Now that’s what I call PC games news 2021!

Here's our roundup of the biggest news that's happened in PC gaming this year

A New World character in a settlement as fireworks burts overhead in the MMORPG

The end of 2021 is nigh. We’re all getting ready to hunker down and gorge ourselves on heaps of festive foodstuffs and great games before another year of gaming news shows up on our doorstep, commanding our attention like an uproarious, slightly soused relative. While we don’t yet know what 2022 will bring (well, other than Elden Ring), your trusty PCGamesN news crew has been here all year, clad in proudest orange, spelunking deep into the news mines to gather all the biggest stories for you, our lovely readers.

With the year now almost behind us, now’s the time to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly of gaming news in 2021. To that end, we’ve fetched a festive feast worth of goodies from the vaults, hitting all the stories that’ll warm your cockles to remember, and some you might have missed along the way.

Starting with news that everyone’s favourite tomb-raiding hero, Indiana Jones, will return to PC courtesy of MachineGames and Bethesda, and rounding off with the arrival of Final Fantasy XIV’s Endwalker expansion (impeccably rendered grapes included), here’s our roundup of this year’s greatest hits. Or, as we prefer, Now, That’s What We Call NEWS 2021!

January

Ushering in the new year with a hearty dollop of nostalgia, Bethesda and MachineGames made a surprise announcement in January 2021 that they were creating “a brand-new Indiana Jones game with a completely original story”. Revealed with the briefest of teasers – and nothing further, even a year on – it’ll be a long while before we get to see it, but it’s just nice to know Dr. Jones is dusting off his fedora for another adventure. Speaking of Bethesda, the studio also posted a cryptic Elder Scrolls tweet at the very tail end of 2020, and the internet spent the first days of 2021, well, exploding – and trying to decipher its meaning, of course.

Elsewhere in the dawn of 2021, we saw the advent of Lamar roasting – a pastime that GTA V fans have turned into something of an art form. It was also a time for endings and new beginnings, as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s online servers closed their doors (though you can still play some parts of it), while Lucasfilm Games revealed that it was partnering with Ubisoft Massive to create a new Star Wars open-world game.

January also marked big success for Football Manager, with director Miles Jacobson announcing that FM21 was the fastest in the series to hit one million copies sold. Phwoar. Sadly for Potterheads, Hogwarts Legacy got delayed to 2022, but we did also find out Auto Chess – the Dota 2 autobattler spin-off – would be getting its own MOBA, thus completing the circle of life.

February

Kicking off February, Google announced it was shutting down its Stadia internal game studios and would instead look to focus on offering third-party games on the on-demand streaming platform, which launched in 2019. Compounding our sorrow, EA dropped the “heartbreaking” news that Mass Effect 1’s Pinnacle Station DLC has been lost to the cutting room floor. ‘Heartbreaking’ may be an oversell, but it’s certainly a shame for completionists. In happier tidings, spirited Viking game Valheim emerged as a breakout hit, dominating Steam’s bestsellers and racking up player counts that would surely please Odin and both his ravens. Yes, even Muninn, that haughty mess.

February was also the month we discovered that when you mix extended global lockdowns with very tall vampire women, everyone gets a little weird. Poor old Lady Dimitrescu of Resident Evil Village – who is very much more than just an object of fans’ desire – received a whole lot of thirsty attention when Capcom revealed her height was nine feet and six inches. Beyond this, though, we also heard that Minecraft Dungeons hit ten million players, while Rainbow Six Siege stormed to 70 million.

One of the greatest Doom ports to date – made entirely out of cardboard and John Romero – graced our screens in February, too, as did news that Total War: Warhammer III’s campaign map is going to be a right chonker. In less peppy news, Cyberpunk 2077 studio CD Projekt Red was hit by a cyber attack. CDPR then announced that some of the data taken might be circulating the internet, and laid out a few changes to prevent future breaches.

Anthem

March

March was a good one. Not only did we see the arrival of No Man’s Sky’s Expeditions, Watch Dogs: Legion’s online mode (two weeks after being indefinitely delayed), and the Dota 2 anime show, Dota: Dragon’s Blood, it was also the month we learned you could run Doom on 16 billion crabs. Well, kind of.

Anthem Next, the reboot of Anthem which had been in the works at Bioware for some time, was finally scrapped. The game’s current version is still live so fans can still play, but we’ll never know whether EA’s big gambit for the action-MMO genre could ever have lived up to its potential. Sob.

But the month closed with one of the coolest stories of the year, as a dedicated (and clearly super smart) GTA Online player figured out a way to speed up the game’s loading times by 70%. Not only that, but developer Rockstar Games then recognised the fan’s efforts with a $10k reward, and decided to roll out changes to improve loading times in a subsequent update. Inspiring stuff.

