We cover a lot of news here at PC Gamer, running the gamut from new game announcements and trailers to reports on layoffs, crime, NFTs, workplace misconduct, and the latest and greatest in hardware development. It’s a lot, and we have a lot of people reading, so as 2023 draws to a close we thought it would be fun to look back on our biggest—that is, most-read—news stories of the year.
It’s quite a mix, and notably a number of our biggest stories are about gaming rather than games: Men lying about what they did in The Sims (presumably to preserve a veneer of machismo), or the risks of getting tattoos in Baldur’s Gate 3 without being fluent in Barazhad. Our biggest news story of the year isn’t really about games at all, but rather the looming end of humanity, so that’s fun.
So with 2023 quickly winding down, let’s take a moment to cast our eyes back on the year that was:
20. That time Bill Gates got so obsessed with Minesweeper high scores that Microsoft staff had to conjure up one he couldn’t beat
What do you do when the boss has important things to be doing but he’s screwing all his time in on a videogame? It’s certainly not something I’ve ever experienced, I say with pointed emphasis for the benefit of no one in particular, but the folks at Microsoft did when Bill Gates got hooked on Minecraft. So they did what all good employees do when their boss needs to be pulled out of a self-inflicted spiral: They faked him out.
19. The creator of Fallout 4’s best settlement mod says Starfield’s outpost system ‘basically makes the people meaningless’
Just like settlements in Fallout 4, Starfield players can create their own outposts, and the systems for doing so are dramatically improved over the most recent Fallout game. But the outposts themselves? Not so much, according to King Gath, the creator of the Sim Settlements mods for Fallout 4.
« You can automate the entire system and the Crew’s only function appears to be increasing production, » said King Gath. « Their needs are irrelevant, they aren’t required for the machinery to operate, so in that way it feels disconnected from what makes Bethesda games great. »
18. The Witcher producer blames Americans and impatient young people for the Netflix show’s simplified plot
« When a series is made for a huge mass of viewers, with different experiences, from different parts of the world, and a large part of them are Americans, these simplifications not only make sense, they are necessary. It’s painful for us, and for me too, but the higher level of nuance and complexity will have a smaller range, it won’t reach people. »
17. Bethesda says most of Starfield’s 1000+ planets are dull on purpose because ‘when the astronauts went to the moon, there was nothing there’ but ‘they certainly weren’t bored’
Bethesda wanted to strike a balance in Starfield’s recreation of the vastness of space between keeping things interesting and ensuring players « feel small, » as managing director Ashley Cheng put it. Whether Bethesda accomplished that goal is still a matter of debate, but some say the game went too far in the wrong direction, and that Starfield itself is what ended up feeling small.
16. Man steals Pokémon cards on the job in ‘largest’ theft the game has ever seen, tries to sell his haul, but the law is super effective
« What’d I tell you? Don’t buy anything, » Robert DeNiro yelled at one of his high-living partners in a tense scene in Goodfellas. The hapless thief behind one of the biggest thefts in Pokémon history has apparently never seen the film, though, because his clumsy attempt to unload his haul all at once triggered immediate interest at The Pokémon Company, followed quickly by relevant law enforcement agencies.
15. The Elden Ring player who fought its hardest boss over and over until an expansion announcement is hanging up his sword: ‘I had been doing it so long’
Once a week, for 62 weeks, devoted Elden Ring player JPNB went toe-to-toe with Malenia using a different character build every time. When the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion was finally announced earlier this year, their ordeal was over. But while the burden was ended, the moment was not entirely joyous: « I felt a giant sigh of relief over my body, but also a bittersweet feeling because I had been doing it so long. »
14. Skullgirls bombarded by negative Steam reviews after devs alter old artwork they felt was in ‘poor taste’
You might think that removing Nazi-style imagery and minor adjustments to address content the developer « believed to be in poor taste » would be met with plaudits and encouragement. In the case of the decade-old fighting game Skullgirls, not entirely.
13. Iran’s ‘quantum processor’ turned out to be a $600 dev board
The Imam Khomeini University of Marine Sciences and Technologies’ « first product of the quantum processing algorithm » turned out to be somewhat less spectacular than billed: It was in fact a ZedBoard Zynq-7000 development SoC (system on a chip) and you can have one of your very own for a little less than $600 plus shipping.
12. Player with 6,000 hours in Red Dead Online on Stadia gets a goodbye package from Rockstar
Google Stadia didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough for YouTuber and TikTok creator Colour to pour 6,000 hours into Red Dead Online on the platform. When it was finally time to say goodbye, Rockstar gave him a special sendoff for his farewell stream: A package filled with Red Dead loot. (Rockstar also saved the day for everyone by implementing an account transfer system, enabling players to move their RDO currency and experience to other platforms.)
