I guess that every single games developer in the world could say that everything started when they were kids and, with gleamy eyes but steady hands, played their first game. But I’d like to finish this post before the year is over, and that’d be a bit cheesy anyway, so let’s fast forward a little bit. In some sense, everything started when I decided to found a small development company. But then I would have to talk of 10 years of hard (but rewarding) work, during which we developed more than 50 products and saw many of our clients succeed – one of them sold his product that we developed for him for 50 million USD to NASDAQ!
So, fast forward again to the moment when we decided that the time had arrived to create our own “baby,” to make a game for us and not for others. The idea had crossed our minds before, but it wasn’t until some random day, having some coffee, when I saw a beautiful demo that Oren Rubin and Alon Simon had created. Back then it was something really tiny, but I instantly saw that it had something special – it was eye-catching, quirky, and funny. So I contacted them and told them that maybe we could make a mobile game out of it. We all agreed that it was worth a try.
And here we are, one year, one nomination to the Google Indie Prize, 20 times featured by Apple and Google (even featured once in the “Today” tab), and 4 million downloads later. It was definitely worth the try, don’t you think? But let’s see how we got here – the path is as important as the destination!
We are proud to introduce our best mobile game finalist Mushroom Wars 2 made by Zillion Whales! As a winner at the GTP Indie Cup event, Zillion Whales has been given the opportunity to compete at Indie Prize Singapore at Casual Connect Asia 2017. The winter season 2017 of GTP Indie Cup has received more submissions than ever. Our jury board was excited about growing professional level of games from CIS indie developers and Mushroom Wars just proved this growth.
This year at GTP, we continue gathering best talents at our event and the summer season will be more helpful for developers not only by a variety of nominations and prizes but also with new Critic’s Choice award from CIS game press critics and journalists. We hope this story about our finalist will encourage you to take a part in the next Cup.
By Ksenia Shneyveys, Marketing Communications Manager at Zillion Whales
Mushroom Wars 2 is the newest game of a popular RTS series with a rich history.
Back in 2009, inspired by good old Galcon, the original Mushroom Wars was released. We polished this gameplay mechanics to a luster, added signature fungal setting, introduced morale notion and different types of buildings for greater depth.
Mushroom Wars 2 preserved the features that made Mushroom Wars so enjoyable and supplemented them with MOBA elements such as hero characters with unique sets of skills and co-op 2 vs 2 mode. The game is out on iOS and Apple TV. It is coming to Android, Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next year.
Creativity is a muscle and you have to keep flexing it! - Juliet TzabarClick To Tweet
Transmedia is an entertainment super-system that enables children’s favorite characters to travel across media platforms and it’s now an audience expectation in children’s entertainment. How do you approach this daunting expectation? At Casual Connect Europe, Plug-in Media’s CEO Juliet Tzabar shared how the company approaches IP for kids games across platforms. In Juliet’s talk entitled Approaching Transmedia in Children’s Entertainment, Juliet observed that “Kids love to play as THEIR preferred characters”. For more details of how Plug-in Media tackles transmedia, tune in to Juliet’s full session below. Please note that there were some technical difficulties during the session which effected sound quality.
Going cross-platform can keep a game alive and played for years to come. - Melinda MontanoClick To Tweet
Going cross platform is an opportunity to increase your potential audience. It can please your current userbase and it can grow your lifetime revenue. Such a leap needs to be considered carefully. As Melinda Montano, Business Development Manager at Kongregate explained during their presentation at Casual Connect Europe, “Before you decide to go cross-platform, understand why you’re doing it. Figure out the opportunity – do you want more revenue, users, prestige?” The complications developers often encounter when going from mobile to PC and vice-versa. These include perceived game value, freemium/premium, to the specifics of UX/UI changes. Melinda’s talk, PC and Mobile: Going Cross Platform Post-Launch provides actionable insights for your cross-platform PC and mobile plans. One simple tip Melinda offered was: “In UI, the biggest thing to remember when going from PC to mobile is that we have hands. They cover the screen.” For more, see the full lecture below.
Barak Regev, Director of Google Cloud Platform for EMEA of Google, says that the best things about working for Google are the amazing people, as well as the culture, goals and freedom of working at Google.
Barak had worked for Microsoft for seven years when Meir Brand, GM of Google IL, called, offering the opportunity to apply for a position establishing Google Enterprise in the EMEA region. This was six and a half years ago, and Barak was, of course interested. For the past four years, he has been leading the Google Cloud Platform business in EMEA, building and scaling the EMEA team responsible for sales and business development of Google’s Cloud Platform solutions. In this position, Barak must also hire the talent, expand Google’s ecosystem, evangelize Google’s solutions and, as he said, “inspire my people to think big.”
Make way for some sweet multiplayer addiction: Scribbled Arena in the house! – as told by Laxmi Khanolkar, CEO of Apar Games. She calls it a dream project for all of them at the company, The game is a unique cross-breed between adrenaline-pumping action and casual unwinding gameplay. If you’re a person who really digs upgrades like cooler ammunition and vehicles, you will definitely be spoilt for choices! Like to keep it simple and classic? Don’t worry, you will enjoy it too because it can be as easy-peasy lemon-squeezy as you’d want it.
