6. Smaller is better
I’ve been astounded to see the success of Supercell, which could generate $1.4 billion in revenues in 2014 with three games. By comparison, Electronic Arts has more than 800 mobile games in the market, but its estimated 2014 mobile game revenues will be decidedly smaller than that.
Ilkka Paananen, chief executive of Supercell in Helsinki, says that the company tries to keep itself small in spite of its success. The temptation to spread its bets and make big team investments must be enormous. But Supercell hasn’t expanded much since last year. It has around 150 employees, including 110 in Helsinki. A team of just 15 people works on updates for Clash of Clans, the most successful mobile game on the planet. Each new game is built by a team of five or six people, and the process for dealing with complaints from a base of tens of millions of users is automated, thanks to customer service technology from Helpshift.
This makes me think that it is possible for small teams to create blockbusters, particularly in mobile. Some companies will bet on huge teams working on a single title for a number of years. But the odds aren’t that much better for those kinds of teams compared to the tiny teams at Supercell. We’ve seen small teams win so many times, and I think this trend will continue in 2015. There’s just one catch, as Rumble Entertainment CEO Greg Richardson mentioned to me in a recent interview. If you’re a small company or a big one, your goal is the same. You have to swing for the fences and produce something outstanding.
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7. Gamers will come to terms with stereotypes and realities
People who criticized the stereotypes of hardcore games in 2014 were branded “social justice warriors” and excoriated by the members of the #GamerGate movement (a giant fight on the Internet about feminist game critics and more). But as I noted in a column earlier this year, I believe that games that buck stereotypes and give prominent roles to female characters are turning out to be better gaming experiences than the hardcore games that stick to the traditional male tropes.
Critics like Anita Sarkeesian and the #GamerGate controversy have drawn attention to some of the problems that have held games back from being universally appealing. If game developers use this year’s lessons to examine their own creative process and the choices they make, I think we’ll get better games. And I think that gamers will accept this broader diversity of characters, subject matter, and target audiences as the market of gamers expands.
I admit this may be wishful thinking on my part, but this is a future I would like to see unfold. I am hoping that both gamers and game developers will behave, and that we’ll see more creativity, not less, be the result.
8. Hackers will take down more major online games and services
This prediction is an easy one, like the one about major bugs. Given the history we’ve seen in 2014 — with hackers taking down online gaming services offered by Sony, Microsoft, Twitch, and Electronic Arts — why would we expect this trend wouldn’t continue in 2015?
Companies with the biggest resources for dealing with cyber threats such as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) have been victims of these attacks, where hackers send a swarm of nonsense traffic to deluge a game service. The companies try to deal with these attacks, but service disruption is the norm. If the big guys are still getting hacked, I suspect the smaller companies with fewer resources will be easy targets as well in the future. If you’re not ready for this problem to get worse, then you haven’t been planning properly.
9. China’s momentum will continue to grow
There are still a lot of big Chinese game companies out there that few people outside of China have heard about. I am surprised to come across such companies, like SkyMobi, on a regular basis. SkyMobi has more than 600 employees, and it is part of a mobile gaming ecosystem in China that is growing its revenues at a rate of 93 percent a year. As I discovered this year at the ChinaJoy gaming event in Shanghai, where more than 250,000 people gathered in a single week, China’s game market is unique — and it’s oddly sexualized.
If you’ve focused all of your attention on console games, the rise of China is easy to miss. But this year, Microsoft launched its Xbox One game console in China, and Sony is launching its PlayStation 4 in early January. Both companies have seen the sleeping giant awaken, and they don’t want to miss out. This means that China’s market is going to be the world’s largest gaming market, and Chinese companies are going to become some of the largest game companies on the planet. Giants such as Tencent already dominate in both China and on the global stage. We’re only going to see more of that in 2015.
10. The e-sports companies dominate games
When Amazon bought gameplay livestreaming startup Twitch for $970 million earlier this year, it was a coming of age for e-sports. Twitch lets players broadcast their own game sessions or become spectators watching great players. And titles like League of Legends were built with e-sports in mind. League of Legends is an aging game, but it commands more than 20 percent of the market share for online gameplay just about every month. The reason has a lot to do with the fact that the game is a huge hit in the e-sports community. This means that League of Legends has consistently more users than World of Warcraft, one of the old stalwart PC online subscription games. And League of Legends now has a ton of challengers, all of them created to command the attention of e-sports fans. It’s easy to predict that this part of gaming will only get bigger.
What do you think of these predictions? Please vote for your favorite, or leave comment with your own prediction.
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