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Gamblit Brings Gaming and Gambling Together

September 18, 2014 — by Industry Contributions

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Gamblit Gaming’s CMO David Chang spoke about how Gamblit connects gaming and gambling, as well as the trends in both the gaming and gambling industries that he’s witnessed over the last few years, with TechnologyAdvice host Clark Buckner. TechnologyAdvice.com provides coverage content on teaching and training games, strategic employee engagement software, and customer loyalty programs and much more. Also be sure to check out their gamification tech conference calendar.

USA 2014Video Coverage

Keith Katz is Ensuring Innovation | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“As an indie, I am a big believer that you are much better spending your limited funds in your testing phase while you are in soft launch as opposed to post global launch. The amount of money you’re going to be able to muster to spend on user acquisition post launch is not going to have a meaningful impact on your game’s performance, you’re much better getting everything tuned just right before you launch.”

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Keith Katz, Co-founder and Business Chief, Execution Labs

Keith Katz is the co-founder and business chief at Execution Labs, a company that exists to help game developers become entrepreneurs and realize creative independence. He oversees all aspects of business for Execution Labs and their game teams. He also has plenty of input into the games, something he finds great fun. He works to make sure all teams that go through the Execution Labs program are equipped to handle all the business functions of a small game studio. All the different experiences he has had during his career, including user acquisition, PR, business development, monetization, understanding player behavior, and running a startup, feed into the work he is doing today.

Leaving The Nest

Katz announces, with great pride, “Our first two spin-off studios are leaving the nest after releasing amazing games, raising follow-on funding, and beginning work on their next titles. It is incredibly gratifying to know I had a hand in enabling these new independent game studios.”

The greatest enjoyment Katz finds in the games industry comes from the people. Most of the people involved are very creative and passionate, which is not something he has found in other fields.

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The Double Stallion team is one of the first two game studios to spin out of Execution Labs and receive funding to make their next games.

The Distribution Challenge

A major challenge today, according to Katz, is distribution, as the industry shifts to digital delivery of games. On the app stores, he sees truly innovative games that could move the industry forward, but they are being suffocated by large publishers who can afford to spend money to stay in the top charts. He insists, “That’s not good for consumers or for the vast majority of game developers. I’m worried that Steam and other online PC platforms will fall into this pattern as well if we’re not careful.”

Give Your Teams a Chance

Execution Labs approaches the distribution problem from two related angles. First, they ensure their teams create innovative games that platform holders recognize as worth showcasing. Secondly, they maintain good relationships with their platform holders so their teams can get in front of them and have a chance to be featured. But Katz emphasizes, this is not a silver bullet, it just gives their teams a fighting chance. In his opinion, most indies don’t even have that.

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Shattered Planet by Kitfox games. KitFox Games is the second of the first game studios to come out of Execution Labs and receive funding for their next games.

Katz believes the next few years in the games industry will see more and more core gaming on tablets. He also thinks linking small devices to larger screens to get a console-like experience is coming soon. He says, “Often, our teams want to optimize for their tablet SKU, and we’re fine with this because we think core gamers will adopt this platform in greater and greater numbers over the coming months and years.” And he expects that there will be more premium titles on tablets as game developers realize free-to-play is not a fit for everyone and core gamers are willing to spend money for premium games on their tablets.

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Big Action Mega Fight, created by Double Stallion. Katz expects that there will be more premium titles on tablets.

For the first time, Katz is now playing more on tablet than on console or PC. He finds it so easy to pick up and play, and the games are getting better and better. For example, Hearthstone is so good, he can’t stop playing it, claiming it is fantastic and perfect on an iPad. And Civ is coming soon! But he doesn’t really see a need for a gaming-only box any longer, although he has owned consoles since his first Atari 2600. He hasn’t upgraded to the next gen systems yet; he is busy playing on his tablet and PC.

Katz never has enough time for all his hobbies, but he keeps collecting more. He loves to barbeque on his smoker and this year, he has been curing and smoking his own bacon. He also likes to brew beer. But he offsets these foodie hobbies with active ones: running, scuba diving, camping, hiking, and fishing. He describes himself as someone who is interested in a lot of things, and who could never be bored.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Brian Lee is Creating What He Likes | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Brian Lee shared his reason why he co-founded Team Signal at his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “After several years of working in the game industry, I decided to start making games pictured in my heart,” he said. “Now I am the artist/producer in Team Signal.”

