The Game Industry In 2015

Once again, the new year looms as a vast cloud of uncertainty. The only thing we can really be sure of is that something will surprise us during the year. Still, the [a]listdaily takes a shot at prognostication, in hopes of providing food for thought and later in the year, a few laughs at just how far off these predictions.

Sony will continue to lead Microsoft worldwide, but the fight between the two for sales leadership in console hardware will benefit consumers. We will see more price cutting on both the Xbox One and the PS4 before the end of the year. Expect to see one or both of the consoles available for $299 or even less before the end of the year, although that may be a sale price. Bundled software will continue to be a preferred method to add value to console packages without reducing the price.

Nintendo will stick to its current strategy for much of the year, trusting that the cumulative effect of strong Wii U releases will bolster sales of the console. Ultimately, though, as the PS4 and Xbox One approach and then undercut the current Wii U pricing, Nintendo will reduce the price of the Wii U console — and possibly make an improvement or two in the process. We’ll learn more about the company’s “Quality of Life” initiative, but it won’t be of particular interest to the gaming market. The company will have a big hit with its new Zelda title, which will boost Wii U sales.

The microconsole market will heat up, as Google’s Android TV gets some push from a variety of hardware makers. Amazon will continue to improve the Fire TV offerings, and possibly the hardware this year will see a revision as well. This may be the year Apple finally introduces the Apple TV we have been waiting for, with an app store and powerful gaming capabilities.

Console games will continue to demonstrate the graphics capabilities of the consoles, but revolutionary new game mechanics will be harder to find. Most of the top console games for 2015 will also have versions on older consoles, which says something about just how innovative the new hardware really is.

Halo 5 will be a big hit for the fall. Call of Duty will continue to experience a lower sales year than the previous year, but it will still be one of the top sellers for the year. Evolve will be an early success for the year.

Mobile games will continue to compete on better graphics, but the big winners will be the ones that combine a quality look with an intensely engaging experience. The top ten grossing titles will be fairly stable again, with only a handful of new titles able to break in. Established companies will leverage their existing audience to more success with variants of previous hits, as Candy Crush Soda Saga demonstrates.

We will see more experimentation with monetization as publishers strive to find the most profitable ways to present mobile games. Some games will be successful with upfront charges, and the fact that Minecraft Pocket Edition was the top-grossing iOS game on Christmas day will not be a unique situation.

Despite the continuing struggles of the PC market, gamers will continue to embrace the platform and its games. The growth of eSports will continue, with more games sharing the limelight at competitions that will increasingly see larger prizes. China will become a fast-growing market for Western publishers as their online titles like FIFA Online and Call of Duty Online pull in large audiences, and more of the top Western PC games will find a way into China.

We will see more games offering a 4K mode, as ultra-high resolution 4K monitors get a little cheaper during the year, and graphics cards that can drive them will drop into more affordable price ranges. Virtual reality and augmented reality devices will be offered to consumers for PCs, but adoption will be slow because of the hardware requirements and the scarcity of compelling apps.

Major publishers will continue to grow, but not at the rate of more nimble competitors who are focused on mobile and digital markets. Activision will have a good year as Destiny overcomes its early issues with a series of content releases, and the company’s other franchises (Call of Duty and Skylanders) do well, though more marketing efforts will be required to make that happen. Blizzard will have a strong year as Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch join Hearthstone in attracting big audiences, and World of Warcraft will hold onto its subscriber boost from Warlords of Draenor longer than previous expansions.

Electronic Arts will see good numbers for Battlefield Hardline after its delay, but the company’s fortunes will really be helped or hurt by the fate of its sports titles. While FIFA and Madden have performed well, the NBA and NHL titles had a rocky year in 2014, and it remains to be seen if those franchises can perform at the level they should be able to reach.

TakeTwo will have some strong hits like Evolve, but the continuing boost of Grand Theft Auto V will be the big performer for the company in 2015. Ubisoft has a strong lineup for 2015, but the company will have to work hard to bring its titles in on schedule at the desired quality level to really achieve its goals.

