We’re only a few days into the New Year so there’s still time for some predictions. I would say that 2012 went rather the way I thought it would, with a few surprises, so hopefully I’m not too far off the mark for this year.
With the “death” of Flash, the surge of HTML5 and proliferation of mobile devices, it’s a safe bet to say that the majority of gaming will be mobile and through a browser or mobile app. Internet connectivity will be required for most gaming and digital distribution will cause gaming stores to close doors at an even faster pace.
Steam Big Picture (or set top box) will change the way people game from this point forward. Unless consoles can move away from box copies into a streaming model that is pick up and play (eg: no more daily patches on the PS3), I don’t see much of a future for them. This year’s crop of games has shown that graphics don’t mean much anymore and most processor power is wasted. We don’t need stronger consoles, we need entertainment units.
Up here in Canada, it’s next to impossible to rent any movies, unless you’re subscribed to Zip or know some corner store. Netflix in Canada has about a quarter of the content of the US feed and most people just proxy to a US address to get a better feed. I expect this to be one of the last years for cable TV, where we get to a personal distribution model. I don’t want 200 channels I never watch, I want a dozen or so that I care about – or even better, just the shows that I want to watch.
This is the year that F2P finds its footing. While it’s naïve to think that you can game for free, it’s also insulting to pay a subscription fee’s worth of F2P items and be further restricted than a subscriber. Buy to Play, with some cash store, is likely to be the new standard for success in a post-Zynga world. Get rich quick schemes will stay, certainly, but the game lifespans will be a year or less. This likely means the end of LOTRO and TOR.
WoW will remain the behemoth it has been but drop to under 8 million subs and be unable to maintain any reasonable patch schedule. Rift will lose more subs but find a stable ground for dedicated gamers and continue to shame other developers in terms of content for value. EvE will grow a bit more but likely reach a critical mass in game in terms of power, which will have an Us vs Them mentality. Wildstar will launch and jump straight to F2P, filling a nice gap in MMO action gaming. Firefall won’t ever leave beta. Many existing F2P games will close their doors, where the models simply can’t support the operating costs. TESO will surprise people in terms of quality of content but disappoint in terms of quantity of content. Feels more like this year will be the year of MMO house cleaning.
Bioshock Infinite will launch to acclaim. GTA 5 will launch and break sales records. The Last of Us is going to be my game of the year. Tomb Raider will reboot the franchise. God of War and Gears of War will stink but sell well. Kickstarter games will start coming out of the gate, raising eyebrows in terms of quality vs quantity. Indie games that show up out of the blue are going to be the real story drivers, blending nostalgia with current gaming controls (ala XCOM).
I see 2013 as a year of path finding. There’s a current glut of gaming and a lot of new territory for people to try out. Mobile gaming is going to kill Facebook gaming and put a focus on short, intense gaming sessions, rather than the 4 hour raids of WoW. Shops will close, playing it big will fail and your Mom is going to end up gaming with you.