predictions for 2012

1.)  ‘Apps’ become the primary access point for indie 3D online content.  Specifically, facebook and tablet apps.  The practice of downloading or accessing an ‘app’  is refreshingly simple norm-behavior to mainstreamers who remain eternally wary of downloading unfamiliar clients and browser plug-ins.  Late in 2012 (probably into 2013) virtual worlds people figure this out, and start ‘appetizing’ their content.

2.) Second Life will keep on keeping on.  No, SL won’t die in 2012.  I wouldn’t dream of posting this as a prediction, since I think it’s too obvious, but I’m going to count it because I’ve read so many other posts about the demise of SL, I have to push back a little.  The virtual sky isn’t falling (yet).  The Lab will remain committed to supporting existing users, who won’t budge.

3.) Consumer use of SL will dip slightly, but remain largely stable.  All but a handful of Second Life user-developers (edu, military, enterprise, etc.) will complete their transition (read exodus) to OpenSim and Unity that is already well underway.    This is a two-in-one prediction, but I think SL still has a strong, relatively stable base of consumer users – whereas all other users are looking for the next shiny thing, and get tired of competing for the fleeting attention of the Lab, who have long since shifted their development focus to other things (I’m guessing apps, see prediction #1).

4.) Unity3D will be the next shiny thing for virtual world folks throughout 2012.  I predict huge growth here in 2012.  Quite a few content creators will be completing their Unity learning curve this year, and will be delivering some seriously compelling non-game work examples that will further entice investment from virtual worlds folks.  Ironically, the trouble with game engines like Unity, from a virtual worlds perspective, is that just about anything is possible.  Once the “where’s my avatar?  where’s my inventory?” questions are answered when virtual world immigrants open Unity for the first time, and they find their footing in an ‘anything is possible’ environment, they’ll collectively dial in on some meaningful use cases and we’ll be off to the races.

5.) Virtual World people will desperately insist on perpetuating the term “Virtual World,” but they probably shouldn’t, and the rest of the world definitely won’t.  Virtual Worlds, as a reality, aren’t going anywhere, but this particular descriptive term is tied to far too many wobbly concepts to remain effective as a selling term.  ‘MMO’ is getting tired too.  These terms will remain alive and well in academic publications for the next 50 years, but I hope we’ll find some new verbiage in 2012.  It’ll probably just be.. “app”.

6.) Some contrarian developer will discover a vast, untapped market and develop a carefully crafted, hugely popular and profitable Second Life sim (non xxx) that gets meaningful traction.  It won’t be enough to convince other developers.  Predicting that it will be ‘profitable’ almost guarantees I’ll get this one wrong, but it’s fun to think about.

7.) A third party, working directly with Google, will develop a powerful new multi-user, virtual world application for Google Earth using WebGL.  This is a roll-back from 2011 predictions.  My guess is that 2011 was a big top-secret development year for said app.  I’m going to take out ‘working directly with Google’ – even though I think they will be, I may not be able to prove it.

8.) Augmented reality isn’t going to be as huge as everyone thinks it will be.   This is a cheap shot, and another roll-back from my 2011 list, but there’s still a lot of buzz. So I think it counts.

9.)  Augmented reality actually gets some traction, but it’s not recognized as AR.  No, we won’t all be wandering around downtown holding our iPhones up to buildings clicking on advertisements like zombies.  But I’m thinking of games like PowerGig (uses a real guitar + XBox to teach guitar).  It’s AR, but nobody says AR.  See prediction #5.

10.)  Here comes Head Mounted Displays.  Last year, it got some traction.  By the end of 2012, there will be tremors of it becoming the next big thing.  Turn your iPhone into an 80″ screen only you can see?  Yeah, that’ll sell.   Seriously.  I really hope they get this right.. I’m ready, credit card in hand.

11.)  3D monitors, and 3D TV’s go nowhere.  They’ll keep force-feeding 3D movies, and it’ll survive, but flickerless next-gen 3D movies are desperately needed to keep the dream alive and it won’t happen in 2012.  This is a shame, but the honeymoon’s over.  2013 maybe it’ll be reframed, rebranded and renewed.  We’ll see.

12.)  Consoles open up.  We’ll see an advent of semi-indie content on consoles.  If not, they missed a huge opportunity.  I’m not saying they should open up to everything – that would turn into a huge mess, but I think it should be much easier for semi-professional content developers to push content out to consoles.


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