A many-armed boss in Elden Ring

April

April started with the discovery that Elden Ring is actually a Reddit-based social experiment, except it didn’t really because we were joking – as we do on April Fool’s Day. Not to be distracted by the industry’s japes, gaming communities were particularly industrious this month. While it took six days to get the Ever Given out of the Suez Canal, it only took 11 hours for one player to build it in Minecraft. Someone also flipped the script by getting Snake to run in Doom rather than the other way round, and one World of Warcraft fan managed to get all the rewards for an event by standing still for two hours. That’s working smart, not hard.

We got an alpha for Diablo 2’s remaster, and it didn’t take players long to find an item duping glitch. That’s probably because it’s long been an issue in the original, so we suppose it’s only right for it to appear in a faithful remaster. Speaking of which, one Diablo 2 player completed his ‘holy grail’ run after four years by finding every unique item the action-RPG has to offer.

Oh, and hey! Did someone say Activision Blizzard? Head honcho Bobby Kotick agreed to cut his salary by 50% following various criticisms from company shareholders, and Jeff ‘from the Overwatch team’ left the Overwatch team – and Blizzard entirely. Big news, but it certainly wasn’t the last we heard from Activision Blizzard this year.

A look at the Lush Caves in the Minecraft 1.18 update.

May

It finally happened in May. We got Doom running in a PCGamesN article. Software developer Andrew Sillers managed to get the classic FPS game running on a GIF, so we were all too happy to plant one on the site.

Players were equally productive, with one Skyrim fan killing every single NPC and creature in the game, making everywhere Solitude. Heh. We guess the isolation of lockdown is more to the taste of some. It was also a good month for the developers at Mojang, who fixed not one but two Minecraft bugs that had been hanging around for a whopping eight years. That’s, like, two Olympic cycles.

We also got a report that Valve was making a Switch-style console that could launch in 2021. The creators of Half-Life making a hand-held console? Bit late for April Fool’s, guys. A Diablo character also sparked an amusing trademark fight between Blizzard and Fox, though again, and rather sadly, it wasn’t the last we would hear of Activision Blizzard this year.

A Starfield pilot sits in a space craft behind the control deck

June

Ah, E3 month. Elden Ring fans got their hopes up that they might get a few crumbs to tide them over until a potential release date reared its head. Spoiler: at the Summer Game Fest: Kickoff Live! show, they got their heart’s desire. We did, though, get a release date for Starfield, with the upcoming space game set to launch – get it? – 11 years to the day after Skyrim.

It was also a pretty good month for old favourite Team Fortress 2. The classic PC game’s longest update drought ever finally ended, leading TF2 to a new all-time concurrent player peak record. Some of them might have been bots, but most of them were likely returning players keen to see what was new.

Elsewhere we learned that FFXIV got bunny boys because artists used their free time to make it happen. A rare version of Minecraft was rediscovered after ten years, and someone bought an Among Us chicken nugget for nearly $100,000 on eBay. Oh, and No Man’s Sky creator Sean Murray asked players to stop modding his face into the game. Reflecting on April’s news, an investment group declared that Activision Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick was still being paid way too much. And that still wasn’t… well. Here we go.

July

As much as we want these annual news round-ups to be fun, the biggest story of 2021 is decidedly not. In July, the state of California sued Activision Blizzard over its “frat boy” office culture, putting on the public record a number of allegations of misconduct, including sexual harassment and discrimination. The company initially went on the defence, calling the lawsuit “irresponsible behaviour from unaccountable state bureaucrats that are driving many of the state’s best businesses out of California”, though CEO Bobby Kotick walked that response back after criticism – and walkouts – from staff.

Activision Blizzard has certainly not been the first massive game company to come under fire for allegations of workplace abuse, and Ubisoft workers joined the protest – one year after widespread allegations of harassment were made against the French publisher. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said the company was making changes, but employees said they hadn’t gone far enough. Developments on these stories could compose an entire recap on their own and the entire industry is still reckoning with the fallout. Whether lasting change comes from the resulting public and legal pressure remains to be seen, but that pressure has become more intense than ever before.

It’s not easy to keep talking about videogames under the spectre of the industry’s issues, but that’s what we’ve had to do throughout 2021. And, well… Final Fantasy XIV, am I right? In the middle of summer, without a new expansion to drive the hype, the beloved MMORPG reached new heights of popularity. Steam player counts reached record levels, and the game was removed from sale in certain regions in an effort to stem the tide of new players. That didn’t stop fans from bringing their ‘FFXIV free trial up to level 60’ signs to wrestling shows – and if you’re not keeping up, the great wrestling sign RPG wars of 2021 still rage on. (Konami, if you’re reading, listen to the ‘translate Tokimeki Memorial’ guy.)

