2016 proved to be a fruitful year for Vungle, with the company reaching new milestones this last year. They are now the trusted ad platform for more than 25,000 mobile apps and serve two billion video views monthly on over 560 million devices across the globe. The company was consistently ranked No. 1 for cross-platform user retention – surpassing even Facebook and Google with gaming apps on iOS and Android in an AppsFlyer Performance Index Report.
How did these accomplishments come about? Here is a quick look at some of the key takeaways from Vungle’s successes.
Netflix for movies, Spotify for music, but nothing like that for games… so Rovio, who many just know as creators of Angry Birds, have corrected it by coming up with Hatch: a free-to-play mobile game streaming service that will first come to the Android platform. Instead of downloading a game on your phone, you stream it through an app, whose backend cloud infrastructure makes it possible to play without lag. What is more, you can hand the controls to a friend, therefore turning a single-player game into a multiplayer experience. Hatch founder and CEO Juhani Honkala told Gamesauce more about Hatch-ing the new project.
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.”
Based in Sweden, Tobii Technology is a global leader in eye tracking. The company develops innovative eye-tracking products and solutions for analysis and research purposes, assistive technology uses, and consumer applications (including computers, gaming, and vehicles). Oscar Werner, Tobii’s president of OEM Solutions, talks about how to use eye-tracking in games.
Many may take eyesight for granted – how often do you think about all that you look at in a day or realize how much your eyes convey or communicate to others? Tobii founders John Elvesjo, Marten Skogo, and Henrik Eskilsson realized the untapped potential of the sense, and harnessing the power of the human eyes quickly became the trio’s goal, mission, and passion. Now, nearly 12 years later, Tobii is known as a world leader in eye tracking, and has continued to discover more and new opportunities for integrating eye-tracking capabilities, specifically in the OEM space.
We realized early on that gaming would be one of the first consumer-facing markets for eye tracking. Given that the industry thrives on solutions that make the gaming experience more immersive, it seemed ideal to integrate the intuitive and natural capabilities of eye tracking. We quickly understood as we embarked on the path to consumer products that it would be best to work with developing and manufacturing partners. As such, we’ve taken two routes to get eye trackers into the hands of consumers – developers and consumer brands.
Bringing Games to Life
We believe that combining our technology with the creativity and ingenuity of developers will result in the best applications and programs for consumers.
We believe that combining our technology with the creativity and ingenuity of developers will result in the best applications and programs for consumers. In order to make this happen, we’ve made it a goal to provide a dev kit that offers the most comprehensive eye-tracking capabilities and support. Our most recent dev kit, the Tobii EyeX Engine, was the result, containing everything developers may need to build gaze-enabled games and applications.
Take a moment to think about your favorite games – and how you play the games. Now think about being able to control some of the most popular functions with your eyes or even being able to create completely new functions with your eyes. These possibilities are becoming a reality.
Here are some of the ways eye tracking can be integrated into games:
Natural Interaction – Characters’ behavior is influenced by eye contact just as in real life. A shy person might look away. Or someone might become upset if you stare at him too long.
Revealing Intentions – In FIFA, you could select the player to whom you want to pass the ball with your gaze so you can continue to operate the selected player with your controls. However, your gaze may also reveal your intentions to your competitors – just as in real life.
Aiming at Gaze Point – Aim your flashlight or weapon where you look. Then use the regular controls to shoot.
Moving as in Real Life – You move around in a more natural way. Lean forward to look around corners, or pull back to hide. Your gaze reveals your intent, and the opponent may ambush you or change its path.
More ways to use eye tracking can be found in this video:
The possibility to have an even more immersive experience exists. To help make the possibilities known, Tobii has recently initiated a call for indie game developers to be part of the feature title package that launches with the first mass-market consumer gaming peripheral that is being developed with SteelSeries. This put the power in the hands of a wide variety of developers, from developers of Role-Playing Games to Sports games and everyone in between that wants to bring their games to life. Through this initiative, developers are provided with dedicated resources, hardware, software, support, and promotion for the selected titles.
We are so excited to be a part of such a catalyst in the gaming evolution, and to see developers coming up with creative ways to use eye tracking. For example, stillalive studios is developing an action-adventure game called Son of Nor. They are using Tobii’s eye tracking capabilities to give the player terraforming and telekineses powers. Here is an example of what they envision for their game:
We met with so many other great individuals and groups who have tremendous potential to create unique and groundbreaking games while attending GDC 2014. We look forward to working with more and more developers – to enable and support them and help turn concepts into realities.
