The Indie Prize competition at Casual Connect Eastern Europe featured an exciting variety of games that displayed amazing innovative talent. With the judging now complete, Casual Connect announces the winners and nominees.
The award for Best Game Audio went to Awakening of Heroes, created by COFA Games from Serbia. Awakening of Heroes lets the player forge through minions to overcome other players and destroy their towers. But for weapons, players must choose between such items as ladles, chimney brushes and hair dryers. The ten minute matches have you exploring character skill sets and best combos as you fight to win.
Entries for Indie Prize at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2018 from Western Europe show amazing creativity. One game brings art to life with gyroscope technology, another has players surviving and building in a world of garbage. Using music and rhythm to create challenging levels, creating your own comic book through a point-and-click adventure game, playing a variety of puzzle games or participating in MMO battles or retro arcade games, you are certain to find games that are fascinating to play.
Game Title:Flotsam Developer:Pajama Llama Games Platform: Desktop Win, Desktop Mac Location: Belgium
Everything is flooded, and islands of garbage float among the ruins of tall buildings and the polluted coral reefs. This is the world of Flotsam, and you must find a way to survive. You will manage a team of drifters and salvage what you need to build boats and buildings from scrap and flotsam. And you must rescue the seagulls and dolphins who will help you find fresh water and seafood. Flotsam won the prizes for Best Game and Best Game Design at White Nights Prague 2017 and was nominated to participate in Indie Prize.
We at Flaregames pledge to protect the creativity of our partners in a cutthroat market. - Justin…Click To Tweet
It’s daunting for many developers to have to constantly create new heroes, units, items to keep pace with engaged players. But designs that avoid the “content treadmill” most often lead to players desiring the game’s content less, and players who desire less will spend less. In a talk called F2P Developers: Get on the Content Treadmill! at Casual Connect Europe, Justin Stolzenberg, VP Publishing at flaregames, it is explained why it’s smarter to embrace rather than avoid ongoing content creation, and gave practical tips for small and medium sized teams. “A gacha is only as deep as the most desirable content.” He further explained, “Nobody plays the lottery for a consolation prize.” He suggests following these three steps: start with the end in mind, design for scalability, and be real about constraints.
Justin Stolzenberg, Vice President Publishing at Flaregames, has been responsible for monetization for a variety of browser and games companies over the past sixteen years. As part of the Flaregames’ management team, Justin now looks after their entire publishing portfolio. Justin came to Flaregames after getting to know CEO Klaas Kersting five years ago. Justin fell in love with Klaas’ vision and the Flaregames culture, which includes true partnerships with developers, a no-asshole-policy and real gamers.
Justin’s favorite aspect to this job is the people, both the diverse and inspiring partners and the brilliant people within the company in tech, marketing and product divisions.
From Gaming to a Career in Games
As Justin was growing up, he played games continually, every day. The most constant of these was Counter-Strike, which he played at the European Pro level until 2001. Interestingly, as he was growing up, his plan for the future varied according to what game that he was playing. “One summer I wanted to be a helicopter pilot because I’d sunk hundreds of hours into Novalogic’s Commanche, then I wanted to be a race driver because of Grand Prix 2.” So it was natural as an adult for him to pursue a career in the game industry.
He started in the industry as a game writer for a major media company. From there he quickly moved to product management and project management during the mid-2000s, while F2P browser games were most popular.
Justin describes, “Games require both artistic and scientific skills. Bringing both perspectives together to solve difficult problems is something that really drives me.” And this is what he enjoys most about his work today.
There are significant challenges in the industry because the mobile game market has become so competitive. There are also, traditionally, challenges in the relationship between developer and publisher. Flaregames wanted to change this dynamic, so they began iterating and learning from mistakes, and continued until they developed what they consider to be a formula that perfectly aligns the interests of both parties.
As a publisher, Justin is most proud of his work when he helped ship and scale something beautiful. These have included Royal Revolt II and Nonstop Knight, two of Justin’s favorite games.
The Key to Effective Marketing
The key to effectively marketing games, according to Justin. is deeply understanding the audience and then telling a compelling, joined-up story. This may be through influencers, media-buying or other ways. Because Flaregames is looking for brands to be successful over a number of years, they must make a deep investment in story-building and how they communicate with the player base.
Flaregames looks for magic in the games they are considering and how the developer manages the ongoing evolution of their game. With respect to the game, this means the themes the game covers, the ways the themes fulfill the needs of the intended audience, and whether the gameplay actually delivers on this vision. Flaregames then looks at the developer’s readiness for sustained live ops and continued content creation after hard launch, and whether this is a realistic proposition.
