PREDICTIONS 2013: SAVVY AND SILLY

on Monday, Dec. 31st

Two weeks ago I was jazzed about making predictions for 2013. Now, with less than 12 hours to go, I’m a but less enthused. What was looking like a strong end to a rough but decent year has turned into full on “wheels have fallen off the bus” moment.

Yet the point of predictions– and resolutions if you look at them the right way– are to invest a little hope into the world. An exercise, if you will, in exerting our wits and will on the oh-so-mercurial future.

So here are five predictions, serious– or at least as serious as prognostications about the creative economy can get–and silly alike for the year we call Twenty Thirteen.

BACK TO REALITY

The whole “artisan” thing is only going to get bigger. It’s been a subtle backlash against the more hollow aspects of Internet culture. The counterbalance to anonymity and aggregation. Sure, it can be precious to talk about “authenticity”, but what we’re really talking about is having experiences that are something other than cookie cutter.

Which means I see more immersive entertainments and attempts to create compelling augmented reality experiences in the year ahead. We might even see some leaps back into Virtual Reality from, say, Microsoft. And while Google Glass may not hit the street for another year somebody is finally going to come up with a playful augmented reality experience that people get excited about.

That will be treated like an overnight success, while those of us who have been watching the space will roll our eyes.

SAY HELLO AND GOODBYE TO THE SECOND SCREEN EXPERIENCE

There’s going to be a tidal wave of “second screen” apps for tablets this year. Tied to just about every type of TV show possible. You can see some of these already for the shows that AMC airs– Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead come to mind.

While I had a lot of fun watching Microsoft’s Smart Glass demo at E3 this year synch up with Game of Thrones there’s a paradox at the heart of the second screen experience that’s hard to overcome. If a show is engrossing enough, then you won’t want to pick up the tablet. The programming I find myself reaching for my iPad with the most is the equivalent of radio: background noise more than focused entertainment. Cooking shows and the like.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for smartly designed companion apps for the water cooler level shows. It’s just that I have little faith that studios will have the patience and vision to fund truly inventive complimentary experiences– and not just chase ad revenue blindly.

That flood of apps– and interfaces– is going to sabotage the effort unless some kind of user interface standard rises to prominence quickly.

FIVE WAY CONSOLE WAR

I wrote about this a couple of weeks back, when I commented on Kotaku’s on-the-run interview with Gabe Newell in which he copped to Valve’s hardware ambitions. It’s worth repeating:

We’re going to see a five-way fight for the living room this year. Sony and Microsoft will both release new consoles this year, or risk losing the next generation by forfeit. Nintendo will keep grinding on the WiiU track. The wild cards are Valve and Apple.

Apple will leap into the TV market this year. Tim Cook wouldn’t have tipped his hand on Rock Center if they weren’t ready to put machines in production. Those TVs will have built in game systems. For their part Valve will release a solid– and I’m going to go out on a limb and say scalable– console. Basically a simple PC you can hook up to your TV but that users can still upgrade. It will be unique amongst consoles and while not future proof, will have advantages over the usual fare.

Here’s the real trick: by 2014 one of these players will bow out; and it’s not likely to be either of the new comers. Nor do I think Nintendo has to worry. They’re in a different business than Sony and Microsoft. While the game divisions of those two companies are strong, their parent companies are riddled with trouble. It’s been ten years since the console wars had a casualty. One will fall.

IT’S TIME FOR CROWDFUNDING TO GO MOBILE

This HAS to happen. HAS TO.

If Kickstarter doesn’t develop a mobile app for their service someone else will, and that someone else will win the crowdfunding space.

Too much potential money is being left on the table by not having a mobile app that feeds directly into crowdfunding campaigns. Fundraising events, on the street interactions, lobby barkers. This isn’t a no brainer for Kickstarter: it’s an active threat. While they are all about building their community slowly and smartly– I’ve been happy to see them back away from the easy profits that the wild west style had brought them– to leave a mobile app out is to invite disruption.

I don’t have ANY sources on this, but look for something at SXSW. It’s the right time for a killer announcement.

THE END OF IRONIC FACIAL HAIR

Look, I’m a hirsute guy, I grow beards a couple of times a year. I’ve even dabbled in mutton chops. I’d kill to be able to grow what Christoph Waltz has in Django Unchained, but the hipster thing of a big bushy beard and normal “boy” hair? The mountain man look?

Right now there is a 16 year old in Portland who is mocking a barista openly about his facial hair. That barista is going to have a quarter life crisis. He is going to walk into the artisanal barber shop– the one with the fully stocked bar that offers straight razor shaves, the one where he usually buys his Movember mustache wax– and he’s going to look his barber in the eye and say “Applebaum, it’s time.”

And by July you won’t find a single hair on a hip lip in the contiguous 50 states.

Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

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