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USA 2014Video Coverage

John K. Maloney is the Legal Eagle of the Casino World | Casual Connect Video

September 3, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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John K. Maloney provided insight on casino regulation during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “Many of the gaming regulators are former police officers who tend to take a hard-core approach to casino operators,” he explained to his audience.

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John K. Maloney, Principal Attorney, The Law Offices of John K. Maloney

John K. Maloney is the principal attorney of his firm, The Law Offices of John K. Maloney. Maloney specializes in the area of gaming regulatory law, and his firm represents state-regulated and tribal gaming all over the United States. They provide experienced legal counsel to casino ownership groups, management companies, and independent vendors. He spent eight years with the Nevada Gaming Control Board and four years with the Casino Control Division in Queensland, Australia. This background allows him to understand the mindset of a regulator, something which is an advantage when making decisions on behalf of clients and representing them in hearings. He claims, “I am able to think outside the box and be proactive through knowing what regulators might think and say, having personally worked with them.”

A Challenging Industry

The gambling industry is constantly evolving and has now become a worldwide phenomenon, both land-based and interactively. This constant change is what keeps Maloney involved in the industry. He finds it to be a challenging and very satisfying job, particularly knowing he has pleased clients in such a specialized area of law. He is intrigued by the many similarities between the gambling industry and the games industry, so perhaps if he were not already involved with his area of specialization, he would take an interest in the games industry.

Photo by Sasha Paleeva
Maloney at Casual Connect USA 2014

A Growing Industry

Maloney believes the game industry and gambling industry together are set to explode in the next few years. Regulation will occur on both state and federal levels, and more acquisitions will occur that will ultimately lead to new giants settling in on the market. He expects the industry collectively to reach a larger audience as technology grows and expands globally. The challenge will come from the regulators perspective where regulators will need to incorporate the game world and the gambling world. From a gaming attorney’s perspective, this will be fun to be a part of and very challenging.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Bryan Buskas: Helping to Build Better Mobile Products | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“We asked developers, ‘How do you increase the size of your budgets?’ Mind you, these are the top 100 grossing developers, so the guys with the deep pockets, the guys with the highly monetizing apps,” Bryan Buskas explained during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “85 percent or so have said that they continue to increase the size of their campaign. For the indie developers out there, I think that shows the importance of publishing today.”

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Bryan Buskas, SVP of Sales & Performance Advertising, AdColony

AdColony’s Bryan Buskas started his career in games on the console side of the business, working in research and brand marketing in 2005. This was the year Xbox 360 was launched; an amazing time as they worked on titles like Call of Duty 2 and Guitar Hero. He loves the opportunity the games industry gives him to work on products people use every day and work with people and the technology that continues to evolves. He says, “There’s always something new and exciting happening in gaming, especially in mobile. There’s always so much innovation.”

Transformations

Just as the industry is constantly changing, Buskas’ roles in it have continued to evolve over the past ten years, from console to social and now to mobile gaming. This is what keeps him going in the industry: the notion of transformation and innovation.

Buskas runs AdColony’s performance advertising division, also known in the industry as user acquisition. He describes his work as such: “At the most basic level, I help mobile game developers find new players, using mobile video ad campaigns. Every day, we run campaigns in over 200 countries, which support developers in distributing their apps to audiences around the world.”

Because he spent over five years working with console game developers through the “green light process,” he has seen first-hand all the labor, skill, and collaboration required to bring new concepts and titles to market. He speaks the same language as game developers, so he is able to help build better products for mobile game companies. He believes this also gives him the ability to become a trusted partner to them, as opposed to just being the rep for an ad platform or a vendor.

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Because Buskas spent over five years working with console game developers, he feels this has allowed him to become a trusted partner to them, as opposed to just being the rep for an ad platform or a vendor.

Pride in the Partnership

Buskas has had many proud moments during his career, varying depending on the role he filled and the company he was working for. At Activision, one of these was the launch and success of Guitar Hero. Right now, he is very proud to be able to work with the top mobile gaming companies in the world, just as mobile is starting to dominate the time spent in everything from browsing on the internet to watching videos to playing games. He says, “Being one of the key launch partners that are helping these companies promote and bring their new apps to market is gratifying and really exciting.”

From the mobile ad perspective, Buskas believes the next big trend in the games industry is the move to mobile video. Video is the fastest growing segment of advertising today, so it makes sense that this growth is mirrored in mobile. He emphasizes, “All of the investment and interest from developers, advertisers, and users will lead to new formats and innovation across the spectrum of mobile video, mobile games, and mobile ads.”

