individually. Google and most other big companies in or adjacent to gaming are trying out game streaming platforms. We may not see our first streaming exclusive this year, but it's going to happen eventually. Sorry. At least we've been warned, right? —Tyler Wilde

Anthem will actually be really good

The launch is going to be rocky, as these things always are, but I have a hunch that BioWare's co-op shooter is going to surprise us. I am prepared to eat my words. —Tyler Wilde

More Marvel games will be announced

I think the success of Spider-Man on the PS4 will convince publishers that Marvel's success in making mostly OK films that generate a lot of cash can be replicated across games. We know Square Enix is making an Avengers game and almost certainly a Guardians of the Galaxy one after. That leaves many more compelling characters on the table: the X-Men, Black Panther (assuming he's not in Avengers), Deadpool, Ant-Man, Daredevil, and loads more besides. Surely more publishers want a piece of that now, after how much Spidey resonated with people? —Samuel Roberts 

(Ed. note: This prediction was written before we heard about Ben Brode's Marvel game, so we're already doing pretty good.)

Even more predictions

  • Spelunky 2 will be GOTY. If it's not out in 2019, the idea of Spelunky 2 will still be better than most other games. 
  • PC Gamer staff productivity will drop by 14 percent following the release of Ooblets.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 won't be out in 2019, but by the end of 2019, people will be sick of seeing trailers for it and complain about overexposure.
  • The Elder Scrolls 6 will not release in 2019, as Michael Pachter has predicted. We'll get a trailer, at most.
  • Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition owners will finally receive their tote bags, but the zippers will be broken, and bag-gate will last another year.
  • The battle royale genre will make its way to board games, but immediately fail because no one has a table big enough for 100 players to sit around.
  • Rocksteady will surprise everyone by not making another Batman game but instead making an Alfred game. It will give players hundreds of hours of butlering.
  • So many game companies will release their own game launchers that Windows will have to patch in an update that enlarges our system tray to hold all the icons.
  • Epic will create its own original dance emote for Fortnite and then, in a moment of confusion, immediately sue itself over it.
  • Wes, who has been WASDing wrong his whole life, will discover he's been also mouse-clicking wrong. He's been using his elbow to click the mouse this whole time! We'll all laugh fondly.