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Ask Gamasutra: What should the video game industry expect in 2013? Exclusive
Ask Gamasutra: What should the video game industry expect in 2013?
January 4, 2013 | By Staff

January 4, 2013 | By Staff
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    34 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Ask Gamasutra is a regular column that takes issues from within the video game industry, and poses them as a question to the editorial staff. For this edition: What does 2013 have in store?

You may have noticed that we recently ran a whole bunch of articles looking back on the year. Now it's time to look forward.

Looking back at some of last year's biggest trends, who could've predicted that Double Fine was going to blow the door open on crowdfunding? Or that Valve was going to let Jane and Joe Schmo decide who gets onto Steam? Or that everyone would go nuts over an Android-based video game console?

Pretty much no one. And the vast majority of the time, the people who are directly involved in delivering major happenings have no idea about the impact they might have.

The point is, predicting the future is... really hard. But we're going to try it anyway.

So for this first Ask Gamasutra for the new year, the question is simple and open: What are your game industry predictions for 2013?


Kris Graft (@krisgraft)
Editor-in-Chief

Kickstarter's year of reckoning

The Kickstarter craze gained momentum in 2012 on the back of the notion that The People--and their wallets--can turn ideas into reality. Now that Kickstarting has become so "normal," the focus will shift away from funding, and increasingly towards results. The games and game hardware that were Kickstarted will have to deliver on their promises, and do it in convincing volume, lest backers lose faith in crowdfunding.

Mobile to TV games won't impress--yet

As compelling as hardware like the Ouya and GameStick are (who wouldn't want a tiny, connected mobile console that can hook up to a TV?), I feel like this won't be the year for mobile-to-TV video games. But it's going to be a pivotal year--one in which these devices and their creators get their bearings. There are so many questions, such as standardization, fragmentation and software support (where are the killer apps?) that will only begin to be answered once the first wave of these devices go public. This year will have a steep learning curve, but it'll be a necessary step if mobiles and their OSes are to invade the living room.

"Dedicated" game consoles? Nah.

Like most industry watchers, I expect Microsoft and Sony to clue us in on their video game plans sometime later this year. I'm probably building it up in my mind too much, but I'm expecting to be floored by their next moves--where do Microsoft and Sony go from here? One thing that I'm fairly confident about is that video game consoles will continue to consolidate entertainment, hosting an ever-wider array of non-game apps and functionalities. The term "dedicated game console" will become even sillier, and soon we'll each have...I'm gonna say it...a true "set-top box." What year are these predictions for again?

Frank Cifaldi (@frankcifaldi)
News Director

Big panic at Nintendo (again)

Sales of the Wii U will fall well below the company's expectations as consumers remain unconvinced that its offering is enough of an excuse to buy another new video game console. No, this isn't a "Nintendo is doomed" prophecy, the company could turn things around again, but I expect a rough start akin to what we saw with the 3DS. Analyst checks at retailers (and my own experience these last couple weeks) indicate that the Wii U is still in ample supply in stores: we won't know for sure until NPD data comes out next week, but it looks like the original Wii's mania just isn't here this time around.

iOS device sales will slow down (finally)

I think our love affair with our iPhones and our iPads is finally starting to die down as competition with other manufacturers heats up (not to mention as people start losing faith in the company following the iOS6 debacle). Again, like Nintendo, I don't think this is a "beginning of the end" scenario, but I do think 2013 will be the year that "iPhone" stops being synonymous with "smartphone."

People who aren't console players won't play games on their TVs (still)

Smart TV, Ouya, GameStick, Green Throttle…these are all neat ideas, but I don't think console game players are dissatisfied with what they have, and I don't think there's an untapped market for people who don't already own one but secretly want to play TV games anyway. The type of person who wants to take the time to sit down in front of their televisions and get absorbed in a video game is already invested enough to have a dedicated console and, frankly, 2013 is not the year we're going to see any disruption to that dichotomy.