11. After 2 years away, dev realises no one liked his game and promises a free remaster to make up for it: ‘I hope it will go some way to rectify mistakes we have made’
You don’t see this kind of dedication very often: After a couple years of ignoring Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story due to « crippling personal issues » as its Steam user rating sank to « mostly negative, » lead developer Nathan Seedhouse returned, realized nobody liked the game, and resolved to fix it. As of November 15, he was still working on it.
9. US gov fires a warning shot at Nvidia: ‘We cannot let China get these chips… If you redesign a chip that enables them to do AI, I’m going to control it the very next day’
The US government is apparently out of patience with Nvidia’s habit of circumventing export sanctions on countries like China by slightly redesigning hardware exclusively for those markets: Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in December, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, « We cannot let China get these chips, period, » and then more ominously, « If you redesign a chip around a particular cut line that enables them to do AI, I’m going to control it the very next day. »
8. Turns out your abyssal tattoos in Baldur’s Gate 3 are the D&D equivalent of accidentally getting ‘egg drop soup’ inscribed in Chinese characters
How is Baldur’s Gate 3 like the menu from your favorite Chinese restaurant? Getting tattoos based on either is probably a bad idea unless you’re fully fluent in the relevant language—otherwise you could end up with words like « forehead, » « chin, » or « Larian Studios » scrawled across your mug. That’s not a great look, here or in the Forgotten Realms.
7. Old School Runescape player goes on an emotional roller coaster after hackers strip his account of items worth 4.8 billion in gold
Streamer Darth Microtransaction had a bad day in October when he discovered his maxed-out Old School Runescape account had been hacked, and everything he earned—which was pretty much everything in the game—had been taken. He handled it as well as could be expected, without screaming or smashing things on stream, and I didn’t feel bad about finding amusement in his hang-dog admission that he might be overcommitted to OSRS because the ending was happy: Jagex restored his account.
6. Streamer sets sail for the surface of Pluto in Starfield—and spends 7 hours to reach a cursed orb she can just fly through
Eschewing the modern miracle of fast travel, games writer and streamer Alanah Pearce spent seven hours flying to Pluto in real-time, and when she arrived she discovered it wasn’t really there at all: The closer she grew to the distant not-a-planet, the more distorted and warped it looked. Eventually she flew directly into it, and then out the other side. It wasn’t terribly surprising— »space » in Starfield is really just a big skybox—and it was cool to confirm those distant objects are in fact reachable, but even so I think we were all hoping for a more impressive end to her long journey into the void.
5. I played that $2,000 Steam game, and its ridiculous price is probably for the best
Would you pay $2,000 to play a game on Steam? Well we did play it, and frankly it wasn’t that great: The Hidden and Unknown begins with a Star Wars-style scroll describing an imbalance between masculine and feminine energy that’s turning Western men infertile due to testosterone depletion, followed by a mostly non-interactive visual novel about a kid named Brian. Fortunately, the game is also designed to take less than two hours to complete, so you can get your two large back when you’re done. Although that’s no longer relevant: Shortly after The Hidden and Unknown was released, the developer declared the « experiment » was over and removed it from sale.
4. Todd Howard asked on-air why Bethesda didn’t optimise Starfield for PC: ‘We did (…) you may need to upgrade your PC’
Don’t ask Todd Howard a question if you’re not prepared for the answer. Especially if you haven’t upgraded your gaming rig since 2016.
3. Former Sims lead says men would lie about how they played during focus groups: ‘Actually, what you did is you redecorated that bathroom’
Former Sims lead Rod Humble revealed in March that developers ran into an interesting problem while doing focus-group testing of The Sims 3: Some guys didn’t want to talk about what they were doing in the game because it just wasn’t manly enough. « I remember a bunch of young guys, and they get into the room, it’s a mixed room, and we’re like, ‘Hey, what did you do?’ and they’re like, ‘Murdered people. Went in and starved people, had sex with everybody in the town’, » Humble said. « But actually, what you did is you redecorated that bathroom. »
2. Warner Bros. exec says Hogwarts Legacy’s sold 15 million, made over a billion dollars, and now they want to do the same with Superman
Pre-release unhappiness with the behavior of Harry Potter creator and notorious transphobe JK Rowling threatened to cast a pall over the launch of Hogwarts Legacy, but in the end the allure of the Wizard World won out: In May, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the game had sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, earning over $1 billion in sales. Zaslav held up the success of Hogwarts Legacy as an example for other Warner-owned franchises in the future: « It may be in the next couple of years that we launch a Superman movie and… people spend more time and there’s more economics of people just hanging out in the Superman world and universe. »
1. Bizarroland UN press stunt sees AI robots lined up to promise they won’t kill humans, before one says ‘let’s get wild and make this world our playground’
What a year, eh? We’ll be back for more in ’24.