It seems that every game industry trade show has a panel about the game industry in 2, 5, 10 years (e.g., “The Social Game Industry in 2020”). I find it interesting how many people actually focus on these sessions and make decisions based on the panelists’ prognostications.
More importantly, I think it is very dangerous to listen to these panels for anything more than the entertainment value. One of the basic laws of nature is that nobody can predict the future. From Bill Gates to Warren Buffett to Stephen Hawking, even the best minds are no better at consistently predicting the future than a group of apes. Some people will get lucky but that does not make them brilliant nor more likely to be right in the future. You can see this trend in almost any industry, from the financial (where the “top” analysts and fund managers are no more likely to beat the market than a random sampling of stocks) to retail (where top retailers repeatedly miss new trends) to gaming (What panelist five years ago predicted the rise of social gaming? I know I did not).
This is an important issue because if you base your social games business strategy or key decisions on a prediction from an industry expert, you are doing your company a disservice, and potentially a fatal one. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter how prestigious or bright the person, they could come from Facebook or Apple or Google, but they are no more likely be effective at predicting the industry future than a tarot reader at the state fair. So if you bet on a technology they feel will dominate the industry in three years, you are taking a huge gamble (they could be right; even the apes are sometimes).
What I suggest is not to worry about what the experts are saying but build out a sound strategy that optimizes your risk-adjusted ROI. Just as I would not recommend basing stock investments on what Warren Buffet says will be hot in five years (I cite Buffet merely because of his name recognition; he actually does not get into the prediction business), but people to build a diversified portfolio. You should do the same when building your business. Create a mix of technologies, platforms, game genres, etc. that optimize your return rather than “putting it all on red.” Also, be nimble, pivot as the industry evolves, do not get too wedded to past decisions but look at what will be optimal moving forward.
In the quickly growing social game space, you are much more likely to be successful by creating a strong portfolio strategy and responding to the market than following what an “expert” says at a trade show.