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“All of the investment and interest from developers, advertisers, and users will lead to new formats and innovation across the spectrum of mobile video, mobile games, and mobile ads.”

He expects to see mobile video tying into more traditional channels such as TV or online. He explains, “Think of an AAA console game launch. The publisher might run mobile video ads that support or complement their TV campaigns. On the other end, a mobile game company might run a print ad with a scannable bar code that links to a mobile video demo.” He also expects to see the television interact with mobile devices as mobile games become richer and more immersive in both content and experience.

Because AdColony is a mobile video ad company, mobile-centric evolution and innovation is their DNA and is in everything they do. At Casual Connect USA 2014, Buskas shared insights and results from AdColony’s annual mobile game developer acquisition survey. For three weeks in early June, they surveyed the 100 top grossing game developers on iOS and Android. They believe their tightly focused data will provide important context into how the most successful developers are monetizing through user acquisition.

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Because AdColony is 100% focused on mobile video, mobile-centric evolution and innovation is their DNA. Pictured (L-R): Stefan Adamczyk, Eric Dickinger, Andrew French and Bryan Buskas from the AdColony team at a mobile gaming event in Helsinki, Finland.

In Buskas’ free time, he is an avid golfer and surfer. He has been a surfer for nine years and his favorite place to surf is Point Dume, but overall, he has spent more time golfing.

These days, his gaming is mainly on iPad and his favorite games are Supercell’s Boom Beach and Grand Cru’s Supernauts. There is so much great content on mobile that he no longer feels a need to use his console. But he does own both generations of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles. On the next-gen consoles, he is a big fan of the quality and content but feels the newest entries have become a bit niche. And people no longer have hours a day to devote to gaming, so the idea of console gaming is becoming inaccessible to larger audiences. On the other hand, mobile gaming has experienced explosive growth because it is much more accessible.

Possibly the most unusual place he has played a game is on a golf course, and that illustrates the great advantage of mobile games and why they have grown so much in popularity. You can play them anywhere. Clash of Clans is the perfect example. You have to come back to it at certain times for clan wars, but because it is on your phone, it doesn’t matter where you are. So he played it while on the putting green waiting for the rest of the group to hole out.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Amy Dallas Leverages Her Determination & Experience | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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At Casual Connect USA 2014, Amy Dallas, the co-founder of ClutchPlay, described her views of running an indie company during a panel. “When you’re starting a company with other people, you’re essentially getting into a ‘business marriage’ in that you’re legally bound to those people for as long as your company is around. So, you need to know that your co-founders share your goals and values and that you’ll stick by each other when times are tough,” she said. She was excited to announce the release of ClutchPlay’s second game, “Skullduggery!”, in Fall 2014 on both iOS and Android.

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What is “Skullduggery!”

She describes the game this way: “”Skullduggery!” is an atmospheric, fling-based physics platformer, in which you’ll play a Semi-Organic Autonomous Skull, working as a collection agent for the INFERNAL Revenue Service.  Your mission is to collect taxes from the ‘deadbeats’ of the afterlife. You do so by using the elasticity of your own brain to flick yourself around the fortresses of the netherworld’s worst tax dodgers as you repossess their underworldly belongings. You also get to do a lot of other cool stuff like slow time to avoid deadly obstacles, pull off crazy trick shots to collect riches, discover hidden caches, and slip past surly guards. We also have a multiplayer mode we’re calling ‘head to head’ which allows you to play against your friends to become the afterlife’s most successful agent. Oh, and you also get to fill out paperwork and reflect on the inherent emptiness of existence. And I ask you, who doesn’t want to do that?!”

“Skullduggery!” also features an endearingly grotesque art style created by Bill Mudron and inspired by the Max Fleischer animations of the 1930′s.

It was announced earlier that “Skullduggery!” will be featured in this year’s “PAX 10” Indie Games showcase at the PAX Prime event. “Being part of the PAX 10 is a tremendous honor,” says Dallas. “We could not be more honored that “Skullduggery!” was chosen.”

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“Skullduggery!” features an endearingly grotesque art style created by Bill Mudron and inspired by the Max Fleischer animations of the 1930′s.

Determination & Experience

Dallas co-founded ClutchPlay in 2012 with Bernie Rissmiller, Jon Guest, and John C. Worsley. The studio they had worked for was downsized, so the four seized this opportunity to create their own studio. It wasn’t an optimal time to start a company with no promise of a salary for any of them. Dallas’s husband had also been laid off, Rissmiller and his wife had just had a baby, Guest had two children, and Worsley had upcoming major travel plans. They had no VC, angel investors, or funding of any kind. But they knew they had the right team, so they took a giant leap of faith to begin their company.

