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2010 Game Business Trends

The industry is living through exciting times -- here are the trends that we think will be most important in 2010 along with what you can do to be part of them.

[Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason notes that the industry is living through exciting times -- here are the trends that he thinks will be most important in 2010, along with what you can do to be part of them.]

Without further ado.

The Year of Gamification, Part 1

We call the adoption of game technology and game design methods outside of the games industry "gamification", and this is a really broad trend.

Unity and other game technologies are being used across more than a dozen sectors that have little or nothing to do with games. Architectural visualization is an obvious and older example. But apart from that we have some of the world's biggest engineering and manufacturing companies, as well as several actual armed forces as our customers.

TV production companies use Unity and other game engines to produce live TV shows and Machinima videos. Big corporations make employee training and simulation applications using Unity, and some of our customers have gone into online meeting and collaboration. Game technology being applied to all these areas means that Unity users are valuable to many and not everyone has to makea  living from games.

Action item: Sell your skills outside the games industry. With a knowledge of other industries, you can create new and innovative products or businesses servicing these industries. The sky's the limit.

The Year of Gamification, Part 2

A second aspect of gamification is that game design methods and strategies are being used outside of games to design better products and userexperiences. A boring site like Mint.com has experimented with turning personal finance into a game, social networking experiment FourSquare maintains high-score lists for people who bar-crawl, and natural-language search startup Siri hired an accomplished game designer to design their user experience.

Action item: Learn game design and apply it to everything – how people sign up for a website, how people "succeed" in using you rproduct, how customers share it with their friends and become leaders of usergroups/clans, etc. Game design can be used for all of this.

Another Golden Age for Garage Developers

We are definitely going to see even more quality games done by small  teams in 2010. With very little risk and by mainly investing their own time, asmall team of 1-2 people can make a hit game that will sell millions of units. More importantly (and what makes this different than 4 years ago), there are now many more channels through which to distribute and sell such a game. Many such games are receiving world-wide acclaim.

Action item: Find an awesome partner and go create!

Publishers Continue to be Valuable

With casual, online and mobile games requiring smaller production budgets and eschewing retail (and thus expensive and slow) distribution in exchange for digital, the game industry was expecting to get rid of the publisher as a concept.

But as the iPhone ecosystem clearly proves (as well as the web somewhat less clearly with portals like Shockwave.com and distribution companies like Zynga and RockYou), the publishers stay. Though they may not be forwarding cash and fully owning the game IPs, their expertise in marketing, game design and online distribution metrics and strategies make them a valuable, if no longer totally required, partner to the game developer.

Action item: Consider working with a publisher. Fortunately with publishers' leverage lessened, they are typically less demanding with regards to what they have to own (IP, sequel rights, revenue share). Unfortunately with smaller development budgets required, some of them simply decide to in-source the development teams and thus own the whole value chain. Or become your own publisher by building that expertise. This is not a simple task, but has been done by some of the best online game developers.

Everything Becomes a "Console"

This one is somewhat controversial. It seemed that with the move towards mobile and web, the closed ecosystems of the console world would be under siege and eventually collapse. What game developer (except perhaps the ones most entrenched in with the Nintendo-Microsoft-Sony trinity) hasn't fantasized about this walled garden having its walls rammed down?

Well, welcome to the new world. The iPhone has proven that given the right amount of "openness", neither consumers nor developers really mind closed platforms.

Even on the anarchic web (regions of which remind one more of a Mad-Maxian post-apocalyptical cyberspace than an enlightened utopia), Facebook is in the process of creating a closed environment within which consumers and game developers can meet and exchange fun and money (more or less) safely.

This section could also have been labeled "the Rise of the App Store Model", since it's more the App Store than the gaming console which inspires this megatrend. And framed like that, it might have made people happy. But this is a problematic trend (to say the least) that should make us stop to think.

Action item: Make use of this. Or if you're brave, build your own!

Facebook Wallet, Apple Tablet, Unity on Facebook

And then are the obvious ones.

Of course Apple will launch its tablet. We even know the screen-size and CPU make. The only uncertainly left is what day it launches. And its price.

Surely Facebook will launch a payment platform which in tandem with Facebook Connect will dramatically transform the face of microtransactions on the internet. If they do this right, it will finally enable the web-wide microtransactions which we've been dreaming of since the dot-com era.

And of course we believe that Unity will be big on Facebook. Several major games will get launched on Facebook, offering awesome games to hundreds of millions of people (not to mention significantly moving the needle on adoption of the Unity plugin).

Action item: Left as an exercise for the reader :)

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