Eyes on, Game on
With such great ideas and games being created, the only thing left is to get it to the hands of the players. That requires working with manufacturers and brand owners in the computer and gaming area to bring new consumer devices with eye tracking to the consumer market.
From what we’ve experienced in demos and beta testing –there will be a tremendously positive response in the consumer market. However, bringing anything new to market undoubtedly faces challenges, especially when it comes to moving from the early tech enthusiasts to the masses.
One of the biggest challenges is convincing the mass consumer audience that this technology is truly as remarkable as promised. People are often happy as is but need to realize and understand that it’s worth changing the way you are used to doing things for something that is more natural, intuitive, and efficient. This is especially true when the concept of eye tracking is something that can only be fully understood when people try it themselves in person.
Earlier this year, Tobii announced its partnership with SteelSeries, a leading manufacturer of top-quality gaming gear, to launch the world’s first mass-market consumer eye-tracking device for gamers later this year.
We see this as a huge leap in the gaming industry. As with any new, big opportunity, this partnership and path to creating the first consumer peripheral will come with unknowns, but we are extremely excited about tackling this uncharted territory and providing gamers with a completely new way to experience their games.
But what’s next in the short term for eye tracking? Two words: consumer devices. As Tobii continues to work with developers and manufacturers, it is very likely that in the not so distant future, eye tracking will be available on phones, tablets, apps, wearables, etc. And we can’t wait for everyone to have the chance to experience the incredible power of eye tracking.
Today, Tobii has started to ship their EyeX Controller to developers who had pre-ordered the kit. To learn more or to get involved in the initiative, developers can simply complete the online form at www.tobii.com/gaming. For more info on Tobii, check out their website, or their videos on YouTube.
Hélène Poirier is the project coordinator at Red Stallion Interactive. She discusses localization in the MENA region and the RSI gaming platform in this article.
If the Americans have historically been at the forefront of video game development, logically providing games in English, they rapidly understood that the support of local languages was essential to perform in the global economy. Games were translated while game cafés (gaming-dedicated stores), and online gaming platforms emerged all over the world, serving gamers in different cultures and languages.
It would be unimaginable for a French or a German gamer not to find their favorite game in their local language! Yet, if this is true for gamers at large in the Western world, and to some extent in the Eastern European and Asian markets, gamers in other parts of the world have been largely forgotten, notably the Middle East and the Arab-speaking world. And with a lack of localized games also came the lack of a culturally and linguistically anchored gamers’ platform supporting the Arabic language, facilitating community exchange, and teaming in the local and regional fields, providing support for local payment methods and local currencies.
Red Stallion Interactive was specifically created to do this for the MENA region [Middle East & North Africa]. Having recently launched in the Gulf (GCC) region, but available and operational from all MENA countries, the gamers’ dedicated platform is fully Arabic-English enabled, throughout game descriptions and other information, gamers’ profiles, groups, communities, chats, forums, etc., payment methods, and all else. Furthermore, it is Red Stallion Interactive’s intention to increase the availability of Arab-translated and fully localized games on its platform.
RSI Gaming launched in January and has already signed among its large portfolio the first game produced in Saudi Arabia by Semaphore, and derived from the Arabic Golden Age history – Unearthed: The Trail of IbnBattuta, Gold Edition, which will soon be launched on RSI platform, both in Arabic and English versions, for PC and Android. Also, as we are launching the international version of Blacklight: Retribution from Zombie Studios, we are cooperating with them to bring to market an Arabized version. Beyond these two flagship products, we are excited to announce that we’ve entered into a publishing deal with Imperia Online for the fully localized version of their most exciting medieval RTS game that goes by the same name, Imperia Online.
We met with Imperia Online and were so thrilled by the full localization work they’ve done!
We met with Imperia Online at DWGE, and were so thrilled by the full localization work they’ve done! Such a great fully localized game: themes, textures, settings, references, language, of course, EVERYTHING! So we decided to sign a publishing deal with them, as well as to really get the opportunity to better understand their approach to localization, a virtually zero-fault exercise!
