Hello fellow Gamespotters! Let me first wish everyone a happy new year, and may 2011 be the great year it promises to be! The following 12 months are going to be packed with new game releases as well as new improvements in technology that will continue to drive the industry foward. Which brings me to the whole point of this article: to see just what 2011 has in store for you and me: the gamers.
For the basis of this article I will be looking at Gamespot's latest update, "2011: The Road Ahead" by Tor Thorsen. For those of you who haven't read it, I suggest you read it here before you continue on with this blog. For most of you who have read it, you're either A) Believing that the analysts are for the most part, correct or B) Rolling your eyes at what you feel are, as usual, the same "predictions" that are made every year. So let's take a look at what the three featured analysts, Douglas Creutz, Jesse Divnich, and Michael Pachter have to say is in store for us in 2011. We'll start with Creutz, and then work our way on down the list.
In short, here are the 5 main predictions Creutz has made for 2011:
1. The decline in retail software sales will end
2. Call of Duty will set another record in sales; Activision will offer a subscription service
3. Nintendo will NOT announce a Wii successor
4. Social/casual gaming will continue to grow
5. AAA titles may be released for lower price points... but may end up costing more in the long run.
Analysis: I agree with most of Creutz's predictions - first off, the decline in software sales will end, primarily because of a jam-packed gaming lineup (which I will not actually begin to name for fear of being criticized for leaving certain games out). Also, with an improving global economy, consumers will be more willing to spend money. Although because of so many high-profile releases, I predict many games will be pushed back in Q1 2012 territory, especially games with releases close to the next Call of Duty.
Speaking of Call of Duty (which I will from now on refer to as "COD"), Creutz's prediction about the next COD setting a record in sales seems to be true. Assuming that the game is the inevitable Modern Warfare 3, it appears that it should easily surpass the $1 billion mark set by both Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, which achieved that mark in only two months.
Creutz also is probably correct on his predictions about the no-show for the Wii's successor in 2011. While the Wii is undoubtedly losing it's hold over the market, it will likely not see a successor anytime soon since Nintendo has lately been focusing on the 3DS, preparing for the game's launch in North America on February 26th. An announcement about a Wii successor would only hurt the 3DS, something Nintendo wants to make sure doesn't happen.
As for social and casual gaming, expect to hear a lot more about it in the future. If Angry Birds' success says anything, it shows the potential this market holds. Whether publishers such as Activision and EA attempt to gain more marketshare in this area remains to be seen.
While I did agree with Creutz for the most part, there were two points he brought up that I found to be unlikely. The first of which is his prediction for Activision to begin a Call of Duty subscription service. While this may eventually happen, for now it won't because of two reasons. Activision, adhering to the "don't fix it if it ain't broke" motto, will be unwilling to change the formula that has made it the biggest publisher in the games industry. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, Activison Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg stated that Activision would never charge for COD multiplayer.Whether the word of an Activision employee can be trusted or not has yet to be determined, yet for the moment, I have no other choice but to accept Hirshberg's words.
Call of Duty continues to roll.
Last, but certainly not least as it caught me the most off guard, was Creutz's prediction that some AAA titles will be released at a $40-$50 price point, but then require $20-$30 more worth of DLC to get the "full game experience". As Creutz then goes on to say "Gamers grumble about being nickle-and-dimed but spend the money anyway, to the benefit of the publishers." To me, what he is essentially saying is "You'll be paying $40-$50 for a demo, and then $30+ more to get the whole game". I know I'm letting my rather biased opinion into this, but if this goes into practice, I can only see the gaming industry going downhill from here - if it hasn't started already. Thankfully, however, I doubt this will happen for the simple reason of the DLC. While many people do use the online features of the current-gen consoles, not every does, considering only about half of people who own an Xbox 360 actually use Xbox Live. Online gaming has not yet reached everyone, and publishers would be foolish start only putting "partial" games onto discs and charging extra for the full experience. I seriously hope (though doubtful) that gamers would boycott these games if this actually came into practice.
Predictions by Jesse Divnich:
1. No console price cuts
2. Increased fragmentation in the games industry
3. More dance games
Analysis: For those too lazy to read the article, Divnich basically goes on to say to expect the consoles to remain at their current price for some time. I agree to a point, however, I am led to believe that we may see a 360 price drop later in the year, maybe moving it to the $250 price range. With a rather lackluster year for exclusives and with the success of Kinect, I think a price drop would be a smart move by Microsoft to help maintain sales.
Divnich's prediction of increased fragmentation in the industry is undoubtedly correct, and there really is nothing for me to add. The emergence of social gaming (with Facebook leading the charge), as well as mobile games on Apple's iPod and iPad devices are sure to draw in more money as publishers look to attract the casual audience. Indie games should also continue to grow, as the increase in digital services will provide independent developers with the chance to grow. To sum it up: more people will be gaming in different ways than ever before.
Finally, Divnich discusses how he believes dance games are going to be "the next big thing" in 2010. While Kinect's Dance Central may be leading the hype around dance games, I doubt they will really take off. I think it's safe to say that the core gaming crowd has no appreciation for dance games - which leaves the dance games to the casuals, whom quickly tire of certain games and move on (as evidenced by the Guitar Hero and other rhythm game mania of a few years ago).
Finally we come to Michael Pachter, whose predictions can be summed up into two things:
1. Premium multiplayer services hit consoles
2. The Wii-HD is announced
Analysis: Unfortunately (or fortunately, you decide which), I cannot agree with Pachter on anything. While free-to-play, microtransaction systems may be thriving on the PC, I cannot see them succeeding on consoles. Pachter states that "We may see hosted tournaments on the consoles in exchange for modest entry fees, with virtual goods or DLC as prizes". The first problem I have with this statement is the belief that companies are going to start hosting these "contests" in return for the "prizes". Maybe it's just me, but if there is some DLC that I really want, I'm going to pay the full amount for the DLC right away, rather than enter into some contest in the hope that I win it. And how many people of the gaming market are going to be willing to pay money to enter these competitions? I'm sorry, but I don't think many would do so. Would companies such as Microsoft and Sony actually promote this sort of gambling on their consoles anyway? I'm just speculating, but I'm not sure that they would. Hopefully games continue to remain about the fun, and not become fully focused on money.
Sorry Pachter, no Wii-HD for you!
The other prediction of Pachter's is that the Wii's successor, an HD-enabled console, will be introduced. As I discussed in Creutz's predictions, this will not happen, primarily because of the 3DS. Considering Pachter predicted in 2009 that the Wii-HD would be released last year, I believe that he will (once again) be incorrect.
So there you have it! 2011 looks like it will have a lot in store for us. So whether it's the new AAA titles, the Wii-HD, dance games, multiplayer services, or even the Activision vs. EA/West-Zampella case, sit back, relax, and grab a bag of popcorn, because 2011 is going to be one heck of a ride.