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Brian Lee, Founder, Team Signal

Brian Lee is the producer and artist of Team Signal, a company he co-founded with a group of graduate school friends who love indie games. Their biggest reason for starting the company was their determination to control their own lives and make the games that truly speak to their hearts.

Waiting For A Miracle

Lee had experience working in an MMO company before becoming an entrepreneur. Soon after the project he was working on went online, it was cancelled. This experience was a life lesson for him: If he was determined to create the games he really wanted to, he would have to go after it for himself, rather than sitting and waiting for a miracle.

The most exciting moment of his career came when their game, Hyper Square, won the Casual Connect Asia Critic’s Choice Award. Hyper Square is a different game app than most of the mobile games in Asia. Usually games in Asia try to maximize value through extending the gaming hours rather than creating valuable content for players. Team Signal put a lot of effort into exploring interesting and unique mechanics of Hyper Square to achieve the goal of creating valuable content. When they were selected as the winner of the Critic’s Choice Award, Lee knew their efforts had resulted in well-deserved success. He says, “It was really the greatest encouragement.”

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Team Signal put a lot of effort into exploring interesting and unique mechanics of Hyper Square to achieve the goal of creating valuable content.

Trends and Impacts

Lee believes the trend that will most affect his company in the future is the F2P business model. He is not terribly familiar with this area, so they will try to start learning about it by making several small titles using the F2P model. He feels a small free game with ads would be a good start.

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When not gaming, Lee enjoys manga drawing and reading, especially on topics related to economics and mythology.

During the next few years, he expects the industry as a whole to be greatly impacted by the Hud display headset, such as Oculus Rift. This could bring the games industry into an entirely new era and expand the boundaries of visual reality.

Art and Gaming

When Lee is gaming, these days he is playing FTL on mobile. He is a huge fan of sci-fi stories, and FTL strongly simulates the feeling of a galaxy adventure in a simple but powerful way. He has also played Clash of Clans with his most expensive purchase at $19.99 for a pack. When not gaming, he enjoys manga drawing and reading, especially on topics related to economics and mythology.

At Casual Connect USA 2014, Lee announced that Team Signal is currently finishing an exclusive Android version of Hyper Square. It will be a freemium game.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Daniel Bernstein Found the Fun in the Games Industry | Casual Connect Video

August 23, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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During his session at Casual Connect USA 2014, Daniel Bernstein talked about putting video ads in a game. “Whenever you put in a video, you have to figure out what it means to the player,” he said. “When a player doesn’t ask for it, that means your retention is probably going to go down because they just don’t want to see it, you are forcing something down their throat they don’t want to look at.”

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Daniel Bernstein is building his second company, UpTap, after selling his first company, Sandlot Games, to Digital Chocolate in 2011. UpTap leverages shared experience, multiple shots on goal, and clear focus on the emerging market of casual free-to-play games on tablet computers. He says that just about everything he has done until now, including the year after Digital Chocolate, is paramount in his work now.

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Daniel Bernstein, CEO, UpTap

He reveals that the proudest moment of career so far was the founding of Sandlot Games, an accomplishment which was the result of “really shitty bosses and dead-end jobs.” Clearly, he was determined to find a better and more enjoyable life experience.

Finding the Fun

With his own businesses, he has found the fun of the games industry, an enjoyment that comes from the creativity surrounding the making of every new game. He particularly enjoys the thrill of building a new, fun experience that didn’t exist before.

Bernstein considers the biggest challenge today in the games industry to be the difficulty of making money with the free-to-play business model. The cost of user acquisition has become very high, and consumers are trained not to pay, so it is difficult to bridge the gap to profitability. As well, discovery on most platforms has become extremely problematic. At UpTap, they use their experience and constant iteration to mitigate this challenge. In this way, they can increase the core retention and monetization of a game.

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Brian, UpTap’s upcoming game, was also part of the Indie Prize Showcase at Casual Connect USA 2014

F2P Backlash

But Bernstein believes that in the coming several years, there may be a backlash against the free-to-play game universe. He sees developers becoming desperate to squeeze money out of each free-to-play game, and the result may be users shunning these games. He expects video advertising to become a more important source of monetization than it is today.

For his own gaming, Bernstein still considers the PC his favorite platform. He thoroughly enjoys Age of Mythology, as he has played it since 2000 and still occasionally plays it. But he no longer owns any console. Instead, he thinks of his tablet as a console.

