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RED Games Keeps Fingers on Pulse of Technology

August 30, 2016 — by Casey Rock

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One of the first things someone might notice when looking up RED Games online or visiting their brick-and-mortar location is the code FF0000. While some may be at a loss to the meaning of this letter-number combination, those in graphic and game design will likely recognize it as hexadecimal for the color red.

RED Games CEO Brian Lovell says the unique branding is indicative of the company’s work and has been a great talking point for clients. “It suggests we do things a little different and we tend to think outside the box. It subtly connects the name RED to the work we’re doing with design and technology. New clients will ask us what it means, so it’s been a nice icebreaker. Most of the time (people) get a kick out of it once we tell them – they get to be part of the cool kids club.”

Evolution

RED Games definitely has a different way of doing things. RED Interactive Agency, the company RED Games is under, opened its doors in Los Angeles in 1999 with a different approach to the business world. Rather than honing in on a specific niche or product, RED began with the idea of simply doing cool work with interesting clients.

“We knew that the actual type of work we were doing would evolve over time with the constant changing needs of clients, new technologies, consumer demands etc.,” Brian says, “so our vision has always been to evolve with these changes but to never forget what drives us on a day to day basis, which is to do great work with awesome people.”

RED Games office
A day at the office of RED Games.

RED started out building websites and applications mostly for clients in the entertainment industry. Since then, they have expanded into Boulder, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah, mainly to tap into new talent pools outside of the LA market – something Brian says has been a driving factor in RED’s success.

Another driving factor for success, Brian says, is the way RED is organized. The company works across eight practice areas and works with brands and organizations across their entire customer journey to provide a consistent brand experience. Each department within RED has a very specific focus, which allows RED to bring a deep level of understanding and expertise to their work.

Today, along with some of its original entertainment clients, RED works with major brands such as Nike, ESPN, Netflix, Microsoft, Lego and more. Meanwhile, RED Games, which started out in Salt Lake City creating web games and game-like experiences, has become completely devoted to casual mobile games.

The CULTURE OF RED Games

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Pet Peaves: RED Games first title.

RED Games launched its first self-published mobile game title, Pet Peaves, in 2013 with a team of roughly seven people. The game did over one million downloads organically with no marketing. This was followed immediately by Battle of the Beards in partnership with A&E. Now, RED Games has a team of over 20 and is working on multiple projects with companies like Nickelodeon and Hasbro.

The company’s culture has more of a startup vibe, with the benefit of being part of something larger – affectionately termed “Big Red.” RED Games keeps their hierarchy very flat – with RED Games Executive Creative Director Jared Kroff noting that it’s much easier to put together teams and complete projects when there is no jockeying for position.

“We run small agile teams that ship multiple titles a year,” Jared says. “We rely on each team member to actively contribute to all aspects of the project from concept to launch. We thrive on collaboration, fast iteration, and a passion for striking visuals.”

Jared admits the flat hierarchy can be initially disorienting for someone coming from a more structured environment, but the company believes it provides the best opportunity for people to realize their full potential – regardless of their role.

GAME Development

At any given time, RED Games is working on two or three mobile game titles. While the company is currently excited about and focused on the mobile space, Jared notes they develop their games in Unity and many employees come from a console background, which leaves the door open to expand to other platforms – including VR.

A typical game cycle – from concept to launch – takes roughly six to eight months. Brainstorming is something everyone really enjoys, but they will quickly dive into art and code for rapid prototyping as part of the conception process. Jared says that once a team captures an idea for a game the vision becomes self-perpetuating and at that point the game is happening.

RED Games Frontier Heroes
The game Frontier Heroes, which RED Games partnered with Planet H on.

“It doesn’t matter if everyone has a slightly different version of the game in their head,” Jared notes. “It is the collective excitement that makes things start happening. One of the skills we cultivate as a studio is the ability for this to happen predictably.”

All development is done in-house – even back-end server development, which RED Games works with “Big Red” in Los Angeles on.

Currently, many of RED Games titles have been kids-oriented 2D illustrated games with traditional animation. However, they are currently working on 3D titles and games targeting women 45+ with “equal passion.” While the company is very enthusiastic about making their own titles, Jared says they are equally enthused about working on partnered titles because they choose the clients that allow them to do their best work.