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.”
“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!”
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.”
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.
'Risk defines innovation and the gaming industry thrives on innovation'. - Jeremy StrauserClick To Tweet
“I think the one thing on poker though, in my experience with researching real money poker while I was at Zynga, 95 percent of the players in real money poker are fish, 5 percent are sharks,” Jeremy Strauser told his audience during a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014. “95 percent of the people who ever deposit money into a real money poker site never take money out. Those people probably would be better served in a social poker atmosphere that is based on entertainment, because that’s really what they’re seeking.”
“It’s true that the market is dominated by a few players, but still, if you look at the number of the 100 grossing apps right now on the IOS, it is doing about 30K a day,” says Giordano Contestabile during Casual Connect USA. “If you can keep it going for one year, that means a 10 million dollar round rate.”
Giordano Contestabile is the vice president of product management at Tilting Point Media, a company that focuses on partnering with elite independent game developers, helping them to succeed in the market with funding, product feedback, and marketing services. Contestabile’s team handles product management, UX/UI, analytics and user acquisition, working with developers from the very early stage of the development process to post-launch operations.
When Leo’s Fortune, developed by their partner 1337/Senri, won an Apple Design Award, they were extremely proud of this achievement that was the result of two years of work. The team’s focus on making the highest quality experience led to this recognition and support from Apple.
Leo’s Fortune was launched as a premium game on iOS at a time when everyone told them the market for premium games was dead. But the game was received extremely well, was a financial success and was Editor’s Choice in 135 countries, as well as receiving the Apple award. From this experience, Contestabile learned that even though F2P is the overwhelming majority of the market, there is still space for extremely high-quality, original premium experiences.
Building The Business
Now Tilting Point Media is looking to develop as broad and diversified a portfolio as possible in terms of genre, theme, and business model. The overarching intention is for all their games to be extremely high quality and original; the market is so competitive that only great products will be able to rise above the rest.
Prior to coming to Tilting Point Media, Contestabile was the executive producer of the Bejeweled franchise for EA; handling a massively popular live game, such as Bejeweled Blitz, taught him a great deal about how much complexity is involved in developing and operating free-to-play games. He loves the opportunity F2P offers to make games available to a large audience, with games now reaching hundreds of millions of people who weren’t playing them before. Unfortunately, the past few years have seen low-quality clones and uninspired games flood the market. However, the market has evolved, and low-quality games are finding it harder and harder to succeed. He calls this a great development.
Contestabile is a long-time PC gamer, but his current favorite platform is his iPad, not only for reasons of available time and portability, but because recently a large number of very high-quality games have been released. His game preferences include Threes, Leo’s Fortune, Twodots, Toy Rush and Trials Frontier. He also owns a PS4 and an Xbox One, using them mainly for sports games and to watch movies and videos.
When he is not involved in gaming, he loves art, design, fashion, food, and wine. Fortunately, these are found in abundance where he lives in New York City.
Believing In Mobile
Contestabile sees huge potential coming in cross-platform, and he believes mobile and tablet will be central to it. So Tilting Point Media is making sure all their games will be ready for a future in which a player will play on mobile, tablet, and big screen devices. Players will expect the best user experience on all of these. He believes in the future there will be a strong trend toward experiences that are differentiated on each device, but are interconnected.
As a critic on the Game Slam panel at Casual Connect Asia 2014, Tom Sperry had the chance to review Meanwhile, In a Parallel Universe by Zombies Indie House. While there were some points of the game he disagreed with, but he felt overall that Diptoman Mukherjee did a good job.
Mountain climber and marathoner Tom Sperry is also the head of business development at Exit Games. In the last year, he ran three marathons, at Maui, Chicago, and Portland. Recently, he climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, and he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice.
Sperry’s work responsibilities include running the US and Asia offices of Exit Games. He was recruited by the founders and VCs to help drive growth in those areas. The fact that he earned his International MBA in Asia has been a definite advantage. He states that the highlight of his career was working with the team in Europe and bringing Exit Games global.
The innovation of the games industry and the way it pushes technology are the fun factors that drive Sperry’s passion for his work.
Moving Past Facebook
The greatest challenge he sees in the industry today is moving beyond Facebook, although he definitely sees the value of mobile; in fact, this is his own favorite platform to play on because it is easy, fast, and always on. But he emphasizes that it is essential to make games that are truly multiplayer and cross-platform.
He states that because Exit Games is a technology provider, they do not directly face this problem. However, with such mechanisms as Photon Cloud, that allow the development of cross-platform scalable realtime multiplayer games, they certainly seem dedicated to providing solutions. In fact, he states that they continue to believe multiplayer and cross-platform experiences will continue to be the most important trend of the games industry for the next several years.
At Casual Connect Asia, Sperry announced great new one-time pricing of Photon for indies and New Photon pricing with their CCU Forever Plan. He also announced two new products, Photon Turn Based for turn-based games and Photon Chat.