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The ritual has arrived again. It’s time for me to make wildly inaccurate predictions about the future of games. This is always embarrassing for me, but I’m hoping that one of these years it will sharpen my thinking.
I’ve written more than 15,000 stories for VentureBeat over nearly 10 years, mostly based on what other people think about the future of tech and games. But once a year, I try to absorb some of that thinking and go out on the limb with my own predictions. This year, in the comfort of my home, I prefer the safe and the predictable. I can tolerate the process of thinking things through about once a year.
As the game industry crosses $116 billion in revenue, I figure somebody ought to be able to make a bundle by making good predictions. That’s not likely to be me, but I have fun pretending to be a seer anyway. First, I’ll give myself grades for last year’s predictions, and then I’ll make 10 new ones.
My scorecard for predictions for 2017
Last year, I predicted that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be a smashing success. I figured that was a safe prediction, but I didn’t expect what has become inevitable with big games from Take-Two Interactive’s Rockstar Games label. They take their time. Rockstar announced it would push the game back to the spring of 2018. But that’s OK, as I can now make the same prediction for 2018.
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Letter grade: F
I also said the Nintendo Switch would outsell the Wii U, but it would fall short of the Nintendo Wii’s 100 million in sales during the generation. This was an easy win, as the Switch has sold more than 10 million units and is already near outselling the lifetime sales of the Wii U at 13.6 million units. But it’s not yet clear that the Switch will have the legs to beat the Wii.
Letter grade: A (but still to be determined)
I figured virtual reality was also an easy prediction, as I said it would likely struggle to gain traction in 2017. Superdata Research estimates VR hardware and software sales will hit $3.7 billion, and it will eventually hit $28.3 billion in 2020. But the number of units going out the door has been disappointing, with Samsung’s Gear VR being the only platform to top 5 million units so far. VR has been lackluster with consumers, even with decent sales for the PlayStation VR. Microsoft moved into the market with Windows mixed reality headsets, but we don’t think that moved the needle much.
Letter grade: A
I predicted like many others that Apple would enter the augmented reality fray. I was right about that, but it only launched its software platform, ARKit, for developers to add AR to existing iPhones and iPads. Apple didn’t launch a hardware AR device, as expected.
Letter grade: B
I said the U.S. would continue to lose jobs to overseas game companies. I don’t have hard data on this yet, but I believe it was correct. I’ve seen many expansions of game companies in Europe, Asia, and Canada, but I’ve written a lot about cutbacks at U.S. companies like Electronic Arts (Visceral Games shut), Gazillion, Torchlight, CCP (in Atlanta), and Gree (in San Francisco). Kabam sold itself and then dismantled many of its operations.
Letter grade: A (but hard to verify)
I said the game industry will have a chance to build an open platform for the Metaverse, but it will fail to do so. I feared like Tim Sweeney of Epic Games that the industry would squander its chance to build an open platform to host the Metaverse, the virtual world envisioned by Neal Stephenson in the novel Snow Crash in 1992. I was actually wrong about this, as companies such as Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity are using blockchain to create interconnections for networks of virtual worlds. He’s just getting started, but that’s all we need so far.
Letter grade: F
I said that the number of Triple-A console games published in 2017 would slip. I don’t have the data on this one yet, but I feel like it’s true. Electronic Arts published eight games in 2016, and this year, it had about the same number. We’ll find out more when the stat collectors get to work.
Letter grade: Unclear
I predicted the next-generation of consoles would surface at E3 2017. I was right that Microsoft would unveil its machine, code-named Project Scorpio. The Xbox One X debuted in November, but Sony stayed mum about its plans.
Letter grade: B
I predicted that we would see the walls come down between science fiction, real world tech, and video games. I was mainly thinking about how HBO planned to do a VR version of its Westworld TV show. But it turned out that HBO shelved that effort. This was the theme of our GamesBeat Summit 2017 event, and it is one we will continue at GamesBeat Summit 2018. One of the talks was about the coming together of self-driving cars and car simulations. We were right about that notion, as Phantom Auto recently debuted its self-driving car that can be remotely driven by a human with video game driving gear.
Letter grade: C
And I predicted Donald Trump would inspire game developers to be more creative. We saw plenty of so-so games inspired by various things Trump did this year, but I can’t say I’ve seen his influence, positive or negative, on the inspirations of the biggest game developers so far.
Letter grade: C
My predictions for 2018
1. Red Dead Redemption will be the Game of the Year.
I hope Rockstar really does ship its Wild West fantasy in 2018, or I’ll get another F on my prediction. If they do ship, I think they’ll have a reasonable shot at having Game of the Year. Red Dead Redemption 2 has been rescheduled for the spring, and based on the trailer released so far, it looks like it will be another top-quality production from Rockstar. The game features an all-new cast and story about “outlaw Arthur Morgan and the Van Der Linde gang as they rob, fight and steal their way across the vast and rugged heart of America in order to survive.” Rockstar has won so many game awards that this is a pretty safe prediction, where the competition isn’t the threat. It’s Rockstar’s award to win or lose.