Christian Nutt (@ferricide)
Features Director

The end of Wii U's third party games

After the Wii U launched, what I expected to happen, happened: consumers staunchly avoided the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 games released for the console, opting instead to pick up pretty much exclusively Nintendo's games. Over the course of this year, ports of PlayStation 3 and 360 games for the Wii U will dry up. It won't help that resources will shift to games for next generation consoles that are far above the Wii U in capabilities.

The thing is, we've seen the constituent elements of this before. Those who like these kinds of games already have consoles that will play them; the GameCube had many of the same games as the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and it didn't mean squat. More importantly, the Wii's only third party successes were games that appealed to the players of that system, not others.

Same for the 3DS, but for different reasons

This is a little less sure, but if the recent news that hackers are close to cracking the 3DS' copy protection explodes into full blown piracy, that console is going to be all but cut off from new third party game releases.

Even the Japanese third parties that currently support the system (like Square Enix, Atlus, and Namco Bandai) will probably back off from Western releases of all but their most popular games. Everybody's resource-strapped, and pouring money into localizations doesn't make sense if the games don't sell.

The Vita gets Dreamcasted:

Unless Sony can figure out some way to tie the Vita absolutely essentially into the next home PlayStation console, I have a really hard time seeing how it's going to survive. I mean this literally: it may be discontinued altogether in 2014. Making these things and then not selling them is not a reasonable way to spend capital that this money-losing company just doesn't have.

Sure, there might be some big game announcements we don't know a thing about that will turn the tide, but I'm skeptical. If things continue this way, sales will get slower and slower and slower. With an incredibly important home console launch (and its attendant software lineup) on the horizon for later this year, Sony doesn't have the bandwidth to save the Vita.


Patrick Miller (@pattheflip)
Editor, Game Developer magazine

New indie studios will struggle more than ever

I think we're going to start seeing a bit of a squeeze in the independent developer population -- 2012 saw so many excellent independent and small-studio games that it can be easy to forget that literally dozens of independent studios release games every day on mobile platforms. Indies with a strong creative vision will still get their due, and devs that have attracted a following and established their track record will continue to succeed, but newer studios that have had a hard time standing out thus far will have a hard time hacking it--especially if they're relying on VC or bootstrapped funds.

Newcomers will invade your living room

In 2013, we're going to see more and more startups aimed at trying to draw the living-room TV game experience away from the big three console devs. Maybe it's Ouya, maybe it's an opportune partnership between a cloud games service and a smart TV platform, maybe it's an upstart we haven't heard yet. I don't think we'll see any of them get critical mass with consumers yet -- it's much too early for that -- but I think by the end of the year we'll have a pretty good idea of who has the potential to seriously move in on Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft's turf, whether it's an Apple or Google or someone who is still getting stuck in my spam filter.

Cross-platform will become the new standard

If you're a medium-sized developer and your game isn't cross-platform in 2013, you better have a darn good reason (hardware/input device limitations, platform-exclusive publishing deals, etc.). Thanks to ever more powerful mobile devices and handy crossplatform development environments, the cost of covering 4-5 platforms is lower than ever, especially if your game is designed from the outset to be playable on a phone and a tablet and a PC and a console equally well. Consumers will come to expect that if they hear about a game, it better be available on every device they own (and if they can pay extra to have it available on each device with cloud-synced saves, even better).


Brandon Sheffield (@necrosofty)
Sr. Editor Gamasutra; Editor Emeritus, Game Developer

More inclusive tools lead to more inclusive games

The rise of Twine, Unity, MMF, and Gamemaker games have opened the floodgates of different games being made by different kinds of people, telling different kinds of stories. The easier tools are to use, the more people will use them, and even Epic is trying to up its user experience with Unreal Engine 4.

More big publisher, triple-A angst.

It's getting tougher and tougher to make triple-A games. Indies know that risk can pay off - but indies have no overhead. Big publishers simply can't take as many gambles, or try as many new things. And they're going to feel the hurt for it, as games grow into something bigger and better. Call of Duty will still sell on the new consoles - but what else will, in the triple-A space? Big games are interesting, but their risk aversion is ultimately quite risky.

More weirdness.

