December 31, 2012
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The end of 2012 is upon us. Personally, it’s been a Hell of a year, not just in the industries I observe with interest but for me in general. My girlfriend passed the UFE and will be a Chartered Accountant in a few months, we moved from our small apartment into a house (still renting though), we got a puppy and my company reverse merged with another company, went public as a result and changed it’s 30+ year name in the process. And that’s just a bit of it. It was very good overall though and I think 2013′s going to be even better! Before I make my bold predictions for the new year, I must of course revisit those I made for the year that’s just ending. Go here to find them as I will only mention their titles here and more in-depth explanations are included in the original post. I’m going to ape a neat system the crew at Gamers With Jobs came up with and rate how accurate I was in terms of a score. I made 30 predictions (29 “real” ones and 1 joke) so that’s the total the score can be. If I was mostly or totally right on a prediction, I get 1 point. If I was half-right or had some critical information wrong but the gist was accurate, I get half a point. And finally, if I was dead wrong, I get zilch. I’m also only scoring the bolded parts which are the actual predictions, not the additional details which are just general thoughts. This is scored by me of course but hey, this ain’t scientific or nothin’. I will try to judge myself honestly.
Off we go!
- THQ will manage to secure additional investment or credit but this will be their last gasp at survival before they run out of cash (half point.) As far as I know, they didn’t get additional money, they were just able to tap a line of credit they hadn’t used. They still ran out of cash and declared bankruptcy just recently, being swept up by a private equity firm. Danny Bilson left but Brian Farrell’s still around and his long-term future there is still unknown.
- GSC Game World’s upcoming news will be that the company is indeed dead (1 point.) The company still exists but has no staff so it’s basically dead. A new studio did in fact start up with the old staff but they’re making a free-to-play online game in a S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-like universe but not with the actual IP which they couldn’t secure. A bit of a battle has started up between the remnants of GSC and bitComposer Games over the IP.
- The 3DS will continue to sell well at the current price point and the Vita will not do the numbers Sony wants but will do enough to keep the platform afloat (1 point.) I was right on about the 3DS and not fully on the Vita but I’m calling it a win because while it did underperform, Sony keeps saying they’re backing it going forward and there are games coming, though not many. I so hope the Vita can find it’s footing.
- The successor to the Xbox 360 will be announced at E3 and the PS4 will be teased only (0 points.) No other way to say it, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. This is the year both will be announced but I won’t make a prediction on that specifically because it’s too obvious.
- The WiiU will get a price and a ship date in the holiday quarter (1 point.) Bang on, though this wasn’t exactly a stretch. They also did solve the problem of multiple tablets but in a half-assed way that’s not close to ready yet. I think the launch lineup was OK and it’s been selling out but talk has been soft so it’s too early to tell how it’s doing.
- The wonderful trend of analysts either talking less or the gaming press finally realising they’re not worth listening to will continue (0 points.) Why oh why couldn’t I have been right about this? It seemed like the enthusiast press was finally over leeching clicks off these hacks but they’re doing it as much as ever with even more analysts (and even purposefully obscure hacks like Dent and industry failures like Broussard) beaking off in the press all the time. This is a scourge that needs to stop.
- This is the year where the realities of mobile development start to become clear in the development community (1 point.) This didn’t happen to the degree I expected it to but I’m calling it a win because it has already started. Multiple promising mobile developers have died this year, largely because they foolishly believed the mobile gold rush meant nobody could fail. I’ll flesh this out more with my 2013 predictions.
- Many Facebook developers will continue to struggle or in the case of the big boys like Zynga, show themselves to be grossly overvalued and not as big a money press as once thought (1 point.) Nailed it! Zynga’s in a death spiral, Facebook itself has a disastrous fraud-filled year and we haven’t heard a peep in months about a big new social startup. A lot of this is because most Facebook games don’t work on mobile platforms and that’s increasingly where Facebook usage is going. This field isn’t going away but much like mobile, it’s getting kicked in the face by reality instead of hype.