Here is an interview we had with Cvetan Rusimov, Imperia Online Chief Operating Officer.
Imperia Online (IO) has been a very successful F2P RTS game for some years, particularly in Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as Western Europe and Latin America. Why did you decide to localize the game for an Arabic audience?
Imperia Online is already translated in 26 languages and popular in over 100 countries. MENA has become the strategic region, where MMO games are developing real fast. So we decided it was the right time for us to go there! Several companies were interested in partnerships, and here we are, with a fully localized version for an Arabic audience, which will soon be available on the RSI platform!
Was the Arabic version your first localization experience?
No! The Arabic challenge immediately followed the release of the Russian localization, which was a huge success! We had clearly made the right moves for our game!
Our Creative Director first conducted significant research, taking into account cultural differences and feedback directly provided by our Arabic community, which we solicited.
Could you describe the approach you took to localize the game for an Arabic audience?
Our Creative Director first conducted significant research, taking into account cultural differences and feedback directly provided by our Arabic community, which we solicited. This led us to conclude that we needed to transpose our addictive game-play and inspiring story line to the MENA region specific settings and beauty.
You have been working not only on an Arabic translation, but also on localizing all textures, so that the game’s look and feel is really Arabic, including all the tools, weapons, buildings, etc..How did you achieve this?
Everything has been achieved in-house, through great teamwork. The research was initially conducted by the Creative Director, in cooperation with a team of developers, artists, QAs, who were all fully dedicated to the concept of Imperia Online Arabic Version. Clearly, our co-founders, with their many years of experience in online web gaming, also provided their experience and their guidance.
What were the most difficult aspects of the localization process?
There are many things that need to be considered before even starting the localization of an MMO game for the Arabic market. Of course, there are the buildings, the faces, the clothes, but the history really has to be researched… But, when you’re working in a nice environment, with a dedicated team, anything becomes possible! 🙂
What has been the reaction of Arabic gamers? How did they receive the Arabic version?
Reality turned out to be beyond our expectations. We took part in Dubai World Game Expo, and the “welcome” and “congratulations” were more than in our wildest dreams… We really loved what we experienced there, players really appreciating what we accomplished with the Arabic version of Imperia Online.
We don’t think that English is an advantage anymore. Of course, we still have players from countries, where their language is not yet supported, and they manage and enjoy participating in our medieval world. And I’m sure they appreciate the many efforts we’ve made to get players to feel at home by creating fully localized versions!
Do you have other localization plans? Where?
Yes, we do. We’ve already gone live for the Arabic and Russian markets, enjoying the success, and are now getting ready for a fully localized version of Imperia Online for our Turkish players! We like challenges, that’s how it goes…
The fact that Imperia Online is a “Civilization” type game makes the localization more important, in that it enables people to relate to their own history and culture. However, do you think that other types of games should also be localized? So far, only a handful of games have been localized in Arabic: what’s your view on this?
There are many good games with a similar gameplay to ours on the market. All the decisions we made in regards to localization were based on our gamers’ vision, on internal discussions and on a vision, which we wanted o bring to the world. Game companies should know what is best for them, and how they chose to apprehend the localization aspects.
Imperia Online and Red Stallion Interactive are still working on bringing the game to the RSI gaming platform, where it will benefit from the various localized community services, payment solutions, and other Arabized games, as the site develops.
At RSI, we are SOOOO THRILLED to bring Imperia Online to the market! The localization is so amazing, and is a reference that we will definitely meter against for all our future (and many) localization projects!
“We saw a huge shift in advertising away from TV over to online 30-second video ads in the second half of last year. Games are the perfect vehicle for these ads. In TV, there are usually 12 to 18 minutes of advertising per hour that both viewers and advertisers are used to and we’re achieving great success with this type of advertising in games,” Goossens explained.
The service offers a number of features, including access to Spil Games’ 180 million MAU, with access to millions more through their publishing partners, a cross-platform monetization via Spil Games’ global advertising platform, analytics to monitor and track game performance to better place ads, a portal where developers can track their earnings, and an easy to use API to trigger ads at optimal times.
“We designed the Spil Games Platform to appeal to indie developers wanting an alternative, and lucrative, way to make money and find huge and engaged audiences,” Goossens continued. “It takes the strengths we’ve built up over the years – from deep insights into our audience of 180 million MAUs, to state-of-the-art advertising technology – and combines that with a business model that makes indie developers thrive. We think this will be a highly profitable new revenue source for developers.”
