2014 Predictions Revisited And Rated

A popular year-end occupation for pundits of all sorts is making predictions about the coming year. All too often, though, it’s embarrassing to look back on those predictions and see just how far from reality they were. That’s why, no doubt, you rarely see pundits musing on their failures of the past, preferring to offer some shiny new predictions instead. The [a]listdaily, though, will take on the task of evaluating last year’s predictions, in the spirit of good marketing and product development. Looking back on projects and seeing how they worked and didn’t work is an important way to improve future performance, and what’s good for projects should be equally good for projections. Or, at least, amusing to the bystanders.

Nintendo Prediction for 2014
Nintendo stays the course with the Wii U, making no dramatic moves on pricing or the hardware, trusting to releases of hit software to keep the sales moving. It will, to some extent, but the energy, excitement and sales that Nintendo has seen for the 3DS line will still fail to appear for the Wii U. The year will end without a “killer app” for the Wii U that is utterly dependent on the Gamepad, which would drive sales upwards. Somewhere in a back room, Nintendo will quietly work on the successor to the Wii U which it will plan to introduce in a few years. The biggest surprise of 2014 for Nintendo is that there are no big surprises for Nintendo. The company will be profitable, though, but not hugely so.

Rating: 90 percent. This is, indeed, pretty much what happened with Nintendo in 2014. Wii U sales improved somewhat with Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., but still on Black Friday only managed a 10 percent improvement over last year, according to Nintendo’s statement. Nintendo is working on new hardware, according to Shigeru Miyamoto. The company will be profitable for the year by a small amount, but nothing like the profits it saw during the Wii’s heyday.

Microsoft and Sony Prediction for 2014
Microsoft and Sony slug it out all year long over next-gen consoles with no clear winner at the end. If Sony starts to pull ahead a bit in sales, Microsoft can respond by cutting the price of the Xbox One or bundling in some software. Gradually, though, the Kinect will reveals itself to be a sales advantage as new products and services appear that take advantage of the Kinect being included in every console sold. Sony’s secret weapon, Gaikai, will come into play during the year offering backwards compatibility for older PlayStation games, and bringing streaming games to the PC and other platforms as well.

The Xbox 360 and the PS3 will continue to sell well, driven by their lower prices and amazing software libraries. Meanwhile, the PS Vita TV will be a strong seller in the $99 streaming-TV box market, shouldering aside the Roku and the Apple TV… unless the Apple TV finally adds some apps.

Rating: 30 percent. Not such a good prediction here, as Sony maintained a clear leadership throughout the year until Microsoft finally won November, at least in North America and the U.K. The Kinect revealed itself to be a millstone around the Xbox One’s neck, one that Microsoft finally ditched. Microsoft did find success by bundling games and cutting the price of the Xbox One. Gaikai, now redubbed PlayStation Now, is in beta doing what the prediction foretold, but not yet on a wide scale. The Xbox 360 and the PS3 tanked, along with software for them, as both console makers refused to drop the prices. The PS TV has so far had no discernable impact on the market, and Sony doesn’t seem to be paying it much attention.

Games Prediction for 2014
New IP breathes new life into old consoles as titles like Destiny excite interest. The real fire gets lit on next-gen, though as both Destiny and Titanfall drive sales of hardware. Early views of the next Halo build excitement, too. Watch Dogs may be later than expected originally, but the title will do very well. Meanwhile, the appearance of titles like The Witcher 3 and Star Citizen on PC drives a resurgence of interest in PC gaming, along with greater awareness of indie titles and Kickstarter-born software like Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera and Shroud of the Avatar.

Rating: 50 percent. New IP did help drive strong sales of new consoles, though it failed to do much of anything for old consoles. PC gaming is strong, but due more to online games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Hearthstone than indie titles.

Mobile Prediction for 2014
Everyone is rushing to stake out new genres in mobile, and 2014 is the year when we’ll see every hot genre explored on mobile by major publishers. Zynga releases a slew of new games and brings some old favorites to tablets, and returns to profitability. DeNA and Gree begin to move forward more strongly, having finally made the transition to smartphone-based games more fully. The leading titles of 2013, like Puzzle & Dragons, Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, will fade somewhat in the charts as newer titles attract strong audiences.

