So after having a delicious lunch that included delicious pizza bites, a really long hot dog, various sliced meats and a meat ball, I was off to my next lecture “Brave New Worlds? Doing 3D Browser Games: Pitfalls and Opportunities.” The lecture is spear headed by heads of major 3D software development kits like coreX3D, Unity and Stonetrop. They mentioned how the cost of development of games have gone down with some just needing to import 3D models. In this day in age, most games are in 3D because they scale better at different resolution and can easily be done multiplatform. 3D allows a lot of freedom for development and allow the user experience to be enhanced which leads for users expectations to grow. Using procedural images and sounds helps to compress everything to stream all your contact so bandwidth is not an issue. Most 3D plugins are dedicated somewhere on the disk so the user is not constantly downloading the game. In the future, installing plugins needs to be smoother and the user not to fear of it not existing. New technologies are coming out like Google web store being a native client with in Chrome, and Unity plugin being built in which makes it secure at the native speed in the browser so the user feels more safe about the plug in. Developers are spending a lot of time in implementing 3D into flash and the differentiate themselves from other developers and publishers. Anything that is not crutial in the 3D engine should be taken out and let every program do what it does best. Language commonality is also important as it easily allows developers to quickly pick up the tool and develop with it.
The next lecture was a really fun one to sit in on. It is known as “Hype vs Real Deal”. There were 5 panelist that were given different items that relates to games and voted weather it is a hype or it is staying for the long haul. The first topic was on apps. It is important to be able to be discovered or they won’t be successful and that they will enable broader-interconnectivity. At the moment, 2/3 of apps are deleted 20 days after they are installed. Everyone on the panel that apps are the real deal and will continue to evolve the mobile marketplace. Next on the list is the internet TV (iTV). They are currently 7:1 sales (compare to 3D TVs) and are currently %20 of total TV sales. Most users are connect to the internet and using features such as Netflix. %57 are satisfied with it. Also, users are using their mobile device and TV at the same time. Some believe is hype some believe it is the real deal. It is because many people already updated to a high definition television that they do not see in the near future to purchase a new one however, if the iTV has gaming and other internet applications integrated into it, it can be a big deal. Next was the iPad. Everyone on the panel believe it is the real deal (even the guy from Microsoft!) because what it has done. It is a device that no one knew that they needed till it came out. The iPad also has proven to be a very capable gaming device. How about following an Apple product with Android. The panel agree that the Android OS is the Real Deal however it still needs some work on. One of the major griding points of the OS is how it installs apps on the device. It is not streamlined very well and it is frustrating to the user. Also the marketplace to be more unified and the OS needs to be less fragmented. The Kinect Controller was next in line and boy was it panned by the panel. All but one placed it as Hype. The panel believe this is just a phase and that many users will grow tired of the Kinect type Controllers. The other topics that followed are Facebook Connect, Virtual Economies, Gamefication, Zynga (lol) and Practical Impact. Nearly all of them were considered the real deal. This sort of round table was fun to sit on and listen to industry veterans on their opinions on these major parts of the gaming industry.
The following lecture focus a lot on the business aspects on Smart Phone and tablet gaming. “Smart Phone and Tablet Gaming 2011: A SWOT-analysis of the ‘Smart’ Mobile Gaming Platforms” was presented by Michael Schade of FISHLABS games. The talk gave a lot of the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats for each of the platforms. For Apple they have a large install base, a solid app store, there is some fragmentation and piracy, huge competition, casual games are heavy on freemium, hard core are heavy on premium, and there is heavy pricing pressure, For Google Andriod, they have a large install base, improved app store, heavy fragmentation, heavy piracy, strong competition with low quality, there are the Original Equipment Manufacture app store (in addition to the Google one) and heavy pricing pressure. Symbian has a small install base with an improve app store with little fragmentation but heavy piracy. There is some competition, casual heavy on freemium, hardcore and brands heavy on premium and commited to drive downloadable content. The Window’s Phone 7 has a small install base with a solid app store with little fragmentation and little piracy. There is some some competition with lots of premium content. It is also cross platform compatible (with X-Box). These are some of the properties that developers need to look at when choosing the right operating system to develop their games on.
Right after the SWOT analysis, I went to the “Casual Videos for Casual Games: How Show’n Tell Can Increase Sales” lectured. This was a really fun one to sit in on. It was presented by Julia Lebedeva who is the head of advertising and PR for Nevosoft. The try and buy model helps increase trial download as it effectively demonstrates the company’s product and helps create some loyal fans. At the moment, the traditional way of advertising are through banner ads, video of game play, trailers, DRM wrappers and email marking. The traditional way is not bad but casual marketing can also be considered an effective way of advertising. Casual Videos presents unique content that helps differentiate from the competition. It is new to the player and has a long life cycle. From their study, they saw a 19% increase of visitors interests to new games promoted in the review. Other videos are tied to the holiday like Vampirevill that saw traffic increase 3 times. Association is where you take a gameplay video and add a voice over. Interest in the game without the voice over was at 26% but with the voice over the interest increase to 41%. Even if the player has played the game before, the voice over makes the game seem new to the player. User show and tell videos are very effective. Players trust each other more and saw the conversion rate to be twice as high. This is to keep the fan base and to expand it. Then you have the traditional means like membership, special offers, competition, prizes and the forums for the online community. To really have the player to be connected to the game, they can send video presents where the users message can be customized. Video surveys allow active users to express what they most like about the game and share it with others. These casual videos are not high budget and does not need to be high in production either to increase traffic or conversion rate. The user finds the video funny and that the company cares about them.
The final lecture that I attended that day is “Taking Your Games to the Next Level: Investing in Your IP”. The panel consisted of Sean Elliot from Playrix, Juan Gril from Joju Games, Derric Morton from Flowplay and Georage Donovan from Gogii Games. They talked on how a publisher can help as the business model will constantly change and it is influence by the mechanics of the game. Currently, Social networks will not replace the publisher and that someone needs to round up the customers as social networks currently charge a lot for it (an maybe too much). When investing in your own IP you should have enough money for a lawyer to protect your rights from the publisher other wise do not start a studio as you will be a great risk. Constantly look for new niches as this also includes translating your game into a different language. World of Goo was used as the main example as it won the Independent Games Festival which received a lot of press. They saw what worked well in games and combined them to create a new and more interesting game. You got to start somewhere as something new can either fail or do extraordinarily well. A character of a new IP is worth investing in. Just make sure you know your audience, that they have a need and to see if that need has been filled. That was the last lecture of the first day of the Conference. There was tons on information that I learned and hope to bring into the games that I create.
Later that Night, most of the Game Jam Winners attended the WildTangent after party at the Halo Club. This was much better than the pre-party as there was enough room to move and sit around. There was even a poker table on the second floor. Brian, one of my team mates, and I just observe the other attendees playing. They had loud music and dancing on the first floor. The food there was excellent. It was a variety of Mediterranean and German delicacy. In addition, they had desserts like New York Style Cheesecake and fudge brownies. I ate so much that night. After awhile, and had out fill, we headed back to the hotel and began our preparations for the 2nd day of the conference. Brian and I also began working on our presentation for “The Ultimate Celebration” as we would be presenting on the 3rd day of the conference. We got a basic outline in place and went to bed. Even though just one day has passed, it was filled with so much excitement and I learned so much about the casual games industry.
PS: Due to this being posted late, days 2 and 3 will be posted really late as in after my updates on my experience at the Game Developers Conference 2011 (as that is happening right now!)