December 27, 2010
The video gaming industry made great strides this year. What’s next? Here are my predictions for 2011.
It’s been a hell of a year. In 2010, motion hardware such as Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move made their debuts, the Nintendo Wii stayed put but still held its own, and the first 3D handheld gaming system was introduced. And let’s forget that smartphone gaming took the market by storm.
Against that promising backdrop, let’s polish up the old crystal ball and take a look at some predictions for 2011. My projections for the next year are based on news I’ve seen recently, gut feelings and even some wishful thinking. You’re invited to add your own predictions in the comments. Let’s take a look at what I think the new year will have in store for the gaming industry.
1. On the Road Again
Mobile gaming for smartphones and handheld devices will continue its explosive growth in 2011. Adding fuel to the Apple App Store fire will be Windows Phone 7, hitched up to Xbox Live and packing plenty of graphics punch. While Microsoft’s nascent platform won’t be able to hold a candle to the App Store yet, its inauspicious beginning is not going to predict what will happen in the long run.
2. Backfield in Motion
Motion gaming hardware will continue to fly off store shelves, but I’m not sure if the titles will be able to keep up. Meanwhile, the porn industry will continue parrying with Microsoft, trying to slip in racy games to the consternation of the Redmond giant (it has already started). It’s hard to hold back the pornmeisters, though, bellwethers of technology since VHS tapes.
3. Flash Crash
Developers of HTML5 will make great inroads in 2010, continuing its rise into eventual domination of browser-based gaming. Of course, Flash and Silverlight will still have a place in the online gaming universe, but HTML5 will continue its onslaught, especially into the mobile arena (new game engines like Impact are already leading the way). Hate HTML5 but love Flash? Thanks to Apple and its unstoppable power in the mobile marketplace, you might be standing on the wrong side of history.
4. Wii Want HD
Even though Nintendo emphasizes the quality of its gaming experience over the technical quality of its graphics, an HD gaming platform from the company is long overdue. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said that a Wiisuccessor wasn’t in the offing yet, declaring last June that the company would announce a new console when it runs “out of ideas with the current hardware and cannot give users any more meaningful surprises with the technology we have.” In my opinion, one of the last surprises remaining is that Nintendo’s flagship gaming console is still running standard-definition video.
5. Bringing the Pain
Gears of War 3 will finally be released, but too bad it’s been pushed back from its originally announced spring 2011 release date (although there will be a beta version available in April). Now we’ll have to wait until at least September to play the real thing on the Xbox 360. Fenix, Dominic, Cole and Baird will bring the pain once again, maybe even eclipsing the grand debut of Portal 2, winner of a 2010 Spike Video Gaming Award for themost anticipated game to be released next year. Nevertheless, the Gears of War franchise is so valuable right now, its hoards of fans have enormous pent-up demand for the new first-person shooter. Its sales are practically guaranteed to break all records.
6. Apple Console
Apple will make an entry into the console market. The Cupertino company has nearly cornered the handheld market with its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad iOS-powered platforms. Why not parlay that dominance into a gaming platform that might be a simple evolution of its Apple TV “hobby?” How hard could it be to take a Mac Mini, install a serious graphics chip, get Apple’s ace iPhone/iPad designer Jonathan Ive to create the most beautiful handheld controllers in history, package the whole thing up with iOS and profit? For Apple, this should be easy.
7. Avian Anger
Those Angry Birds aren’t finished yet, even after continuing their steamrolling dominance over the App Store and Android Market with seasonal updates for Halloween and Christmas. Expect even more of those holiday refreshes with extra levels, taking on a love-dovey theme for Valentine’s Day and, of course, jumping all over that egg-strewn Easter holiday for all it’s worth.
The conditions laid out Thursday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski are intended to guarantee that satellite providers and other rival television services can still carry marquee NBC programming and that new Internet-video distributors can get the content they need to grow and compete.
Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal could have profound consequences for the nascent market for Internet video, a market that could eat into Comcast's core cable-TV business if enough consumers drop their cable subscriptions in favor of low-cost alternatives online.
Genachowski wants to ensure that Comcast won't be able to use its control over NBC's vast media empire to withhold content from emerging online competitors such as Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc., locking consumers into costly monthly cable bills to get access to a wide range of popular programming.
He now needs at least two of the other four FCC commissioners to back his proposal, and is likely to make modifications to win the support he needs. The FCC is expected to approve the deal, with conditions, early next year.
The deal also faces scrutiny from the Justice Department, which has been working closely with the FCC and is likely to impose and enforce conditions similar to whatever the FCC ultimately approves.
Comcast is seeking government approval to buy a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. for $13.8 billion in cash and assets.
The combination would give the nation's largest cable-TV company control over the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, popular cable channels including CNBC, Bravo and Oxygen, and the Universal Pictures movie studio. It would also give Comcast a roughly 30 percent stake in Hulu.com, which has become a popular online platform for broadcast programming from NBC, ABC and Fox.
Although Comcast already owns a handful of cable channels, including E! Entertainment and the Golf Channel, it has built its business on distributing television programming and providing Internet connections. The company has about 23 million cable-TV subscribers and nearly 17 million Internet subscribers.
Taking over NBC Universal would transform Comcast into a media powerhouse, too. Genachowski's proposed conditions are intended to prevent the company from trampling competitors once it owns content as well as distribution platforms.
FCC officials wouldn't disclose details about the conditions Thursday because commissioners were still reviewing the proposal, but two people outside the FCC described the terms to the Associated Press. They had knowledge of the details but spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.
One measure aims to guarantee that satellite operators, phone companies and rival cable-TV services can still get access to NBC broadcast and cable channels, Comcast's regional sports networks and other must-have programming at reasonable prices.
Another condition would require Comcast to make NBC Universal programming available to Internet video distributors under certain circumstances. Imposing these obligations on Comcast would help prevent Comcast from stunting the growth of Internet video.
Yet another measure would bar Comcast from pressuring independent programmers into restricting online distribution of their content in order to get a spot on the cable systems.
In addition, Genachowski's proposal would prohibit Comcast from requiring consumers to subscribe to cable in order to get online access to certain NBC Universal content, including NBC broadcast programming.
The proposal would also require Comcast to continue offering an affordable, stand-alone broadband option for customers who want Internet access but not cable. This condition, too, could help drive the growth of online video by allowing consumers to cancel their cable subscriptions without losing their Internet connections.
by Joelle Tessler Associated Press Dec. 23, 2010 05:29 PM
FCC may regulate NBC takeover
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