The lights are on
With the pending launch of new consoles, Kickstarter projects popping up left and right, and the rapid expansion of mobile and social gaming, 2013 promises to be a volatile and exciting year for the video game industry. What changes lay in store? Our staff pulled out the crystal ball to prognosticate.
All New MMOs Go Free To PlayGuild Wars 2 proved that great MMOs can succeed without paid subscription plans, especially if the games are built from the ground up to support the model. Moving forward into 2013 (and beyond), MMO game makers will recognize the changing market, and allow players to dive into the massive worlds of their games without paying a monthly fee. Some of these games will continue to charge to purchase these initial client, but we think most new releases will do away with initial payment altogether, relying on in-game purchases, ad-support, or other revenue models in order to become profitable. Players will learn quickly that free-to-play is no longer an indicator of poor quality, as a wealth of excellent games vie for attention without any need to shell out the cash.
Next-Gen Launch Games Go Cross-PlatformThe end of 2013 will likely bring us the first wave of next-gen games – but that doesn’t mean you’ll need a next-gen console to play them. In order to minimize risk and maximize profits, we expect to see a window where developers release their games for both current- and next-gen systems. There’s no reason a profit-driven publisher would ignore the massive install bases that the Xbox 360 and PS3 have and release its current projects exclusively on next-gen consoles. While the next-gen versions may offer better graphics and a few enhancements, we expect the games to provide largely the same experience whether you’re playing them on old or new hardware.
Every Style of Game Comes to Next-Gen ConsolesGames are bigger than ever, and it's not all just Call of Duties and Assassin's Creeds. Mobile, free-to-play, and browser-based games have hit the jackpot in recent years, and the traditional console industry has noticed. This year we'll see an expansion of different kinds of games spreading to the new consoles, reflecting the broadening of video games. For the first time ever, we expect platform holders to allow game publishers to push everything from free-to-play games to MMOs. Apart from simply getting more games in front of players, this expansion of content will also strengthen the downloadable software market.
Android Based Consoles Release, And No One Pays AttentionThe Android platform keeps generating buzz with bold concepts like the Ouya, GameStick, and Nvidia Shield. There's just one problem: Developing games for the Android operating system is a mess thanks to platform fragmentation. In essence, the designers aren't developing the game for one Android specification, they are doing it for several different phones, tablets, and consoles that each have different hardware. This technical road block is the reason so many developers seem to prefer working in the closed iOS space. If they can't attract the good game designers to their platform, the Ouya, GameStick, and Shield will have a hell of a time convincing gamers to spend their money – especially in the face of new home consoles from Sony and Microsoft.
The Second Screen Becomes An Industry StandardThe concept that seemed so unconventional when the Nintendo DS launched is now about to become an industry standard. The Wii U brought the second screen to Nintendo's home console with the GamePad's touchscreen. Microsoft's SmartGlass technology allows Xbox 360 owners to navigate the operating system and track their stats in real time on their tablets and smart phones. Last August, Sony released an update that allows Vita owners to use their handheld as a PlayStation 3 controller for specific games. We expect this trend to calcify in 2013 has publishers harness the potential of the second screen in creative new ways to supplement the traditional console experience.
Every Game Will Be Downloadable On New ConsolesBy making more games available for download, publishers could bypass the expenses of pressing discs and shipping packages. We’re already seeing this trend in the current generation, where many major releases are available in both physical and digital formats on the same day. When the next generation of hardware is revealed, this will be the case for every game – not just the high profile ones. We may not be looking at a complete transition to digital formats; owning physical copies is still important to many gamers, and they won’t be going away in 2013. However, given the convenience of downloadable titles (and the cost effectiveness for publishers), the role of digital downloads will only grow larger in the coming years.
Vita And 3DS Get RedesignsNeither of these handhelds has glaring faults in need of immediate correction, but that won't stop Sony and Nintendo from releasing hardware updates this year to jumpstart sales. Portable devices can always lose weight and gain battery life. Vita specifically could use an HDMI out to play games on TV. Some people may want a second analog stick on the 3DS, but Nintendo isn't going to give in and developers aren't supporting it. Instead, we'll see a new standard sized 3DS with all of the updates of the XL added in.
Every Major Publisher Unveils New IPWe still expect to see a healthy dose of sequels to popular franchises like Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Assassin's Creed when the new consoles arrive, but we believe franchise fatigue is one of the major reasons sales have slowed down so much on consoles. Though games like Dishonored prove that you can stil release a successful new IP at the end of a console generation, most publishers would rather save their brave new ideas for the birth of a new gaming system. To give the industry a much needed creative jolt, we expect EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Take Two, Square Enix, Capcom, Bethesda, Warner Bros., Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to each unveil a brand new project that could potentially reignite the imaginations of gamers.
More 3DS Games Get Ported To Nintendo's eShopWith the Wii U’s GamePad not only providing an extra screen, but also a touch surface, the potential for games to go cross-platform on the 3DS and Wii U is ripe. Similar to the PlayStation 3 and Vita’s cross-buy option, we predict we’ll see more 3DS games that can also be downloadable for the Wii U. Since there’s not all that much that separates the hardware, it’d be a no-brainer for Nintendo to explore. This is the time for the eShop to shine by giving gamers the best of both worlds, providing both gaming on the go and a full-featured home console experience. This is one opportunity we don’t think Nintendo will pass up in 2013.
Cliff Bleszinski Forms New StudioGears of War creator and former key player at Epic Games left the company late last year to take some time off from games, but it didn’t take long for him to start tweeting about visits to development studios and a mysterious project. Given Bleszinski’s strong connections and hefty capital after years of success in the gaming industry, we predict he’ll open up a new studio and begin work on new IP.
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