Rating: 40 percent. We certainly have seen genres beyond causal and action explored on mobile in 2014, with MOBAs like Vainglory and RPGs like KingsRoad. Zynga did release a slew of games, but profitability still eludes them. DeNA and Gree are moving forward, though not hitting the highest spots in the charts yet. The leading titles of 2013 haven’t really faded, while only a few new titles like Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age have really made it consistently into the top charts.

Overall Prediction for 2014
It will be a great year for gaming, though there will be consolidation among mobile publishers. Traditional publishers will do well as next-gen consoles drive software sales, but expansion into new platforms and business models will continue to be important. Some high-profile executives and designers will depart from major companies, and some of them will have a surprising new game to announce. It’s going to be a year of surprises, too, as at least one major player (perhaps Apple, Google, or Amazon, or even a dark horse like Samsung) announces a major new hardware play in the gaming area with a set-top box.

Rating: 95 percent. 2014 was a great year for gaming, with the industry growing strongly and new consoles from Sony and Microsoft selling well in their first year. Consolidation among mobile publishers hit $4.6 billion in 2014, according to Digi-Capital, though some of this is from mobile game publishers selling to other entities, like GungHo selling its Supercell stake to Softbank. A number of high-profile execs made moves, like Brian Reynolds, Cliff Bleszinski, and Andrew Sheppard — and Reynolds and Bleszinski have new games in the works. Google has introduced Android TV, though we won’t see the full impact until next year. Amazon’s Fire TV was introduced as well and is doing good business, growing its game and other content library.

Overall 2014 Prediction Rating for [a]listdaily: 61 percent. That’s better than monkeys throwing darts, at least most of the time.

The Year In Gaming: Microsoft

When 2013 came to a close, Microsoft found a contender in the game industry with its Xbox One console, but couldn’t quite keep up with Sony in terms of pricing, availability and accessibility, since most consumers were “stuck” needing to purchase a motion-sensitive Kinect device with their console – even if they didn’t need it. But by the end of 2014, Microsoft turned around its success, and is now giving Sony a run for its money heading into the New Year.

After providing the option to purchase bundles that didn’t include the Kinect device – and also came with an alluring set of pack-in games including Sunset Overdrive and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Microsoft’s slump in sales quickly went away. People began buying the special bundles in droves, and, as a result, the system has now sold over 10 million units, almost caught up with Sony’s system.

Not only that, but Microsoft showed its fans that it truly cares about them with a number of key exclusives. Sunset Overdrive turned out to be one of the year’s biggest surprises, a colorful action romp that has received universal acclaim with both critics and fans. Forza Horizon 2 easily topped the original in terms of both quality and control, becoming a hot-seller for the Xbox One in no time flat. And the multiplayer shooter Titanfall was an immense success, as there’s word that EA is already considering ideas for a sequel, although it hasn’t been confirmed yet.

That said, Microsoft’s year hasn’t quite been as easy as it was hoping. The company still struggles to make an impact in the Japanese game market, as the Xbox One sold fewer than 100,000 units with its debut there. And some games have run into their fair share of problems, including the key release Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which launched with a number of online issues – and considering how popular that game’s multiplayer components are, many fans were let down as a result.

Regardless, Microsoft managed to bounce back and retain its piece of the video game industry, and, heading into 2015, it has its own fair share of promise coming up, including a forthcoming beta for Halo 5: Guardians (which starts today) and various exclusives sure to be announced at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo – including a game streaming service that could be better structured than Sony’s PlayStation Now.

Microsoft has definitely come out ahead in 2014, and this coming year could be its best one yet – provided it stays on task with big hits like Halo 5 and keeps showing its love for its gaming fans.

Pinterest Plans Full-Scale Promoted Pins Rollout

Pinterest, the popular image sharing-focused social network long dogged by questions about its ability to generate revenue, is moving towards monetization with a site-wide rollout of its Promoted Pins program on January 1.

