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1Sep/080

8-bit Rocket's Top-10 Midcore/Casual/Retro Game Predictions For The Next 12 Months

Since September is just starting and many Midcore/Casual gamers and gamer-parents are gearing up for what is really the new year (new schools and/or classes, new and returning tv shows, NHL,NBA,NFL, world Futbol leagues restarting, etc) we've decided to buck the trends and make this our month to make yearly predictions for the Midcore/Casual/Retro game industry. Some of these are more wishful thinking than others. See if you can spot them. Here you go!

10. Mac gaming will rise to new heights. Publishers will convert PC games to the Mac using next-generation Intel hardware conversion utilities. They will find that testing games for the relatively small number of Mac hardware variations makes their job much easier. IGN will re-launch mac.ign.com. Also, bucking the recent trends, a Mac-gaming-centric print magazine will launch...and the initial issues will sell very well.

9. FMAME (the Flash version of MAME) will be embraced by many unscrupulous game portals. Other Flash-based emulators will follow. Small Flash game developers will have their games squeezed out of portals and will have to work much harder to make games that will get published. At the same time, an I.P. incident similar to the Facebook "Scrabulous" issue will rock the viral, Flash game world. It will force many domestic U.S./Europe portals to screen games more closely, and start licensing classic game ROMs for use on their sites, further squeezing indie game developers.

8. The kids-based, casual MMOW/MMOG market will face a shakeout. 95% of new offerings will make no money, while the already established properties will fight for a ever shrinking piece of the pie. Two or three major winners will emerge, and developers will look for, and find, their next casual MMOG goldmine: Seniors and retirees who want to relive their lost past in detailed game universes that simulate childhood/teenage/college years gone by. Japanese "dating" simulators will be the model.

7. Chris Crawford's brilliant interactive story telling engine Storytron will come out of beta with a new, perfected version of "Balance Of Power". Even though it offers a very compelling retro-casual game experience, it will be criminally overlooked because it lacks a pretty interface.

6. Playstation Home will finally be "released". It will be a surprising hit among families who desire an MMO-style experience, but don't want to pay monthly fees. Along with a higher adoption-rate for Blu-Ray, the PS3 will catapult to a solid #2 position in the console wars. Microsoft will attempt to gain a more casual audience with a re-vamped and re-priced Xbox360, but the effort will not be enough to get them out of 3rd place. Hardcore gamers will gather around the PC and 360 with Live as their last stand against the casual gaming zombie hordes.

5. Spore will be a fine, fun game that satisfies the midcore/casual market. However, it will disappoint and alienate the hardcore gamer segment, and the backlash will last for months. The game will still sell bucket loads and will prompt several big-cost, high profile imitators...that will all fail. The only successful imitation will be a free, advertising based game created by a team of college students using Flash.

4. Activision will abandon the Sierra label once and for all. A reinvigorated Ken and Roberta Williams will buy the name at a fire-sale price, and re-launch Sierra as a casual game company. They will take the classic Sierra adventure game style, and create new, 2D/3D adventure games for the cell phones, the web (Flash viral) and as downloadable games for Wiiware, Xbox Live and Playstation Home. They will launch with a new version of King's Quest, followed by a unique new Al Lowe game, plus new entries for Police Quest and Space Quest. All of this is just staging for their grand-plan: a re-launch of the The Sierra Network, as a new smash-hit Sims-like MMOG that allows all players to create their own adventure games (and other games) within the game playing universe.

3. While indie, viral Flash Game services like Mochiads, FlashGameLicense, GameJacket, Kongregate, etc. continue to increase their professionalism and service offerings, most large publishers houses and ad agencies will continue to ignore them, opting instead to focus on aging online ad services and the already saturated "Facebook" market.

2. Nolan Bushnell's Uwink Media Bistro will finally expand to several new markets. However, a lawsuit will force the company to change their name. Luckily, at the same time Infogrames will finally decided to drop the "Atari" moniker and go back their real roots (i.e. as a French game company mining their past for inspiration. Their first release will the Civil War themed Blue And Grey 2010). Bushnell, flush with cash from selling his life-story for the upcoming Atari movie, will swoop in and buy the name back from Infogrames. Uwink will change their name to "Atari Family Game Centers", and among their new game offerings, will feature classic Atari games in a new retro/casual/midcore multi-player setting.

1. Wii Too: 2009 will bring the launch of Nintendo's new "Wii Too", a revamped and repackaged version of the Wii console. While the base hardware will remain similar to the current Wii, new production efficiencies will allow for much cheaper parts and the addition of new features. The console design will feature greatly expanded internal memory, HDMI output, DVD playback, the ability to download and play 480p movies via a new movie service, and expand the number if Wiimotes that can connect to a single console from 4 to 16. The console will come packed with a new Wiimote that combines the features of the the standard Wiimote, Wii -Motion, and an added microphone for further game-play possibilities. The new console will be packed with Wii Sports Resort to take advantage of Wii-Motion.

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