- AAA publishers that are not Activision will keep losing money and AAA developers will continue to be hit-or-die (1 point.) Nailed again but again, I wish I was wrong. Most of the few AAA publishers left are either losing money or just squeaking out modest profits whereas Activision is still sucking the marrow from Blizzard and Call of Duty. Numerous developers went under this year and almost all of those can be tied to the failure of a single title. This is a dark time to be in AAA and it makes me sad.
- Diablo III will come out some time this year and it will be a huge hit but not as big a one as Blizzard or Bobby Kotick thinks (half point.) It did come out and was a huge hit but as far as I know, it’s done extremely well. It’s up to something like 7 million sales now and despite being basically broken, the real money auction house is generating revenue. I do think that part is doing worse than Blizzard wanted but I don’t think they’re disappointed with the money the game’s made.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic will experience a sharp drop in subscribers (1 point.) Bang on. They flailed about trying out a trial model, then went to a horrible exploitive free-to-play system and by many accounts, this detonated the upper echelons of BioWare. I actually think it’s a good game, it just came out at the wrong time with a foolish business model.
- John Riccitiello’s leadership at EA will be strongly challenged (0 points.) There were rumblings in the press that he was in trouble but nothing public happened.
- Free-to-play will start to really shine this year in non-Asian RPG ways (1 point.) Oh yes! One of my top 10 games of the year is free-to-play and I’ve got like 5 or 6 of them installed on my PC right now. Not all of them do it right (particularly on mobile platforms) but those that do are making great games and best as I can tell, tidy profits too.
- Half-Life 2: Episode 3/Half-Life 3 will not release this year (1 point.) Is anyone really surprised? I know Valve’s way of doing business means this won’t happen until they feel like it but seriously guys, enough is enough. This series made you a success and your fans are owed closure.
- Highly intrusive DRM schemes on PC games will be scaled back, though DRM in general will still be an issue (1 point.) Ubisoft dropped their always-on DRM (though activations are still needed) but Diablo III embraced the horrible practice with both hands, which caused highly publicised launch nightmares. It’s definitely a lessening trend though which I am very happy to see.
- I may potentially buy an iPad 3 to try out iOS gaming (half point.) I split a used iPad 2 with my girlfriend which is why I call this a halfsie because I did specifically say iPad 3. Overall, I’ve been very disappointed. iOS uses dated design and most mobile games that I’ve tried have been terrible. I was wrong about the iPad 3 having Retina too, they totally figured that out. If I even need a tablet of my own any time soon, it will either be Windows 8 Pro or Android.
- SECTION SCORE: 11.5/16
- Apple will not release a branded television (1 point.) I can’t believe I’m seemingly one of the only people who didn’t think this was obvious. There is no market for a TV that will end up costing 30-50% more (which it will have to for it to have the margins Apple wants) but which just has the guts of an Apple TV box you can buy for $99. One line from Jobs’ biography where he says he “cracked it” means exactly squat.
- This is the year Android tablets finally become competitive (0.5 points.) I’m calling this a halfsie because while Android tablet sales are up significantly (particularly with the introduction of the Nexus tablets), the iPad still dominates the tablet market and from what I can tell, most Android apps are still made for phones exclusively or primarily. It’s getting better but it’s still not the competitor it needs to be.
- Research In Motion will finally remove Balsillie and Lazaridis from their leadership roles at the company (1 point.) BOOM! Most of my secondary predictions were right too. Their stock plummeted but is recovering well and by all accounts, BlackBerry 10 could be something special. I really hope so, I don’t want to see this company die.
- More than 50% of laptop models released this year will not include an optical drive (0 points.) There’s no doubt that far fewer laptops have them but I’ve not been able to find a statistic that confirms whether I’m right or not. If I can, I’ll update this but I think if more than half were ditching the optical drive, it would have made the news somewhere.
- Hard drive prices will return to pre-flood levels (1 point.) Checking a few places online where I can buy a hard drive, I’m saying this is right.