What they did have was determination, lots of experience, some savings, and an idea that became Little Chomp. Within their first year, they had developed a proprietary cross-platform game engine and had launched Little Chomp on both iOS and Android to great critical success. Little Chomp was selected as a featured game in the 2013 PAX East Indie Showcase. In their second year, they did a contract project for KIXEYE, Inc. which involved using their proprietary game engine to take KIXEYE’s Facebook game, Backyard Monsters, to mobile. Besides their consulting fees, KIXEYE licensed their engine source code, and the proceeds from that are funding the development of “Skullduggery!”.

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Within their first year, they had developed a proprietary cross-platform game engine and had launched Little Chomp on both iOS and Android to great critical success.

She says, “So far, it’s been the scariest, craziest, and most exhilarating time of my career, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. It’s true what they say. Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

Because ClutchPlay is a small, four-person studio, and Dallas is the only one who is not an engineer, she does almost everything else, and is, among other things, the producer, chief of ops, QA, and biz dev person. She has worked at a number of different game and tech companies and has been a producer most of her career, so that part of her work is second nature. But other things, such as marketing, have involved a giant learning curve. She claims, “If you aren’t at least a little freaked out at your work, then you probably aren’t pushing yourself hard enough or learning anything new.”

Another Discovery Challenge

Discovery is unarguably the mobile industry’s biggest challenge, especially for indies, according to Dallas, given the sheer volume of games flooding the market. It isn’t enough to make a great game, you also have to be great at marketing it. But that is difficult for indies who lack the resources to compete with products from larger producers with more experience and greater resources.

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Amy Dallas, Co-Founder, ClutchPlay

“As a developer,” she insists, “you have to do everything possible to keep your game visible”. At ClutchPlay, they do this by going to as many festivals and conferences as possible to meet press people, reps from different platforms and, of course, other developers. She is amazed at how willing the indie community is to help each other out. They also share their development process through blogging, forums like Touch Arcade, and weekly events such as Screenshot Saturday. This is a good way to whet people’s appetite for the release of the game.

Dallas believes the next few years will bring the release of more premium games, especially on iOS. She disagrees with those who believe free to play is the only way to go on mobile. Free to play titles do have the potential to bring in more revenue for a longer period of time, but they also costs more to produce, have on-going maintenance costs, and require huge user acquisition budgets.

Bigger Spend Equals Bigger Risk

The more money you spend developing a game, the more it must bring in. This pressure leads to taking fewer risks and going with a formula you know will succeed. The result is a lot of very similar freemium games, which is why Dallas believes premium is due for a renaissance. Some of the exciting titles out now, such as Badland, Duet, Monument Valley, FTL, are all premium games at a higher price point. She claims that these games are made by small, scrappy companies who can not only afford to take risks, they NEED to, and because risk is at the heart of innovation, we’re going to start to see a lot more really weird, cool, interesting games come out of the premium space. And so far, people are buying them.

Dallas says that the best thing about working in the games industry, by far, is the people. Game production can be brutal, grueling, and utterly exhausting. Sometimes, she feels blown to bits by it. But what gets her through is the people. Game teams will do whatever it takes to support each other and get the job done. There is a passion and camaraderie that she hasn’t found in other industries.

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Amy Dallas sitting on the panel at Casual Connect USA 2014

More and more, she realizes she is a mobile gamer at heart. She doesn’t have time for epic console games or MMOs. But on mobile, she can play in short, concentrated burst, which fits her lifestyle much better. She has just finished Monument Valley and has recently been playing Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, which has just been released by another Portland studio.

Dallas has discovered that when you are an indie working from home, the line between work and personal life becomes blurred. When not working or playing games, she gets as much exercise as possible “to keep from physically fusing to her office chair.” She also loves to cook, describing herself as a huge food nerd. She enjoys reading and is working on writing a novel.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

David Logan: An Ecstatic Indie Developer | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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David Logan shared his thoughts on crowdfunding in his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “The biggest thing I think is that people invest in people,” he said. “And that’s why, in my opinion, crowdfunding does so well, because you are investing in other people’s passion, in other people’s dreams, and you’re really helping those people take their project to the next level.”

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David Logan, founder of Night Light Interactive, says, “Work is my hobby.” He loves creating and playing video games. When he plays new games, he is looking for interesting and unique mechanics and trying to learn from them. But he also enjoys hanging out with his pet tortoise, Chronos, and racing him around the yard.

