What a year it's been for the mobile games industry.
BlackBerrys in a pinch, Windows Phone back again, Clash of Clans still tops the charts, OMGPOP did pop...
It's enough to make a news editor evoke Billy Joel during their year-end retrospective.
But we'll spare you or singing voices (for now) and stick to what we know, a brief look back at the year that saw the rise and plateauing of microconsoles, the launch of a new generation of consoles, and the ascendency of games-as-a-service.
Will next year be even more exciting? Will analysts continue to prognosticate doom and gloom for Nintendo? Can the static App Store trend continue into 2014?
Yes, no, and probably - but before we focus on the year ahead, let's look back at the year that was.
Tools and platforms
- Partnering with Samsung gave Chillingo the oomph it needed to launch 100% Indie, an online dev resource.
- RIM rebranded as BlackBerry back in February and launched BlackBerry 10 in a bid to attract game developers. This didn't end well.
- Fraser MacInnes stridently claimed 'Consoles are dead long live the unconsoles'.
- Unfortunately for the microconsoles, the consumer reaction was far cooler than anyone predicted. Midway through the year, some wondered if they were set to be the next N-Gage and devs saw disappointing early sales (a claim Ouya's Julie Uhrman took offense to).
- Desperate to 'free the games', Ouya pledged $1 million to match funds for Ouya-bound games. This, too, didn't end well.
- But not all microconsoles are created equal - Sony's PS Vita TV might just be the only one of the bunch to find a strong audience in 2014 - and developers are excited about it.
- And dont forget about the AppGratis saga: Apple pulled the app promotion service from the App Store because it claimed App Gratis broke the push notification rules, CEO Simon Dawlat was 'in absolute shock', and France's digital industry minister called on Apple to 'behave ethically'.
- Sony showed the indies some love by removing the publisher fee from PlayStation Mobile and by launching the Indie Games category on the PlayStation Store. We then asked a handful of indie devs to share why they chose to release their games for the Vita.
- And Google finally responded to Apple's Game Center with the launch of Google Play Game Services.
- While Unity was tired of being the (game) engine that could and decided to become a publisher as well. Hot on the heels of this decision, it also noted that a full half of the top iOS and Android games in Japan are built on Unity.
- And hey, a new year a new iPhone - right? The 5S and 5C gave us a by-the-numbers launch event.
- App Annie's Bertrand Schmitt kicked off the new year by looking at the 'crazy' growth of Google Play revenue around the world.
- Amazon, meanwhile, rolled out its Kindle Fire-centric virtual currency, Amazon Coins in the US (and later the UK and Germany).
- Fireproof argues that there's still a place for premium pricing, as it turned a $100,000 investment in The Room into well over $1.5 million in sales.
- But GungHo might disagree, as its Puzzle & Dragons grew to become 'the most lucrative mobile game in the world', which shot its market cap past GREE, Zynga, DeNA, and even Nintendo. At its prime, Puzzle & Dragons pulled in $5 million daily.
- And let's not forget about the hornet's nest EA stirred up when Real Racing 3 went free-to-play.
- The UK's OFT launched an investigation into freemium games which culminated in a set of eight proposed principles.
- Then there was the launch of our Monetizer - which regularly fixes its laser-like gaze on the performance of soaring stars (and unsung heroes) in the mobile games space.
- No matter what model gamers are spending on, EEDAR found that 78 percent of big IAP spenders felt like they got 'their moneys worth'.
- And maybe we're reading too much into it, but we found it interesting that Apple overlooked F2P games in picking its iPad and iPhone Game of the Year.
Eyes on the East
- Fortumo outlined its plans to 'crack' China, while Amazon opened a Chinese version of its Appstore for Android.
- While Halfbrick rolled out region-specific themes and content for Chinese Fruit Ninja fans.
- Why the sudden interest in China? Chinese consumers own well over 261 million smartphones and tablets.
- But all's not rosy in China, as GREE shuttered its Beijing office following a drop in revenue.
- And dont forget about Japan and Korea, where LINE and Kakao hold sway.
- In fact, the Korean app market jumped a staggering 759 percent in 2013.
- While 'quiet giant' Colopl hit 60 million downloads in Japan, which placed its market cap higher than GREE's.
- Supercell brought Clash of Clans to Japan, where it shot ahead of Puzzle & Dragons in short order (thanks to a sparkling localisation).
- Fireproof's Barry Meade also told us that too much emphasis is being devoted to metrics, and suggested devs work on making great games instead.
- Giving a voice to the indies, one man shop Alistair Aitcheson examined the role of individuality on the path to going indie.
- Nicholas Lovell argued that free-to-play is all about choice, and urged developers to "allow those who love what they do to spend lots of money on things they truly value."
- CEO Jens Begemann talked about Wooga's move to mobile, and how it managed to make up half of its revenue from the decision in just 15 months.
- Gina Jackson asked if half of all gamers are female, why are women making up just 6 percent of industry jobs?
- While Lady Shotgun's Anna Marsh wondered if ageism is more of a diversity issue in the industry than gender.
- While Oscar Clarke argued the freemium vs. premium debate is pointless, and is distracting us from the real shift to games as a service.
- Vlambeer's Rami Ismail might disagree, as he famously said it's "almost impossible" to create a F2P game "in a non-evil way".
Discovery, User acquisition and retention
- Word-of-mouth drove discovery, but perhaps that should be word-of-eyeball as the big focus this year was on video sharing.
- UK game Kickstarters struggled to capture the momentum of their American counterparts, leading many UK devs to turn to the US for crowdfunding.
- Of course, money still has a place is discovery - Trademob reckoned that spending $56,000 in 72 hours should help you crack the top 10.
- Want to keep your users engaged? Forget tutorials. King's Tommy Palm says there's no place for them in casual games.
- Shadows of the Damned director Massimo Guarini talked about how discovery factored into his decision to release Murasaki Baby as a Vita exclusive.
- Flurry, meanwhile, noted that the number of devs in the 'million club' has doubled in the past 19 months.
- While Google noted that 2/3 of Google Play's revenue comes from outside of the US, so cast a wide, international net with your Android UA campaigns.
- Our mobile gaming mavens wondered if it's really Apple and Google's responsibility to get good games noticed.
- And, while certainly not for everyone's budget, a growing body of data suggests TV commercials are a great way to acquire users for freemium games in Japan.
Funding, start ups, acquisitions, and shutterings
- Chartboost started off 2013 with a bang, securing $19 million for its 'huge plans'.
- Zynga drew a big blank with Draw Something 2, axed 520 of its employees, and shuttered OMGPOP after buying it for $180 million a year prior.
- Microsoft shook things up when it spent $7.2 billion to pick up Nokia's devices and services business (as well as its Espoo HQ).
- And after 23 years of making games, Blitz Games shut its doors.
- Then BlackBerry announced a $4.7 billion sell off, which it subsequently abandoned as it deposed CEO Thorsten Heins.
- Gamevil readied a $130 million warchest to buy up smaller companies and shore up its global presence. It started slowly - buying a few publishers - before acquiring fellow Korean publisher Com2us.
- And of course, who can forget the $1.5 billion GungHo and SoftBank spent to pick up a 51 percent stake in Supercell?
- Finally, a tempestuous autumn saw Galaxy on Fire dev Fishlabs stumble before it was acquired by the Austrian Koch Media group.