Who need lunch, as we take you into the afternoon.
Getting Above the Noise
With more than 500,000 games and applications on Android, iPhone and other devices, players and developers both need a way to find each other. You’ll meet three companies; GREE, Flurry, and Tapjoy, who are creating global networks and tools for games that entice and entertain, as well as make money through advertising, promotion and virtual currency.
David McCarthy of GREE, Richard Firminger of Flurry and Paul Bowen of Tapjoy take the stage for a discussion about how to get users to see your games amongst all the others on app stores, chaired by Matt Rothman of Hemisphere Capital.
It’s the enormous number of apps that makes this such a challenge, with about a million on iOS and Android. Indeed, in-app advertising has become a billion-dollar industry.
Richard (@rfirminger) introduces himself by talking about how big the smart device market is, with a slide showing 529 million active smart phone in April of 2012. 2 billion people in the world will be in a position to afford such a device. Premium in-app purchases on freemium games make the majority of income for developers, with advertising taking an 18% slice. This is expected to grow to around a quarter. Apps vs. Games, users are leaning heavily towards games on smart devices.
Paul (@pgbowen) of Tapjoy: They were formed in 2010 and is about creating a platform to deliver ads to users through developers’ apps. Draw Something was an example given.
David from GREE started life in 2004 as a social network in Japan, but moved into games as well. Three key approaches are outlined: First, they make their own games. Next, they have their own advertising business, hosting other developers’ games. Lastly, it’s about creating greater longevity for the games.
Paul talks about engagement being key to making advertising work, offering users ways to spend time instead of money to advance in a game. The importance of the “long tail” for a game is brought up, highlighting the strengths of the freemium model. It allows developers to reduce the barrier to entry for users; “Free” is more likely to be tried. How do you get people to see and consider the game though? Getting featured in stores is important, but it can be equally important for the device makers can be an important promotion tool as well; if they use your game to show off what their device can do, so much the better.
Paul points out that referral codes are very effective at creating a viral effect for games. It’s then asked if all three speakers have any more general tips and tricks for pairing games with the right person. Essentially the Amazon model of, “If you like this, you’ll like that”.
David talks about measuring metrics to see what’s going on with consumers. Games successful in Japan, for example, have to be localised for other territories in a deeper sense than text translation. Engagement is all about getting the design right. Today, spending is very different to simply buying a game and playing it, with consumers now buying time-saving and cosmetic items in freemium games, for example, although DLC also comes to mind.
Richard is asked for a more global perspective; is their a significant difference between Asian, American and European markets? There’s clear growth within certain countries, China for example, of smart device users. Developers can get seen by being similar to other games, but that can backfire to create disinterest in the mind of the consumer; “I already have that”.
Paul points out clearer differences between art styles in the regions mentioned. Romance games are a big genre in Japan just now, says David.
Audience question: “Any example of something globally popular?” Rage of Bahamut is given as an example. Capcom’s strategy is pointed out as generally working quite well. Although pitfalls are to test markets where success is more likely; Gameloft are the example, where they do well in France, but not necessarily elsewhere.
It’s pointed out that older players are more likely to pay to save time; “younger players are prepared to play, older players are prepared to pay”.
With smartphones, games almost have to create a good core loop in the first 30 seconds. Sustained engagement has to be achieved by being more analytical and scientific about what your users are up to.
By Michael Black (@firm3d)
Augmented Reality: Is it enough to get excited about?
The first thing to come to mind when hearing augmented reality (AR) is probably artificial reality, complete worlds created by computers and popularised by 80’s sci-fi movies. AR whilst similar in that it still uses computers to overlay objects that aren’t really there, instead is designed to enhance an experience rather than create a completely new one.
Discussing this topic are four different players in the AR space. The first is James Shepherd, head of business development at Blippar – a London based company focusing on using AR for advertising. Blippar is an app for ios/android which takes physical objects such as: press ads, outdoor ads and product packaging and provides additional information when viewed through a smart phone.
Although they don’t describe it as AR in a pure sense, but rather image recognition creating a content bridge e.g. pointing the user to a related video, the examples are still impressive. Amongst these is an advert for Maybelline’s Colorshow Nail Polish where the user can create a virtual set of nails over their own in order to see each of the polish colours in action.
Next up to speak is Zappar’s Caspar Thykier, whose focus is more on how to implement AR in a meaningful way. He praises the technology but thinks that often the implementation is a little clumsy. Users can find it awkward holding up their tablet or mobile phone in the street and there’s an initial learning curve.
Their most recognisable product is Moonpig’s new line of greetings cards where the sender can record a video to accompany the photo on the card. The receiver holds their camera to the card and the video then plays. They also have a line of T-Shirts available at ASDA & Primark which allow you to play games featuring the wearer or create a memorable picture such as adding a spiderman mask to your friend who’s wearing a web slinger shirt.
Although our third speaker, Remco Vroom (@remcovrOOm), Co-founder and CEO of TAB Worldmedia is let down by the projector he’s come prepared and uses his own laptop instead. TAB are a creative agency which utilise AR and in a brief video he shows us how even large corporations can implement AR. TAB worked with the Efteling fairytale theme park, in the Netherlands, and a leading bank to come up with a story for the Magic Vault (a special ATM machine).
The vault was situated at the entrance of the theme park in a place where customers are either waiting to enter or perhaps for their family to regroup so they can leave. Either way there needed to be something to engage them so TAB created a simple game where children learned the story of the magic vault and clicked to collect fairies. Each fairy represented some money and in this way it taught the children about responsible saving.
