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.

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…

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…


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…

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.

Game Streaming Comes To Android

Streaming game sessions are picking up greatly in popularity, with Twitch thriving with its large user base and Valve looking to offer its own services on its Steam marketplace. But streaming for mobile devices hasn’t been available until now, keeping competitive gamers from showing off their abilities. However, a new Android app certainly makes doing so more of a possibility.

VentureBeat has reported that the launch of a new app called Shou.tv {link no longer active} enables users to broadcast pretty much anything they put on their mobile screen to the Internet, including a variety of games like Angry Birds and ReTRY. The app ties in to a Shou.tv webpage, where game sessions and other mobile activities can be streamed for others to see.

With the app, Android devices now have a very compatible – and safe – way to broadcast sessions to others, with easy functionality. Even though some games come with this ability built in, Shou.tv enables users to broadcast other titles.

A number of mobile games are picking up in audience numbers, like the wildly popular Clash of Clans and Minecraft: Pocket Edition, so Shou.tv could easily widen the audience with its online viewing sessions. VentureBeat tested out the service and found it worked with very little error, as indicated in the video below.


Social Media Ad Spend Statistics & Trends

Social media advertising continues to be quite huge this year, and will no doubt get even bigger in the years ahead, expected to grow to $15 billion by 2018. North America will play a huge part in that, accumulating 40 percent of the overall growth leading into 2016, with Facebook leading the charge as the preferred platform across nine out of ten marketers (while Twitter is behind with one in four).

With that, Mediabistro, with the help of Inveep, has compiled a special infographic that breaks down the social media ad spending trends and statistics for the year. It’s a huge amount of data, but it serves as helpful information for marketers and companies leading into the New Year. Here are some of the basic facts:


  • U.S. social media advertising revenue will increase by 194 percent over the next three years, which is a $1.5 billion jump from last year, translating to a 24 percent annual growth rate.
  • For the past year, U.S. social mobile ad revenues came in at $1.5 billion. However, in just five years’ time, that number will jump over five times to $7.6 billion by 2018, which translates to a 38.3 growth rate.
  • North America ad share spending has decreased over the past year, going down from 43.2 percent to 42.3 percent, and by 2016, it’ll go down even further to 40.2 percent. Meanwhile, Asia Pacific will show a slight increase, going from last year’s 28.6 percent to 31 percent in 2016. Western Europe is closely behind, going from 21.6 percent to 23.3 percent in just three years.
  • When it comes to percentage of digital ad spending, the amount was rather low last year at 9.4 percent. However, by 2016, that number will show nearly a seven percent increase, to 16.1 percent.
  • Social ads on Facebook have seen the most increase in rate, rising 54 percent over the last year, mainly due to effectiveness. Meanwhile, the rate for cost-per click search ads also rose, but only by eight percent over the last year.
  • Facebook remains the most preferred social media platform at the moment, with 92 percent of advertisers on board. At a distant second place is social video site YouTube at 35 percent, while Twitter is in third with 23 percent.


More statistics can be found in the infographic below.



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.