Stateside: What are the key issues that will define 2013?

The questions every dev should ask itself

Stateside: What are the key issues that will define 2013?
Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at, which was recently acquired by publisher Steel Media.

The mobile market is nothing if not volatile.

A year's time often brings an inordinate amount of change, and while it's often difficult to predict what may happen, there's a lot of potential sticking points that could have a big effect on the mobile gaming market in the next 12 months.

Here, then, is my take on what 2013 could mean for mobile developers, complete with the kind of questions everyone working within the industry should ask themselves before embarking on any new ventures.

What will new iOS hardware bring?

Granted, new versions of the iPhone and iPad are guaranteed every year, but what the next generation will bring is always an interesting concern.

Will the iPad stay at its 4:3 resolution? Will the new iPhone, in order to keep up Android phones that will start to boast 1080p displays this year, bump up the resolution again? And when will it release?

What about the next iPad mini? Will it remain a generation behind, or will it catch up in power to the full-sized iPad in some form? Will the iPod touch see a new refresh, or will it have another year off?

Can developers live with underpowered yet current hardware?

While Android developers have always had to keep different hardware power levels in mind, iOS studios are also having to do so in an increasing way.

The A5 generation of hardware may be entering its second year of being in iOS devices, but it remains incredibly widespread.

Not only is it in the still-popular iPhone 4S and iPad 2 - both still being sold by Apple - but it also made its way to the latest iPod touch and into the iPad mini.

Developers will need to keep these devices in mind, treating them as 'current hardware' despite their lack of power compared to iPhone 5 and the fourth generation iPad. Alarmingly, reports of high-powered games – such as Modern Combat 4 - starting to suffer on the A5 hardware have already surfaced, however.

What role will Android play in 2013?

Android has long been iOS's closest competitor – indeed, in terms of userbase, it's comfortably in the lead – but Google's platform now seems to be gaining ground on the games front.

While technical support concerns with hundreds of device models continues to scare off many smaller developers, the sheer number of users on Android will continue to entice many to release on the platform as well. Success stories exist, but so do failures.

Will it be a viable platform on par with iOS for developers going forward? Will it be worth launching games on Android first? Will hardware like Project Shield reshape the gaming market?

Do indies have any hope of competing with industry giants?

The market is increasingly becoming the domain of well-funded publishers who can afford the marketing to get high up in the charts and stay there - particularly as GREE and DeNA continue their western expansion.

Will indies, who have an increasingly-difficult time getting noticed, be shut out completely at some point?

Thankfully Hundreds by Semi Secret Software – previously mentioned in this column - made its way to the top 10 of not only the iPad charts (where it was featured by Apple as Editor's Choice in the US) but also on iPhone for a period of time - and at a $2.99 price to boot.

However, that's an established developer; those starting out may not have as much luck getting noticed.

Will TV gaming take off?

While sitting down at a TV and playing games isn't exactly "mobile", it could be the logical next step for the industry.

Ouya, which broke Kickstarter records, is currently making its way into developers' hands and should hit store shelves soon. Rival device GameStick was also funded in just 30 hours on KickStarter.

While these are all Android devices, don't forget that Apple could change the game by introducing an App Store to the Apple TV, or by releasing a dedicated television set of some sort.

What impact could Apple policy changes have?

As 2012 proved, Apple continues to have the ability to pull policy changes out of the hat without a moment's notice.

As such, app promo services in particular will need to be wary of basing their entire businesses around just one strategy or technique, lest their operations be completely undermined overnight.

Also of note is the fact that continued policy changes could drive some developers to focus on Android, which - though increasingly restrained by Google policies - is still the Wild West in comparison.

Is crowdfunding a bubble, or a viable long-term funding method?

2012 may have been the year crowdfunding took off - Kickstarter project after Kickstarter project getting picked up, from small indie projects from those being led by industry luminaries.

Project Godus

However, what will happen if many of these projects reach fruition and are found wanting when it comes to quality?

Will that put consumers off the funding method in the future? Will its standing as a viable business model be undermined?

Do paid games have a future, and are we heading towards a consumer burn out?

Free games have become big business, and more games are releasing with no upfront cost.

While many publishers like Gameloft and EA are still experimenting with free-to-play to various degrees of success, this could be the year where they and other notable forces start to abandon paid games in a huge way?

Will customers burn out? The number of mobile devices feels like it's only growing, and there's a lot of new features coming along with them. People could just wind up being happy with what they have, instead of needing to constantly be upgrading to their new devices.

The number of apps is continuously increasing as well, but will people still be willing to download them? Will 2013 be the year where all these upward trends start to level off?

Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!