Promoted Pins, a Pinterest-flavored approach to sponsored content that allows brands to pay to boost their own brand-centric Pins to other Pinners’ feeds, was launched in beta form for select brands back in May.

The initiative, by Pinterest’s own estimation, has been a rousing success; an announcement on their official blog says Promoted Pins perform “just as good and sometimes better than organic Pins”, doing well enough to compel them to give the program a full launch. Furthermore, Pinterest says their own research gives brands participating in the Promoted Pins beta a thirty percent increase in earned media, the number of pinners saving a Promoted Pin to one of their own boards.

Pinterest is hoping a package of tools for brands — Promoted Pins amongst them — will convince marketers to embrace the fast-growing social network, eager to generate revenue a year on from a $225 million round of Series E funding and $3.8 billion valuation.

Other offerings in Pinterest’s marketing umbrella include a workshop for would-be Promoted Pin adoptees known as the Pinstitute and an analytic dashboard, launched in August, that allows marketers to stay in the loop on the performance of each of their Promoted Pins.

Pardo: Olympics Should Include Video Games

With the Olympics, athletes around the world have the opportunity to prove their skills for their country, whether it’s with running the hurdles, throwing a discus or some other form of activity where they prove their strength. That said, a prominent figure in the game industry believes that video games could easily have their place in the official games, as players will be able to prove their strength in a different way.

Rob Pardo, former chief creative officer for Blizzard Entertainment, believes that games have a place in the Olympics, per his conversation with BBC 5live. “Video games are well positioned to be a spectator sport,” he explained.

He pointed out that League of Legends World Championships in Seoul, South Korea had no problem filling a stadium full of 40,000 people, and eSports had gained enough of a following over the past few years to be considered the next great competitive event. “There’s a very good argument for eSports being in the Olympics,” explained Pardo. “I think the way that you look at eSports is that it’s a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and they’re having to make very quick decisions on the fly. When you look at their ‘actions per minute,’ they’re clearing over 300.”

That said, the climb to eSports glory hasn’t always been easy. “That starts getting into how you define sport,” he explained. “If you want to define sport as something that takes a lot of physical exertion, then it’s hard to argue that video games should be a sport, but at the same time, when I’m looking at things that are already in the Olympics, I start questioning the definition.”

That said, Pardo believes that while gaming can’t quite be recognized as an official Olympic sport, there’s still enough of a case to show the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to plead the case, as a “mind sport.”

Pardo still believes there’s a great deal of appeal for a broad audience. “You can do whatever you want with the graphics, you can make it be really exciting and competitive.”

With millions of dollars up for grab and a growing audience, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we saw eSports make some sort of impact in the event in the years ahead. Still, it could be a while…

PlayStation Now Debuts On Other Platforms

Up until this point, Sony’s streaming PlayStation Now game service has been exclusive to PlayStation consoles and select Sony TVs, providing a number of PlayStation 3 games that could be played anywhere using the patented Cloud-based service. However, it appears the service is now expanding to a new set of devices.

Sony has confirmed that it will launch the service on “select Samsung smart TV’s in the first half of 2015,” marking the first time that PlayStation-based games will be available without the need of Sony hardware to play them on. The service will be introduced as an application for these televisions, although customers will still need a DualShock 4 controller in order to play them.

The service will include “the ability to earn in-game trophies, play games online with friends, and save your game progress in the cloud.”

There has been mixed criticism with the Now service up to this point, with a great selection of games marred somewhat by high rental prices. However, Sony has indicated that it’s working on pricing as the service continues forward, and, by the time it launches for Samsung televisions, it could easily have lower rates in place so that it catches on quicker with a mainstream audience.

Various games are available on the service, including such big hits as God of War Ascension, The Sly Collection and Ultra Street Fighter IV, but, again, it’s likely that it should be expanded even further by the time it hits Samsung TV’s, with even more first-party exclusives and other popular third-party titles, so players will have a better selection to choose from.

