Saas Industry 2012 Recap – Were the Mayan Really Wrong?

Were the Mayans wrong? By now, we’ve all heard quite a bit about their prediction that the world would end on December 21 of this last year. The world loves a good end of the world prediction, as the Y2K craze of 13 years ago showed, and numerous other predictions before it in history. Yet, the world remains intact for better or worse. But … what if the Mayans weren’t entirely wrong? For some SaaS concepts and providers, the world sure seemed to end …

Zynga didn’t have a good year in 2012, and they were previously one of the most upwardly-mobile gaming SaaS companies around. Piggybacking on Facebook’s success as a social interaction enhancement feature, Zynga’s Farmville and similar products were widely enjoyed and played by many of Facebook’s core user demographics, making Zynga at one point worth quite a bit of money.

Alas, with allegations from independent developers of IP theft by Zynga in their recent set of “ville” games, and a severe bubble burst in casual games, repeated attempts to sell Zynga to larger game studios have failed, and left Zynga facing a significant deficit as 2013’s fiscal period begins. While not facing anything so severe as bankruptcy, Zynga’s in major need of reorganization and reinvention of their gaming and SaaS identity if they want to survive the catastrophic year they endured in 2012. Perhaps the Mayans were fans of Farmville …

Nintendoland made its debut at the end of 2012 with the launch of the Wii U console. Basically Nintendo’s answer to the PSN and XBLA services, it’s not exactly garnered much popularity with its overly family-friendly veneer and lack of anything useful to do socially. While the classic WiiWare DLC SaaS offered by the U’s predecessor did fairly well in gaming sectors, Nintendoland and the Wii U as a whole seem to have tripped over themselves right out of the gate.

Facebook is in dire straits after continuing allegations of privacy violations are lobbied against its founders and controlling interest holders. As other platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit continue to gain steam, Facebook’s user base is beginning to decline rapidly. Couple this, Zynga’s state of pandemonium and these privacy concerns, and this just may be the beginning of the end for Facebook. By the end of 2013 we may look back on 2012 as ‘back when people used Facebook”.

The Mayans saw the beginning of the end for some of the big names in SaaS gaming and social networking, but does this mean they were completely right? In fact, it seems more went right in SaaS this past year, actually.

Google’s Drive and Plus services saw record levels of new subscriptions and positive reviews in 2012, making it the year cloud computing became an official standard in the industry. Prior to 2012, Drive’s predecessor, “Docs” was a passing novelty used by those interested in experimental concepts. Yet, by the end of the year, businesses were using it as a standard set of coordinative office and project collaboration suites, toppling the MS Office suite from its position as the most highly used software of its type.

Twitter’s recent redesign and move to a better server infrastructure has garnered it record new user subscriptions as well. Twitter didn’t change anything about their service, choosing not to reinvent their identity or add useless features nobody needed. Instead, they improved stability and reliability, while making their API transparent in anticipation of the impending move of CRM from archaic phones and help desks to the social SaaS platform. Perhaps Twitter is better at predicting things than the Mayans were, after all.

With the reduction of fees to minutia for submission of independent games, Steam saw a boom in new game titles available through their gaming SaaS service in 2012 as well. Improving their servers and announcing the forthcoming web client version of their service, Steam anticipates the continuance of the mobile and cloud revolution, meaning their eye into the future was also sharper than that of the otherwise sagely Mayan shamans of times past.

The Mayans were evidently talking to enthusiasts of Nintendo, Zynga and Facebook when they predicted disaster in 2012, but some will also cite that they could have been talking to TV viewers as well, as it seems to have had a colossally bad year for overall ratings as well. However, if one thing can be said for certain, it is that the Mayans weren’t right otherwise. 2012 saw new innovations and amazing refinements in the SaaS industry as a whole, making cloud computing not only practical but at last desirable. Rather than being the year the world ended, history may just remember 2012 as the year SaaS became serious, serious business.

Omri is the Head of Demand Generation, as well as the Lead Author & Editor of the SaaSAddict Blog. Omri established the SaaSAddict blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to SaaS and cloud migration.