Middleware Continues to be Under Valued
With ROI continuing to be the key driving factor in 2010, companies large and small are looking for ways to drive down their development costs. Yes, this past year has seen many project cancellations, leaving many middleware providers high-and dry.
But as I've said for some time, middleware is a good alternative for many companies. As more developers and publishers move to online, browser based games with microtransaction strategies, middleware providers will have to incorporate these trends into their tool support.
One such company is Wild Pockets
, a relative newcomer to the middleware market. Wild Pockets has done a phenomenal job with Indie game developers. They are unique in that they not only offer developers a complete suite of free development tools that includes a 3D game engine, they also have built-in microtransaction capabilities, hosting services and game analytics. In addition to all that, in early 2010 they will also have real-time collaboration support for remote team development.
Shanna Tellerman, CEO of Wild Pockets' explains, "With our built-in Virtual Currency for microtransactions, a developer can easily drop the tags right into their game code. Then it's up to them to figure out how much they want to charge for different items. And with our analytics and metrics tools a developer can track the success of each game, analyze what users are doing with your content, and what areas of the game they like." Unity
also continued to make progress in 2009, increasing its user base to over 33,500 registered users. In October they announced VC investment from Sequoia for $5.5 million.
Of course Epic
remains a key force in this space and earlier in December demoed the Unreal Engine 3 working on mobile devices: iPod Touch, iPhone, and 3GS. Expect to see more at CES this week. Back in November the company announced they were making the Unreal Development Kit available for free. That move alone brought 50,000 users to download the toolkit in the first week, showing us that the demand is there.The Tech Trends of 2010
There are of course several technology trends that I love in theory. The reality is I question the success of their overall adoption any time soon simply given the current trends in development and continued consumer malaise. 3D in the Home
I love the idea of 3D and the 3D movies this year have been impressive. Expect Sony and several other companies to start their big push for stereoscopic 3D in homes this year at CES, which starts tomorrow.
At the same time I question the success of 3D in the home. There are several factors I see that may hinder success. First is the fact that families are not going to be in a position to throw out their newly acquired flat screens to incorporate 3D capabilities into their home.
Secondly, and more importantly, I don't see where the added ROI is for content providers, at least not for another 3 - 4 years. Recouping the added cost for 3D development is going to take time, especially in this environment. Sony themselves recently announced production plans that include half of all its TV sales will be 3D by 2013, which they estimate will give them 20% market share. However, they don't plan to break even on their sales until at least 2014.Motion Controllers
Microsoft's Natal and Sony's wand are sure to inject some excitement into the 2010 game line up. And there will be some new and unique games that support these peripherals. Sony already has at least 13 games in its upcoming lineup. Are they the next big thing? Well, in terms of technical trends - Yes.
The key factor here is what do they represent to developers? Developers will be looking hard at any additional development costs and resources. If they can't see any added value in terms of return on investment they will be unlikely to support any extra peripherals. Cloud Formation
While 2009 was the year of cloud computing alternatives with the launch of both OnLive and GaiKai, 2010 will be the year that these gaming platform alternatives will be put to the test. They now need to show progress both in the form of consumer adoption and extensive partnership agreements. There are long-term opportunities for the small developers but given the impact of 2009 economics, there is even less wiggle room for developers to devout to risk.
OnLive has recently been showing access via cell phones, but again it boils down to getting the developers on board to support the platform and then getting consumers to branch out beyond their current gaming comfort zone. Final Thoughts
So overall, the layoffs seem to have shaken things up, which was obliviously necessary given some the shifting trends. The U.S., while taking the brunt of the layoffs, was not alone and most regions felt the impact of these changing times. On a positive note, it looks like the worst might be over and we can settle in for a more stable year ahead.
In 2010, studios will be spending more time getting creative with development pipelines and tools, online distribution models and the use of microtransactions.
At the same time consumers will be looking for more.... More content, more direct access, more social connections, all on more platforms. Easy, right?
On the technology side, as I have said, I think 3D, motion controllers and cloud computing are all immensely exciting. This is immersive entertainment, something that was close to fiction just 15 years ago, when I first started tracking 3D technology. Virtual Reality was the thing of an Avatar movie. Now, the technology is close to reaching mass market, albeit in a slightly different vein. The key is going to be content and developer support.
How will all of these new technologies impact us going into a new decade? Whatever the case, it is going to make for some exciting and trailblazing times ahead.