Valve officially unveiled the Steam Deck in July, and the fact that orders still haven’t shipped hasn’t yet dampened our excitement. id Software’s Mario 3 port went to a museum, Ubisoft confirmed Assassin’s Creed Infinity and a new future for the series, and Sony picked up Nixxes Software to help bring former PlayStation exclusives to PC. Also, SCS Software put a giant potato in American Truck Simulator. Because what could better simulate American travel than gaudy roadside attractions?

August

News got a little… weirder in August. We mourned the removal of oral sex from Fortnite. (Yes, the Batman header image is entirely intentional.) We mourned the lack of Wolverine sex in Marvel’s Midnight Suns. (Maybe we were actually just horny in August.) And, for some reason, Hollow Knight reached a new player record on Steam – it was sadly not enough to manifest a Silksong release date this year.

Fake Todd Howard showed up in FFXIV to give out copies of ‘Oblivion’. Real Todd Howard prepared to sell yet another version of Skyrim. Bethesda brought us a Quake remaster – complete with Quake 64 levels. You can play a native PC version of Quake 64 now! We got a delightful clip of the Halo announcer saying “trans rights”, and then, American Civil War game Grand Tactician made ready to depart Early Access. Is that actually big news? I don’t know, but holy crap, so many of you read that story. We might stop writing about new Fortnite seasons if this keeps up.

We saw a GTA mod site get hit with a number of DMCA strikes, pulling down fan efforts at remastering some classic Grand Theft Auto locales. Surely that could only mean a sure-to-be-excellent official remaster coming from Take-Two, right? In other nose-scrunching news regarding major game publishers, Epic took more than a little inspiration from Among Us for Fortnite’s Impostors mode – though we eventually got a happy ending there.

In other dramatic foreshadowing, mobile-focused MMO MIR4 came to Steam and suddenly blew up. We played just enough to suspect that it wasn’t the game’s quality drawing players in, but rather its promise of earnable cryptocurrency. Sure, grinding away in thin gameplay in an effort to win pennies worth of crypto doesn’t sound fun now, but just wait until Ubisoft starts doing it!

Cookie Clicker mod support is now available via Steam Workshop, of course

September

September brought us another big publisher scandal, as a labour survey revealed that more than two thirds of women at Paradox report having faced some form of discrimination or mistreatment at the company. Just before that survey was published, Ebba Ljungerud stepped down from her position as CEO, though the company denied any connection between the two events. Almost as soon as he returned to the CEO’s chair, Fredrik Wester apologised for inappropriate behaviour at a 2018 company conference.

After Amazon’s Crucible proved so unpopular in 2020 that it was shut down just months after launch, there was an air of healthy scepticism heading into the launch of the company’s follow-up. Yet New World managed to defy expectations, instantly becoming the fifth-biggest game in the history of Steam. It turned out that even Amazon couldn’t solve the problem of server strain, and the game’s opening weeks were racked with issues caused by its own astonishing popularity.

At least we had Cookie Clicker to play during the queues. The free browser game came to Steam, and despite the new $5 price tag, players flocked to it by the tens of thousands. The grandmatriarchs will be pleased. Or maybe displeased. Speaking of which, Respawn sure seemed upset that outlets reported on one of its employees publicly stating that “there’s nothing there” when it comes to Titanfall 3. (We would love for something to be there with Titanfall 3, for the record.)

September also brought a dollop of nostalgia, with a remaster for Alan Wake finally bringing life back to that series, and the reveal of a KOTOR remake proving that someone at Disney still has some love for the LucasArts x Bioware classic.

October

The thud you heard on the doorstep as the spooky season arrived wasn’t a ghost or goblin at the door; it was the sound of Konami’s new eFootball 2022 becoming the worst-reviewed game on Steam. The poor reception had more to do with the bugs and strange (but often hilarious) graphical glitches eFootball shipped with, rather than its new free-to-play business model. Meanwhile, Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos declared that, despite the server issues mentioned above, New World was finally a “success” for the company’s fledgling game development studio – and, as we all know, everyone all lived happily ever after.