When not involved with gaming, he enjoys gardening, saying it has become “kind of an obsession.” He is also an accomplished music composer and composes the music for most of the games he works on.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Dan Fiden: Finding Fun First | Casual Connect Video

August 22, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“My experience has been that most people who’ve come up through the video game industry in the West tend to be very new-game oriented, and I think that comes from the fact that many people in the packaged goods industry would associate job security and success with the start of a new game,” Dan Fiden said in a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014. “Whereas in Asia, the culture is completely different. The on-going operations of a game generally mean job security and financial success.”

Dan Fiden is the chief strategy officer at FunPlus, a Beijing-based developer, operator, and publisher of social and mobile games. It now has offices in Vancouver and San Francisco and more than five million daily active users.

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Dan Fiden, CSO, FunPlus

Fiden has always been interested in games, playing a lot of them as a child in the 32-bit console days and earlier. When he began in the games industry, there was no formal education in making games. He started with a company called Jellyvision (now Jackbox), the makers of You Don’t Know Jack. He says, “It was an incredible experience with some really fun, like-minded people. I was hooked thereafter.”

Finding Talent

As CSO, Fiden’s main objective is to build the team through hiring the most talented people he can find and by forming partnerships with people and companies that share the same goals as FunPlus. This means he spends a lot of time traveling and meeting new people.

Understanding Players

The focus at FunPlus is on giving consumers games that put players and fun first. They are in the business of nurturing and maintaining communities, meaning that they treat their players well. Their international ops team is dedicated to making sure the players are constantly engaged in the game.

Fiden believes the same game can work all over the world, but the game operations and the people who interact with the players in whatever language on a day-to-day basis and manage the game must be 100 percent dedicated. They need to understand their players and be able to essentially run that game. So at FunPlus, they never outsource operations behind player volunteers. Instead, they have full-time employees whose entire responsibility is managing the game.

Because FunPlus wants every player to have a great experience in their game, they emphasize treating users well. Social media helps them to communicate with players, so it is a fundamental part of their business.

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Because FunPlus wants every player to have a great experience in their game, they emphasize treating users well.

When well done, online games create a community around a shared experience. And social media, and the way people are constantly connected on their mobile devices, creates opportunities for players to engage with your services anytime, anywhere. This will continue to increase, so Fiden believes any game that fails to take that into account and foster it won’t work much longer.

Knowledge of the East and West

When Fiden first worked in China 10 years ago, the industry was dominated by Tencent’s PC instant messenger client QQ. People played games primarily in internet cafes, and most of the games were very casual multiplayer games like Link Link or low fidelity MMOs. The development community was dominated by outsourcing or insourcing studios for the big western publishers. Today, the situation has completely changed. Chinese developers are concerned mainly with the Chinese market, and that market is focused on mobile. He points out that there are now 80,000 development studios in China, and they release about 100 games every day.

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At FunPlus, Fiden emphasizes, they try to combine the best qualities of both East and West: great, polished, innovative games and incredible, memorable service, whether players are in Timbuktu or Toronto.

The differences in the games industry between West and East are very familiar to Fiden. In the West, most game companies and game developers came from the packaged tradition. Since those games generally couldn’t be changed once completed, there was a strong focus on craftsmanship and polish.  But in the East, video games have been online services for much longer, so Asian companies really understand what it means to focus on player retention and satisfaction. He says, “They interact with their users like a resort operator movie company.” Great experiences and services lead to customer loyalty. At FunPlus, Fiden emphasizes, they try to combine the best qualities of both East and West: great, polished, innovative games and incredible, memorable service, whether players are in Timbuktu or Toronto.

Excitement of Innovation

Fiden believes the most significant innovation in the last few years in the games industry is the free-to-play business model. He claims, “The significance of the free-to-play model has been understated. It’s not just a pricing model. It changes the nature of how you build a game team and what you think of as a game. It radically expands what we can do with game experiences and stories.” He would like to see the dialogue become less about whether it is predatory and more about how it necessitates an ongoing commitment from game makers to support the game and the players, and how that introduces really interesting creative possibilities.

“Games will no longer be generalized; they will be relevant to each player on a global scale.”

In the near future, Fiden believes developers will have the ability to tailor the game to the player. Already, with Barn Voyage, they were able to create the game in fifteen languages, making it global from the first day on the market. There are community managers creating events in each country; these events will reflect an individual country’s culture, pop culture, and personal experiences. He foresees, “Games will no longer be generalized; they will be relevant to each player on a global scale.”

