Social Games – Whether running a restaurant or managing a Mafia family, millions of people spent hours on Facebook when they should have been working instead. Offering free play, family-friendly themes and bite-sized time commitments, titles for social networks have quickly become gaming's hottest sensation, propelling companies like Zynga and Playdom to unprecedented success.
Cloud Gaming – Amidst endless debate regarding whether streaming on-demand games were the future, or even technically possible, a funny thing happened. Companies like OnLive and Gaikai quietly began debuting these services, which not only work, but promise to let you run high-end games on virtually any device without expensive hardware.
Studio Closures Continue – Countless jobs were lost and studios closed as game developers struggled to adapt to changing business models and increasing user fragmentation across platforms and devices. From Bizarre Creations (Blur) to Realtime Worlds (APB) and Cing (Little King's Story), casualties were many, and the gaming world is poorer without them.
Too Many Sequels – Notice something familiar about today's bestselling games? Most look suspiciously similar to 2009's, apart from a new number or subtitle. Risk-averse publishers face rising development costs and market competition, so they stick with cookie-cutter sequels and trusted brands instead of original, innovative titles.
Profits Come First – Massive audience aside, social games are designed to keep enthusiasts actively engaged and clicking, not dazzle them with artistic merits or stimulating play. Happily, with Facebook now clamping down on the spammy messages once used to attract new fans, developers are increasingly having turning to old-fashioned methods to prompt user sharing -- e.g. quality gameplay.
Extra Charges – DLC's obvious benefits aside, some developers are using it as an excuse to leave in-game content off the disc and charge extra for it later. Regardless of whether you feel titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are right to bill players for additional characters and options, get ready. Being nickeled and dimed may be the new normal.
Risky Business – In a world where shoppers increasingly prefer cheap impulse buys or titanic blockbusters, there's little margin for developers to make mistakes. That means either smaller, less ambitious games or giant gambles. Sadly, it puts even the biggest franchises just one or two hits away from possible extinction.
Scott Steinberg (@GadgetExpert on Twitter) is the head of the technology and video game consulting firm TechSavvy Global, and creator and host of the online video series Game Theory. He frequently appears as a high-tech analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN.