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19Aug/090

2008 Prediction Results, Plus 10 New 2009 Predictions!

Last year we made 10 predictions for the next 12 months It's time to evaluate our progress and make 10 more predictions for 2009-1010 . First, the results from last year. Not too shabby. Some of the more "out there" ones(Atari and Bushnell, Sierra and the Williams) actually proved to be closer than I thought, while some of the easier ones (Wii, 360) were just dead wrong.

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.

OK, we were 1/2 right. Many games are being released as PC/Mac at the same time (Spore, Sims 3). However IGN and most other big sites have
ignored it. Also, game magazines in general in the toilet so there is not a new Mac magazine. Ooops.

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.

We were mostly right on this one. We see what appear to be either ROMs or ports of existing games all over the place, but it has not stemmed the tide of new games. At the same time, the overall quality of Flash games is increasing as well. It is certainly harder to devs to make games that get sponsored these days. Also, the overall quality of games is much higher these days..

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.

Wrong on the first part. Reports state that this area is still exploding. However, seniors and retirees are flocking to Facebook where, indeed they do get to relive their "childhood", but it's their actual childhood, not a virtual one.

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.

OK, I teed this one up for myself so I was bound to get one right. Crawford released a version of Balance Of Power for Storytron...and no one noticed.

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.

Completely wrong. the 360 is still taking off, and Playstation Home, while a fine product, is not really any kind of destination. Furthermore I now own a 360. The addition of Netflix downloads to the 360 changed everything.

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.

Again, part right, part wrong (I should just go with my gut and not add anything extra to these). Spore was hit, but it was also a disappointment to hardcore gamers. There are have been noticeable knock offs because the game was just not that good.

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.

Activision is still looking to sell Sierra, so this was mostly correct. At any rate, they don't respect the Sierra name at all any longer. Sierra.com does not exists any more...but sierragamers.com does exists and it is run by...Ken and Roberta Williams! Hmm. The blog says that they are very sad at the demise of Sierra. Could a purchase come next? This one is also still highly in-play.

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.

True, these services are still got mostly unnnoticed. What I missed was the "shakeout" that brought-down Game Jacket, and the subsequent flurry of activity around microtransactions.

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.

UWink has started to morph itself away from a restaurant company and into a technology company. They have spun off the technology into Tapcode, and now offer it for the service industry in general. So did change their name, but not because of a lawsuit. Also, Infogrames did decide to drop the Atari name in some markets. At the same time Midway and Time Warner Interactive are merging. Much of this idea is still in-play, so there is still a chance for this one too.

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.

I, honestly, do not understand why this one has not occurred yet. all of the parts are in-place, but Nintendo has simply not made new version of the Wii. I check the news every day for an announcement. I was wrong, but I still think this one is imminent.

OK, now for our 2009-2010 predictions. I'm going to try to keep these simple this year:

10. Microtransactions In Flash Games Will Struggle. Too many games, too few people willing to pay. The most successful service will be Mochicoins, but it will still struggle with quality vs. what people are willing to pay for. However, a few very well made and successful games will point towards the future.

9. Adobe will announce a new version of Flash that makes AS3 much more accessible for artists and designers. Also, real 3D support will be finally added to Flash. At the same time, Silverlight 3 will start making in-roads, but mostly for corporate applications, on the 360, and on Sharepoint web sites.

8. Atari will officially do something on the web in regards to their classic game library. It will be too little too late.

7. Web Surfing on the 360. Microsoft will open-up the 360 to web browsing...but without Flash support (just like the iPhone). however, Silverlight will be supported. Silverlight web games will become a new "home brew" dev platform for 360 games.

6. Even though it has robust Flash and HTML 5 support, the Palm Pre will be a dud (at least in the USA into the foreseeable future). Sprint is is the only carrier right now, plus the CrackBerry is killing in corporate market, while the iPhone has a lock on consumers mind share and handheld phone gaming. That leaves early adopters and Sprint customers.

5. Also, even though there was nerd backlash, Diablo 3 will be released and it will generate a huge, massive, amazing ocean of cash for Blizzard. A new "Ultima" branded single player Diablo-like game will be announced by Electronic Arts. Sadly, Richard Garriott will not be involved.

4. A new console from a MAJOR company will be announced. It will be download-only and will support games from multiple platforms (Flash, PC, emulated, etc.). This could also come in the form of set-top box that "rents" games ala Netflix directly over the internet.

3. The PC will fall even further away as a platform for AAA game titles, but indie and web games using Flash, Unity and and Instant Action will pick-up much of the slack.

2. The Atari/Bushnell Movie will take a drastic turn in tone when Will Farrell replaces Leonardo Decaprio in the lead role, and Seth Rogan is cast as Al Alcorn. However, it It will nothing compared the switch in tone for the "Asteroids" movie when Universal casts Jack Black as "Medium Sized Rock".

1. A great new book on AS3 Flash Game Development will be published. You will all will love it and will buy a copy. Also, that "How To Create Blog Posts That Hypnotize And Influence Your Readers" e-book I bought last year will finally pay off.

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