It’s expected that Samsung will have these televisions on display in just a few days’ time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which takes place from January 6 through the 9. As part of the deal, the company should have demonstrations of how smoothly PlayStation Now works on them, although that isn’t completely confirmed. Still, if there’s any place to show off the service, CES seems like the most likely event…

Game Ads Thrive On Japanese TV

A number of advertisers are always looking for an effective way to sell mobile games and apps, but one method that appears to be working its magic overseas is television commercials. Yep, you heard that right.

A report from Tech In Asia indicates that the rise of popularity with TV ads for mobile games is quite easy to notice. Numbers provided by Mobile Marketing Data Labo (MMDL) indicate that, through a poll of 562 men and women over the age of 20, 52.7 percent of respondents have noticed Gungho’s recent advertisement for the puzzle/RPG Puzzle & Dragons. Meanwhile, 34.5 percent of those polled have also seen a commercial for Mixi’s Monster Strike, a game that managed to overtake Puzzle & Dragons on the top of the app charts last month in Japan. 30.2 percent have also seen an advertisement for the role-playing game White Cat Project.

Out of those polled, 22.4 percent of respondents said that they downloaded a mobile game after viewing a TV ad. While that’s not as great a reach as other means of advertising, it’s still hard to ignore. 35.9 percent indicated that they downloaded an app after seeing an ad on their smartphone, which continues to be the most effective method. (In third place, friend or co-worker suggestions earned 15.3 percent out of the poll.)

MMDL also provided a number of other statistics in their findings, including:

-The top three game genres in Japan are puzzle, simulation and farming

Puzzle and Dragons (Gungho), Disney’s Tsum Tsum (Line) and Puyo Puyo Quest (Sega) are considered the year’s biggest mobile hits in Japan

-46.1 percent of respondents confirmed they play smartphone games daily (with 40.4 percent consisting of men and 52.1 percent of women)

-72.9 percent of respondents own between one and four games on their device

-4.5 percent of respondents actually have more than 11 games on their device

Some interesting food for thought leading into 2015, that’s for sure. Maybe a few more companies ought to consider making more game commercials – that’s certainly the route King took with its Candy Crush Soda Saga ad…


The Year In Gaming: Sony

Going into 2014, Sony was showing a dominant lead in video game console sales, with the PlayStation 4 clearing millions of units sold worldwide and preparing to debut in other markets, including Japan, where video game sales were quite popular.

However, the following twelve months would prove to be a bumpy ride for the company, with both a series of highs and lows. The highs came with the introduction of killer software, including games like The Last of Us Remastered (which originally released on the PlayStation 3 a year prior) and LittleBigPlanet 3. The PlayStation 4 also managed to make big sales moves over the year, with 13.5 million units sold worldwide before the holiday season, since the console’s debut last year.

The company faced its hardships as well, though. The introduction of its streaming PlayStation Now service was innovative, but met with harsh criticism due to an uneven pricing model, with most games costing quite a bit of money to rent. (Sony has insisted that it will continue working on it in the months ahead, however.) The PlayStation consoles also saw some heavy outages over the holiday season, with PlayStation Network being down over the course of the Christmas holiday. Finally, certain titles, like DriveClub, had their own problems, resulting in less-than-stellar sales.

Still, the company is primed for a very successful 2015. Various games are promising to be huge sellers in the new year, including the action-packed The Order: 1886 and Bloodborne. The return of hero Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End should also be quite promising, and several “indie” titles should help bolster the company’s line-up as well.

Finally, the debut of the PlayStation Experience showed just how devoted Sony was to its fanbase, with three days full of events, exclusive announcements and other surprises. It ended up being a tremendous success, and with Sony booking Las Vegas space over the next four years, it looks like it’ll be around for quite a while.

Yeah, Sony hasn’t exactly had the smoothest of years, but it still impressed with its line-up of games, and managed to work its way through errors to still surface as a winner in the industry for 2014. And chances are things will just get bigger and better the next year around…

GREE Pursues Midcore Gaming In Japan

Breaking into new mobile gaming markets can be a risky gamble – especially considering the content of the game itself – but it can also be quite successful, as the market over there is hotter than ever. And apparently, the team at GREE knows this.