This is a hope, more than a prediction, but I've seen a lot of odd indie games come out in the last year, stretching the definition of what a game can be (Dys4ia, Goblet Grotto, Bonkey Trek, Vidiot Game). I am sure more games of this curious nature will emerge - the hope part is that they can be financially successful enough to support more.

Let's all do our best and make some awesome interactive software that makes people think and feel things, okay? That would be real cool of you to do.


Mike Rose (@RaveofRavendale)
UK Editor

Android consoles will succeed...for a little while

Various Android-based home consoles will be released (including ones that haven't yet been revealed yet), and we'll care for a short while... but then the next Xbox and PlayStation consoles will be announced at E3, and we'll forget that Android consoles were even a viable thing. They'll then become a running joke in 2014.

The dawn of Kickstarter buyer's remorse

Numerous Kickstarter-funded games that we're all still waiting for will finally be released -- and while many of them will be great, plenty of them will be not so wonderful. This will lead current mega-backers (like myself) to question whether backing games on Kickstarter is actually worth it, when we could have easily just waited until the game was out, sought opinion on the title, and then made a more informed decision regarding whether to put money down for it. Hence, 2013 will be the year that video games on Kickstarter begin to lose traction.

The Vita will finally sell. Maybe. I hope.

The PS Vita will suddenly sell by the bucketload, and we'll all wonder why we ever had a bad word to say about it. OK, so this is more of a prayer than a prediction -- but honestly, the PS Vita is still the best handheld experience you can currently have, and all it needs is a more suitable price point for both the console and the memory cards. If Sony will finally stop the charade and cut the price, Christmas 2013 could be far more pleasing for the Vita.


Leigh Alexander (@leighalexander)
Editor-at-Large

More story-driven games:

Saturation and slow sales for traditional AAA plus game of the year acclaim for titles like The Walking Dead and Journey that felt unexpected in 2012 paint a picture of what the most passionate game consumers want that even big companies won't be able to ignore anymore.

Expect more games that try to focus on meaningful choice-driven storytelling, probably featuring more "name" writers and actors, in an attempt to address the growing demand for sophisticated narrative experiences.

I bet we'll be able to spot this trend from the commercial space all the way down to indie and fringe, where experimentation with Twine and other accessible text tools is increasingly popular. Now that we can point to some games that offer meaningful story through stripped-down mechanics and emblematic visuals we may even see interactive storytelling rise on mobile platforms, too.


Chris Morris (@MorrisatLarge)
Editor-at-Large

The next generation actually arrives

To lead with the obvious, we'll finally see the next generation conversion start before the end of the year, with Microsoft and Sony joining the battle - or at least announcing their next gen systems. This generation of consoles is already long in the tooth - and the way information has been flowing is too advanced for either company to delay their launch much longer.

Zynga finds its voice

To go out more on a limb, though, I'll predict that Zynga starts to right the ship after an absolutely horrible 2012. The toe dipping into casino games won't hurt matters, but I'm expecting the company to finally figure out the mobile market and quickly make up lost ground, eventually (though not this year) weaning itself from Facebook. The stock won't show a major recovery (to the point of its IPO price, since this year's blunders have made investors skeptical, but it will get out of the Red Zone it has been nearing in recent months.

More creators will abandon games

Finally, I suspect - no... I fear that we'll see one or more big name departures from the industry. 2012 saw Bioware founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk leave the industry's ranks for good, but I fear that's not it. Gaming is changing - as its its audience. And many studios don't really know what to do with the talent they have - especially legacy talent. Those wonderfully creative people could find themselves either the victim of studio ignorance or reach a frustration point with the limitations set up around them - and I'm afraid we'll see more take their efforts elsewhere.


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Comments


Maria Jayne
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"2012 saw Bioware founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk leave the industry's ranks for good"

I'm not convinced it's that final, Chris Roberts left the industry over ten years ago and this year he came back with a new project everyone got excited about and then threw money at him.

I'm also certain the decision for the two to leave EA Bioware came with some form of retirement clause that prevented them from setting up a new studio or working for a competitor for X years anyway.

They're not gonna be around this year, but "for good" is overstepping it a bit.