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David Logan, Founder, Night Light Interactive

Learning The Skills

Logan is a producer at Animax and also at Night Light Interactive. At Animax, he has worked with clients such as Paramount, Disney, Sony, and NBC. Currently, they are developing the mobile game Stick and Chick. He has been at Animax for over four years, where he learned the skills necessary to start his own company. These skills include management, budgeting, scheduling, marketing and more. He emphasizes, “These are really valuable skills that I’ve used in Night Light.”

The major milestones Night Light has reached with their game Whispering Willows has brought Logan the greatest satisfaction in his career.
The major milestones Night Light has reached with their game Whispering Willows has brought Logan the greatest satisfaction in his career.

The major milestones Night Light has reached with their game Whispering Willows has brought Logan the greatest satisfaction in his career. The first milestone was getting funded on Kickstarter. The other was getting the game approved on Steam Greenlight. The team had worked so hard at making this game a reality. These accomplishments made them feel ecstatic that their indie studio had made it so far and might actually be successful.

Logan’s view of his company changed completely when Whispering Willows won the Most Immersive award in the initial game jam they entered, the OUYA CREATE contest. He remembers getting home from work, lying down, and thinking, “Wow! We really can do this!” He found it very inspiring. After they won the contest, they wanted to ride the wave of their success, so they launched their successful Kickstarter campaign the following month.

Logan believes crowdsourcing and crowdfunding will take off in the next few years, even more than they already have. At Night Light, they are now thinking outside the box about how games will be funded and constructed.

Platforms of Choice

Consoles are Logan’s preferred platform for gaming. He admits to being a huge Nintendo fan and owns every one of their consoles. He also owns PS3 and PS4 and has a large PS1 and PS2 game collection as well. He has an OUYA a PC, and even a custom Dance Dance Revolution pad.

Currently, he is playing Mario Kart 8 with the Night Light team every week, and hosts regular Magic the Gathering and board game tournaments at work. He is looking forward to Super Smash Bros on Wii U and has also been playing TowerFall and Amazing Frog? on OUYA. However, his favorite game of all time is Unreal Tournament 2004. If anyone still plays, let him know, because he’d love to play again! He also makes an active effort to support other indie devs.

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The Night Light team at a “Escape a Zombie” team building event

He also plays F2P and enjoys being able to try out a game for free. But he is intrigued that he ends up spending much more money than he would have on a non-F2P game.

At Casual Connect USA 2014, Logan announced that Whispering Willows recently launched on Steam.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Jamison Selby Is Keeping His Secrets | Casual Connect Video

August 27, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Jamison Selby shared his knowledge and views on real-money gaming during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “By 2018, less than .01 percent of commercial mobile apps will be considered a financial success by their developers,” he said.

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Jamison Selby, VP Games, b Spot

The best thing about being a part of the games industry, according to Jamison Selby, is, quite simply, that he gets to make games. He says, “I spend days creating new recipes for fun and testing them out.” He heads the Games team at b Spot, but refuses to divulge the secrets of how he joined up and exactly what he does there. State secrets, he claims. Or could they be industry secrets? But he admits that for years he walked the line between the video games space and the real money gambling world, an experience which he has found the perfect ground for his current endeavors.

He also reveals that he has had some great moments along the way in this industry, but he hopes the best moments are yet to come. He says, “Someday, I’ll get to show my kids what I’ve done. Ask me then.”

This busy father clearly makes his family a priority. With two young children, he spends his time chasing, splashing, running, dodging, reading aloud, and cleaning. And occasionally sleeping.

But he does find time for some game play. However, these days GTA5 on the Xbox often gives way to Wonder Pets and Octonauts. Currently, he is playing Wasteland 2 Beta and Broken Age. And his preferred platform is whatever happens to be available.

There seem to be quite a lot of choices available, since he says he has all the usual consoles, including his Nintendo DS which “shall never sunset.” For mobile gaming, he uses both Android and iOS depending on which game he is playing and claims the most interesting place he has played mobile games was in the crew bar of a cruise ship late at night in the middle of the Baltic.

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Selby is a busy father, but he does find time for some game play.

It Started With The TV

Selby became involved in the games industry while working on TV game shows. The trivia content was the jumping off point for him to dive into the games industry. He became the head writer for ODVD games, working on a series of trivia titles published by Hasbro. He states, “It was a big creative challenge and offered a very different path from the feast or famine world of TV production.” He believes if he had not joined the industry, he would be producing questionable reality TV shows or possibly teaching drama at a small Northwestern college. Or even serving drinks at a bar on an island without a zip code.

Here Come The Wearables

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“Every new innovation opens up creative possibilities, and we’re constantly dreaming up new ways to play.”

