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12 Predictions for Mobile in 2013

Google to buy Facebook, Zynga to recover, and 10 other 2013 predictions from a mobile gaming expert

It's that time of year: time to make astrology-like generalities in the guise of concrete predictions for 2013. My charts were decent last year, so I'll try to repeat that performance, hopefully with a tad more specificity. This is (most likely) not an exhaustive list of all that will happen in 2013. Some notable omissions include developments that will take place in consumer privacy, patents, the broader economy, and the startup scene (such as LA being THE hotspot for venture capital this year).
Josh Hartwell
CEO, Mobile Deluxe 
Twitter: @Josh_Hartwell

1. 
Consoles have to be rethought: Perhaps Microsoft or Sony can cleverly integrate with Android. Otherwise, continued death spiral.

2.
Google will buy Facebook: They may not, but they do realize that as we become more integrated with our devices, context, intent, and synthesis will be huge differentiators in search, and social is a big element of those. Google’s hesitation would be Facebook’s lack of a China presence, but Google must know more about you socially to be relevant in five years – and Google+ hasn’t been the path. If they can't do this, then look for more heavy-handed ways to draw you into Google+, and look for gradual privacy changes to their effective social network, Gmail.

3. There will be better social integrations into the mobile app shopping and searching experience: Search and discovery continues to be a huge hearta a huge headache/opportunity for all app developers. Amazon has a huge (and under-reported) potential edge here.

4. Me2 Games will be the norm: And this is good. This is how industries move forward. A dozen subtle changes from a dozen games in one genre is the same as a dozen changes in one game from a seemingly new genre – the latter just feels outsized because it happens at once from a single source. Likewise, new blogs will start, new restaurants will open, and so will new coffee shops.

5. We'll be no closer to legalized mobile gaming in the U.S. at the end of the year: This had a lot more momentum when states felt like they needed a lot more money.

6. User Acquisition (UA) rates for mobile games will stabilize: December 2012 was less expensive per user than December 2011. We're seeing more devices, and more channels for UA. I think we're also seeing game publishers recalculate Lifetime Values (LTVs) and/or the timeframe in which LTVs are earned, and ratcheting down some UA thresholds.

7. Mobile game publishers will continue to stratify: First, there's been a real stranglehold on the prized feature slots by just a few publishers this year. (I don't know how much more encouragement I need to download N.O.V.A. 3) Second, with all the focus on how much Supercell is making at the top of the charts, there wasn't as much focus on its daily marketing spend of $60,000. I'm not sure how much that equates to per month, but I bet it's more than most developers spend on user acquisition in a lifetime.

8. Activision's market cap will come down this year, but they'll still be No. 1: Toys –physical goods – are their biggest growth segment. This is fine, just not fine for a video game company. And they simply haven't ventured into mobile in a significant enough way.

9. Zynga will figure out how to run games with fewer people (or at least, they better): Incredible that they have to shutter games with the number of people (a lot) and the number of games (a few) they had (mind boggling). They consciously went down the path of recruiting from the biggest, heaviest, most old-school console publisher, and brought all of those bad old traits to their previously nimble, disruptive company. Its focus for the future appears to be doubling down on this bet, which is not a recipe for success.

10. RIM doesn't return to prominence: In a Q4 interview, one of their developer relations managers said that they already had all of the important developers on board for BB10. Wow. I hope other developers didn't read the same article. But even then, does getting all the same software that's available on iOS, Amazon and Android enable them to regain market share? 

11. Apple will tout device security with the iPhone 5s: They usually focus on more cool-consumer features, but this is a big advantage for them in 2013.

12. Mobile Web vs. Apps will still not be a debate:  It's apps. It's native. (It's freemium and ads, too; I heard that was still being debated.)

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