The coming games technology Fiden is most interested in personally is VR tech, such as Project Morpheus. However, in terms of impact on the industry, he selects the rapid proliferation of mobile devices with high speed internet connectivity as the most important trend. An example of what this can do is the amazing large scale battles of games like EVE. He enthusiastically speculates, “Imagine what that will look like when the real, addressable audience is nearly everyone in the world, and all of those people will be able to join in whether they are at home, on a train, or at work because it’s accessible on their mobile device.”

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Rob Jagnow – Exploring A World Of Possiblities | Casual Connect Video

August 22, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“If we are really lucky, in the span of our careers, we’ll make maybe 20 games,” he said at Casual Connect USA 2014. “I think that it is important for everyone to ask themselves what they want those games to be. And years from now, when you reflect back on your career, are you going to be more proud of your work on Farmville 4 or that little weekend project that you spent 48 hours on and have one friend been touched so closely that they cried?”

Dr. Rob Jagnow, the founder and CEO of Lazy 8 Studios, came to a career in the games industry almost by accident. Although he enjoyed games as much as anyone, he had a different career path in mind. While getting a PhD at MIT, he interned at Pixar and intended to get a full-time job on graduation. But by then, he was in a relationship and needed a job that would allow him to stay in Boston. He found a job with Demiurge Studios and discovered he enjoyed the challenge of game development as he discovered the potential of games as an interactive art form. He worked on a variety of projects for Demiurge Studios, Gearbox, Kaos, EA, and WXP before deciding to found his own company.

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Dr. Rob Jagnow, Founder and CEO, Lazy 8 Studios,

More Innovation To Come

Jagnow believes that as of yet game designers have explored only a tiny space of what is possible in games. His desire to push the envelope and explore new spaces is what keeps him going in the industry. He is intrigued by creative spaces that are visually oriented, so he might have chosen a career in movies or music video production if he hadn’t found his creative space in games.

He admits he had no real idea what he was doing when he founded Lazy 8 Studios in 2008. But he had been dabbling with the game concepts in Cogs and wanted to see if he could succeed as an entrepreneur. This eventually become Lazy 8 Studios’ flagship game. His academic background at MIT gave him a significant advantage because he was able to use his knowledge of high-end shader development to give Cogs much more visual polish than the typical casual game. Another advantage came from other indie developers. He says, “I quickly fell in with a group of indie developers who were unbelievably generous in sharing their wisdom. When I got lost, they would point me in the right direction.”

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Jagnow was able to use his knowledge of high-end shader development to give Cogs much more visual polish than the typical casual game.

Cogs won the grand prize at the Indie Game Challenge in 2010. The $100,000 award gave Jagnow the freedom to take even greater creative risks. With this safety net, he had the confidence he needed to create Extrasolar, a project he is extremely proud of.

Jagnow has other passions besides games. He is heavily involved in fitness: running, lifting, and racing. He spends at least 90 minutes a day outside, running or walking the dog. By scattering breaks through the day, he is able to step away from his desk to see the larger perspective. He admits, “I solve a surprising number of creative and technical challenges while I’m not in front of my computer.” He is also an amateur photographer; his current project is to take one photograph a day. He feels that his passions for photography and orienteering came together beautifully in Extrasolar, Lazy 8 Studios’ latest game.

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He feels that his passions for photography and orienteering came together beautifully in Extrasolar, Lazy 8 Studios’ latest game.

For his gaming, Jagnow prefers the PC. He has just recently finished Escape Goat 2, which he tested on the PC before launch, and he calls it an amazing game with great puzzles and a surprising number of mechanics. He does own Xbox 360 and Wii, but nothing in the current generation of consoles; in his home, consoles just don’t get much use. For mobile gaming, he likes Android, feeling the open platform and the less rigidly controlled OS has allowed the UI, tools, and ecosystem to evolve more quickly than iOS.

A Savvy Marketplace

In the next several years, Jagnow sees players growing more and more savvy, and demanding more from games. He expects free-to-play to continue dominating the market, but players looking for premium experiences will begin looking elsewhere, sustaining other niches. Big companies will lose market share if they refuse to innovate, but there will be some surprise mega-hits from indies.

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In the next several years, Jagnow sees players growing more and more savvy, and demanding more from games.

