Was 2013 the best year ever for video gamers?
LOS ANGELES — The Year of the Gamer. Does 2013 actually deserve that title?
Among video-game enthusiasts, the year was nearly consumed by the official announcement, subsequent speculation about, and ultimate release of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One home consoles.
Controversy and questions from gamers followed each long-awaited console until their arrival in homes began in November.
Both clearly sparked lots of interest. Sony is reporting 2.1 million in global PS4 sales, while Microsoft says it’s sold more than 2 million Xbox Ones. Both are poised to hit large, but slightly different audiences.
Sony is going after the hardcore, dedicated gamer while Microsoft is positioning their device as an entertainment hub for the whole family. Either way, both are expected to do very well and create a huge demand for games and other content well into 2014.
Nintendo, who led the next-generation charge in 2012 with the Wii U, spent much of the year concentrating on developing games for their new console. Battling a soft reception for the Wii U, the company released a wide range of games for hardcore players as well as casual, family-friendly titles, including a return of the always-popular Mario in the new “Super Mario 3D World.”
Their handheld console, the Nintendo 3DS, continued to be a boon for the company. It’s regularly the company’s best-selling platform, and the release of “Pokemon X/Y” for the device ushered in a new chapter in the long-running franchise.
They also added to their handheld stable with the Nintendo 2DS, a portable console designed for children. More durable and without the 3D effect, the 2DS was developed for the rough-and-tumble life of a kid.
They weren’t the only ones with a new entry in the portable market.
The Nvidia Shield, released in July, tries bridge PC gaming and portable gaming. It can be used as a PC game controller, uses an Android-based mobile platform and has access to the Google Play store as well as Nvidia’s own TegraZone.
Technology advancements are creating more detailed, more responsive, and better quality games for the mobile gaming audience. A new iPhone 64-bit processing chip released in September had developers saying phone games are getting closer to console quality.
And analysts are bullish on the future of mobile gaming, predicting revenues to reach $13.2 billion by the end of 2013 and nearly double in the next two year. Established PC and console game makers (Firaxis and UbiSoft to name just two) pushed into the mobile market aggressively in 2013, making games for the casual as well as the dedicated gamer.
Mobile games weren’t the only winners in 2013. The massive release of Grand Theft Auto V helped propel consumer spending on gaming to $3.45 billion in the third quarter of the year, the best quarter since 2011, according to The NPD Group.
However, it wasn’t all peaches and cream for the gaming industry in 2013. Despite a flood of money to some titles, some big-name game companies found themselves on the outside.
THQ, a company that created the very popular “Saints Row” series and held the WWE license, finally broke apart in February with many of its properties being bought up by other companies.
Zynga, a major powerhouse in social platform gaming, began shutting down some games, laying off personnel, closing offices and reported losing nearly half its user base from the previous year. Despite the hiring of former Microsoft executive Don Mattrick as Zynga’s new CEO, many top executives also left the company.
The landscape of gaming is definitely in flux. The development of new technology is expanding the reach of quality games to more players.
Female gamers and parents playing with their kids are growing in numbers and game makers are working on games to reflect that more diverse audience. And with the expansion of the audience comes greater acceptance of the gaming experience in our culture.
So if you think 2013 was the Year of the Gamer, just wait until 2014.
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