Dave Long
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RSI's Star Citizen topped Double-Fines crowdfunding by 50% or so (6 million compared with 4 million or so) - surprised you didn't use this example, particularly as Star Citizen (or, more accurately, Wing Commander/Freelancer) is a far more niche 'brand' than Double Fine. Reckon you're right that Kickstarter (and other crowd-funders) will start to get reality checks in 2013 though - we'll get some great games, but we'll get some stinkers as well.

As for the Vita, I'd say it won't get Dreamcasted in 2013, but that Sony'll tread water until they can afford a price cut, and then push it hard again. If that fails, then I'd say the writing's on the wall for 'core' handheld gaming that aren't Ninty exclusives, and we'll be stuck with the pap (there are a few shining exceptions, but none that come close to what's available on Vita) on smart devices. If the Vita fails it'll also say something pretty dark about the gaming consumer - either fanboyism, being too damn cheap or (far the most frightening) caring less about core gaming on the go these days.

And Android consoles will be potentially great, but likely to be hammered by piracy, limiting the amount of money devs can spend on putting games on 'em, which means they'll struggle to compete with the big boys.

As for the Wii U, that's anyone's guess. It'll rely, as has every Ninty console since the N64, on 1st-party exclusives. I'd argue that Ninty needs to innovate its first-party stuff a bit more this gen though, and introduce meaningful 'core' IP. The same old franchises might keep the Ninty Faithful happy, but it won't draw in the broader gaming crowd.

Dustin Mellen
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"And Android consoles will be potentially great, but likely to be hammered by piracy, limiting the amount of money devs can spend on putting games on 'em, which means they'll struggle to compete with the big boys."

There's a reason for that. The entertainment industry, at large, still sees themselves as a product industry, when they are really a service industry. Selling games as a product is giving away the service of creating them, which puts every developer in a weak market position.

Will Oberleitner
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It is amazing how the 3ds turned around and became popular. It seems like the wiiu is making the same mistakes as the 3ds: perhaps too expensive and now in a game draught with hardly firm release dates maybe except rayman. 3ds entered half baked with features missing and we are still waiting hulu plus... Yet with some damn good exclusives it has me.

If the vita seemed more appropriate for mobile type game play I would more apt to play. I really hope they leave fps out of the mobile scene. That is a genre I hate to play on the go. I think it has to do with the distractions that come when your out in public you cannot keep the same focus as you can in your living-room.

GameViewPoint Developer
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DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to be wrong about any/all of this.

The Vita will disappear.

The Wii U will have low sales and even though Nintendo will try it's upmost to keep it afloat the next generation of Xbox and Playstation will sink it. By the end of 2013 everyones talking about Nintendo stopping being a hardware manufacturer, and just concentrating on software and licensing it's brands.

Modern Warfare 4 (or possible a new IP from them).

OUYA and the other Android to TV devices will bump along the bottom although I'm sure there will be some nice games, overall they don't have any impact. Very much an indie machine, but doesn't make the developers any money so never has the support needed.

Tablets usage explode and pretty much replace laptops.

New consoles from Microsoft and Playstation (I suspect it will happen this year, I can't see them waiting another year).

New TV's from Sony have PS4 built in, or will allow games to be streamed directly to them.

Apple release a new version of the iPad mini (higher resolution/better processor) and an version of that Apple TV that has the App store built in.

Zynga becomes a real money gambling game company only.

Consolidation in the game tools world. Probably involving Unity and/or Adobe.

Most games on most App stores are Free to play, and there's no slow down of apps/games being released due to the high usage of tablets.

Michael Ball
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"(or possible a new IP from them)"
Hah. Good one.

Ian Uniacke
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"By the end of 2013 everyones talking about Nintendo stopping being a hardware manufacturer, and just concentrating on software and licensing it's brands." How does this classify as a prediction? This is the norm every year for the last 20 years.

Doug Poston
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@Ian: Exactly. Also add ".. despite everybody talking doom about Nintendo, they still make enough money to fill a swimming pool with." ;)

Llaura Mcgee
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I'm definitely looking forward to more weirdness in 2013. Game creators becoming more diverse and tools to make games becoming easier will only mean more individual voices to be heard. For me Twine was the platform of 2012.