Earlier this year, the company teamed up with mobile phone carrier KDDI to develop, publish and localize specific games for the Japanese market, and, through an interview with Tech In Asia, vice president Yautaka Hori clarified exactly what the company is looking to do through said partnership, leading into the New Year.

Hori explained that Japan is like an “eccentric, older sister among mobile game markets,” and that “We want to get well away from card-battle RPGs or other niches that Japanese developers are historically strong in.” The team will work closely with developers who can create a massive online PC game-style experience, complete with deep gameplay and visuals, since those appear to be a hot trend at the moment.

Hori continued, “What excites us most of all, of course, is the idea of discovering truly trailblazing game modes that no one has even thought of yet, games that break the mold of what’s available in any market.”

The “midcore” market seems to be quite a focus for the company. “A lot of Japan’s recent growth has been in very casual games, but we think it’s getting to a tipping point now where we’re going to see growth in demand for greater depth in gameplay and a broadening in mobile game genres, particularly around the midcore,” said Hori. That said, the company would push forward beyond the typical puzzle games and casual affairs, seeking innovation. Aesthetics will play a huge part in this, according to Hori.

With KDDI as a partner, GREE wants to push forward as a primary mobile game publisher for the market. It’s already assigned half of its team to work on creative native games for the mobile front, but isn’t going to rush them into market. “We’d be delighted to publish far more if we see the right games,” explained Hori.

In addition, GREE will continue tweaking games for better success in Japan, and help them grow overall. “I can’t think of a better way to get started in Japan,” said Hori. “Here you have two mobile industry leaders ready to provide funding and advice to get the show rolling and then a whole range of support along the way. It’s the perfect gateway.”

The company’s first game under the new deal, Trifort, will release sometime this winter for mobile devices. We certainly wish them the best of luck.

2015 Game Industry Wish List

We have no illusions that anyone in the game industry is waiting for our suggestions, or anyone else’s, on what to do in the new year. By and large the executives at game companies are pretty sharp, savvy about the industry, and good at creating effective strategies — or else they wouldn’t have gotten to the position they hold, or stayed there overly long. Still, sometimes it’s difficult to get a good perspective on your own company and its products when you’re inside of it, and for that matter it’s difficult to admit that you were wrong about something and a new strategy needs to be adopted.

What follows are some positive suggestions and possible strategies to follow, rather than criticism of past mistakes. It’s usually pretty clear to everyone when major mistakes were made, as companies become unprofitable and stay that way if corrections aren’t made.

Console Makers
Thanks for making new hardware that that brings us some great games. Keep up the good work — constant platform updates that add new features are appreciated. Microsoft in particular has been very regular about new updates, and Sony and Nintendo would do well to emulate them. Your efforts to improve the value of your consoles by bundling software are appreciated, and we wish for that trend to continue in 2015. Be aggressive at reducing prices — console games have more competition than ever, and the high price of the hardware is the biggest single barrier to widespread adoption. Microsoft showed this very clearly — lower the price of the hardware, and sales soar.

Nintendo, we wish for more in 2015 — more great games, more innovation, and more success. Don’t hesitate to improve the Wii U however you can, and reduce the price as much as you can. You’ve had some great software titles for the Wii U, but we want more, and we want them more often. If you think a brand new console is the answer to your sluggish sales, fine — but make it a great one when you do that, and make damn sure that at least one of your core franchises like Mario or Zelda is ready to ship with it at launch.

Amazon, we wish for you to keep trying hard with the Fire TV. The software lineup is growing, and so are the features. We hope for a spec bump at least this year so you can have even better games. Google and Apple, we wish you guys would get busy with your consoles. Apple, we’re all waiting for the Apple TV we know you can produce, with a kick-ass processor, an app store, and a controller — the game publishers would be all over that, and you’ll sell millions. Google, now’s your chance while Apple is dawdling — get those Android TVs out there and spend some money to get some great games.