A number of developers who participated in the platform’s pilot program are pleased with the results. Hunter Hamster Studio founder Andrey Kovalishin said, “Through the Spil Games Platform, we got a great additional revenue stream that allowed us much more freedom to be creative, experimental, and polish new titles. This ongoing additional revenue is something that really helps indie developers to hold on to their IP and work on new games with an element of financial security.”
Hunter Hamster’s Snail Bob game has had more than 600 million gameplays and was selected to participate in the pilot program. A number of participants expressed that the advertising platform is a great alternative to struggling with the high costs involved with self-publishing on various app stores. “We were able to make 20,000 EUR monthly revenue for the Snail Bob franchise,” Goossens declared enthusiastically.
“Being cross-platform is key today,” Goossens said. “People are playing on their computer, their phone, and their tablets. For this reason, we are really promoting developers to work in HTML5…. the program is open to anyone who develops in Flash, Unity, or native browser games, but HTML5 provides a better cross-platform experience and that is the direction where the platform will grow.”
Since Applifier launched Everyplay Replay in December of 2012, it has shown remarkable growth. There are now over 4 million registered Everyplay users and 1.5 million shared replays. Why has it become so successful? Jussi Laakkonen, CEO and founder of Applifier, says, “Players are really into sharing game replays, and everyone loves discovering new games their friends are playing. We’ve now proven our Everyplay model with concrete results showing replay sharing drives mobile game installs at scale.”
Jani Kahrama, CEO of Secret Exit, makers of Stair Dismount, confirms the advantages of Everyplay, saying, “Replay sharing is a perfect fit for Stair Dismount, and it has driven 7.5 percent of all daily installs of StairDismount in the last five months. That’s a lot.”
Since mobile indie games now show up to 7.5 of their daily installs originating through Everyplay Replay, and with user acquisition costs rapidly increasing, this free acquisition source is becoming a significant part of indie game developers’ strategy. Replay has the advantage of boosting word of mouth as players share their replays with other potential users. As a result, game developers are rapidly adopting the Everyplay Replay network, with over 230 mobile games now live with the service.
Indie developers are not the only ones noticing the advantages of Everyplay. Large publishers are also becoming a part of the network. The variety of publishers in the network includes such names as Nimblebit, Secret Exit, SkyVu, Limbic, Fingersoft, Rovio, Dreamworks, Chillingo, Ubisoft and Grand Cru. A complete listing of games live on Everyplay Replay can be found at https://everyplay.com/games.
Players are discovering the advantages of Replay just as quickly as developers. Over four million users are registered with Everyplay, and they have shared more than 1.5 million replays with friends and players. With hundreds of thousands of views for the most popular replays, the network is obviously driving both discovery and engagement for the participating games.
Applifier provides a comprehensive suite of tools, including Everyplay Replay and Everyplay GameAds, to enable developers to more effectively acquire and monetize users. Applifier is the largest cross- promotion network of independent social application developers on Facebook, reaching over 150 million monthly active users. Applifier has offices in Helsinki, Finland and San Francisco. More information about Applifier is available at http://www.applifier.com.
Unity Technologies has branched out to touch many parts of the world. Headquartered in San Francisco, it also maintains offices in Canada, China, Columbia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Singapore, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The Unity community includes over two million large publishers, indie studios, students, and hobbyists. The company continues to emphasize innovation, and its deployment capability allows developers to publish simultaneously to all the most popular platforms.
Unity Technologies’ new 4.3 version of the Unity multi-platform engine and development tools may be just what developers need to enhance their 2D games. This version offers not only dedicated 2D development tools, but also additions to the Mecanim animation system and an upgrade to the Umbra 3 occlusion culling. But Unity didn’t stop there. It has also brought in analytics tools through their partnership with GameAnalytics.
Optimizing Work Flow
The 2D development tools and metaphors the 4.3 version offers were designed to streamline 2D work flow with a new Sprite Texture import mode, and automated atlasing, optimizing 2D rendering, and drag-and-drop functionality for scene creation. Better performance and stability, as well as smaller game builds, are possible with Box2D physics integrated into Unity. As well, polygon collider generation allows faster creation of accurate, fully editable physical collider meshes for refined physical response between objects in a scene.