- Microsoft will announce a scaling back or removal of the new Start Screen in Windows 8 or make it 100% optional (0 points.) I was so wrong about this, I should almost be deducting points for it. I think the hate for Windows 8 is overblown but I do have major concerns about what it means for the future of Windows and the Start Screen is still stupid on anything that isn’t a touch screen. It’s questionable how well Windows 8 is selling right now so I hope Microsoft is taking the negative feedback to heart.
- Windows 8 will shine on tablets and will also start to compete with Android for a big share of the iPad’s market (0.5 points.) I’m calling this a halfsie because by all accounts, Windows 8 is killer on tablets but Surface has apparently been a sales flop and the app ecosystem is not taking off like many (including myself) thought it would. This could still change but so far, it hasn’t made a dent in the market share of the other platforms.
- Windows Phone 7 will get a massive marketing push and gain a lot of market share (0 points.) Windows Phone 7 became Windows Phone 8 and while it looks like interest and sales are ramping up, it hasn’t gained a ton of market share yet, certainly not even to make anyone besides maybe RIM nervous. My girlfriend bought a Lumia 920 though and thinks the iPhone pales in comparison to it, as do many other people. Microsoft is traditionally horrible at marketing but if they can figure that out, I still think they could have a winner here.
- Twitter will continue to grow in popularity but still won’t figure out how to make money (1 points.) Calling it a win because it’s definitely still growing but given how there have been no stories about the financial success this year, no IPO and how they’re clamping down hard on how much third party clients can bang on their servers, I’m guessing they still don’t have a long-term business model yet.
- 3D will continue to decline and possibly die off in the home entirely (1 point.) Most TV manufacturers are using 3D as a bullet point now but they’ve all run away from making that a reason to convince people to buy new sets. The big Japanese TV manufacturers are all nursing sucking chest wounds right now so they better figure something out fast. I was also right about how the idea of mainstream 2K or 4K TVs didn’t happen. 3D is still a thing in theatres but that’s about it.
- Best Buy will announce a major corporate restructuring this year, closing underperforming stores and refocusing on providing high quality service (0.5 points.) If I allowed myself three quarter points, that’s what I would get because I was right about everything except the announced refocusing on high quality service. The company’s bleeding, stores have been closed and one of the original guys is trying to take the company private. Refocusing on service is the only thing that can save them but they’re still arrogantly convinced that the horrendous experience they currently offer is quality service.
- Canadian third party Internet prices will rise but not as much as people fear (1 point.) Nailed it! Prices went up but only a little bit and as I understand it, the third party Canadian ISP industry is still squeaking out razor-thin margins. This makes me very happy to see, especially since more and more people I know are dumping the telecartels for them. They’re still fighting a tough war but I’m glad the fight’s being made.
- I will continue to search in vain for a tech podcast that doesn’t spend most of its time fellating Apple or that realises tech news exists that doesn’t involve phones or tablets (1 point.) This was a joke prediction but I’m still right. I’ve tried me damndest to find one since dumping This is Only A Test after both the content and the attitude of the guys from that site finally drove me over the edge. I’ve yet to find another one that doesn’t continue to trumpet how Apple is our lord and saviour or that phones and tablets aren’t the only neat things in the world. It’s a shame but such is life. I don’t currently listen to any tech podcasts and I don’t really miss having one anyway.
- SECTION SCORE: 9/14
TOTAL SCORE: 20.5/30
Overall, I’m still way more accurate than the majority of analysts that get quoted in the enthusiast press. That’s ridiculous and sad. I’m a guy with no knowledge of business or the inside scoop on anything and my largely uninformed guesses were better than guys who make orders of magnitude more than I do to spout this stuff. Insane. I’ve had better years but also worse years but to be honest, most of the stuff I was right on is stuff I would have been happy to be dead wrong about. I don’t like to be a prophet of doom but it seems like that’s my skill sometimes.
Check back tomorrow where my new predictions for 2013 will be unleashed! There will definitely be plenty of them as well as this is shaping up to be an even crazier year in gaming and tech than 2012 was.
