So here we are, I’ve made it through another year and it’s that time of year again. Time to look into my pixel shaped crystal ball and see what’s likely to happen next year. But before I get to that, let’s see how well or not I did in last years predictions. I’ll post a small snippet of each which defined what my prediction was.
So in 2016 there’s going to be a whole big song and dance about VR like there was about 3DTV (remember all the TV advertising around that?) and a few years later everyone’s VR headset will be languishing at the bottom of some box somewhere covered in dust.
I would say I got that pretty much correct. Where’s this huge wave of VR taking everything over? nowhere, that’s where. Nor will it happen next year, or the year after that. I make light of it, but what I don’t make light of is all the millions of investment dollars that have been literally wasted on another tech bandwagon that was never going to get anywhere. Unfortunately I didn’t mention it in the 2016 prediction but I did think, and still think, AR has a future.
I think 2016 could really see all of this going mainstream and Let’s play being on network TV, which will push the Let’s players to an even higher status. YouTube will probably try and compete with Twitch more than it already is.
eSports hasn’t gone mainstream, just yet, but it’s moving in that direction, with most of the major platforms having already launched eSports initiatives or will do soon.
I think as the last years of Flash, and plugins in general being used to show content on the Web. Conversely I think 2016 will be a big year for WebGL, which is why the latest version of Unity having a “finished” version of their WebGL exporter is such a big deal.
Flash is definately a technology of yesteryear now, but I was wrong on the whole 2016 being a big year for webGL. There didn’t seem to be any breakout webGL app that really brought it to the forefront for game development.
I won’t be surprised if all the games in the top 10 end up belonging to 2/3 companies. I also have a feeling that Apple might implement some major changes to the App store, but that’s probably 90% wishful thinking on my part.
I just had a quick look at the top of the iOS charts, and it pretty much looks like it did at this time last year, with the exception being Pokemon Go, but that’s only there because it’s literally a new technology. I was wrong though about Apple making major changes to the App store. So I was 5/5 on this prediction.
AAA/Indie Games no more
This I would say I was 100% on. Just taking a quick look at Gamasutra confirms this, there’s hardly any articles about “indie games.” What’s interesting to me about this general situation, is that even though it was patently obvious that the indiepocalypse was a real event (which happened a few years back) only a tiny minority were actually talking about it as a real event. Everyone else seemed to be putting it somewhat in the same category as the bermuda triangle. Just because someone can create a match 3 game and upload it to the App store, does not an indie game industry make. Trying to be financially successful as an indie game developer, is now equivalent to trying to start your own company, it’s one and the same. Sure, yes, someone might make a game in 2 days and it goes viral and they make a fortune, but that’s just pure luck and chance, again, it’s not an indie games industry. The indie games industry lasted from around the early Flash days, to about 2013. It had a good run, but now there’s hobbyists and AAA.
Ok, let’s move onto this year’s predictions. I actually did zero game dev this year, as I switched careers to become a fiction writer (Which I’ve been vastly more successful at). But I kept an eye on the games industry as well as many other tech/digital area’s.
There’s already been rumblings of discontent in the game dev biz regarding there being no money in VR. I suspect in 2017 those rumblings will turn into a chorus, and you will see articles with headlines something like “What’s gone wrong with VR?”. I also suspect that as the Pokemon Go craziness was taking off a whole lot of investment money and development teams switched from VR projects to AR projects. So I think 2017 will probably be the year that a lot of AR games/App’s are launched. Whether any of them mirror the Nintendo’s game’s success is a different ballgame though, because that had a worldwide known brand behind it, but I think there will be a few that will go mainstream, perhaps with other major brand names attached.
I’m doubling down on this one, and predict that eSports will be part of a lot of the major social networks plans in 2017.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning, has become the VR of 2016, and that’s just going to continue in 2017. Unlike VR I think investing in A.I and ML is justified, and we really are at the birth of a whole new paradigm in technology that’s going to influence the world on a scale at least as big as the internet has over the 30 years. I strongly suspect we are a lot closer to AGI (Artificial general intelligence) that we think, and that household androids are probably a few decades away. I also think we are only a hop skip and jump away from there being a major court case in one of the western countries based on a crime involving an autonomous AI. But this is meant to be predictions for 2017! :) Right now the major players are positioning themselves to be in the right place to take advantage of the AI/ML revolution that’s soon about to happen. That will continue in 2017, so there will probably be a whole lot of mergers and acquisitions in the space. Hopefully something I’ll be involved with as well as I want to take the next few years and build something in this area.
Something I will add is that data and the gathering of data will become paramount to the major corporations, because he who controls the gathering of data will control AI/ML (Uber bought by someone? Google? Apple?). This unfortunately means the game is pretty much over in regards to AI/ML. The best the smaller players can hope for, is to be able to develop effective algorithms that make use of the major players data, and then for those major players to buy them out. Nobody at this point is going to come along and be the next Facebook/Google/MS/Twitter/Apple/Amazon etc, that ship has sailed, and they are the main conduits by which the world’s data is gathered. This I think will lead to data becoming much more exclusive to the various platforms. So developers will be offered ‘data incentives’ to develop for a particular platform and use that platform’s data.
The latest TV’s are called “smart TV’s” for the main reason that they allow the owner to plug the internet in, and offer a range of channel app’s. Or in other words, the terrestrial signal which the TV has been based on from it’s inception, is being usurped by content from the internet. So TV is almost dead from the point of view of what the TV was designed for, but it’s not dead and never will be from the point of view as a device to view content on. This transition will accelerate in 2017, with TV’s rapidly becoming little more than viewing devices for content from the internet (i.e. become monitors). With that in mind, the major broadcasters will probably start to double down on their internet channels and content. I’ll also be surprised if there are not major changes at YouTube in 2017, as it looks to cement itself as more of a mainstream broadcaster, than a place to find “indie” video content.
I couldn’t end this year’s predictions without talking about the sector I’m now intimately involved with and that’s writing, and specifically eBooks.
As it stands, I’m something of a fan of Amazon and it’s self publishing ecosystem. They have enabled me to go from zero to having three books published, and making a living from those books. I’m not one of those that wants to go “wide”, I’m quite happy being exclusive on Amazon and being in Kindle Unlimited. There is a ready audience for quality books of the type I like to write, so my prediction for 2017 is that Amazon will continue to grow at the expense of the smaller book retailers, and add into that pot, publishers as well. One of the big five will probably jump ship and put their books on KU, and that will virtually mean the end of traditional publishing. Traditional publishers will probably transform into book PR companies, and provide PR and marketing for all authors traditional or otherwise. That might be more of a 2018 thing though. I won’t be surprised if we see new players in the print space, but catering for a more ornate print experience. Audiobooks seem to be growing at a pace as well.
I’m looking forward to spending an entire year just writing, starting with the first book in my new series being released at the end of January.
Until then I wish everyone a great Christmas, and a happy new year!