Even more interesting to Jagnow is the question of where the games industry will be in 10 years. By that time, he believes platform dependencies will start to break down and the Web (with WebGL and potentially new Web compatible programming languages) will become an increasingly dominant platform for games that can run on almost any device.

 

OnlineUSA 2014Video Coverage

Ben Sutherland on Leveraging Your Digital Experiences | Casual Connect Video

August 20, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“There are plenty of really great resources out there, and there are plenty of not-as-great resources out there, but they happen to be cheaper and really quick, but maybe they don’t deliver to the full quality bar you’re looking for,” Ben Sutherland said at Casual Connect USA 2014. “One of the things that we’ve done over the years and that we recommend everyone who is involved in this process do is rate ESP, the expected success percentage, of those people or of that group.”

Ben Sutherland is the co-founder and CEO of Present Creative. To this company, he brings skills in animation, illustration, UI/UX, and art direction. His major focus is on pipeline design, group management, and game design.

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Ben Sutherland, Co-founder and CEO, Present Creative

His hobbies are just as creative as his work. In his free time, he likes to create music videos and other collaborative art projects.

The Challenges Of Production

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The most exciting time in his career was the release of their first independent title, Jumpin’ Jackabee.

The most exciting time in his career was the release of their first independent title, Jumpin’ Jackabee. He insists, “You can build games for years, but until you are forced to witness every step of production, you can’t appreciate the sheer amount of work that goes into the phases of production you aren’t usually a part of.”

At Present Creative, Sutherland is responsible for planning and is called in when there are problems to solve. When someone needs to know a recommended path to build something or needs help thinking through potential pitfalls, he is the one who is asked to think about the project and make sure it is on course.

Work With People You Trust

Sutherland and his co-founder Zachary Present first worked together when both were freelance contractors. They began by hiring each other on projects either one would land. Eventually, it made sense to form a company together. Sutherland started out doing the planning, animation, production art, and tech art. Now, as a top talented generalist, he is ready to be brought in at almost any phase of production. This ability comes from years of experience working on smaller projects and interests. But, he feels, “If there is any one “past life” training that helps me on the floor today, it is the years of web design, interactive design, and graphic design that helps for what is now called UI/UX.

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As a top talented generalist,Sutherland is ready to be brought in at almost any phase of production.

His favorite platform for his own gaming is an Xbox, but he also owns a Ouya and Wii. But most of the time, he is playing on his phone or iPad because they are convenient and fit into the time he has available for play.

There are several trends he expects to affect Present Creative’s production in the next two to three years. These include Unity pipeline improvements, leap motion controllers, iBeacon, and Oculus Rift. The company is preparing for these developments by using them in prototypes, finding the game in them and readying themselves for their clients’ needs.

He sees the games industry as a whole being affected in two ways in the future. As far as devices are concerned, he expects to see a massive increase in processor strength in mobile devices, allowing mobile to fully compete with consoles. But free-to-play will have a much bigger impact on the industry than any device. He claims, “It is defining the design style of a generation of games.”

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Matt Bruch Understands The Mobile Landscape | Casual Connect Video

August 19, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Matt Bruch commented on ROI during a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014. “In order for a campaign to work, both sides need to be winning,” he said.

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Matt Bruch, Sales Manager, Liquid Wireless

Matt Bruch is sales manager at Liquid Wireless, a Publishers Clearing House company. The sales team he manages powers monetization for all PCH’s mobile properties. They work directly for a number of direct response advertisers, including Big Fish Games, Playstudios, Buffalo Studios, and Zynga. Most of their campaigns run on CPI pricing, allowing partners to minimize risk and find quality users.

A Mutually Good Fit

Bruch came to Liquid Wireless after connecting with the founder, Jason Cianchette, through mutual acquaintances in 2010. They discovered they had a good fit to work together, and, since it seemed like the mobile industry was positioned for strong growth, he decided to jump in.

Building Strong Relationships

Being part of the team that sold their company to Publishers Clearing House is a time in his career that he remembers with pride. He says “Looking back, I’m glad I took the risk to join a small startup focused on new market opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot about the mobile advertising industry over the past few years and to help build a company we are all proud of. There were times when cash flow was pretty tight, but we found ways to continually scale our business and build strong relationships with our partners.”

