It's going to be interesting seeing how many of these I've got right/wrong this time next year.
I find the whole VR bandwagon highly amusing. I'm old enough to remember the first VR debacle of the 80s, when the VR headset was bigger than your head, it didn't take off then and it won't now. I'm not saying that VR can't create some amazing experiences and in non-gaming areas I think it has a lot of potential, I also can't wait to play Elite: Dangerous on the Oculus Rift, but that's kinda the point, VR is only ever going to be for hardcore gamers, it's never going to be mainstream because the majority of people do not want to put something on when they are chilling out playing a game. You would of thought what happened with 3DTV would of shown everyone that any gaming experience where you have to wear something is never going to go mass-market. But everyday I keep seeing news stories of another VR firm getting millions in investment. WHY??? what am I missing here? Even if some kind of super tech came along where you could reduce everything down to the size of a contact lense, I still doubt it would take off, and that's what? 15-20 years away? And what about people who are prone to travel sickness (myself included) or suffer from balance issues?
If you're an investor wanting to put millions into gaming VR, I've a better idea, give it to me instead, I've got lots of ideas which are probably a better investment.
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.
First it started with YouTube and the Let's play videos, and then Twitch took off, and alongside all of that you have the eSports industry picking up fans left right and center. It's something that a lot of people perhaps didn't predict (who wants to watch people play games?!?) but it needed the personalities on YouTube to really show how entertaining they can be for it really to take root and 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.
Adobe changing the name of the Flash program to me signaled the true end of Flash. I'm surprised though they didn't keep the name and just make it all HTML5 based but they maybe felt that the word "Flash" had too many negative connotations. There are still some companies using Flash but 2015/2016 will go down in history 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.
We have seen a lot of consolidation in the mobile games market, especially with the recent purchase of King by Activision Blizzard. This has led to a trend which is just going to continue in 2016 because of how the App store charts are designed that means more and more companies will be locked into their top positions and won't be able to be moved out unless others can spend similar amounts on advertising and acquisition. Most can't, meaning it's the already established players that will get bigger and bigger, that doesn't mean that one of them won't come to dominate the entire top 10 though. There's nothing stopping any of the top game companies from creating similar but slightly improved versions of their competitors games, and this is probably what's going to happen in 2016. 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.
AAA/Indie Games no more
I think 2016 will see the end of the distinction between some games being "Indie" and others being AAA. This started happening in 2014, continued in 2015 and will come to a conclusion in 2016. We now have a situation where most of the public just see "games", their quality, is it backed by a major brand and/or celebrity and how many of their friends are playing them. Pixel art is no longer retro, it's just a different style. Clash of Clans for all intents and purposes is a AAA game, as are many other top mobile games. This will also mean that games will be a lot more platform agnostic (CoC on console in 2016?), with most games being available as standard across mobile and desktop and even in some cases console. This won't necessarily be a good thing as some games do work better on some platforms than others, but the powers that be are going to want all the audiences on all the platforms, not just mobile, or desktop, or console. They will be looking to create brands, not games, and then pushing these brands as far as they can go.
For 1-2 game dev teams it's going to be incredibly hard with the best path being go as niche as you can possibly get away with. The more niche you make it, the more personal you make it, hopefully the more it will stand out and you will have a chance of it doing well.
If you have 10s of thousands to spend on some clever marketing, and you can make a solid quality product there's room to grow even making "simple" games, but that's still beyond the means of most indies.
I suspect we will also lose 1 or 2 high profile gaming websites as the ad blocking phenomenon takes hold further deteriorating the discovery situation.
Discovery has been a problem for game devs without huge marketing budgets for a while now, but it doesn't have to be that way. Millions of people are playing the same games because those are the games which are put in front of them, if other games are put in front of them, they play other games, so the real power belongs to the platforms. This needs to change, and better forms of discovery need to be created. This is something I'm currently working on and I'm going to be running a Kickstarter campaign early in 2016 to test the waters and get feedback. If all goes to plan I hope to have something up and running by the middle of 2016.
Merry Christmas everyone and happy new year!