More companies will be joining the billion-dollar revenue club in 2015, led by Riot Games and Wargaming, along with Supercell and possibly Machine Zone. Zynga hopes to return to that status, but it will need to introduce some very strong new titles to reach that level. We’ll see a greater number of mobile game companies achieving billion-dollar status or close to it, as more gaming revenue than ever before is generated by mobile games.

It will be a great year for gaming, with the industry overall growing strongly. There will be the usual delays, a surprising dud or two, and an unexpected hit or three to make things lively. We’ll see several billion-dollar-plus acquisitions or investments during the year, and capital will continue to flow into the industry to take advantage of the strong growth opportunities.

Facebook Emerges As Surprise Competitor To YouTube

Look out, YouTube: There’s a new kid in town, and its name is Facebook.

Facebook, the enduring social network known for its “Like” button more than its video capabilities, has emerged as a viable challenger to YouTube’s dominance in the world of online video.

The numbers pointing to Facebook‘s entrance into the ring speak for themselves; native videos posted to the site have enjoyed increasingly desirable engagement rates for brands, while rates for videos originally posted to YouTube and similar sites continue to decline. A recent Socialbakers study gave native Facebook videos an 80 percent share of total interaction across all video posts.



Brands appear to be taking note of Facebook videos’ steadily rising engagement rates, embracing the social network for posting original content like never before; the same Socialbakers study noted that November marked the first-ever month in which Facebook page owners uploaded more videos directly to the site than they’d shared from YouTube.

Apple was among the brands benefitting from this tectonic social shift, as their recent Facebook-focused ad campaign greatly outpaced its engagement figures on YouTube.

Greg Hounslow, emerging media advisor for WestJet — a company that recently courted its own Facebook success with their Christmas Miracle: Spirit of Giving video — sees the news as a mixed bag. “Where Facebook benefits over YouTube is that everybody has an account, whereas not everyone is logged into their YouTube account. That’s a key piece of where Facebook’s advantage is on engagement right now.”

On the other hand, Hounslow is quick to point out differences in the ways Facebook and YouTube count their “views;” autoplay-enabled Facebook notches a “view” after three seconds spent watching a video, while YouTube requires that users actually click on a video. “The YouTube view is more valuable for now […] A huge percentage of people are dropping off after a very short amount of time as they scroll through their feed. Meanwhile, if you arrive at a YouTube video, you’re probably in a dedicated video-watching area, so retention tends to be a lot higher.”

Though Facebook obviously won’t become the kind of one-stop shop for original programming, organic videos, and branded content YouTube is famous for being overnight, it is clear that the Google-owned media property no longer dominates its realm to the point of exclusivity. “YouTube is still a massive, massive part of our video strategy,” Hounslow noted, “but you can’t ignore the native Facebook player.”


Apple’s iPad Could Be Saved By The Stylus

Styluses, once the bane of late Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs’s existence, could soon be coming along to save the day for the iPad is a recent patent is any indicator.

A new patent for a “communicating stylus” shows Apple is apparently serious about building their own stylus for mobile devices just a month removed from a likely related patent {link no longer active} for a “touch input device configured to synchronize a stylus acquisition process with both a touch data acquisition process and a display refresh process”.

The news is just yet another marked departure from the ship Jobs ran for current CEO Tim Cook, as Jobs famously announced that “nobody wants a stylus” while launching the iPhone at Macworld in 2007.

Apple’s apparent willingness to embrace a peripheral they’d once avoided could be tied to a push for iPads in business environments. A partnership with IBM hasn’t done enough to revive stagnant sales on its own, perhaps compelling the tech giant to listen more closely to the concerns of business professionals seeking a more “eloquent” means to create documents on their iPads.

Of course, it’s also possible that Apple’s latest patent filing is just a red herring. Apple is notorious for filing large numbers of patents for gadgets and functionalities that never see the light of day. Still, with their newfound embrace of social media well in hand, it is not unreasonable to think Tim Cook’s Apple might be more flexible to market demand than in years past, even if that “flexibility” means creating a stylus.

