As we go into 2023, one of the more trendy things to write about is…well, trends. Predicting anything can be difficult, however, noticing where things are going already is much more of a science. As data analysts gear up for what may be another exciting and stressful year for the gaming industry, they look at which way the industry has swung in 2022, and whether it’ll continue that way into the new year.
This is what brings us to the latest Newzoo article by Market Lead – Games, Tom Wijman, where he breaks down his market trends to watch going into 2023. As we examine these points, we’ll take a look at how we can bring this back to mobile, and what examples we can find in our own market outside of the other major platforms.
“More AAA and AA Publishers Will Pivot Their Main Franchises to a Service-Based Model”
Wijman points to the ongoing trend of publishers shifting to live-service models, a trend which he believes is exemplified in IO Interactive’s recent shift of rebranding their title ‘Hitman 3’ to ‘Hitman World of Assassination’ and combining pre-existing accessible content from their previous two titles into one game. Notably, he also suggests it could prove a major advantage to publishers trying to break into the Chinese market. By updating a game constantly as a live-service, the low number of game licences granted by regulators becomes a non-factor as they only need approval for one game.
As we’ve written about previously, Chinese regulators can be very opaque, and changes to rules and regulations are often unpredictable. So it is not out of the realm of possibility that in future this may change. However, as many mobile games have already found success with live service models, it would be no surprise that companies would seek to emulate their international success.
Fortnite Mobile is one excellent example of this, as one major part of the wider Fortnite brand’s success is its playability across a multitude of platforms and the constant updates it receives. All of this has led to their model of content drops and in-game collaborations becoming standard for the industry.
“The Microsoft-Activision Deal Is Getting More Likely, but Regulators Will Continue to Impact How Gaming Companies Operate”
One major point of discussion around the Activision-Blizzard acquisition and the subsequent regulatory backlash has been how much of it is founded in legitimate concerns, and how much is based upon preconceived notions of the video game industry. As we maintain, King is likely the biggest gain that Microsoft stands to make, with their presence in mobile being minimal, acquiring the makers of Candy Crush would provide a massive boost to their handheld grip.
However, as we agree on with Wijman, it is likely Microsoft will have to make concessions to avoid further regulatory headaches.Wijman also points to the easing of regulatory restrictions in China as an example of how the relationship between regulators and gaming companies need not be as contentious as some may think.
“The PC and Console Markets Will Embrace Hybrid Monetization Strategies (Including Advertising)”
This is an excellent point, and a very contentious one too. It’s almost certain that developers and publishers are looking at new methods of monetization, as many professionals agree it’s becoming more important than ever. Many games have been bringing in elements of the hybrid monetisation strategy for years now, such as cash-shops, the much-maligned loot boxes and battle-passes. However, the suggestion that advertising may come into premium games is not impossible, but may not be wise on the part of developers and publishers.
For one, consoles and especially PCs are much different beasts to mobile. Whereas mobile supports such hybrid monetization and the use of advertising in-game, it does so due to the constant turnover and release of new games. Audiences continue to return and play for much longer than they would on a finite console or PC game.
Meanwhile on these other platforms, players have a massive back-catalogue to choose from. So whilst DLC has receded into the background on console and never even existed on mobile, you need only look as far as Paradox Interactive to see how the practice is alive and well on PC.
Whilst player backlash may also be hard to measure in a concrete way, that isn’t just a small amount of loud individuals, it’s fair to say that premium priced games would see massive controversy. Fatshark’s Warhammer 40,000: Darktide has already seen criticism for its cash-shop and the perception that this element was ‘perfected’ whilst the rest of the game was not.
However, for live service games, this may be much more likely. Fortnite, to return to that, has frequently collaborated with other brands to promote them. Whilst on mobile intrinsic advertising has become the new ‘silver bullet’ of high-visibility, player-friendly ways to integrate advertising into games.
Overall, Wijman's predictions seem not only possible, but in-line with what we’ve seen in the mobile world. Being the largest part of the gaming market currently it’s not therefore a surprise that these trends which started in handhelds are expanding beyond that.
The full text of the Newzoo article where you can read Wijman's insights for yourself can be found here. However, as we point out there’s certainly a very legitimate chance these predictions will turn out to be true. Whether or not they’ll be effective in a business sense may not be.