The next big trend Selby sees affecting the games industry is the explosion of wearables and VR technology. He believes this will bring huge opportunities for new content creation in the years ahead. He insists, “Every new innovation opens up creative possibilities, and we’re constantly dreaming up new ways to play.”

Selby has years of experience leading cross-disciplinary design and production teams to create multiplayer social games and interactive entertainment. He founded and leads the International Game Developer Association’s Real Money Gaming SIG. Previously, he launched the Monkey King Games consultancy and was the senior producer at TimePlay Entertainment, creating a new generation of multiplayer gaming in casinos, cinemas, cruise ships, bars, clubs and stadiums.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Mark Gazecki Keeps Having Start-up Ideas | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“Over the past few years, a bunch of things have changed,” Mark Gazecki said during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “For one, the classic TV demographic has become gamers. This wasn’t the case five or ten years ago. The other thing is that there’s mass market reach, true mass market reach, just like prime time television. Social games have started to be just like that, with the same kind of reach.”

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Mark Gazecki, Co-Founder & Executive Producer, MegaZebra

Mark Gazecki has always loved video games, right from the first Atari and Commodore 64 games, and he has never lost that love. Years later, while working in venture capital, he looked at many online games companies. With the growth of browser games, he decided to leave venture capital and founded Game Genetics, a game distribution business for online and mobile games. Then he started MegaZebra, a developer for cross-platform games, and HoneyTracks, which he describes as a company that does interesting things with data for games companies. Gazecki has an MBA from Harvard Business School and feels it was truly amazing to be able to spend two years in an incredible environment with extraordinarily talented people.

Filling Some Friends’ Needs

It just happened that he ended up in the games industry, and Game Genetics was his start. Then he kept on having startup ideas. MegaZebra started after Game Genetics was out of the gate when a few friends, who were running social networks at the time, asked if his company could provide them with social games which leverage social graph functions. Since Game Genetics was a distribution business without any such games, he asked them to wait a couple of months. He then looked for co-founders, and soon after, MegaZebra had developed their first social games and was putting them up on Facebook and other social networks.

It is the creative process that keeps Gazecki intrigued with games. He finds the work intellectually stimulating because these are complex entertainment products which bring together many disciplines. And he finds the people in the games industry passionate, driven, and humble.

Gazecki believes the next important trend in the games industry will be games that incorporate TV type experiences. MegaZebra is already trying this with their new game, Suburbia.

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Gazecki believes the next important trend in the games industry will be games that incorporate TV type experiences, like what is done in their new game, Suburbia.

Loving The Cross Platform Experience

These days, Gazecki is playing a lot of Suburbia. As well, he tests many games on Facebook, iPad, and iPhone. Some of these are Farmville 2, Hay Day, Disney City Girl, and Surviving High School. He especially likes gaming on his iOS devices because he enjoys both their interface and Airplay connectivity, which allows him to connect music, video, and games with speakers and large screens. He says, “I feel that the cross-platform experience is starting to be awesome!”

He also still enjoys using his PS3, mainly for sports games, but also the occasional game of Assassin’s Creed or Red Dead Redemption. He insists that consoles deliver the best big screen experience, and he enjoys sports games most on a console. And he says, “Just like in the old days, recently we got a group together again to hook our controllers up to one Playstation and get the game on.”

When he is not involved with work, he likes DJing and producing music, mainly hip-hop and funk. These are also the music genres he listens to, as well as Kraftwerk, the German electro pioneers. He would love to have a startup idea in the music sector, but that hasn’t happened yet. If that doesn’t happen and if it wasn’t for more work in the games industry, he claims he would produce hip-hop music and drive cabs to actually be able to earn a living.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Nick Fortugno Is As Good As It Gets | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“I think the brand experiences that work best with games are where the mechanics of the game speak to the brand in some meaningful way, ” Nick Fortugno said during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “Because then playing the game makes sense in the narrative of the brand.”

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Nick Fortugno, Chief Creative Officer, Playmatics

Nick Fortugno, chief creative officer at Playmatics, is dedicated to gaming as an expressive art form, so in his free time, he does a lot of interactive art work. He is co-founder of the Come Out and Play Festival, which has its tenth anniversary next year. He also spends time reading novels, swing dancing, playing the guitar, and he started skateboarding last fall.