Monetization & Discoverability

One of the biggest decisions in game development often deals with monetization. RED Games isn’t picky when it comes to the different monetization methods out there. Jared says premium games are “refreshing” but notes that when it comes to partnered games, titles are always free-to-play with in-app purchases. “We believe that in order to be successful on mobile you need to be able to set aside any disposition you might have towards a business model and dedicate your time to finding a fun game that has real value to the player.”

We believe that in order to be successful on mobile you need to be able to set aside any disposition you might have towards a business model and dedicate your time to finding a fun game that has real value to the player. – Jared Kroff, RED Games

When it comes to app discoverability, Jared notes that it’s a big challenge. The company has been lucky to have their games featured by Apple on launch day – and they always make sure to merit the feature. They also partner with brands they believe can drive downloads and have a big impact on user acquisition.

The company has also invested in an internal team focused on marketing and user acquisition and will often help create marketing plans and provide promotional materials for clients on partnered games.

Moving Forward

While every game the company built has been featured in the App Store, the company takes the most pride in the relationships they’ve cultivated with their partners and team members. RED President Donny Makower says each project is a step forward and the company is currently working on its biggest and most exciting titles ever, anticipating that 2017 will be a “breakout year.”

A big part of RED’s culture is to keep our fingers on the pulse of technology. – Donny Makower, RED Games

Brian agrees with that sentiment, saying that the company has big projects and game titles on the docket for 2017. Additionally, Brian says, the company will continue to build long-term partnerships and co-production deals, invest in marketing and user acquisition capabilities, and even create and expand RED Games’ own intellectual property.

Looking forward, Donny says there is a lot unexplored potential in new frontiers and RED Games is constantly working to stay on top of the latest ideas. “If you walk through any of our offices you’re likely to bump into a 3D printer or a defenseless dev wearing an Oculus. We have a passion for toys and are working with partners on some exciting physical-to-digital initiatives. A big part of RED’s culture is to keep our fingers on the pulse of technology.”

Asia 2016Video Coverage

Nimit Panpalia on Monetization Strategy | Casual Connect Video

August 30, 2016 — by Catherine Quinton

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Be local. Understand where your players are coming from and use the right ad network. - Nimit PanpaliaClick To Tweet

Nimit Panpalia, Global Head of Developer Acquisitions at POKKT, says, “I believe gaming will be the biggest growth industry in Southeast Asia and India, and I want to make a difference during the growth phase of gaming.” Nimit’s work focuses on interacting with game developers to show them how the POKKT SDK would be an asset in their monetization strategy. They discussed POKKT’s vision of the latter in a panel at Casual Connect Asia 2016 along with colleagues from Appodeal, VMAX, Vungle and AdColony, as well as shared more details of their personal views with Gamesauce: Nimit knows devs avoid ad networks and as a result, wants to become a part of their business.


Asia 2016Video Coverage

Niel Dagondon: Leading Philippine Development | Casual Connect Video

August 29, 2016 — by David Radd

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'Metrics aside, reading positive reviews from people you don’t know is still a treat.' - Niel DagondonClick To Tweet

The growth of the Southeast Asian mobile game market has been touted for many years, but the revenue base has been small compared to more established markets. Could 2016 be the year of the fastest-growing region in games? At Casual Connect Asia, this panel of experienced game publishers in Southeast Asia will discuss strategies for growth and revenue in the region. Niel Dagondon, general manager for the Philippine-based Anino Games, suggests: “If you optimize the payment enough and if you have the right product, and if the game is social enough especially in countries of the Philippines and Thailand where people are social media addicts, it gets to the point where it starts to be profitable for us.”


Game DevelopmentPostmortem

3 Nights In Chicago: Wherever the Project Goes

August 28, 2016 — by CS Wallace of MarcoPolo Learning

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As designers, we often sit down to work on a new game with a (so we think) clear idea of what we want the end product to be, or at least a set of core design goals we’d like to reach. Over the course of creating our masters thesis, my team and I learned to let go of our ideas and let our game organically become what it wanted to be, rather than trying to force it to be something it couldn’t.


USA 2016Video Coverage

Shanti Bergel on Strategic Opportunities | Casual Connect Video

August 27, 2016 — by Catherine Quinton

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Shanti Bergel
Shanti Bergel is Senior Vice President of Business and Corporate Development at GREE.