Improvements to Mecanim, Unity’s character animation suite, support Blend Shapes, to provide accurately blended complex geometry between model states. Animators will now have the ability to create realistic emotional facial animation.
Mecanim is fully integrated with the Animation Window and its dopesheet functionality. It is now a powerful all-purpose animation solution through support for animating simple scene elements, 2D sprite animations, camera settings and more.
The upgrade to Umbra 3 incorporates a rewrite of Occlusion Culling. Developers can now expect much faster baking and more accurate and better performing results. The rapid iteration will allow more sophisticated environments with highly detailed graphical content.
Other important changes offered by Unity 4.3 include major improvements to dynamic Navmesh creations, the “Optimize Transform Hierarchy” which reduces characters to a singular object rather than 100 pieces, MonoDevelop 4.0.1, editor layouts saved by project, multiple shader enhancements, Plastic SCM integration, as well as many Windows Store Apps updates.
David Helgason, CEO of Unity Technologies, proudly announces, “4.3 is a huge update in the history of Unity. The addition of 2D tools is an important milestone that will help developers make incredible 2D games, and with major improvements to Mecanim and greatly increased performance, this is a weighty, productive update that we’re thrilled to release.”
Bringing Analytics to the Unity Asset Store
Unity Technologies has also partnered with GameAnalytics to bring analytics tools to the Unity Asset Store Online Services Strategic Partner program. GameAnalytics, created in 2012, with headquarters in Copenhagen and a data engineering team in Berlin, provides a highly successful free analytics service for game developers. Since launching its analytics service in January 2013, it has tracked more than 125 million players, adding 30 million new players each month, and now has over 4,000 games on its platform. According to CEO Morten Wulff, GameAnalytics’ purpose is to enable developers to monitor and optimize everything from user acquisition to game design with hard facts. He emphasizes, “Improvements based on performance metrics are essential to success in today’s free-to-play marketplace.”
Helgason agrees, saying, “Analytics is an important part of launching a successful game. With GameAnalytics working with us in the Unity Asset Store Online Services Program, it will be easier than ever for development studios of all sizes to access the information they need.”
James Hursthouse, CEO of Roadhouse Interactive, describes the effect of the two companies partnering this way, “For us, the deep integration between GameAnalytics and Unity meant that we were up and running, with 45+ important metrics, within a few hours of development time. We log on to GameAnalytics every day to check KPIs on everything from player acquisition and engagement to in-game monetization.”
A new way to connect with friends on your mobile game has just been launched in the beta form of Everyplay® by Applifier. This free mobile network allows players to record, replay and share videos of your game replays. It takes community-building to a whole new level with the ability to share what you love with your friends and family. For developers, this is a powerful tool to assist in reach, engagement, and enhancement of the mobile gaming experience. The beta launch was announced at the Unite 2012 conference, hosted by Unity Technologies in Amsterdam this week by Jussi Laakkonen, CEO and Founder of Applifier.
“Word-of-mouth is the most powerful tool for mobile app discovery. Everyplay makes those ‘hey, you got to try this app’ moments shareable by letting users share their own awesome, funny and outrageous gameplay experiences through videos with friends. Mobile phones are the most personal gaming devices ever, and we want to make mobile games just as personal with action replays and video messaging between players,” said Laakkonen.
Jussi Laakkonen is always looking at new ways to experience games. At the IGDA Summit held in conjunction with Casual Connect Seattle 2012, Laakkonen spoke in a panel about ways gamers can get games. With this iOS release, Laakkonen opens the gate for small and medium developers to have a fighting chance in the market.
With Everyplay®, players can discover new games through their favorite source: friends and family. By recording, replaying, and sharing videos instantly, Everyplay’s® social video network creates a more personal gaming experience with deeper connections to other players. Players can choose to work together or get revenge based on the shared video. For developers, this can mean a free way to present their game to possible fans.
Applifier was created with the mission to rise above the user acquisition competition with new methods of cross-promotion. It operates the world’s largest cross-promotion network for social games, promoting games and applications to over 150 million monthly active users on Facebook, web, and mobile. It is also operates Impact, a video advertising platform for games. Applifier is always working on new ways to benefit developers.