For The Fun Of Gaming

He is clearly dedicated to gaming for the fun of gaming. He says, “I play pretty much on everything. I’m finishing The Last of Us on my Xbox before going over to Titanfall, I’m playing Kentucky Route Zero on my PC, I’ve got Plants Vs Zombies as my go-to on my phone and I use my DS for Fire Emblem and Icarus when pressed.” And he admits to owning all the last round of consoles, going back to Dreamcast and is about to purchase an Xbox One and a PS4.

Bridging Entertainment

In 2009, Fortugno co-founded Playmatics with Margaret Wallace because they saw a need for games that were not just clones or rip-offs of popular games. They also provide a bridge into the world of film, television, and digital media in general through the work he does with Sundance and Tribeca. On a day-to-day basis, his work includes doing the lead design work and managing the teams making the games.

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Playmatics was found because they saw a need for games that were not just clones or rip-offs of popular games. The Walking Dead: Dead Reckoning is just one of their games.

Playmatics has had some great moments and won a number of awards since it was founded. Two of these are the M– USE award they won for game design on the project Body/Mind/Change and the CableFAX award for Breaking Bad: The Interrogation. Fortugno is also very proud that the White House gaming groups cite Ayiti as a seminal work, and he says, “Diner Dash is something I am always humbled by.”

For Fortugno, the most enjoyment working in the games industry comes from reaching millions of players with new kinds of interactive content. “Watching players explore the systems you’ve designed is just magic,” he asserts.

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Playmatics’ project Body/Mind/Change won the M– USE award for game design.

Watered Down Contact

However, he believes that currently there is too much emphasis on short term gains in the games industry, resulting in alienated audiences and watered down value of brands. He also considers discovery to be a large barrier for all game developers, but especially for mobile games. He insists, “We desperately need better channels to consumers on our platforms.”

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At Playmatics, they respond to the challenge of discovery by focusing on diversifying what they create so they can compete in multiple markets.

At Playmatics, they respond to the challenge of discovery by focusing on diversifying what they create so they can compete in multiple markets. They continue to push the boundaries in games, believing unexplored territory is where you find the most exciting new ideas and the most potential value.

Fortugno considers that in the next few years, games will become a part of more goods and services, as well as “real world” experiences. Games will take on a more critical role as part of brand strategy, and narrative properties will see games as a deeper part of their ecosystem. He is also very excited about wearables and how they will enable new kinds of augmented play.

At Casual Connect USA, Fortugno announced that Playmatics is continuing to create branded and original IP using its proprietary PlayComix platform.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Henning Kosmack Finds The Fun In The Media Battle | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Henning Kosmack discussed how they manage storylines in their game Suburbia during Casual Connect USA 2014. “We are very analytical, and we really track a lot of the stuff that’s happening in the game,” he said. “We try to tweak it back and forth to make sure that it is really fitting the biggest amount of audience we can get for that plot line.”

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Henning Kosmack, Co-founder and CEO, MegaZebra

“The games are everywhere, so let the fun begin!” exclaims Henning Kosmack, the co-founder and CEO of MegaZebra. The biggest impact he sees coming to the games industry is cross-platform play. Computers, mobile devices, and television are all coming together as channels for game play. No matter what media outlet people prefer at a particular moment, the games will be there for them. And Kosmack believes this is great news for everyone in the games industry, especially for the players.

Assembling The Team

At MegaZebra, Kosmack fills many roles. As CEO, his foremost responsibility is to assemble an outstanding team of highly talented individuals. Kosmack also spends considerable time interacting with game producers. Since he loves numbers, he brings that into the creative processes in the company. And he is very involved with marketing and community work, where he has learned a great deal about user acquisition and the full life-cycle user experience.

Prior to founding MegaZebra, his career included everything from entrepreneur to VC. All along he has been detecting trends and finding the right team to execute new ideas, skills he continues to use in his latest company.

“Quality Over Quantity”

Kosmack stresses the pride he feels in his team. The MegaZebra philosophy is to emphasize quality over quantity, so the team still numbers less than fifty. Although they are small in numbers, they have crafted some of the biggest games in all the genres they have actively pursued, successfully competing with much larger companies. He says, “It feels like being the underdog playing soccer against the FC Bayern Munich, our hometown club and one of the best teams in the world, and beating them!”

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Although they are small in numbers, MegaZebra have crafted some of the biggest games in all the genres they have actively pursued, successfully competing with much larger companies.

One of the most significant trends Kosmack sees affecting the games industry currently is what he calls the “mass-marketization” of games. As social games emerged, they became accessible to an entirely new audience. Mobile devices further broadened this market. He believed, when founding MegaZebra in 2008, that all gaming audiences would follow this trend from narrow to broad. Although there are some genres, such as console-like gaming, which have not yet followed the trend, he expects them to be next.

