I generally tend to be bullish on the future of virtual technologies, but I just don’t see 2013 being a big year for this industry. I think we will likely see more of the same across the board. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a bad year for developers, it just won’t be a big, booming year of new growth. I think the industry is in a kind of patient state of maturing, and finding itself.
1.) Second Life will keep on keeping on. No major growth. No major slouch. More of the same. That’s probably the best SL could hope for, if it proves to be true.
2.) OpenSim will get a surprise bump of support, or some breaking news development of some kind, but will also keep on keeping on.
3.) The developer builds of the Oculus Rift shipping early this year will generally disappoint, because most people receiving the kits won’t know what to do with them, and the coolest projects being built for it won’t make it out of the garage in 2013. As a side note, I predict the consumer version will be awesome, but a copy-cat competitor either buys them out or out-competes them in 2014, and becomes a massive, game-changing sensation in late 2014 or early 2015. By 2016, AR and VR peripherals are everywhere. Palmer Lucky remains at the helm of it all.
4.) The global economy doesn’t grow much, and Edward Castronova’s concept of the Exodus Recession becomes more widely acknowledged as a major contributing factor in the economic recovery (or lack thereof).
5.) Unity3D plays big outside of games. All kinds of serious apps and realtime 3D content gets built with Unity3D in 2013. Will Goldstone’s new training initiatives make the platform even more accessible to newbie developers, cracking open a huge market for serious apps of all kinds.
6.) Tablets are the strongest vertical for realtime 3D – serious games, enterprise, education, etc.
8.) OUYA isn’t as huge as we hope it will be, but it’s profitable, gains significant traction, and makes it’s point in 2013. In 2014, OUYA 2.0 (or some related branch service offering stemming from the OUYA people) goes viral to great fanfare. Julie Uhrman continues to successfully lead the charge.
9.) Extending from prediction 8, I predict tremors around the next console releases from Sony and Microsoft (and Apple? Google?) making a big play on indie content.
10.) In a move that acknowledges the monotonous and increasingly boring repetition of existing game typologies, one or more major game development studios steps outside the box, and creates a multi-player environment that isn’t really a virtual world (but attracts VR developer attention), and isn’t really a game. Not necessarily artsy either, just different.
11.) In 2013, information and maybe a few screenshots start to leak of an all new triple-A quality virtual world platform with a degree of user-generated content featured. Everyone is skeptical. Bonus points if it’s named after some kind of deity or greek god or goddess.
12.) The Unreal game engine makes a big play in 2013. Probably something enticing to indie-developers. It’s a compelling offer, and they gain significant traction with it.
13.) Following on the success of Dear Esther, Dan Pinchbeck starts something big in 2013. It’ll be visually compelling, artsy and every bit as philosophical as Dear Esther. We start to see teasers, maybe even a trailer in 2013, but it doesn’t launch until 2014.