My 2008 Gaming and Online Worlds Predictions

As 2007 draws to a close, here are some educated guesses for the coming year, pegged to hard numbers. (Because there’s nothing lamer than meaninglessly broad, unverifiable forecasts.)

wiithumbnail.jpg Wii Install Base Surpasses 360 and PS3 Combined

This would have very nearly been a fait accompli this holiday season, had Nintendo produced enough Wii supply to meet the unrelenting Wii demand. Analysts estimate that this shortfall cost the company more than a billion dollars, in other words, the equivalent of 4 million additional units that would have sold, had they been on shelves. There are currently about 17 million worldwide Wii owners compared with the 360’s 15 million and the PS3’s 8 million, so even current demand puts the Wii in striking range of this prediction — and there’s no reason to think that demand is even close to being satiated. Once Nintendo controls over half the next-gen market, the nichification of the 360 and PS3 will be complete, and with its wireless connectivity and web browsing features, the Wii’s preeminence as the living room PC will be assured.

gamezincrisis.jpg PS2 Continues to Outsell the PS3

This was the case last month (496,000 to 466,000, according to NPD), and given the continuing appeal of casual game franchises like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which run just fine on Sony’s extremely economical, seven-year-old system, that’s unlikely to change. What will change is the game industry itself — companies that shift their production budgets to the PS2 and Wii will thrive, while those that pursue the much smaller and far more fickle gameboy owners of the PS3 and 360 will largely underperform. The PS2’s staying power will also slow mass adoption of HD DVD. (The PS2 plays standard DVDs just fine, too.) Sony was hoping the PS3 would leverage their Blue-ray HD standard, but in a keen irony, the ongoing success of their PS2 has undone those ambitions. (It’s not doing the 360 or for that matter, Hollywood, any favors, either.)

Total Virtual World Population by end of 2008: 75 million

The GigaOM Top 10 Most Popular MMOs from June tracked some 35 million active members, and was already in serious need of an upward revision a few months later. I’m working on one now, but if I had to hazard a rough guess, I’d say it’s approaching 50 million. (Which means it beat Gartner’s oft-cited estimate by four years.) Given the ceaseless growth, investment dollars, and new startups (especially for kid-oriented MMOs), it’s reasonable to expect that level of growth will continue next year.

Number of Casual Game/World Sites in Alexa’s Top 500 Doubles

In recent days, at least seven have been listed among the most popular sites, as measured by the Internet tracking service: (Party Poker at 165, MiniClip at 177, Neopets at 202, Gaia Online at 326, Runescape at 370, Prizee at 378, and Stardoll at 474.) With the amount of money and startups going after that space (as here, here, and here) many more are sure to join them.

Check back here in about 365 days to see which of these predictions came to pass.

Update, 1:30pm: I should open the floor to GigaOM readers– what are your gaming predictions for 2008?

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