Where are the opportunities in today’s games space? Shanti Bergel was one of a panel addressing this essential question at Casual Connect USA, where they considered possibilities in such varied areas as mature mobile and desktop markets, investment from Asia, opportunities in VR and AR, and other more unusual possibilities at the leading edge of the game industry. In addition, the panel described how deal structures for licensing, fundraising and acquisition have also been evolving over the last several years.

Shanti, as Senior Vice President of Business and Corporate Development at GREE, leads investment, acquisitions and strategic partnerships. Widely recognized for expertise in freemium monetization and digital distribution, Shanti has more than twenty years of experience in the game industry, including overseeing publishing, international and corporate development at Playfish prior to coming to GREE.

To learn more of these opportunities and how to take advantage of them, be sure to watch the video of Shanti and the panel in this session: Strategic Opportunities in the Game Industry.

For an exclusive article about Shanti Bergel, click here.

Exclusive InterviewsIndie

Jammin’ on Bolt Riley with Creator Oded Sharon

August 26, 2016 — by David Radd

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Five years in the making, Bolt Riley: A Reggae Adventure Game was recently released. Set in Jamaica in the 1970s, it tells the story of the titular main character who wants to become a reggae star. Bolt Riley is a point-and-click adventure game set in the Caribbean with a soundtrack tinged with local flavor, which despite the different subject matter and time period, is evocative of the seminal Monkey Island series. Creator Oded Sharon is open in saying that Monkey Island is an inspiration for the Bolt Riley game.

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“Yes, I’m a huge fan of both Monkey Island and its creator Ron Gilbert. In fact, Monkey Island is the game that inspired me the most when becoming a game developer,” said Oded. “I was actually one of the first people online to do a crowdfunding campaign, a joke website called ‘Buy a car for Ron Gilbert’ which raised money to buy Ron Gilbert a car.  We ended up raising enough money to actually buy Ron a toy car which I gave to him at GDC 2008.”

BusinessExclusive InterviewsPR & Marketing

Wally Nguyen: Why Downloads Are Dead

August 25, 2016 — by David Radd

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Wally Nguyen, CEO of mNectar, helped found the company about three and a half years ago. Inspiration hit while on iTunes, they were able to listen to a song for 30 seconds before buying it or the album. Wally had a “light-bulb moment” that if you could do that with a song, then why not with a game.

“My co-founder comes from a technical background and there were ads that let you manipulate an image back then, and I asked if they had that, why can’t you play a game?” Wally said. “Back then we raised a little bit of a money with developers like with Kabam being our first customers. With playable ads, 99 percent of our customers are game developers or publishers, giving people a sample of their games.”

Asia 2016Game DevelopmentVideo Coverage

IMBA Interactive: Sounding Off in Singapore | Casual Connect Video

August 24, 2016 — by David Radd

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Sensitivity, empathy and grace should be (equal to) assertiveness and confidence. - Gwen GuoClick To Tweet

When it comes to working with sound designers/composers, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of having an effective audio pipeline; it depends on which practices suit your company’s working style or culture the most to bring out the best in your game. In their Casual Connect Asia 2016 lecture, IMBA Interactive’s co-founders Gwen Guo and Sharon Kho shared various project postmortems from small, bite-sized casual games to AAA titles, and discussed how you can find the best audio pipeline for your team. They mentioned: “(Sound designers) ask a lot of questions. Besides technical requirements, we ask to understand the soul of the games.”

Game DevelopmentPostmortem

Gamester: A Game About You and Friends. Yes, You!

August 23, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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Giant Fox Studios started about 5 years ago, and the team was initially working on Flash games. Since then they developed close to 200 games. At Casual Connect USA 2016 they presented Gamester – an opportunity to be in your own game: just take a pic, select the genre, environment and enemies. You can even use your own storyline and add voiceovers! CEO Jaime Fraina tells more.


Asia 2016Video Coverage

Martin Ha: A Friend Developers Can Trust | Casual Connect Video

August 23, 2016 — by Catherine Quinton

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Never run anything alone. - Martin HaClick To Tweet

Martin Ha is Business Director of SohaGame, the top mobile game publisher in Vietnam, with 28% of the market in 2014 and 2015. Martin became Business Director after five years of working with SohaGame’s parent company, VC Corp, beginning as a creative internet product executive while still at university. Now, after three years working in this creative field and branding with SohaGame, Martin is completely satisfied to be working with the internet business, describing it as “a young and dynamic environment that is always full of innovative ideas.” Join Martin Ha and other industry professionals in this panel from Casual Connect Asia.


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