Really excited to see how people express themselves through the medium and how they tell their stories as Leigh mentions. I think we're definitely at the precipice of some really interesting storytelling (signalled by games like 30 Flights, Dys4ia & Unmanned).

Only recently read Frictional Games last blogpost, an analysis of current storytelling. It's as insightful as always. http://frictionalgames.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/introduction-i-rece
ntly-started-to-play.html Although I'm not working on a game that their 'scene' concept applies to directly, it makes me want to jam something out quickly and beat them to the punch. :)

Luis Guimaraes
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Awesome AI for stealth.
Awesome AI for voice-recognition input.
Awesome AI for true interactive narrative.

Michael Ball
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I certainly hope so. I know I'm tired of developers always using the extra power offered by next-gens for MOAR GRAFICS.

Maria Jayne
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I want something from games beyond "moar graffix" too....but it's not gonna happen. Next gen of consoles isn't going to give a damn about that while they're predominantly targeting the movie trailer demographic.

Ron Dippold
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Looking at deliveries, so far Kickstarter's been doing great as long as you don't just throw money in all directions blindly. I've had no failures and several successes - FTL is probably the most notable in the gaming side. Several have been late but delivered eventually - I expect this to be common since project management is a dismal art, but I do appreciate that they were delivered in great shape and not kicked out the door for a publisher. I didn't back Ouya, but that's shipped.

As a survey with a sample size of one, these are my outstanding Kickstarters that need to deliver this year:
- Double Fine Adventure
- Wasteland 2 @
- Banner Saga *
- Shadowrun Returns
- Nekro
- Carmageddon: Reincarnation
- Two Guys SpaceVenture
- Jane Jensen's Moebius
- Defense Grid 2 *
- Mercenary Kings
- Sword of Fargoal 2
- Project Eternity @
- Scrumbleship *
- Sealark
- Star Citizen @
- Pier Solar @
- Barkley 2 @

@ = 2014 by schedule or realistically. * = Already delivered significant alpha/betas.

Okay, so I am just throwing money in all directions, but there are at least 5-10 like Code Hero or Pitfall NG I passed on for each of these. I'm sure one or two of these will implode.

But what would it take for cynicism to set in this year? Probably Double Fine not delivering. Out of all those it's the Big One for this year since Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, and Star Citizen are targeting 2014.

Speaking purely personally, if I got just 2/3 of these (and two of the big ones) I'd consider it a win. I'd never have them otherwise. I realize that doesn't necessarily translate to normal 'customer' expectation. But third guessing this, something that pays out occasionally is even more addictive and compulsive than something that pays out constantly or never pays out.

Joshua Darlington
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Im wondering when advertisers are going to discover Kickstarter as a cheap pathway to branded content/ branded value.

Customer collaboration is part of value stream collaboration. It's an important part of lean pull-based production. It's a mega trend that will continue over the next few decades. Kickstarter is just one pathway for this dynamic.

Javier Cabrera
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I have a problem with Kickstarter. While I believe most games will turn out to be awesome, I believe indies have been pushed away from media outlets. We don't see indies kickstarters anymore, all we see are "indies kickstarters" if you know what I mean.

Medium-Big sized studios calling themselves indies are taking over kickstarter. I loved when I saw news about indie projects getting founded by the community, now these days are gone. All we read is about some big studio and their kickstarter campaign.

I don't like that. I hope it changes this year and we can see independent developers kickstarters on the news again.

-JC
http://www.CabreraBrothers.com/

k s
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Amen!

Edit: you do make a good point Maria. Sadly they wouldn't have to crowd fund their projects if the publishers weren't so damn greedy :(

Maria Jayne
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It's worth remembering "some" of these bigger dev studios running kickstarters are doing so because no publisher will entertain the kind of project they want to make.

Nobody wants to fund a turn based combat rpg, a point and click adventure game or an isometric 2d rpg, so the only way they get funding is via kickstarter. So while the developers may well be above amateur status, their projects aren't exactly unwanted by the community. They're just unwanted by the publishers because they won't sell 5million plus copies.

