2012 Wrap-Up

It’s that time of year again–the obligatory year-end wrap up post. I figure I’d do some bullet points about stuff that happened that may or may not have been foretold by this here blog…along with some other random musings.

Canaries in the Coal Mine

Two new consoles were launched this year–one handheld and the other is the first traditional console release since the mobile disruption. Fortunes are looking bleak for both. The Vita had 3 quarters of dismal sales figures leaving Sony with junk bond status and totally mystified as to why nobody is supporting the last dinosaur at a mammal convention. Nintendo has been spinning the Wii U launch figures, but it’s too early to tell.

Hey, it’s not all bad. ZombiU was a close call for my game of the year pick! I also really like the Vita–there have been some games of astounding quality on it. Too bad nobody is there to play them.

Social Gambling Supernovas

Social games such as FarmVille and its ilk are frequently criticized as nothing more than compulsion-driven skinner boxes. So, it’s no surprise that in an increasingly desperate quest for hockey sticks, 2012 was the year all subtlety was dropped and social gaming companies built straight up slot machines for mobile and social platforms…as previously predicted by this blog.

Social gambling ARPUs are through the roof, but investors are still waiting for the legal structure to change for real-money-gambling to thrive online. Zynga has been loudly proclaiming their interest in the sector since before their disastrous IPO–perhaps because they realize they are far better at optimizing pure compulsion loops than building fun-based games.

Crowdfunding Explodes

By the end of 2012 famous game developers and studios successfully used Kickstarter to fund large independent projects. Sparked by Double Fine’s wildly popular campaign, the frenzy hit its peak with Chris Roberts’ $6.2 million haul for Star Citizen. Some of this may be due to a crowdfunding bubble that may burst when high profile games show up late, or not at all.

The real story here is that investors have largely abandoned the game sector as ZNGA’s IPO left a blast crater that scattered the herd…as previously predicted by this blog. For many, crowdfunding is the only remaining source of financing. What are you going to do–go back to a publisher?


Next year will be fascinating as we watch Sony and/or Microsoft (and perhaps others) defend against disruption with the introduction of new consoles. Disruption is a force of nature. Fighting it is like fighting earthquakes.

Also, production values on mobile will continue to rise and tablets will continue their breakout as a unique platform…as previously predicted by this blog.

Oh and while we’re at it…

* Best Album: good kid, m.A.A.d. city / Kendrick Lamar
* Best Game: Dragon’s Dogma / Capcom

5 thoughts on “2012 Wrap-Up

  1. In what manner has tablet gaming been a unique platform? Hasn’t it mostly been similar to Facebook and smartphone social games?

    • But that’s the wrong way to go about it–tablet users spend more money and have longer play sessions. This is a unique audience you can design for. Supercell has taken a “Tablet First” strategy with Clash of Clans, and games like The Hundreds are designed interface-wise for tablets in particular.

  2. Clash of Clans feels like just a well-done clone of Backyard Monsters. I understand it was tailored for the tablet rather than the smartphone, but it just seems like a Facebook game that happens to appeal to the increasingly young male audience of the tablet. Is that where the tablet is going? Facebook games for teenagers?

    • I agree–it’s basically a SUPER polished version of Backyard Monsters. I hope that’s not all we get out of the Tablet as a platform. But there is an audience and usage pattern difference for sure.

      7-inchers also are a new wrinkle in the mix. One of my issues with 10 inch tablets is they are hard to hold…which does kind of change the kind of games/interfaces that work.

  3. It feels like until somebody solves the problem of discoverability, it will remain more of a hardcore platform. The interface thing is strange because it seems that the gimmick of touchscreen input has passed, and for the most part, the most successful games are simply straightforward point-and-click menu-based games. If the grossing charts are any indication, tablets are a way to play social games on the couch while watching TV.

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