Aside from sounding like a Moroccan dish, the scale of the financial catastrophe that is Tabula Rasa caused some eyebrow raising at GDC. A net loss of $95m or so is rumored so far and the payback horizon looks bleek to say the least. Frankly, two things surprise me about this: Firstly, that so much money was sunk into a new an unproven IP before launch (I know Lord British has a reputation – but that much of a reputation?); and second, that it was pushed onto the market clearly before it was ready and as such has tanked. I am not sure whether it represents poor financial management; poor game development process or just a strange lack of judgement, but whatever it is NC Soft has dealt its own reputation some damage here.
1. Music games become even bigger. Rock Band is just the start.
2. Wii continues to outsell competitors; but the new content volume lag vs PS3 and 360 could enable others to make up lost ground.
3. Virtual world hubris takes a breather. Kids worlds still mainstay as Second Life stagnates.
4. The “mass market” by $$ is still very much consoles. But online is growing fast so “mass market” by audience volume remains up for grabs.
5. A cable or TV operator will make the XBOX360 their set top box.
6. A TV company will create a virtual world whose user numbers outstrip anything created by the games industry.
7. Avatars will continue to grow across all platforms as people struggle to create a 2 or 3D online representation of their personal brand.
8. EA continue to falter, losing more key talent.
9. Activision will not capitalise on bringing Blizzard’s online experience into its portfolio this year, but watch out in 2009.
10. GTA IV will sell an absolute boat load of units, showing our our animation to the world!
Worth reading this article on Buttler’s 20-year vision for games, although it says little of what Trion are actually doing. I am not sure I’d be so scathing as Raph Koster is here, because they do talk about opening the platform up to many third parties to develop content (so it comes down to how the police/control content creators), but interesting. My take would be more like – is $30m enough to execute that vision – sounds too cheap!
There is little doubt in my mind that, with the right branding and search advertising implementation, online games represent the most undervalued consumer real estate there is.