The Media Battle

He claims this phenomenon produces another trend, which he calls “the battle of the media”. As games target the mass-market audience, they clash head-on with other media, particularly television. They are consumed at the same hours of the day, for similar session times, and by the same people. But TV is now losing reach and games are soaring. He says, “I think this makes sense. While TV is one-way, games are interactive, which is simply more fun.”

“I think this makes sense. While TV is one-way, games are interactive, which is simply more fun.”

Although there are other trends occurring, at MegaZebra, they believe these are the most important and are fully committed to focusing on them. They are now bringing their category-leading social games cross-platform. Because they have worked with Facebook for some years, they see the value of having mobile games synched to online, socially-connected versions, believing it offers a broader reach and significantly enhances the user experience.

Meeting The Challenge

To meet the challenge of competing with TV, they are currently working on a title that combines TV episodic-style storytelling with a simulation game. Kosmack asserts, “It will combine the narrative, excitement and drama that a television script delivers, with the interactive and social experience of a game.”

In his own gameplay, he is in the middle of migrating from Mac to iPad. He tests many games that come out on different platforms, but now his playing time is going to the new releases they have coming, Suburbia and Solitaire Chronicles. He says, “As we continue to tweak the games, I play, delete my scores, and play again, until it feels awesome.”

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At Casual Connect USA, he announced the official launch of Suburbia, MegaZebra’s take on the convergence of TV and gaming.

When not at work, Kosmack enjoys the original beer gardens in the beautiful city of Munich where he lives. He also visits the nearby lakes and the Alps, and participates in several sports, including beach volleyball, basketball and old-school squash.

At Casual Connect USA, he announced the official launch of Suburbia, MegaZebra’s take on the convergence of TV and gaming. It has already been playable in open beta, but because it is a rather unusual concept, fine-tuning it has taken some time.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Jaremy Rich: Transforming Great Games Into Successful Products | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Jaremy Rich shared insight on bringing a PC game to mobile during Casual Connect USA 2014. One of the features he warned about was push notifications. “Try and bring that in a little bit later,” he suggested. “Try and bring that in at the point when the player is already invested and says ‘Hey, I like this game, I want to know more’.”

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Jaremy Rich is director of product management at DropForge Games. His background in data analytics and optimization gave him his start in the games industry, and his favorite part of the industry is the people in it. It is one of the few industries in which the people are truly passionate day in and day out, spending both their work time and their free time focused on video games. He says, “This is a big part of the reason I got into the games industry in the first place.”

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Jaremy Rich, Director of Product Management, DropForge Games

Every day, Rich is excited by the ability to marry game design with testing and analytics. It is now possible to understand player behavior with methods that didn’t exist five or ten years ago.

He loves video games and building products that people enjoy interacting with, and he continues in the industry because he believes nothing is more rewarding than working on something you are deeply passionate about.

Transforming Great Games

Rich describes his work at DropForge Games this way: “I work to transform great games into successful products by focusing on understanding player analytics and behavior and driving product decisions. My job often ends up being equal parts analytics, game design, and user experience design.” He credits his background in web optimization with giving him a crash course in customer analytics and UI/UX.

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“I work to transform great games into successful products by focusing on understanding player analytics and behavior and driving product decisions.”

One of the most satisfying times in Rich’s career came with shipping a huge update and relaunch to the game Zuma Blitz. He describes the experience as a ton of work with a really fantastic team, and claims, “Hitting the finish line was really rewarding. It was also the first big game launch I’d worked on from end to end, so there was something special about it for me.”

A Maturing Industry

Rich emphasizes that the games industry is maturing, with players now looking for a truly mobile experience, not just a soft joystick port or a clone of an existing property. In recent years, he has seen a number of clones ship and flop, something that indicates players are looking for a more immersive game experience. He notes, “Deeper, more strategic games are beginning to succeed and take root on mobile, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Mobile players are looking for smarter games that allow them to think strategy even when they aren’t in the game. They want games with a thriving community and social aspects that aren’t intrusive or forced.” So, at DropForge Games, they are building their studio around these assumptions about the mature mobile user.

The DropForge Games Team
The DropForge Games Team

In Rich’s free time, he can often be found playing Hearthstone, Dota 2, or a handful of other mobile games, or just enjoying the sunshine with his wife and dog. He also likes a good game of softball or racquetball with friends.

The game he is currently enjoying the most is Hearthstone; he believes Blizzard did a fantastic job of simplifying a collectible card game, and have done an outstanding job with it on mobile. His play these days is split between PC and mobile, depending on how much time he has available to play a certain game.

