Happy New Year everyone! I had planned a longer blog post and Geek Bravado Ramble to talk about 2013 and some thoughts I had on the year ahead but every time I sat down to do them, it just didn’t feel right. Maybe I’ll do them a bit belated, maybe not, I’m not sure. I’m normally really open about my life and what’s on my mind but maybe it’s just not something my brain feels like verbalizing. Suffice it to say, 2013 was a year that had a couple of big highs for me and a lot of really deep lows. I’m not sad to see it end and I hope 2014 is much better for everyone. If people I care about could stop unexpectedly dying, that would be just fantastic.
What we’re here for now is the first of my two yearly Bold Predictions posts. This first one is where I revisit my predictions from last year to see how right (or not) I was. I apply a little scoring system to this because everyone loves numbers attached to things, right? It’s simple: If a prediction was right or mostly right, I get 1 point. If it was partially right, I get a half point. If it was wrong, I get zip. I made 36 predictions last year so that’s what I’ll be scored out of. Who determines how right a prediction is? Well, I do. Hey, this ain’t a peer reviewed paper or nothin’ but I try to be honest and if you check when I revisted by 2012 predictions, I think you’ll see that. Also, I’m only judging the base predictions (i.e. the bolded part of each) and not the additional notes where are just an elaboration of those base points. Alright, off we go!
- THQ’s new private equity owner will ensure all their games in the pipe come out but the company will be split up and sold off shortly after (0 points.) Shortly after I wrote this prediction, the private equity deal fell apart when some short-sighted THQ shareholders decided it would be better to have the company split up and sold off right away. Most of the games have come out and done quite well (the endlessly delayed South Park: The Stick of Truth being the exception) but all under different publishers as THQ is now dead and gone. Not the best outcome for gaming if you ask me but these are shareholders, what do the impact to customers and the industry matter to them?
- Mobile gaming will continue to grow but the honeymoon is over (1 point.) I’m calling this a win. It is indeed still growing but there have been more and more conversations about how it’s getting harder to have any kind of success if you aren’t a known quantity or engaging in increasing scummy free-to-play business models. The mobile game space is already incredibly hit driven and terms like “premium games” have been used to describe things that cost as little as $0.99. People will buy $500 iPads and then balk at spending $1 on a good game with a fair business model. This is unsustainable and this market will have to wake up or only the Rovios and Kings of the world will be left in it.
- The general public will start to tire of free-to-play Skinner Box mechanics (0 points.) More people seem to be complaining about how exploitative these types of games are getting, yet The Simpsons Tapped Out and Candy Crush, both prime examples of it, are some of the year’s biggest success stories. I still think this is going to happen but it didn’t in 2013.
- The Wii U will be a modest success (0 points.) Dammit Nintendo, find a way to make this work! The Wii U has seen some amazing titles come out this year but even stellar releases like Super Mario 3D World haven’t been enough to make it sell any better. It’s bombing hard and the 3DS is the only thing keeping Nintendo above water right now. I really like the promise of this system but Nintendo better pull a rabbit out of their hat soon because this thing’s fading fast, especially with the next-gen machines now on the scene.
- The Vita will go from limping to crawling (1 point.) Some may disagree on this but I think I was right enough. It’s still not selling great but the indie catalog on it has improved dramatically and the promise of Remote Play is making it a potentially great (if expensive) accessory for the PS4. It’s far from a hit but it’s starting to find its footing I think and at least Sony realises how its scope needs to change.
- Console shovelware is dead (1 point.) And how! There was far less of it this year and most of it didn’t sell. I don’t like to see anyone out of work but I also don’t miss the studios that put out this garbage which soured the medium for everyone. There’s still plenty of this on mobile platforms but I’d say that in the console space, this is a basically dead concept walking.
- The first major Kickstarter disaster will happen and will test people’s faith in the crowdfunding model (half point.) Between Double Fine’s mismanagement of Broken Age and the Code Hero implosion (technically this started in 2012 but it came to a head in 2013), there’s enough in the Kickstarter gaming space alone to say I was partially right on this and there’s more examples besides those. However, while there has been some press doom and gloom on the prospects of crowdfunding as a result, people don’t seem to be shaken. Millions and millions are still being pumped into Kickstarters and gaming is still their most popular category I believe. I’ve scaled back my Kickstarter pledges considerably but people are clearly still big on the idea for now.
