Just a quick state of the industry look.
- Casual gaming is expanding at an immense rate. If you look at all the PC casual sites and what the Wii has done it is an amazing phenomenon. But basically it is our fault that it didn’t happen sooner. For too many years we have pandered to a niche and ignored the bigger picture. Now we have seen sense and are bringing the wonders of interactive entertainment to all. And they like what they see.
- Mobile gaming is king. Nintendo have sold nearly 70 million DS consoles. This compares with about 50 million units for PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 combined. And things are hotting up with Nokia (nGage) Apple (iPod touch / iPhone) Sony (PSPhone?) and Microsoft (Zune) all ramping up to be massive.
- Boxed retail plastic and cardboard games are being replaced as a business model far faster than anyone expected. The online services from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all vastly busier than their wildest dreams. The same goes for Steam. And the biggest games in the world now are mostly browser MMOs like Habbo Hotel and Runescape. Do not invest in game retail.
- When it comes to global publishers of AAA games the industry is consolidating down to a handful of players. The business advantages of scale are so big in publishing that the huge companies rule. Small and medium publishers have no hope of competing unless they are niche or online, both factors that mitigate scale advantage.
- Big global media is storming into gaming with massive investments. Vivendi, Warners, Viacom, barely a week goes by without another big announcement. They have no option, interactive media is demolishing old, non interactive media. Gaming will grow to be bigger than television and film combined. Surprisingly News Corporation have yet to make their move. Is Rupert’s age working against him now?
- User generated content is growing very rapidly. This will be the brave new world of gaming. It is set to be bigger than anyone can imagine. The business model of the big console manufacturers has held it back artificially. Go and look at the work that millions of people put into their FaceBook and MySpace accounts and you see the potential.
- MMOs, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The tradition is that these are fantasy games on PC that absorb endless hours of grind every week. The new wave will be far more casual, requiring less commitment. They will cover a wider range of genres and they will use every platform, including consoles and phones/mobile devices. Just wait for Electronic Arts to make a GTA MMO!
- Community and gaming are converging to be the same thing. MySpace and FaceBook are getting more and more gaming whilst games get more and more social networking. Steam added powerful social networking and Sony and Microsoft are upping the social element in their online services. All this is changing our perception of what a game is.
We live in interesting times. Nobody can predict the next couple of years, just as every forecast of last year was wildly out. What is for sure is that all the above trends will have a massive impact over the next few years. They will change the game industry in ways that none of us can imagine.