“Promoting” New Business

They discovered that they could give users entries into the PCH sweepstakes for downloading apps and still generate very high quality installs for their partners.
They discovered that they could give users entries into the PCH sweepstakes for downloading apps and still generate very high quality installs for their partners.

An important new direction for Liquid Wireless was when they switched from focusing exclusively on lead promotion and expanded to app promotion. They discovered that they could give users entries into the PCH sweepstakes for downloading apps and still generate very high quality installs for their partners. Originally, they ran simple display ads for their partners in an attempt to prove that their audience could provide strong quality. Then they showed that they could provide more scale for their partners by giving users an entry for downloading an app. They found repeatedly that the quality of the sweeps entry ad unit is no different from the standard display ad unit. The company as a whole is working to expand their audience so they can provide advertisers, especially their app partners, with quality inventory at scale.

Liquid Wireless now has their app install business representing over half of their mobile ad revenue. One year ago, they were generating less than 5,000 installs per month. This May, they had grown to 250,000 installs per month, and expect that number to continue increasing.

Data Is The Key

Bruch believes improved targeting through first party data is going to be critical to this industry.

Over the next three to five years, Bruch believes improved targeting through first party data is going to be critical to this industry. He is already seeing major networks trying to partner with them to get data. He emphasizes, “We’re really interested in using our data more effectively to put together stronger performing campaigns for our advertisers.” At the same time, they are trying to grow their audience at a rapid rate through improved content, games, and daily chances for their users to win. He feels that continuing to improve their content and targeting abilities will put them in an excellent position.

Puzzle Games and the Great Outdoors

When Bruch has a few spare minutes, he enjoys playing games on Android. His favorite game at the moment is Candy Crush. He has also been playing a lot of 2048 recently. He likes these games because you can pick them up for a few minutes at a time and they are really entertaining. He says, “I’m a casual gamer who loves the puzzle games, and I usually don’t play games that require large chunks of time to make progress.” And, although he used to play a lot on Xbox 360, he no longer owns any console.

“Sometimes I wish I could buy a paid version at a certain point instead of making one-off purchases that don’t unlock all the content of a game.”

Bruch especially enjoys free-to-play games because he can play the game and decide if he likes it before buying anything. When he played more console games, he became frustrated after buying a game and then discovering he didn’t like it. But free-to-play gives him the opportunity to try more games and either love them or leave them. However, one aspect of free-to-play he dislikes is that the games are so good at trying to get him to pay. He admits, “Sometimes, I wish I could buy a paid version at a certain point instead of making one-off purchases that don’t unlock all the content of a game.”

When not fully occupied with his work, you will find him hiking, biking, playing pond hockey, and going to the beaches near Portland, Maine.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Teut Weidemann : “I Teut You So”| Casual Connect Video

August 14, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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While at Casual Connect USA 2014, Teut Weidemann analyzed the monetization of League of Legends. “Riot’s conversion rate is less than 5 percent,” he said. “That’s not good. If you’re looking to copy League of Legends‘ monetization, don’t. It won’t work for you.”

Teut Weidemann is the senior online supervisor at Blue Byte Ubisoft, ensuring games in development have good online game mechanics and monetization practices. While the complexity of online game mechanics is something many teams underestimate, ensuring success requires constant iteration of both the monetization and game mechanics systems. Weidemann is passionate about educating the industry about online games, their systems, how F2P works and what they need to make good online games.

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Teut Weidemann, Senior Online Supervisor, Blue Byte Ubisoft

Getting In

I was the least nerdy

Weidemann became involved in gaming while growing up on Airbase Ramstein in Germany. The officers club had all the arcade games from the US, something that was a rarity in Germany at the time, and he quickly became hooked on Defender, Lunar Lander, Space Invaders, and Battlezone.

It all began when “Our group of coders was bored and started programming our own games, selling them to small publishers for 2500 DM (DM 1.95583 = €1 when the Deutsche Mark was converted to Euro). As I was the least nerdy, I was the one who would talk to the publishers.” Weidemann’s interest in the games industry became a career by a stroke of good luck when a friend asked him to sell his game for 5000 DM and offered Weidemann 20 percent for his contribution to the graphic and level design. The publisher was so impressed, Weidemann fetched 25,000 DM and quickly began supplying the publisher with more games, one of which was a hit: Katakis on Amiga. This success enabled Weidemann to parley university and jump headfirst into the games industry.

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Katakis enabled Weidemann to parley university and jump headfirst into the games industry.