January 6, 2012
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Like many other places on the web, every year a bunch of us over at Gamers With Jobs like to make bold gaming and technology predictions for the upcoming year. A large and growing group of contributors and forum members pitch into this, though it’s usually only the forum members who check and grade their predictions before making new ones. I made a bunch over there for this year but I’ve decided to put them here as well where I can go into a little more detail about them and also add some new ones I’ve thought of since the “gentlemen’s deadline” for editing there has passed. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve got for the next twelve months:
- THQ will manage to secure additional investment or credit but this will be their last gasp at survival before they run out of cash. If they stop taking stupid risks for a while, they can maybe turn it around but it’s unlikely. Danny Bilson’s strategy was a failure, as were Brian Farrell’s insane uDraw HD plans. Both of these people will inexplicably stay employed there in spite of these.
- GSC Game World’s upcoming news will be that the company is indeed dead. However, a new studio will start up and take over their IP and hopefully release S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.
- The 3DS will continue to sell well at the current price point and the Vita will not do the numbers Sony wants but will do enough to keep the platform afloat. As usual, the gaming press will continue to trumpet that the handheld market has “moved on” and will not admit they were wrong despite all the evidence to the contrary. Mobile gaming is here to stay but dedicated handhelds still have a major place.
- The successor to the Xbox 360 will be announced at E3 and the PS4 will be teased only. Neither will get a ship date or a heavy reveal of pricing or details until current console sales slow down which they won’t for at least the first half of the year. Regardless of when the slowdown happens, neither of these platforms will release in 2012.
- The WiiU will get a price and a ship date in the holiday quarter. Nintendo will announce they’ve solved the problem of having multiple WiiU tablets paired to one console. It will once again have a weak launch lineup and will initially sell OK but not great.
- The wonderful trend of analysts either talking less or the gaming press finally realising they’re not worth listening to will continue. Many will love seeing Pachter fade into obscurity where he belongs. This has been tested a little bit already this year but we’ll see.
- This is the year where the realities of mobile development start to become clear in the development community. Those being that it’s much like AAA in that most titles fail, the majority of the revenue goes to a small few and that costs are quickly spiralling out of indie-affordable range. Mobile development will not slow this year however. I will detail this more in a later On Gaming’s Future post.
- Many Facebook developers will continue to struggle or in the case of the big boys like Zynga, show themselves to be grossly overvalued and not as big a money press as once thought. Facebook development will continue but will be talked about less and less as the future. This will also be discussed in an On Gaming’s Future post.
- AAA publishers that are not Activision will keep losing money and AAA developers will continue to be hit-or-die. This is a trend that I suspect will get worse as costs continue to go up in the next generation. Larger scale industry rumblings on how to keep AAA viable (or if it’s even possible) will start to be heard. A lot fewer AAA titles will be released this year both due to the industry’s money bleeding but also as they scale back development on the current generation to ramp up for the next one. This will also be discussed in an On Gaming’s Future post.
- Diablo III will come out some time this year and it will be a huge hit but not as big a one as Blizzard or Bobby Kotick thinks. The real money auction house will be a profit generator. The cracks in Kotick’s leadership style will continue to show themselves as everything they own that isn’t Call of Duty continues to decline.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic will experience a sharp drop in subscribers. This will partially be because of people getting bored and partially because of the dictatorial way EA is treating the player base. Enough will stick around to keep the game profitable month to month but the long-term numbers will be well below expectations and it will not be EA’s saving grace. It will not go free-to-play in 2012.
- John Riccitiello’s leadership at EA will be strongly challenged. I applaud some of his strategies but they haven’t been working out and shareholders won’t tolerate these massive losses they’re racking up for much longer, especially is SWTOR starts to drop.
- Free-to-play will start to really shine this year in non-Asian RPG ways. Bigger scale, North American focused titles like Tribes: Ascend and FireFall will do well and show that higher budget titles can work with this business model.
