These are my personal predictions regarding the rapid changes that games are going through, and what it means to be a game developer in 2014.
With development getting easier, the market is flooded with low-quality games. It is very easy to get lost in the shuffle these days, if you don’t advertise from the beginning. Alpha funding – releasing games in their early stages for support – is becoming much more common for larger developers.
I expect to see a more divisive line forming between “casual” and “hardcore” games. The former are open for a wider crowd, while the latter is often held up by more consistent fan support, similar to an indie rock band.
Casual gaming is a lot like speed dating. People have access to so many more games these days, that close bonds to games aren’t formed the way they were 10 or 20 years ago. Where it was once okay to spend months unlocking everything in one game, nowadays you would be left behind for that.
And while games are easier to obtain online, they are also easy to delete and disregard. Casual games may suffer their own “indie bubble burst” if supply heavily outweighs demand, and no one offers anything innovative. The costs on mobile and Steam are already decreasing. Cheaply made casual games may be buried as quality rises, driving us into another era of Guitar Hero-esque franchises, geared toward otherwise non-gamers.
As the cost of creating a game increases, the cost of paying for one is diminishing. And games cost time as well as money. Though we spend just as much time creating games, they get far less attention in the digital market. Ten years ago, you could release a game and make profits for one or two years at least. Now, most developers won’t see more than 6-8 months of revenue, for a game they’ve worked on for years.
As players expect higher quality games, it will become more difficult for solo developers to stand out against those who form teams. And as dev kits continue becoming more accessible, game design will likely turn into a hobby for solo developers rather than a profession.