I think there are still quite a few indie developers getting funded, you just don't hear about them because the games they are making are not already establish ip people liked in the past.

Brandon Sheffield
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I don't know, a lot of the things I've kickstarted have been quite indie. Just this year I backed Radio The Universe, Sealark, Valdis Story, Barkley shut up and jam gaiden 2, and Banner Saga. Banner Saga is rather large, sure, but they were certainly indie at the start.

Media isn't an arbiter of success here - maybe you haven't heard of those games, but every one of them is over 200% funded. I'm still sliiiiightly optimistic about kickstarter's effect on true indies.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Leon T
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It is only when everyone thinks Nintendo is on the right track that they fail. When they predict doom Nintendo does well.
lets see if that trend holds...

I doubt ios sales will start to tank too.

David Pierre
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NINTENDO IS DOOMED! DOOMED, I SAY!


(I hope you're right)

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

David Pierre
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I really hope that many of these are wrong. As realistic as it seems, 2013 sounds really depressing for games.

Thom Q
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I agree :)

If one of the few positive predictions is that Zynga finds it's voice, 2013 will be a very bad year.

Leon T
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They could be right this time with the Wii U just like with the GameCube , but the odds say the doom predictions are wrong. Nintendo does have the ability to turn a bad launch around and a bad launch doesn't really doom a console anyway. You can't count out any hardware this early. Even the Vita could still rebound a bit with a killer app and/or price drop.

Johnathon Swift
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Nicolas Cage will be declared Lord God on High of all Video Games. His right hand man shall be Adam West. His nemesis shall be named Nolan North, a man able to assume any and all physical identities, but his weakness is that he can't change his voice that much.

James Coote
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No mention of steambox? I predict steambox + hl3 will spirit away the hardcore gamers from any new Ms/Sony consoles, save struggling publishers from a thq fate and steal the Indie hit that ouya or whoever else probably need to get out of their niche and into more mainstream gaming

Benjamin Quintero
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2013 will look alot like 2012... struggling indies, risk adverse mainstream chum, superfluous hardware gimmicks, overtly entitled audience, large sums of money spread thinner than pie crust.

Investors will start looking to other markets as games continue to show declining returns for such a high risk investment. Less games will get funded. Kickstarter will have some explaining to do when the high profile games can't meet expectations. More senior talent will leave the business. Whats left of the middle tier games will vanish and all we will see is $70 and the usual crop of "i hope i break even" $1 apps from moonlight game companies.

Joshua Darlington
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Gamification will out live "Gamification" - fun can be added to a lot of UX, and will be esp important to attract customer collaboration and cognitive surplus.

WILLIAM TAYLOR
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"Saturation and slow sales for traditional AAA plus game of the year acclaim for titles like The Walking Dead and Journey that felt unexpected in 2012 paint a picture of what the most passionate game consumers want that even big companies won't be able to ignore anymore. "

I hope this is the case. I'd love to see a AAA production quality visual novel/interactive movie.

Thom Q
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If Rocket lives up to his promises, 2013 will be the year of DayZ btw.

James Cooley
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"...many studios don't really know what to do with the talent they have - especially legacy talent. Those wonderfully creative people could find themselves either the victim of studio ignorance or reach a frustration point with the limitations set up around them - and I'm afraid we'll see more take their efforts elsewhere."

Let's not dance around the fact that some of this "legacy talent" has coasted on great games from a decade or more ago and simply failed to recreate past successes. Still, they somehow attract investor money (and game industry press), even if their latest projects have tanked.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when one of the Gaming Gods of yesterday hits it big again. It is heartwarming. But, at some point, it is time to admit that a few of these folks are well past their creative prime. They have become Spinal Tap.

Matt Cratty
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Maybe this will be the year that:

1. People realize that there has never been a "great game" made for a touch device or a web page.

2. That, far from being over, the indy game scene is set to explode due to horrific brain rot in the AAA system.

3. Valve says SOMETHING about half life 3, but calls it ricochet (again).

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.


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