- Half-Life 2: Episode 3/Half-Life 3 will not release this year.
- Highly intrusive DRM schemes on PC games will be scaled back, though DRM in general will still be an issue. Things like requiring persistent connections will become a rarity. As usual, entitled douchebags who think they deserve everything for free will keep stealing content, publishers will continue to whine about it rather than deal with it intelligently and Mike Masnick will continue to defend the thieves as if stealing is a right.
- I may potentially buy an iPad 3 to try out iOS gaming. Many minds will be blown. Also, the iPad 3 will have a much nicer screen but it won’t be a “retina display” because they can’t get the cost low enough on it for that size.
- Apple will not release a branded television. The market is too competitive and there is no room for a TV that costs 30-50% more when you can add the features it would have to any TV with a $100 Apple TV box. There will be an updated Apple TV with some rudimentary iOS features and app support.
- This is the year Android tablets finally become competitive. Ice Cream Sandwich will be the version of the operating system that shines on the tablet platform and other manufacturers will start to compete on price as well as features. iPad will remain the dominant tablet but Android will make big inroads.
- Research In Motion will finally remove Balsillie and Lazaridis from their leadership roles at the company. They will announce a new plan to restructure both their business and design philosophies to stop the bleeding and get competitive again. Many of those steps will not be taken this year however and their market share will drop a minimum of another 15%. I will discuss this more in a future post.
- More than 50% of laptop models released this year will not include an optical drive. Fewer and fewer people care about them anymore and though it’s a cheap part, removing it could bolster razor thin margins quite a bit.
- Hard drive prices will return to pre-flood levels. The shortage was overblown to create artificial demand but the manufacturers will spend their way to a quick return to normal production.
- Microsoft will announce a scaling back or removal of the new Start Screen in Windows 8 or make it 100% optional. There has been a lot of blowback against this feature as while it is great for tablets, it is trying to “tabletify” the desktop and users of that platform don’t want that. To avoid Windows 8 being thought of as another Vista on the desktop side, they won’t force it on people there.
- Windows 8 will shine on tablets and will also start to compete with Android for a big share of the iPad’s market. PC users (particularly corporate users) will really take to being able to seamlessly integrate their tablet with their PCs.
- Windows Phone 7 will get a massive marketing push and gain a lot of market share. Much of it will be the remaining 90% of cell phone users who don’t have smartphones. Developers will finally start releasing content for it.
- Twitter will continue to grow in popularity but still won’t figure out how to make money.
- Facebook will remain insanely popular but each user will do less with it. People are burning out on the information overload and the fad value of Facebook is starting to decline. Everyone will keep using it but they won’t use it as much and it will start to become less valuable as a result.
- 3D will continue to decline and possibly die off in the home entirely. We will also not see any mention of “mainstream” 2K or 4K televisions.
- Best Buy will announce a major corporate restructuring this year, closing underperforming stores and refocusing on providing high quality service. Like the other million times they’ve vowed to do this, they’ll screw it up and continue to push revenue numbers over customer satisfaction. Their decline into eventual failure will continue.
- Canadian third party Internet prices will rise but not as much as people fear. The latest CRTC idiocy has allowed the incumbents to gouge third party providers in a different way than UBB would have but not as badly. A small increase has already happened with the third parties already saying bigger increases may be coming if peak demand remains high. However, I think many of the heavier users will take advantage of capless off-peak hours to keep the peak demand reasonable and there will either be no further increases or minimal ones. The third parties will continue to provide better service for fairer prices than the incumbents.
- I will continue to search in vain for a tech podcast that doesn’t spend most of its time fellating Apple or that realises tech news exists that doesn’t involve phones or tablets.
So there we have it for 2012. Assuming I haven’t become like so many bloggers and stopped updating this one out of laziness by this time next year, I’ll check in on these and see how wrong I was. I have some apprehensions about the future of some of the things I like in 2012 but any way you slice it, this is bound to be an amazing year in tech and gaming. I hope it’s great for you and yours as well! Happy New Year!