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What were the 5 main trends of game development industry in 2015? What to expect in 2016?

03.02.2016 13:53

Lower market entry barriers

Technological advances, the development of alternative funding models and automation of online marketing opened the door to the market for independent developers. Cheap or free engines (Unity, Unreal Engine, etc.) and other useful tools dramatically reduce time-to-market of product for experienced teams. Crowdfunding platforms (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Fig) (Steam Xbox Preview, Steam Early Access, etc.) provide studios an alternative source of funding. In addition, thanks to them, developers can engage in direct dialogue with users, create products according to the wishes of the audience and create a loyal community long before the release. Automation of online advertising and the growing number of ad networks simplified and cheapened the promotion of projects.

For small teams it has become easier to overcome the traditional entry barriers. Projects that would never pass selection of major publishers, are being created by independent teams on their own funds and / or via raise funds through services, and find their audience. The process goes faster in mobile and PC-segments (Steam, iOS и Android). Consoles were also affected by the overall trend, however, this part of the market is still relatively closed for low-budget and independent games studios.

The fact that the developers received much more opportunities to express themselves, does not cancel the main rule of the industry. Ultimately, all companies, regardless of size and resources, are fighting for the attention and time of players. And the leaders become only those who create high quality games and put the soul in them.

From games to services, from casual to Double-A

Growing competition requires more subtle and differentiated approach to the product handling. Companies that have already achieved impressive results and are aimed at growth, put players at the forefront (study, analyze and interpret their behavior). Glu Mobile, Kabam, SuperCell and other leaders in the mobile games have moved to the model GaaS (Game as a Service) and focused on regular updates of flagship products. The key to effective audience retention became targeting: the difficulty level of the game can change dynamically, marketing companies are developed taking into account seasonal fluctuations of activity, creation of new features requires regional specificity, carefully analyzed the response of users to each update. Around the popular game is built a network of services and pre-gaming products.

Indie games market remains the most oversaturated segment of the industry. How a small studio can achieve recognition and get a permanent income in such conditions? Take it easy, instead of spending many years to create ААА-project, make it smaller by volume, but really good. Let your product be a Double-A, instead of AAA, but it will be completed and qualitative. Do not put everything into development - distribute finances so that you’ll have the funds to develop the product after release. Finally, obtain the support of the platform-holder. This will give you access to an audience many times larger than that which can attract a new game.

Mobile gaming market chooses FREE-TO-PLAY

The global mobile gaming market continues to grow (+23% compared to 2014, total revenue following the results of 2015 — about $ 30 billion), gradually approaching the stage of maturity. Companies that failed to grab a share of the market during the "gold rush" (period of 2012–2014) are still trying to form a portfolio and strategy for filling it to achieve the desired profit.

There are already competent leaders (mainly American and Asian publishers), which have shown who is the boss, and earn good money. Not all Western publishers with global names were able to gain a foothold in the mobile industry. Many of those who have successfully entered the market, losing out to the mobile giants, which are not represented on PC and consoles and deal exclusively with applications.

Involving users in content creation process

Growth of the players involved in content creation has strengthened the tandem "user - developer", in which each of the parties is involved in the development and promotion of the project. Gamers have become a competent link in the entertainment value chain. They actively generate gaming and video content, and developers use UGC as a channel for promoting and implementing engagement features in games.

Not the least role in the growth of the volume of UGC played the development of streaming platforms (Twitch, Hitbox, YouTube, etc.). And if before companies just observed this process, now there is an understanding that the support of UGC helps increase audience loyalty. For players the creation of content - an opportunity to acquire their own army of fans, and, with the right approach to get very real revenue.

VR continues to attract investors

Virtual reality which used to be a part of science fiction is gradually penetrating the masses. Interest in the technology is growing both among consumers and among producers of gadgets and content. In 2015, many companies released the first versions of their devices (Samsung Gear VR, Cardboard, and so on.). In 2016 is planned the realize of Oculus Rift, OSVR, HTC Vive and so on.. On a regular basis are coming out new games and applications for VR-gadgets. In decision of technological problems and the creation of content are engaged the world-renowned experts.

The volume of investments attracted by companies - manufacturers of devices for VR in the period of 2010-2015 reached 4 billion dollars. The interest of investors and venture capitalists warms up the fact that large IT-companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google) consider virtual reality as one of the important directions of the development of their activities.

Will it really become massive and profitable? Right now it is difficult to say. Promotion of technology is impossible without a really high-quality content, for which we would like to use VR-devices for a long time. Will we break this barrier, time will tell.

What’snext?

In 2016 successful will be those developers who have realized that it is no longer possible to release a hit project using forces of little inexperienced team. Rather than rely on a miracle, it is necessary to lay the foundation for future success: invest in training of staff within the company and build the same approach to the development and publishing of games, like do the companies whose products are in the top 10.

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