Game Publishers
Let’s face it, it hasn’t been a great year for big game publishers, with a long list of AAA games that shipped weeks or even months before they were really ready. We wish that you will take this lesson to heart for 2015 and beyond — we’ll forget about games being late, but it’s a long time before we forget about games that are broken or just plain bad. Electronic Arts was wise to move out Battlefield Hardline if they felt it wasn’t ready, even though that must have hurt the quarterly results. We think you’ll find that publishers will be rewarded by gamers for games that are rock-solid at launch.

While we’re talking about pleasing your audience, we wish that publishers would put more emphasis on community. Community is like dynamite — used wisely, it can change the course of mighty rivers, but if you fool around with it you can blow yourself up. Too many publishers don’t seem to invest enough in engaging with customers, especially mobile publishers. Your audience is your business, and constant communication will pay off for you in the long run.

When it comes to designing new games, we wish that you’d remember this: The biggest risk is not to take any risks. Don’t expect that successful franchise to post bigger numbers every year, now that many of the top titles are on a yearly cycle. Some of the very best-selling franchises, like Call of Duty, are posting lower numbers every year. That’s not from lack of effort on Activision’s part — the company has thrown its best development resources at the task, and massive amounts of marketing dollars. But there’s only so many new $60 titles in a series that players can absorb, and that game last year you put so much time and effort into is powerful competition for the latest version.

So we wish for more innovation from game publishers, especially the big ones. Sure, mitigate your risks however you can — we suggest creating smaller, digital-only version of innovative new IP that you can sell for a lower price point and produce in a fraction of the time of your blockbusters. Test out the concepts, and then go big if the audience loves it. But however you do it, take more shots at new ideas.

Indie Game Developers
We wish for you to be successful in creating new games and making a living in 2015. But we really wish you’d remember this advice: If you haven’t thought about how you’re going to create an audience for your game, don’t even start coding. Your game design and your business strategy and your marketing strategy and your market assessment should all be part of your preparation… and don’t put your resources into a game if you don’t think it will be worth the effort. Get some expert advice in areas you aren’t sure of, and think about partnerships to cover your weak spots.

We wish you success in this ever-more-challenging game industry. Really, we wish you’ll show those games designers that they aren’t the only ones who can be creative. If you’re still using a playbook of marketing tactics from a few years ago, you’re probably not being as effective as possible. Every product needs its own special marketing push, so we wish for you to show us some stunning ideas in marketing for 2015.

While you’re busy creating marketing pieces, we wish you’ll take a little extra time and care to do it with class. Avoid sexism, booth babes, blood and guns, and generally trying to appeal to teen age boys. Thankfully, most of the industry left that behind a long time ago — but there are still a few throwbacks, even today, with some offensive ads coming from major companies that should know better. If you don’t have a diverse enough marketing team, try showing your marketing ideas to a diverse group of people before you throw that ad up on TV or YouTube. Bafflement may be a reaction you can live with, but disgust is something you should strive to avoid. We wish you will appeal to our highest qualities, not our lowest ones.

2014 Game Industry In Review

It’s the traditional time to look back over the year and identify the major trends that shaped the gaming industry in 2014. Those trends will continue to have a strong impact on the game industry of 2015 and beyond, as growth and change continue strongly.

The growth of gaming continues
Mobile gaming continued to grow, as did gaming around the world. Free-to-play games took more share in online gaming, and digital sales continued their inexorable rise over physical retail sales of games. China’s growth in gaming continued strongly, as it becomes the second largest market for mobile games after Japan, and strong Western games like League of Legends, Call of Duty Online and FIFA Online look poised to grab a significant market presence.

The biggest traditional game publishers like Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and TakeTwo all posted good numbers this year, with solid profits and respectable growth. The hottest mobile games were getting bigger than ever in 2014, with top performers like Supercell’s Clash of Clans exceeding $1 billion in revenue.

