In light of recent events, I felt I should show my colors – go Team Conan! OK, time for business.
In the popular “Late Night” segment, Conan would make humorous predictions of what was going to happen in the years to come, even though 2000 had come and gone. In contrast, these are going to be very serious predictions on where Flash/browser-based gaming can/will go in the future – from the coming months to years down the line. Sure, you may end up laughing, but these are my predictions on where Flash can go and where it can falter…
- Flash games will not only be used as advertising, but will have direct effects on the stories of the games they’re linked to – This is an easy one because the trend has already started. While it’s a couple steps away, Dragon Age: Journeys is a fun flash game that can be tied to an EA account. Depending on how much of the game you complete, EA will reward you with in-game items for the full Dragon Age: Origins. If they can share enough information to make it so that your progress in a Flash game can equate to rewards in the retail release, it seems more than possible to have the same factors affect the development of the story. Perhaps not main plot elements, but wouldn’t it be cool if the actions of your Flash character prevented a city from being raided in the main game?
- Flash and browser-based games will become major releases – With the current internet infrastructure in the U.S., this is impossible. Still, the signs are there and waiting for everything to catch up. Flash gaming has already become where one can find some of the best indie releases out there. In fact, Flash portals provide monetary compensation to Flash developers by “sponsoring” their games. Games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars that are run through Facebook are monetized via micro-transactions. With EA’s acquiring of Playfish, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who feels that there is a lot of money to be made in this market. If your argument is that these are all super-casual games, then might I direct you to Quake Live and Battlefield Heroes, which are starting to find their place on the net. This is also dependent on the success of the OnLive service, which promises that you will be able to stream full games through your PC. If OnLive proves successful, it could become a proof-of-concept for developers to start hosting games off their own servers to which you pay for access.
- Flash may die, but it will die at the hands of the “App” – To say that a software is untouchable is just downright ignorant. I’m sure people thought assembly would be the only language you ever needed, but certainly grander things have come and gone. That grander thing might just be the app(lication). While the number of inputs are limited on current touchscreen phones, the app has done an amazing job at being that “thing that takes up those extra 15 minutes you have to kill.” Of course, if Adobe were a smart company, they would start right away at making versions of Flash compatible with mobile browsers. As mobile phones keep advancing, we may just see that happen. But don’t underestimate the power of the app. Hell I think they even have an app for that.
The next 10 years will see a lot of changes to the gaming scene as we know it. There’s a part of me that feels we are on a path to comic book-dom. This means developers will still pander to our niche of “core gamers,” but it will be a different sort of game that takes advantage of the mass market. These will be social networks, similar to MMOs, but based on whatever you are looking to do at the time. I think they will advance from the rudimentary Farm Towns that exist on Facebook, but don’t be surprised when a Wizard101-like world is the anticipated release for the holiday season.
There will be exceptions where the experience is actually enhanced by being able to enter the game’s world through other portals. Madden is the easy example of this. It seems like a simple logical step to be able to manage your team and check your stats on the go, and then play the game in your private league with friends when you get home. Or perhaps there’s a bonus dungeon that is inaccessible to your character in Dragon Sword: Future Eternity Cycle (or whatever they might call RPGs down the line). This means that on the bus ride home from work or during your lunch, you fire up your DS:FEC app, and perform a sidequest that unlocks the dungeon by the time you get home. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.