5-year predictions (2009 to 2014) for the MMO/Online Games industry

Last week at the LOGIN conference I sat on a panel with three far more smart/successful/famous people than myself entitled “Online Games 2014: Twelve Spoilers for the Future” (I think I was there as “the argumentative one” ;)). The real value of the panel was the four of us arguing^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdiscussing each other’s predictions, and the audience suggestions afterwards, but the predictions themselves were pretty interesting alone, just to compare and contrast.

I couldn’t liveblog this session (obviously) and it looks like no-one else did, so – until the slides go up on the conference website – here’s what I can remember of the predictions (I may get some of these wrong, apologies!):

  1. There will be tonnes of cheap rackspace; anything that uses Cloud Computing will be very successful thanks to low cost base
  2. iPhone will become the dominant gaming platform
  3. We’re heading into a big recession that may do well for the MMO industry
  4. Browser-based MMOs will disappear in favour of iPhone/SmartPhone-based MMOs
  5. South Korean MMO Publishers will vanish as a major player in the MMO industry, eclipsed and swallowed by Chinese and SEA MMO Operators (“non-publishing” backgrounds)
  6. Europe will get its first successful Europe-wide MMO publisher, and that company will quickly rise to dominance over the more fractured USA MMO publisher market
  7. Advertiser-sponsored Virtual Worlds will be huge in number and variety
  8. A small percentage of advertiser-sponsored VWs will succeed – but will dominate the mainstream MMO market, since for them “profit is optional”
  9. Traditional game developers will be blindsided by the advertiser-sponsored MMOs
  10. Most PC MMOs (IIRC “90% or more”) will become F2P
  11. Console development-studios will become dominant in the MMO market since they are best at “polish” and very high quality user-experiences
  12. …and one more I’ve forgotten (!). Actually, some of the above I suspect I’ve misinterpreted – have to wait for the slides to be posted to check…

I’ve never before engaged in these kinds of generic future predictions, because I have so little confidence in either my own ability to describe them, or in my ability to understand other people’s ones in a useful fashion. I joined this session because the opportunity to argue them against other people was a lot more interesting. As stated above, I think our conversations on the panel were a lot more valuable than the actual predictions themselves.

Of course, when it comes to more narrow, specific predictions, well … if I really knew the answers there, I wouldn’t be telling you, I’d be making billions out of knowing :). And anyway, at that point you’re effectively asking me what the precise strategy is of my current employer (whoever that may be), which I’m generally not going to be able to reveal :).

FYI the speakers on the panel:

  1. David Edery, previously Worldwide Games Portfolio Manager for XBLA
  2. Charlie Stross, author of Halting State, Accelerando, etc
  3. Tarrney Williams, previously General Manager of Relic Entertainment
  4. + me, of course

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