With the first month of 2008 nearly in the books, industry analysts are wrapping up their latest round of predictions for what the coming year will mean to gaming.
In a note to investors this morning, Lazard Capital Markets' Colin Sebastian picked out two trends to watch for. For the first half of the year, Sebastian expects growth in console gaming to be a big story thanks to the release of high-profile games like Devil May Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Metal Gear Solid 4. However, Sebastian expects the PC market to gain prominence after June, buffeted on the strength of releases for Activision Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and Starcraft II, as well as Electronic Arts' Spore.
Will Wright's intergalactic life sim isn't the only EA game Sebastian is looking forward to. The analyst listed a number of other interesting titles from the publisher slated for its next fiscal year, which runs from this coming April through March, 2009. In addition to a new Burnout, Sebastian listed the BioWare role-playing game Dragon Age, an as-yet unconfirmed F1 racing game, and a new Fight Night on the company's expected fiscal 2009 release schedule. Rock Band 2 also appears on the list, suggesting Sebastian believes MTV Games and Harmonix will turn their new rhythm series into an annualized franchise (or nearly annual, at any rate), and that they will continue to enlist EA's help in distributing the title.
DFC Intelligence released its own industry briefing today, in which the company noted that casual gaming was the story of 2007, but a different tale may emerge in 2008. Specifically, the DFC Intelligence note questions the ability of the three main consoles to crossover into the markets they aren't currently dominating.
"Going forward, the challenge faced by the Wii is that it is not that strong when it comes to the more complex epic games," the report reads. "It is likely that 2008 could be the year of the epic game (with a focus on the number four). Products like Devil May Cry 4, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Grand Theft Auto IV could be the big stories for the first half of 2008, and all these products are coming out for the Xbox 360 and/or PlayStation 3 (but not the Wii). The key challenge faced by Microsoft and Sony is to avoid the Nintendo 64 syndrome of being locked only into the market of serious gamers."
DFC estimates that the serious gamer market is about 40 million strong, but notes that console makers are likely aiming higher than that considering Sony's previous success with the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. Both of those consoles sold more than 100 million systems worldwide.
That isn't to say DFC is downplaying the casual market. It still expects significant growth in that area, with downloadable casual PC games alone to surpass $2.3 billion in annual sales by 2012.