The final expert is Julian Harris, Senior Manager of Business Development at Qualcomm and he’s keen to stress how much the technology has matured. Through Vuforia – a vision augmented reality based source development kit, developers have created games (both video and children’s playsets), adverts and scientific content. Their most public endeavour was on James May’s Science Stories, an interactive teaching tool primarily based around London’s Science Centre Museum but also accessible at home.
It’s clear that the possibilities of AR are intriguing but the panel do indentify some areas of concern: market penetration of smart phones in the UK is still only around 50% and consumers need to feel that the content offered is exclusive in order to drive their interest. Going forward consumer feedback suggests that the public don’t want separate apps but for the technology to be built in to the phone’s functionality. This is certainly feasible with the way technology is progressing as long as batteries can keep up.
By Joel Spencer
How New Technologies will Reinvent the Consumer Gaming Experience
Chris Allen (@mrchrisallen) has had a strange path to games development. Believe it or not he was a beer salesman back in America. He’s now CEO of Brass Monkey and his talk surrounds the evolution of gaming technology and how this will impact on the future of the medium.
As he takes us through a whistle stop tour of gaming’s various influences and impacts he touches on the Turk (the first chess machine, though actually just a compartment hiding a player of diminutive stature), how the flipper created the modern pinball machine, the earliest video games: Space War and Tennis and finally alights on the Atari PONG consoles.
In previous home consoles the control stick was built into the cabinet, Atari’s design broke the mould in that it gave each player a controller. Although the breakaway controller on the Xbox and the wireless gamecube controller were important these steps were evolutionary not revolutionary.
Chris maintains that Nintendo’s Wii heralded the next major innovation: motion based input. Microsoft Kinnect then took the next step and whilst its performance has been questioned there’s no denying that it appeals and brings in a different demographic to gaming.
This is where Brass monkey comes in, identifying a burgeoning market of internet enabled Smart TV’s, they’ve developed a platform which allows players to use their smart phones as controllers and play a vast range of games without purchasing any additional expensive hardware.
In addition multiple players can play on the same TV either in a traditional competitive/co-operative format or asymmetrically (think New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Wii-U or the Mario Party series). Chris demonstrated this potential with the game Road Warrior where one person steers a car and the others ride shotgun to fend off assailants.
Players pay for games via coins (reminding us of another key gaming innovation, the coin slot arcade) and can either spend a small amount of coins to play a game for a while or buy the game outright. Nothing needs to be installed (except for games developed using the Unity engine) and all traffic is handled over wi-fi which eliminates the problems of delays associated with mobile broadband.
During a demonstration there was one noticeable draw back on display, as players connected to the wifi network they could also control the game. This ended up with users accidentally quitting the game or otherwise disrupting the experience. Although this points to a disruption, very reminiscent of track selection on the Nintendo 64 version of Mario Kart, it’s doubtful that this is a problem commonly encountered and this instance was probably caused by the demonstration setup.
In response to a question about how Chris views Onlive and Gaikai (spelling?) he expresses reservations about the sustainability of their business models. As well as the costs of running servers these services are more or less targeting an existing userbase. The games they offer are available on many other platforms; Brass Monkey offers a new market and their ideas about multi screen gaming have already been emulated by the Wii-U with Microsoft and Sony not far behind.
To make the platform stand out further there are free source development kits for prospective programmers and Brass Monkey offer slot-in advertising which removes some of the challenge of monetizing apps. Of course there is a revenue split with Brass Monkey but the rate is competitive.
Chris finishes by mentioning a kick starter project he’s involved with. Again based on the idea of removing costly or space intensive components of gaming it’s a tabletop game which you can play using your phone. It’s unclear whether the target audience will embrace appreciate such a substantial shake-up but if Brass Monkey can get in early with TV manufacturers then there’s a good chance that their service will become a household name.
By Joel Spencer
Crowdfunding Zombies Run!: What we Learned and Why it Matters
Matt Weiteska @gamecat (Six to Start) bounced onto stage in that threatening, where is lunch, session to talk about zombies, with many attendees potentially licking their lips.
Zombies Run is an interactive immersive running game. Using audio the game creates a zombie world and while you are out running you collect necessary items and so there is a health aspect linked to the healthy running activity. With options to review where you ran each day and which story missions you completed.
Using KickStarter for the crowdfunding Matt explained the rewards that were available. From the $1 thanks and then getting far greater engagement with $10 when you get the game first, making the user feel special. At higher levels the prizes were greater, including becoming one of the runners to use, receiving personalised items and branding.
Why was it so successful. Apart from it being a good idea it was a simple idea. One that could be explained easily and people would understand well. People could see it as a new way to engage in exercise and the community interaction quickly became high.
So the three things you must know about crowdfunding, according to Matt are:
Trust: Double Fine and Tim Schaffer are well trusted in the community so they got a good response.
Built in Market Testing: You get a good idea of whether you are engaging with your market and
Backers are Investors: Even though they don’t get any investment return it is essential to ensure that you keep them updated.
So if people do not back a project it is a low cost loss allowing you to fail early and cheaply. It also is good for the investors, as if the project isn’t funded they get their money back and they choose the level of risk they are taking, deciding on their own economic situation.
It allows niches to be met, where larger companies may not see that a brand will succeed something like Mobile Frame Zero will do and, finally, it empowers the consumers and creators.
With KickStarter beginning in the UK soon the opportunities are vast, so its possible to consider the opportunities that crowdfunding gives and turning your audience into advocates.
By Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris)
Session 6 here