- The OUYA will come out and find niche success (half point.) It came out but all it’s found is controversy and hubris. There was great potential in this idea but OUYA blew its execution in so many ways and now the platform serves two purposes: An emulation box for hackers and the butt of jokes. I was super high on the whole Android console idea from the start and based on both this and other attempts at it, my enthusiasm was misplaced. There is no way the OUYA is profitable or successful and they’ve screwed the pooch so badly, I don’t think it will ever find either.
- The Oculus Rift will come out late and underwhelm (half point.) The final version of the Oculus Rift isn’t out (with no date in sight) and the development versions did indeed come out late. However, this thing has attained a level of hype among the enthusiast press I’ve never seen before. I’m still very skeptical on its prospects for mainstream success and I admit that I haven’t yet used one but there’s an army of believers now and if John Carmack’s among them, people should be paying attention.
- Layoffs, studios closures and the viability of AAA development will be a bigger story than ever (1 point.) Not much to say other than I wish I was wrong about this. AAA games are still too expensive, no one’s buying anything that isn’t a handful of safe franchises and I really don’t know where it goes from here. The new consoles are setting hardware launch records but does that mean we’ll see people buy more $60 games again? I don’t know if it does.
- Valve’s Steam box will not release this year but will enter the promised beta phase (1 point.) They cut it close but yep.
- Steam on Linux will remain niche at best (half point.) I’m calling this a halfsie because Steam OS only shipped in a very early beta stage this year so it’s too early to judge its success. I will say that the initial version has been fraught with all the usual Linux headaches and other than some buzz surrounding its release, no one’s talking about it. Does that ultimately matter? Probably not. We’ll see how this changes once the hype train gets rolling.
- Cross-media gaming will be attempted multiple times and never take off (1 point.) I think this is a win because it has been attempted multiple times this year and from what I can tell, no one cares. Even the biggest franchise in the world (Grand Theft Auto) had a laughable mobile tie-in experience that was completely meaningless. It’s coming in an even bigger way in 2014 and it does seem some developers are trying to do bigger and actually interesting things with it but it remains to be seen if anyone will ultimately care enough.
- There will be no new games announced or released from Valve this year (Dota 2 excepted, 1 point.) Nailed it! Dota 2 just recently went into wide release and they’ve otherwise been silent on anything that isn’t Steam related.
- DayZ standalone will launch late and be a buggy, hacker ridden mess like all Bohemia Interactive launches (half point.) I’m calling this a half point because DayZ has launched super late but only in Early Access. It is a buggy mess but even though that’s par for the course for Bohemia, I can’t hold that against them when they’re selling it as a pre-release product and openly stated people shouldn’t buy it yet unless they want a messy experience.
- SECTION SCORE: 9/15
- Both the next Microsoft and Sony systems will be announced and shipped this year (1 point.) Yep.
- Both platforms will use far fewer specialised parts and be more like PCs than ever (1 point.) Yep. They’re based on AMD architectures with little customisation and forget PCs, they’re not even that dissimilar from each other. And none of that’s bad either.
- Both platforms will offer every title in every tier for sale digitally on day one (1 point.) Yep. As far as I know, there are no exceptions to this rule on either Xbox One or PS4.
- Free-to-play will become a big deal on consoles (1 point.) It’s still very early but I’m calling this a win. There are several free-to-play titles on PS4 and World of Tanks came out on the 360. Microsoft’s not embracing this quite as much but they certainly aren’t ignoring it.
- Console certification processes will continue to exist but will significantly lighten and be sped up (half point.) Debated whether making this a halfsie or a loss but I’m going with a halfsie. The certification processes definitely still exist but there’s really been no discussion on how they’ve improved or not as yet.
- SmartGlass will be a big deal for Xbox and Vita integration will be big for PlayStation (1 point.) How big a point they ultimately are for consumers remains to be seen but both companies are pushing these respective technologies in a big way. They clearly see them as important.
- Motion gaming is over (0 points.) Well, there’s a Kinect in every Xbox One box and though many people still question if it needs to be there, Microsoft still believes it’s a thing, as Sony does with the PlayStation Camera which was rumoured to be cut as a PS4 pack-in at the last minute to undercut Microsoft’s pricing. I still don’t think anyone cares but it ain’t dead yet.
- Like on PC, AAA games will be only a single segment of the gaming experiences available on consoles (1 point.) Sony has doubled down hard on indie development this year and Microsoft has too, though only as part of their epic reversal of strategy once they realised they were completely ignoring their customers. They both clearly understand that a wider variety of experiences are required to keep their platforms moving and that AAA alone isn’t enough any more.
- Sony will offer backwards compatibility via their Gaikai acquisition at some point but likely not at launch (half point.) Truthfully, I think this could be called a win but they’ve never directly stated Gaikai will be used for backwards compatibility, though they’ve certainly hinted at that strongly. It definitely didn’t happen at launch either.
