I’m making my annual predictions for the game industry again, not because I’m good at it, but because it has become one of the annual rites of December for me. I’m usually wrong or predictable when I make my predictions, but one day I’ll get right. I can’t be wrong all of the time.

As the game industry grows beyond the $134.9 billion behemoth it was in 2018, I hope that I can at least help people plan for the future or take a guess about something that forecasters might not otherwise think about. We are what we pretend to be, and today I’ll pretend to be a seer. I have 22 years experience as a beat writer on games. But I have never programmed or designed a game in my life.

I do play them though, and I talk to a lot of people about games. I’ve written about 17,000 stories for VentureBeat over 11 years, mostly about what other people think about the future of tech and games. Once a year, I look back at last year’s predictions and try to get into prediction mode. You’ll see some familiar themes that we will explore in our upcoming GamesBeat Summit 2019 event in Los Angeles.

First, I’ll give myself grades for last year’s predictions, and then I’ll make 12 new ones. For the usual comparison and embarrassment, here are my predictions for 20172016201520142013 and 2012.


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My 2018 scorecard

1. Red Dead Redemption will be the Game of the Year

Above: Red Dead Redemption 2

Image Credit: Rockstar

I was right that the much-delayed game would debut in 2018. I felt this epic Western deserved Game of the Year, after I played through 105 missions for more than 50 hours. It was a rare beauty of a game, with more than 3,000 people contributing to it over the course of eight years. But it was edged out at The Game Awards by God of War, and GamesBeat’s own team outvoted me and gave that title to another game. Yet Rockstar Games may have the last laugh, as the game is a huge commercial success and could generate more than 20 million copies sold in its first two months of sales. Let’s just say I was almost right.

Letter grade: B

2. The Nintendo Switch will be the bestselling console of the year

Above: Nintendo Switch

Image Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo has had good lifetime sales for the Switch so far, selling an estimated 25 million units since March 2017. It is more successful than its predecessor, the Wii U, by far. But it’s unclear which console sold the most units in 2018, as none of the parties have reported sales yet, and the all-important month of December still has to play out. In the second fiscal quarter ended September 30, sales were kind of disappointing.

Letter grade: TBD

3. Gamer rage will take new and unpredictable forms

The Monk in Diablo: Immortal.

Above: The Monk in Diablo: Immortal.

Image Credit: Blizzard

I was right about this one, but I didn’t think Blizzard Entertainment would be the instigator. When Blizzard promised a new glimpse of a Diablo game for BlizzCon 2018, gamers got their hopes up. But they were very upset to find out that Diablo: Immortal would be a mobile game. They feared, wrongly, that Blizzard wasn’t working on a big PC title related to Diablo. Epic Games’ popular Fortnite title also got some hit from the hip hop artist 2 Milly, who claimed Epic Games copied his Milly Rock dance as an emote in the battle royale game. Even the companies with the best intentions and the best hardcore line-ups can run afoul of the internet haters. That’s something we’ll address at our GamesBeat Summit 2019 event, where the theme is about building gaming communities.

Letter grade: A

4. VR will get cheaper and better, but it will continue to perform below expectations

Above: Oculus Go.

Image Credit: Oculus

Facebook did indeed launch a price war in virtual reality with its $200 standalone Oculus Go VR headset in 2018. But that system didn’t ignite a boom in VR sales. The Sony PlayStation VR continued to sell, but it felt like the whole industry was pivoting to VR arcades throughout the year. Facebook’s Oculus will try again in the spring of 2019 with the launch of the Oculus Quest, a wireless headset with full hands-on controllers. But for now, the consumer reaction to VR is quite muted.

Letter grade: A

5. AR gaming will take off in a variety of ways

Above: Pokemon now appear at scale in augmented reality.

Image Credit: Niantic

Augmented reality still hasn’t taken off the way anyone hoped or predicted. There’s a lot of it on mobile devices, like Pokémon Go and Jurassic World: Alive. But AR headsets are so expensive that they’re being targeted at enterprises. And there aren’t any AR apps in the top 100 grossing mobile games, unless you count CSR 2’s AR experience. But that was an add-on to a popular game.

Magic Leap began selling the developer version of its AR headset, dubbed the Magic Leap One Creator Edition. But it was priced at $2,300, and very few people were able to enjoy it as a consumer technology in 2018. Like VR, it looks like AR is going to be a slow-cook experience.

Letter grade: C

6. Influencers will grow in importance, but must be reined in as well

Above: PewDiePie doesn’t want to be considered with Nazis, but his language isn’t helping.

Image Credit: PewDiePie PewDiePie/YouTube

Influencers got more popular than ever. Dominique “SonicFox” McLean and Ninja are making lots of money showing off their skills and entertaining people at the same time.

But it didn’t seem like the bad boy influencers like PewDiePie lost any real audience, despite a history of making Nazi jokes. Plenty of misbehaving streamers were banned, and yet others became more popular because of their badness.

Letter grade: B

7. Esports will continue to score funding and growth

Above: Seoul Dynasty is a new Overwatch League team.

Image Credit: GenG

As predicted, investment stalled on VR, and a lot of attention shifted to esports investments. Venture capital firms such as Accel became bullish on esports, and traditional sports owners got further into making investments in esports teams.

Millions of dollars in investments went into companies like Fnatic, PlaysVS, ESL, Newzoo, The Esports Observer, Team Vitality, Popdog, Complexity Gaming, and Gen.G.

Market researcher Newzoo predicted that esports could hit $1.7 billion by 2021. Esports is still in its hype stage, but no one has popped the bubble yet.

Letter grade: A

8. The Leisure Economy will gather momentum

Above: Esports is on the rise.

Image Credit: Nielsen

Getting paid to play games was a big theme of our GamesBeat Summit 2018 event. It started as something I had heard from the craziest of forecasters, like Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins, and it slowly became something that I believed in as well. (It will come up again at GamesBeat Summit 2019).

Now I hear other people talking about how streamers and other esports stars are creating new jobs that didn’t exist a generation ago. They include esports athletes, shoutcasters, esports agents, cosplayers, mod designers, user-generated content developers, influencers, livestreamers, and more.

There isn’t a huge long tail yet. Mostly, celebrities like the aforementioned Ninja are getting rich playing games. But in the long run, I think this trend is getting more exciting.

Letter grade: A

9. Big games will be delayed. Blockbusters will astound us.

The Monitor leads the Dominion in Anthem.

Above: The Monitor leads the Dominion in Anthem.

Image Credit: Owen is happy go lucky, ambitious guy, Warner said.

Sadly, some of the most anticipated video games of the year were delayed from 2018 to 2019. One of those was Anthem, from Electronic Arts’ BioWare division. That title is now coming on February 22. We’ve got some big titles coming in 2019 (that we expected in 2018) like Days Gone. We have no idea when others are coming, like Ghost of Tsushima, Halo Infinite, or The Last of Us Part II.

Meanwhile, yes, Red Dead Redemption 2, Spider-Man, and God of War astounded us.

Letter grade: A

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has crossed 10 million daily active users.

Above: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has crossed 10 million daily active users.

Image Credit: PUBG Corp.

10. Battle royale titles will multiply and peter out

I predicted a year ago that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite might be the only games that really prosper in the battle royale genre. I was right about how these games would multiply, but that “peter out” guess was wildly inaccurate. We saw the successful launches of battle royale titles like Call of Duty: Blackout (I was right about that one), Ring of Elysium, and Realm Royale. But rather than peter out, it only seems like this game mode is picking up fans. Red Dead Online has one, and Battlefield V will add it as an update in 2019.

Letter grade: B