He has found that iOS is still where many of the best games are shipped first. And they are showing higher LTVs and fewer QA issues when compared to Android, so they have greater ROI for developers. However, most of the games he plays are cross-platform at this point.

Console gaming has clearly been an important part of his life. He presently owns Xbox One, Xbox 360, and many older consoles. In fact, he is still playing Golden Eye and MarioKart 64. Although his opinion may be biased because in the past he worked for Xbox, he insists, “Microsoft has the ability to nail the end-to-end living room experience, which is a big reason why I chose Xbox One over PS4.

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DropForge’s next game, Loot & Legends, based off Card Hunter

At Casual Connect USA 2014, Rich announced that DropForge Games is working hard to release Loot & Legends in the coming months. It is based on Card Hunter, PC Gamer’s Most Original Game of 2013, and considered one of the most unusual and innovative games. DropForge Games is excited to bring it to mobile audiences everywhere.

 

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Millennial Media’s Lewis Rothkopf on Better Games through Big Data

August 26, 2014 — by Industry Contributions

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Lewis Rothkopf, the senior vice president of global monetization solutions at Millennial Media, moderated a panel discussion on Leveraging Data to Build Better Games and Enhance Monetization at Casual Connect USA 2014. While there, he spoke about that panel, Millennial’s ongoing projects, and the current and possible future trends at the intersection of big data and gaming with Clark Buckner from TechnologyAdvice.com (they provide coverage content on enterprise employee engagement, customer loyalty and rewards, and gamification trends and much more).


Millennial Media is an independent audience platform in the digital advertising space that connects brands and consumers by leveraging data through a mobile-first approach and cross-screen targeting solutions. Rothkopf oversees the company’s publisher and developer relationships. Consequently, he has a unique understanding of the opportunities and difficulties facing today’s gaming industry.

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Rothkopf moderating the panel on leveraging data at Casual Connect USA 2014.

Better Games through Data-driven Decisions

Part of his panel discussion at Casual Connect concerned itself with one of the gaming industry’s major challenges: developers and marketers need to tap into ways of leveraging data so they can make smarter, more efficient, data-driven decisions in order to reach the right consumers in the right place at the right time on the right device with the right mindset and within the right context.

Additionally, Rothkopf pointed out three other critical areas that need to be addressed:

Actionable Intelligence: Developers need to gather deeper and less obvious insights based upon in-app behaviors. Such insights are observed alongside third-party data based on offline behaviors so that developers can make faster, smarter decisions in regards to monetization and user acquisition.
– Hyperlocal Targeting: Developers are tying everything back to local, both to monetize and acquire users. Such hyperlocal targeting that reaches consumers in the right place, mindset, and time can be a challenge.
– Individual SKU-ing: Developers are realizing that creating hits is very much a numbers game. Consequently, they’re releasing a much greater volume of individual SKUs and iterating on them once they’ve taken a foothold instead of hoping to release one monolithic, tent-pole title. Many casual titles are also being released in the hopes that one or more of them will hit it big (see Flappy Bird).

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The Millennial Media booth at Casual Connect USA 2014

Acquiring Users and Monetizing

Rothkopf found that the Casual Connect audience wanted to know more about data conversion in terms of giving developers an edge in user acquisition and monetization—two areas that Rothkopf and his team at Millennial Media understand. He cited two specific areas that Millennial Media currently focuses on in order to help devs acquire users and work toward monetization: location and cross-device and cross-screen.

When focusing on location, Millennial Media marries location and context. In partnership with Esri, they’re re-launching Point: Audience Location Advertising, where their clients can target traditional location dimensions (country, date, etc.), time dimensions, and hyperlocal dimensions like household income, environment, propensity for shopping, etc. To deal with cross-device and cross-screen, Millennial Media also offers PATH, a mobile-first, cross-screen advertising suite that helps advertisers reach consumers anonymously. PATH provides access to tens of millions of cross-screen profiles in a seamless manner.

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During the panel at Casual Connect USA 2014, they discussed using big data to build better, smarter and more monetizable products.

Successful Gaming Marketing

Finally, Rothkopf stressed that success comes from having a fair exchange of value, achieving relevant advertising, seeking the right targeting, and leveraging both first- and third-party data to make smarter decisions to drive monetization and deliver a better gaming experience.

To hear more from Lewis Rothkopf on big data, gaming, and his insights from Casual Connect USA 2014, listen to the podcast interview below. For more information on Millennial Media, visit www.millenialmedia.com, or if you’re a developer seeking to acquire users or working toward monetization, visit www.mmedia.com.

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