Los Angeles Is Digital Content’s New Epicenter

You might have heard the news by now, be it from Ad Age or someone else: Los Angeles, California’s largest city, is poised to usher its reputation as a source of inspiration and rebirth for countless generations into the 21st century by staking its claim as the new nexus of digital content creation.

For several decades, Los Angeles has been viewed as playing second fiddle to the whiz kids up north in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco when it comes to all things digital, content to maintain its reputation as a hotspot for more “traditional” content. Now that digital is an everyday component of consumers’ lives outpacing television, however, L.A. is looking to offer techies something they can do better than the Bay Area: Unique, original content.

“It’s really becoming a hotbed for creativity in all its forms,” says Pepsi global chief marketing officer Kristin Patrick. Indeed, companies from Apple to Red Bull are flocking to the City of Angels in droves, hiring local talent and setting up shop with an eye toward the city’s renaissance.

Hollywood might still run this city, but this isn’t your Grandpa’s Hollywood. Online production companies like Maker Studios have turned YouTube into a television replacement for the mobile generation, attracting the attention of established studios like Disney and talent agencies like Ayzenberg’s own [ION] as mobile stars take center stage as the new celebrities.

There’s even room for startups here, too. This past year alone saw Facebook acquire virtual reality startup Oculus for $2 billion, the rise of anonymous chat app Whisper and dating service Tinder, and a highly-publicized $10 billion valuation for Snapchat.

Though Los Angeles still has a ways to go to beat back stereotypes regarding its supposed inferiority to San Francisco, it seems clearer than ever that those looking to ride digital content into the future can catch a wave off the “Silicon Beach”.

The Year’s Best Movie Trailers

Over the past few months, we’ve shown you some great trailers for forthcoming movies that have gotten a great deal of attention. Some have even gone into double-digit million views, with heavy anticipation behind them. These include new entries in the ongoing Avengers and Star Wars franchises, as well as the film adaptation of the popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

Without further ado, here are six trailers that truly capped off 2014.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Even though the movie is still just under a year away from release (it’s due to hit theaters on December 18), the latest chapter in the Star Wars franchise still has plenty to get excited about. Most notable is the return of the classic Millennium Falcon, which hasn’t been seen on the big-screen since 1983. In addition, new droids and characters were also introduced, not to mention an interesting new lightsaber model that should be a hit in toy form. The Force will truly awaken come next Christmas.


Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

The 2012 release of The Avengers generated big money for Marvel Studios, to the tune of $1.5 billion worldwide. The sequel, Age of Ultron, which releases next May, should have no trouble matching that number, with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and others returning to their roles as they combat the deadly Ultron, with the voice of James Spader. Directed by Joss Whedon (the man who helmed the first film), Ultron should have no trouble setting the pace for the next set of Marvel films.


Jurassic World

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been without a chapter in the Jurassic Park series for all these years, but Universal will rectify the matter next summer with the release of Jurassic World. Starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, this new entry, directed by Colin Trevorrow, will focus on an even bigger, consumer-ready park this time around, with an all-new danger ready to be introduced. The film will hit theaters on June 12.


Furious 7

The latest Fast and Furious film has gone through its fair share of speed bumps in development – notably with the departure of franchise director Justin Lin and the passing of co-star Paul Walker – but this July, it will go back to full throttle with Furious 7. The film will reintroduce several characters from the series, as well as a new villain played by Jason Statham. Expect plenty of high-octane thrills and action with this entry when it arrives on April 3.



Mad Max: Fury Road

We haven’t seen a new Mad Max movie since entering the Thunderdome more than two decades ago. But that isn’t stopping director George Miller from returning to the action-packed franchise he made so famous, with Tom Hardy stepping into the role that Mel Gibson first started. In Fury Road, a whole new post-nuclear war emerges, with enemies coming out of the woodword and Max, alongside a new compatriot (Charlize Theron) doing whatever it takes to survive. This one hits theaters on May 15.