The new year has just started, but video game console trends that began in 2017 are already continuing to play out in 2018.
As we dive into 2018, developers and publishers will need to pay close attention to game monetization systems, particularly loot boxes, which came under high scrutiny last fall. Game companies such as EA gained revenues through add-on content that exceeded the initial sales of the games themselves. So even though players might lash back against practices they deem unfair, it’s likely that figuring out the formula for ongoing monetization will be a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, the industry has been seeing the increased presence of social media platforms, particularly Facebook, become more involved with video games. This could pave the way for other platforms such as Snapchat to join in.
Don’t Count Loot Boxes Out
According to Newzoo market consultant Tom Wijman, it will be vital for marketers to engage with the community. This is especially the case as more publishers and developers use the “games as a service” approach, prolonging a game’s lifespan and revenues almost indefinitely through additional content.
Although there were some stumbling blocks last year, most notably with the controversy around using “loot boxes” in games such as Star Wars: Battlefront II—which forced the game to (temporarily) remove its in-game microtransactions—Wijman believes that these kinds of problems may be avoided with better communication with the community.
SuperData Research senior analyst Elena Fedina agrees, naming loot boxes the biggest trend to keep an eye on in 2018.
“With all the controversy happening and with more governments and regulation agencies starting to look into it, developers need to be extra careful with how they approach monetization in their games,” said Fedina.
Wijman adds that as the rift between gamers and publishers widens, there could be major opportunities for independent and smaller game developers to quickly rise to success in 2018. This trend began in 2017, with Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds being a prime example of an independent studio finding near overnight success. Wijman also noted the success of Cuphead, Divinity 2: Original Sin and Hollow Knight. Meanwhile, Horizon: Zero Dawn, a new IP developed by the relatively small studio Guerrilla Games, was the PlayStation’s best performing exclusive last year.
Wijman also stated that hardware brands may also become an essential aspect of video game marketing. He said that while gamers may shift their attentions from one individual game or brand to another and split their time between watching and playing games in different ways, gaming systems and peripheral brands remain independent of these changes—creating long-term brand engagement.
He specifically names Razer as a brand to keep a close eye on. The PC and console gaming peripheral maker launched a gamer-oriented smartphone in October, which will test to see if the brand’s power can be extended into the mobile market.
“Razer is bringing its unique ability to design products that appeal to gamers to a market that has not shown much innovation in terms of design in recent years,” said Wijman.
Snapchat Could Become A Player
With Facebook’s increased gaming involvement over the last few years, it should be no surprise that Snapchat could be getting into the video game industry too. Tencent acquired a 12 percent stake in the platform last year, and the media giant implied that video games and ad sales could help the struggling platform rebound.
Although video game support on Snapchat may be a little unorthodox, it’s not completely unheard of, as the platform once hosted an 8-bit game called Serena Williams’ Match Point as part of a Gatorade promotional campaign for the 2016 US Open.
More details need to be worked out in the coming year, but Tencent has been operating games on its WeChat platform for years, so Snapchat may reasonably adopt a similar strategy. Fedina and Wijman are divided on whether such a move will significantly impact the industry.
“Snapchat already has an audience, so the important part to focus on will be making games that will click with its audience,” said Fedina.
Wijman doesn’t expect much from Snapchat’s service yet, but he does see it as interesting milestone for the future of games, given the current involvement of social networks such as Facebook.
“Ultimately, I don’t think the effect will be massive in the next year, but we might see casual gamers transitioning from dedicated game apps on their phones to playing games within popular apps such as Facebook and, potentially, Snapchat,” said Wijman.