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.