The gaming industry has changed quite a bit compared to say, five years ago, and our next half-decade looks to bring many additional changes. Let’s take a look at a few.
Social and mobile gaming were two of the biggest changes in continuing to advance the casual game audience, but I think the greatest change to the genre is a recent one: the free-to-play business model. A year or two ago, it looked as if these games were still going to be powered by ad dollars. Social games were an exciting proposition due to the possibilities of the of calls-to-action ad format.
Now, free-to-play is all the rage, and even mainstream core games are eyeing the model. With a business model that seems to work really well and shows no signs of disappearing, casual games should become a much more mature space in the next 18 month. It will be interesting to see how companies like EA maneuver in the space as compared to some of the companies born out of casual roots.
The growth of mobile gaming revenues have been massive -- so much so, they are pretty clearly stealing market share from dedicated handheld gaming devices. The estimated game revenues for this year show iOS and Android devices with greater revenues than Nintento and Sony handhelds combined.
Sony looks to be embracing (to an extent) mobile, specifically Android, and the support in said mobile OS for gaming peripherals might help it maintain a secondary market for software as a sub-platform on the devices. It will be interesting to see what happens with Nintendo. Will we see the company break from tradition and license its games to non-Nintendo devices? Square Enix seems to have been doing pretty well with that tactic on iPhones.
The Last of the Consoles
Summer will likely bring the reveal of a new generation of consoles, with rumors of a PS4 and a new Xbox planned for unveiling at E3. Nintendo already revealed its new console at last year’s E3, and it should be available in 2012. I suspect this coming generation will be the last of the consoles, at least in the U.S. As our national network infrastructure improves, the prospect of an OnLive sort of cloud-rendered gaming experience becomes more attractive.
The current OnLive service is already pretty neat, but because the available games are the same as the games available on consoles, there’s little advantage to offset the few disadvantages to the service. However, if the level of graphical detail of the games offered took full advantage of a server-based rendering model, it’d be quite hard for personal electronics to compete. Considering the lifespan of consoles, I find it hard to believe that in the next six to eight years we won’t have a service like that -- and when we do, I don’t see consoles selling particularly well.
Game Over or Level Up?
Many of these trends portend the end of 20- to 30-year reigns. But rather than look at them as an instance of “Game Over,” I’d rather see things on the side of “Level Up!” More people are gaming in the U.S. than at any point in our history, and the industry as a whole is continuing to grow. It’s an exciting time to be a gamer, and I look forward to what the future has in store for my favorite pastime.
Note: Due to a much busier schedule the past few months, this will be my last Gaming Insider post. I’d like to thank you all for following my posts the for past four-and-a-half years. Game on!