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What Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony should focus on this year with their respective consoles...
Sony must continue to focus on building PlayStation Network into a service that can rival Xbox Live. They are close, but just not quite there yet, and the recent implementations of Home, Trophies, and more movie options will take some time before they make a full impact on console sales. Furthermore, Sony must continue to drive down manufacturing costs, so they can reduce the PlayStation 3 price to be more competitive.
Microsoft, who clearly succeeded in capturing the core market, must now move on to the next step, and focus on capturing the mainstream and casual markets. Microsoft made some great headway in late 2008 with a reduced hardware price and the offer of free arcade-, kid-, family-oriented titles, and they should continue to focus on this market.
Giving advice to Nintendo is like advising Tiger Woods on how to putt. This is not to say the Wii's and DS's execution has been flawless, as there certainly have been some bumps on the road to their success.
Nonetheless, they are the kings of both the home and portable hill, and as long as they can continue this momentum in 2009, they will see an equal amount of success as they did in 2008. If anything, Nintendo should be dulling out the advice, specifically, to third-party publishers who have had trouble succeeding on their system over the last two years.
What game developers should focus on this year...
I believe the majority of the publishers are finally on the right track, and 2009 should be a very profitable year for most of the big publishers.
Publishers must continue delivering high-quality products to the core gaming market. On the opposite end, publishers should not ignore the large influx in casual gamers over the last two years. The casual, family and sub-13 age crowd all share similar characteristics. They prefer games that have branding/familiarity, easy-to-use controls, and fun.
During tough economic times, it might seem best to only go with the less-risky, established brands, but I believe avoiding risk in 2009 will lead to costly mistakes further down the road.
The new intellectual properties of today are the established brands of tomorrow. Publishers that avoid these risks, even during the toughest of times, will surely be setting themselves up for failure three years from now when the current set of established brands become stale.
Overall prediction for the industry in 2009...
While sales have grown over 60 percent since 2006, the largest increase we have ever seen, we do not expect 2009 to follow the same path. We do expect the industry to grow in 2009; we just believe that as pricing begins to level off, the industry will become more reliant on pure unit growth.
Currently, we forecast 2009 growth to be under 15 percent, which is still a respectable figure, especially during an economic recession.
EA/Criterion Games' Burnout Paradise
Another trend is downloadable content (DLC), which will likely play a bigger factor than in previous years. Gamers are beginning to realize that DLC is a cheap method to increase the replay value of some of their favorite games. We consider DLC to be a must-have feature for all big AAA titles in 2009.