Meanwhile, the online PC game business showed strong growth as well, with free-to-play games like League of Legends, World of Tanks, DotA 2, and Hearthstone posting strong numbers. Even the venerable World of Warcraft with the almost-vanished subscription model showed strong growth at the close of the year, as the new Warlords of Draenor expansion proved popular enough to create a large surge in new subscribers.

Console gaming stays strong
This was the first year of the true new generation of consoles with the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One defining a new level of power and performance for consoles. Both new consoles outsold their predecessors in the first year of sales, yet AAA software sales didn’t keep pace. It looks like this generation of consoles will not exceed the total installed base of last generation, but

The Wii U is just not in the same category, as Nintendo forges its own path — the Wii U held to a clear third place finish in the total installed base of new consoles from the three major manufacturers, despite having a year’s head start. Nintendo returned to profitability last quarter, but overall the company has yet to establish a clear path to solid profits and growth.

The Continuing Rise of eSports
The phenomenon of eSports has become a major force in gaming, and that was amply demonstrated in 2014. We saw an amazing prize pool of over $10 million for DotA 2‘s The International torunbament, putting it in a class with traditional professional sports like the PGA Tour. Professional eSports arenas are under construction, and viewership is on the rise worldwide for eSports. Newzoo projects continued growth in eSports fans, with 205 million current fans with a growth rate of over 20 percent annually for the next few years. Some 1.2 billion people will be aware of eSports by 2017 — that’s a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Yet there are cautionary notes that not all eSports may be rising forever. The League of Legends World Championships this year attracted some 15 percent fewer viewers than last year (27 million compared to 34 million), though those viewers spent more time watching (and the event attracted 40,000 fans in person). Still, we’re seeing promising signs that eSports enthusiasm is spreading to new games — Smite has gathered more than a $2 million prize pool {link no longer active} for its upcoming world championships in January, for instance. And new entrants like Vainglory are attempting to create an eSports audience on mobile platforms as well.

Indie power grows
While it’s certainly tough to be an indie developer — and make a living at it — 2014 saw the influence of indie developers expand. Both Sony and Microsoft have taken great pains to feature indie developers and their titles at multiple venues. It’s clear that indie games are important to the new consoles, particularly as they can fill the gaps between major AAA releases. Indies are also making waves on mobile and on places like Kongregate, where it’s possible for a small development group to make a decent living with the right games.

It’s truly a golden age for small developers, at least in terms of being able to bring your product to market without a lot of capital. Finding an audience, and making money from them, is another problem entirely, and one that’s seen many companies step into the role of independent publishers for mobile games in order to help make that happen. Big companies see value in indies as a way to try out interesting and offbeat ideas without risking that big-company capital. If an indie finds a big audience, there will be companies coming around with a buyout offer. The payoff can be enormous, as the $2.5 billion acquisition of Mojang by Microsoft amply demonstrated.

Mobile games exert more influence
Mobile games have not only become the biggest segment of the gaming market, they are increasingly influencing the design and monetization of all areas of the game market. It’s easy to see how mobile games are changing the way companies approach the market, and changing customer perceptions of what games are or can be. This influence will continue and strengthen as the growth of mobile continues to outpace all other ares of the game industry in 2015.

The size and scope of the gaming market increases
Gaming is becoming a part of mainstream culture, not just something that teenage boys do. Witness the major brands like Coca-Cola and American Express pouring money into eSports, or massive television ad campaigns for mobile games like Candy Crush Saga and Game of War: Fire Age. The worldwide audience of people who played games this last year is estimated at 1.5 billion people, and that’s still growing.

That growth and change has not been without its problems, though. The GamerGate social media storm that arose this year, ostensibly about game journalism, exposed a nasty undercurrent of misogyny and hatred among a small group of gamers, some of whom sent appalling threats to a number of women in the game industry. Fortunately the industry rallied against such behavior, but it’s clear that as the gaming market expands to include billions of people, not all of them will be good citizens. Hopefully next year will see growth in the industry on an ethical, emotional, and social level as well as financial and demographic growth.