It’s near the end of the season to make predictions for 2012, so hopefully I get this in under the wire. In the startup world we call such running around and almost missing deadlines being “nimble…” but we might be the oldest startup in mobile games: From ’06 to ’08 we were the only bootstrapped Top 10 mobile games publisher in the US. I’ve been in this space so long, I was even there when Jamdat pitched us on making a bowling game for phones, which turned into the top selling mobile game in the US for the next 3 years. It was black and white… and I think it had B.C. in the title… So I’ve seen and ridden most waves that have come and gone in the history of mobile games, and I’m more excited by the current wave than any before, hopefully because Mobile Deluxe is helping create it. Could be why Moby has a surfboard.
So what is that current wave? Well, here’s part of it, a little off the beaten path (meaning there’s nothing about Facebook’s IPO):
1. Top charts will NOT be dominated by brands (still).
Most brands don’t translate to the top genres we see in the App Store and in Android Market (sandbox games). So until brand owners come up with effective freemium models, they will languish.
2. Speaking of freemium: Top games will be freemium.
Seems obvious, but maybe there are people that still think it’s a fad… It’s not.
3. Middleware engines that port to iPhone and android and other middleware tools that simplify game creation will still not catch on.
I would not invest here. Coders don’t like using other coders’ code, because they all know that they can do it better, and for not much more time. The only way to make this work is to sell the biz dev teams at the developers’ businesses on the cost savings… but 99.99% of dev shops don’t have biz dev teams.
4. This will NOT be the year for HTML 5.
Performance is not there, but the fragmentation is… the fragmentation is worse than Android.
5. Amazon will kill it in mobile/tablets.
These guys are good, and they can bridge some gaps that others cannot.
6. Apps will be inundated with video ads, which consumers will NOT love.
Everyone but consumers is excited about this.
7. iAd will finally take off.
Mobile Advertising is still difficult and frustrating on the buy side. When larger companies come in with larger budgets, they will want a one stop shop that is SIMPLE to work with.
8. Zynga’s stock price will double.
I am not a broker. I am not an analyst. I have no Zynga stock. This should not be taken as advice. It should really just be met with a, “huh?”
9. EA will turn a profit for the first time in 5 years.
10. Gameloft will attempt an acquisition (they’ve never done this).
11. Ad revenue will even out between Android and iPhone.
12. We’ll learn what the shelf-life is for some top mobile game genres.
Alright, there are five more… think of it as the “Top 12 predictions plus 5 bonus ones.” (But I understand if you need to stop reading now, both of you).
13. Mobile shopping system companies will become VC darlings.
I’m talking about companies that make it easier for people to shop on their mobile devices. Yes mobile holiday sales were through the roof, but that was for the huge companies that have solved this on their own. Everyone else is in need of an elegant solution (for payment, and input of payment info).
14. Android will launch a realtime rankings system for apps (please!)
15. EA will announce ‘Aikman Football’ to replace Madden.
At least they should.
16. I won’t win the battle to delineate between “games” and “gaming.”
Gaming has traditionally meant “gambling,” but has been commandeered by video games, or those that write about them. Unless we all join forces, this trend will continue, and casino companies will continue buying game companies!
17. There will be a major cross-licensing deal to solve a big part of the patent wars. Everyone will participate but one (easy to figure mystery).