Everyone was certainly living their best life over in Final Fantasy XIV, where a Colonel Sanders cosplayer and two chicken-suited frighteners were running around photobombing players and offering boxes of fried food. But if you smelled something sizzling, it might not have been the Colonel’s original recipe – it was probably the Diablo 2: Resurrected servers going up in smoke. FF14’s producer/director Naoki Yoshida was starting to get a bit nervous about the MMO’s big Endwalker expansion slated for later in the year, warning players that it was “inevitable” that they’d have to wait “a little bit” to get in once the expansion arrived. Once you are in, however, the developers said a little sexy roleplay is okay – as long as everyone involved is consenting and having a good time.

October also saw the renaming of Overwatch’s cowboy character to Cole Cassidy – another bit of fallout from the horrendous allegations about workplace culture at Blizzard. Activision Blizzard also stopped requiring forced arbitration clauses in employees’ contracts, which the ABK Workers Alliance called “a huge win.”

We saw Valve ban blockchain-based games from Steam, and hoped – in vain, it turns out – that big publishers would take the hint and steer clear. At the time, it felt unrelated, but Ubisoft unveiled a brand-new campaign for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, dubbed Operation Motherland, which we naively believed would be a nice way to send the troubled co-op tactical shooter off into the sunset.

Fortnite characters prepare to face off against the Cube Queen

November

We gained a new understanding of how long the pandemic has been going on when someone reached level 1,000 in Fortnite for the first time. Final Fantasy XIV’s Endwalker expansion was delayed into December, which made us sad, but after New World’s rocky launch a smooth release day is worth a little wait. Our spirits were lifted with the arrival of Forza Horizon 5, a game that had 800,000 players before it even officially launched and was very warmly received by critics across the board.

Speaking of launches, the new Call of Duty arrived, along with the beginnings of its new kernel-level anti-cheat software, Ricochet. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Remastered appeared briefly, but was yanked from the store when Rockstar realised it had unintentionally included some files – likely unlicensed music – in the initial build. For posterity, someone took the terrible rain from the GTA Trilogy and modded it into classic Doom.

November also brought Battlefield 2042, a kind of grab bag of Battlefield ideas that players still aren’t entirely sure what to make of. Whatever else might be said about it, however, its servers weathered the launch day storm (see what we did there?) admirably, remaining mostly functional despite some strange connection error messages. That was nothing, however, compared to the launch of Halo: Infinite’s free multiplayer – its arrival wasn’t as much of a surprise as the fact that someone managed to release a new free-to-play multiplayer shooter that seemed to work exactly as intended on day one. Good job, gang!

More troubling news came out of Blizzard, meanwhile, as newly elevated co-leader Jen Oneal left her position just months after assuming the role. Oneal said she remains hopeful for Blizzard’s future. “I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts”, she wrote in her farewell letter.

Final Fantasy XIV's main character during a scene in Endwalker

December

As we were wondering how we’d suddenly arrived at the end of the year already, December arrived with a bevy of patches: New World got a patch to fix its last patch, Diablo 2: Resurrected got DLSS, and Battlefield 2042 saw an update aimed at getting its guns to hit the things they’re aimed at. Vince Zampella, who helped create Call of Duty and Titanfall, took a new job overseeing the Battlefield series, and the Halo subreddit was locked down to contain a doom spiral of rage over Infinite’s battle pass progression rate.

Final Fantasy XIV’s long-awaited Endwalker expansion finally arrived, and in accordance with the prophecy, it was much too popular for its own good. It was so popular, in fact, that Square Enix decided to give everyone a free week of access to make up for the trouble they all had trying to log in.

Elsewhere, though, the gaming world recoiled in horror as Ubisoft revealed its true plan for Ghost Recon Breakpoint: it would be a guinea pig for its new Quartz NFT platform. GSC Gameworld, the developer of STALKER 2, also announced a plan for including NFTs in its game – but, unlike Ubisoft, backtracked quickly after facing an avalanche of negative feedback.

When the Game Awards rolled around, we knew we were on the home stretch for 2021. Our work wasn’t over yet, though: we heard tell of a new Wonder Woman game in the works that will use the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor, and learned more about Alan Wake 2, which developer Remedy says will be a true survival horror game. The show also featured a special appearance by Elden Ring’s breakout star Pot Boy (also known as Alexander the Iron Fist), who we’ll get to meet next year.

FIN

And there you have it. Another very strange and often difficult year nonetheless filled with plenty of great games and news to gobble up about them. While it’s been a seismic year for the industry in which many troubling reports have surfaced, and the need for widespread, meaningful change has become clearer than ever, we can hope that this marks a turning point towards a better future for games and the people who work so hard to bring them to life.

Now, go put your feet up, get cosy, and enjoy whatever goodies you’ve decided to play – or replay – for your holidays. Enjoy your break, and join us again in January for more. Cheers!

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