The Future is Online

Personally, I think Al Bots, QTEs, etc. are boring

Weidemann was drawn to online games because he loves interacting with other gamers. Ultima Online represented a turning point for Weidemann where the future of online was clear: Sooner or later, all games will go to online. Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, and Eve Online form the basis for all other online games. “Personally, I think Al Bots, QTEs, etc. are boring; humans write the most interesting stories. Everyone needs to play Eve Online to fully understand the potential of fully immersive online games.”

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Weidemann’s Eve Online Character. He is able to fly the largest ship in Eve.

The best part of making games is sharing the enjoyment with others, when someone he knows picks up one of his games, and likes it, he insists, “You can’t beat that!”

Mistakes are to be Cherished

The Ubisoft philosophy is that mistakes are opportunities we should share proudly and learn from. One mistake to proudly share is Weidemann insisting that a team do what he felt was right, rather than letting them learn from their own experiences. He admits he had a hard time and the situation made him angry, making him so unpleasant, there is a meme to this day uttered frequently in the Blue Byte office, “I Teut you so”. While the story will live on, Weidemann is a new man; after sharing his opinion, each team is free to follow their own path, analyzing how their decisions performed and the result afterward.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Mark Robinson Believes in Managing the Players Experience | Casual Connect Video

August 14, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“To take the guesswork out of the game design and the game development process, we need, as an industry, to start relying on the data to tell us where the right balance is, what the players are experiencing, and then start to make those changes through A/B testing, through game re-balancing, through dynamic responsive games,” Mark Robinson said during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014.

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Mark Robinson
Mark ROBINSON, CEO, deltaDNA

Mark Robinson makes it his personal mission to evangelize how analytics can change the games industry. In 2010, he founded deltaDNA with Chris Wright. Wright was his next door neighbor, and they used to spend Sunday nights playing squash. One night, the conversation turned to games, and Wright claimed the games industry needed to do a better job with analytics. Robinson says, “’I’m an analytics guy’, and the rest is history.” But he continues to emphasize that we are only part way through the journey of using data intelligently to build player experiences. There is still a lot of work to do.

An Innovative Culture

He loves the innovative and dynamic nature of the industry, as well as how supportive of each other everyone is. “You don’t seem to get that in any other sector,” he feels. On the other hand, he dreams of being on a boat on the Turkish Mediterranean if he were not a part of the games industry.

Different Career – Same Approach

Before founding deltaDNA, previously known as GamesAnalytics, Robinson ran a direct marketing agency developing CRM strategies for big brands such as Heineken and Office Depot. He has taken this same approach and applied it to the real time world of the game. He claims that the work he is the most proud of in his career is setting deltaDNA and seeing the business develop and flourish through the work of the great team they created.

He believes the coming trend in the games industry will be seeing analytics move beyond the dashboard to really understand player behaviors and design responsive environments for all types of players.

Not_All_Players
He believes the coming trend in the games industry will be seeing analytics move beyond the dashboard to really understand player behaviors and design responsive environments for all types of players.

Robinson likes and plays on all platforms, and the one he chooses depends on where he is and what he is playing. The versatility of mobile devices is shown by the fact that recently he was playing while waiting for his team mates to finish the Rob Roy Challenge in the middle of the Scottish Highlands.

Recently, he has been playing Titanfall because his son recommended it. For mobile devices, he tends to prefer Android simply because he never got on with iTunes. His console gaming is done on his Xbox 360, a gift from his brother. These days, he is under pressure to buy a PS4.

In his free time, Robinson enjoys camping and mountain climbing in Scotland, or anything in the fresh air (and rain, since it is Scotland.) He also works with youth groups, giving them outdoor experiences to help build character and resilience.

Experience Matters

At Casual Connect USA 2014, Robinson emphasized that game personalization is really gaining momentum as F2P developers understand that maximizing engagement and revenue is not only about building great games, it also requires pro-actively managing the player experience in the game. deltaDNA launched their realtime player relationship management platform at the start of the year, and since then, they have been overwhelmed by the interest in their toolkit and approach.

dashboards
Robinson emphasized that game personalization is really gaining momentum as F2P developers understand that maximizing engagement and revenue is not only about building great games, it also requires pro-actively managing the player experience in the game.

He announced that they have just closed their second round of funding and will be investing in sales and marketing to continue to evangelize about how player segmentation and targeted messaging strategies really move the dial for key game performance metrics.

 

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