- Microsoft will not offer retail game backwards compatibility but will offer it for certain XBLA titles like the 360 does with original Xbox games (half point.) Unfortunately I was right about retail backwards compatibility but I was wrong about XBLA. Just like PS4, there is no backwards compatibility whatsoever and there appears to be none planned in any form. Maybe this will change but if it does, it won’t be any time soon.
- PC gaming will keep getting bigger and challenge the notion of whether many hardcore gamers even need a console (half point.) The PC is definitely killing it right now so why only a half point? Because both consoles had record setting launches that have appeared to greatly exceed both manufacturer’s expectations. Given that the hard core are the primarily early adopters, it seems pretty clear to me that a lot of serious gamers still want consoles and what they specifically bring to the table.
- SECTION SCORE: 8/11
- The Apple fashion trend will finally begin to normalise but the press will ignore it (1 point.) Fight it all you want fanboys but I’m right. Mac sales are down (funny how Mac is always talked about separately from PC except when there’s bad news), the iPhone 5C has been a flop (these are both easy to tell because Apple’s not patting themselves on the back about them) and while the iPhone 5S is selling very well, many question how many of those buyers are new customers, given that both Android and Windows Phone are significantly outpacing its growth on a percentage basis. The new Mac Pro’s design impresses even me but even the hardcore faithful are questioning its frankly obscene price point. Also as expected, the Apple fanboy press (which is still sadly most of the press) is largely either ignoring it or just casually mentioning it. You have to go to sites dedicated to the competition to get the real story.
- The Apple television is not coming (1 point.) Still no word because it’s still not a real thing. Spoilers, I’m going to predict this once again this year because if the fanboy press wants to keep talking about it, I’m going to keep pointing out that they’re wrong.
- The iPhone 5S will be the next model but in the Fall, not the Spring (1 point.) Bang on.
- BlackBerry 10 will sustain RIM, not catapult them forward (0 points.) Couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve used BlackBerry 10 and it’s great but as usual, they screwed up the launch and marketing and no one cared. The company’s in a death spiral right now and trying to pull an IBM and refocus on software and services is their last hope. It’s a damn shame, this was a great company with great stuff that rode its own arrogance to irrelevancy.
- PC sales will slide a bit as the industry normalises but the slide will not be huge and it will settle (half point.) Depending who you ask, this year’s decline was either mild or severe but based on what I’ve read, it was bigger than expected. However, it seems to have leveled off in the last quarter of this year and it looks like the major declines are over, at least for now.
- Windows 8 will sell well below expectations (1 point.) Oh boy yes. To try and counter this, Microsoft released Windows 8.1 which allows you to boot to the desktop but still left out the Start Menu that everyone says they want but never actually uses. Windows 8 is a fine OS and it’s way better under the hood than Windows 7. I’m recommending it to clients now. Install Classic Shell to correct the UI shortcomings and quit whining, seriously. That said, you’re still getting too much tablet in my desktop Microsoft.
- Windows Phone 8 will rise to a respectable market share (1 point.) Windows Phone is still in a very distant third place but it’s year-on-year growth has been very strong, especially in Europe and developing countries. It deserves to be as well, it’s a great platform. It’s not going anywhere and if this continues, people will have to start taking it seriously soon.
- The TV industry will make a new push from 3D TVs to 2K or 4K TVs (half point.) This is a halfsie because while there has been more talk and hype about 4K and models do exist from all the usual suspects, there hasn’t been a huge push for it yet like there was for 3D. The price is still too high for it to attain mainstream adoption yet.
- Sharp will go bankrupt and Panasonic will have a massive restructuring (0 points.) Neither of these happened. As I understand it, both companies are still hurting real bad (Sharp is basically keeping alive because of investments made in it by Foxconn and Samsung) but neither had failed or had a major upheaval yet.
- We will start to see more mainstream PCs come standard with SSDs or a combination of SSD and hard drives (half point.) I can’t say that I’ve seen a lot of mid- to low-end desktops and laptops coming with SSDs now but there are definitely more Windows 8 tablets that are relying either on those or flash storage.
- SECTION SCORE: 6.5/10
TOTAL SCORE: 23.5/35
My accuracy’s pretty similar to last year, meaning I’m still way better at this that most so-called professional analysts but as usual, I’m certainly no Nostradamus. This is always a fun mental exercise and I’m glad the obsessive amounts of information I consume on these sectors seems to generally be getting put to good use I guess. The Bold Predictions for this year are coming soon!