The Relationship Between Publisher and Developer
Justin emphasizes that the relationship with developers must be based on transparency, fairness and an alignment of interests. He always remembers the developer is the chief architect of the masterpiece while the publisher provides the scale, marketing, infrastructure and F2P expertise to bring the masterpiece to the masses. The developer should be left to do what they do best: making the games.
Making games is a full-time, intense amount of work, with little time for anything else. So, as Justin points out, it is important for a developer to find a publisher just as passionate and invested in the game as they are. If the publisher can offer world-class marketing, production and technical support, this is an excellent publisher to choose.
There are many, many great games from amazing teams that never gain traction. The volume of competition is staggering and a serious threat to most developers; this is where publishers can really make a difference.
“We at Flaregames call ourselves the ‘Guardians of Joy’: we pledge to protect the creativity of our partners in a cutthroat market,” Justin describes. “This is what the best publishers can offer.”
Justin continues to be passionate about games when he is not working. He plays in diverse genres: games that include Grand Prix II, Counter-Strike, Overwatch and all the Civilization games. Currently he is looking for the next game he will play really hard core. He also plays jazz guitar, reads sci-fi and exercises obsessively.
Are you a game developer who has decided to use the free-to-play business model? Then, no matter how exciting your game, you must find ways to make it profitable if you are to continue in business. How will you convert the users into paying users? Then how will you convince those paying users to continue spending in your game? These are difficult but absolutely essential challenges. There is no better person to advise you than Teut Weidemann.
Teut Weidemann is the F2P Consultant at I Teut You So. As a senior online games specialist, he consults with companies in the F2P space, sharing the knowledge he gained working in games since the 1980s and shipping over 100 titles on multiple platforms. He was part of the team that created the browser game of the year, The Settlers Online.
At Casual Connect Europe 2018, Teut gave the session titled Raising ARPPU and Conversion in Your F2P Game. In it he used examples from dozens of different games in best practices for raising ARPPU and conversion: the most difficult problem. Once past this hurdle, raising ARPPU is a little easier, but still tricky. You must always be aware of the fact that players want value for the money they spend in the game.
To learn more about how you can keep your game profitable while providing the value players want, be sure to watch the video of this session.
To read more about Teut including some more of his wisdom from Casual Connect Europe 2017 which took place in Berlin, see this exclusive article.
Not all great ideas are quite as interesting the next day. - Tim ShepherdClick To Tweet
In 2017, the team at Wooga began an 18 month long journey to ‘bring Diamond Dash back from the dead’. The game did quite well but ended up being retired in 2015 as the market changed. Learn from Senior Product Manager at Wooga Tim Shepherd as he tells the story of resurrecting a 7 year old game. Join Tim for his talk entitled Bringing a 7 Year Old Game Back to Life at Casual Connect Europe 2018 in London.
Indie Prize at Casual Connect Europe 2018 has attracted many entries from all over Europe, including Italy, France, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, as well as the United Kingdom. And the innovation in these games is remarkable. Competitive games have a variety of new twists that require speed, precision and skill to succeed. Adventure and narrative games pit the player against novel situations and obstacles. Settings range from the historically accurate (or inaccurate) to fantasy or dungeons or even the player’s mind. And a variety of puzzle games challenge players’ thinking in different ways. Whatever kind of gaming you prefer, there are games here you will enjoy. These fantastic games total 38 from Europe. The finalists have been broken up into two parts. To see the other 19, see this article.
Game Title:Falling Sky Developer:Falling Sky Platform: Desktop Win Country: United Kingdom/Norway
Falling Sky is a cinematic 3D mystery game. It was developed at the National Film and Television School and the project leader and sole developer was Jonathan Nielssen. The game uses Unreal Engine and motion capture technology to create immersive, narrative-driven drama. It has a Twin Peaks influence and elements of open world adventure.
The characters of the game are brothers Daniel and Tommy, who are attempting to solve the mystery of their mother’s disappearance. Guided by a series of cryptic messages, the boys set off on a quest to find the truth.
Indie Prize at Casual Connect Europe 2018 has attracted many entries from all over Europe, including Italy, France, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, as well as the United Kingdom. And the innovation in these games is remarkable. Competitive games have a variety of new twists that require speed, precision and skill to succeed. Adventure and narrative games pit the player against novel situations and obstacles. Settings range from the historically accurate (or inaccurate) to fantasy or dungeons or even the player’s mind. And a variety of puzzle games challenge players’ thinking in different ways. Whatever kind of gaming you prefer, there are games here you will enjoy. These fantastic games total 38 from Europe. The finalists have been broken up into two parts. To see the other 17, see this article.
Game Title:Circle of Sumo Developer:Yonder Platform: Desktop Win, Desktop Mac Country: Italy
Circle of Sumo is a fast-paced competitive multi-player game where players alone or in teams fight for supremacy in the ring. This intense challenge requires power, precision, quick reflexes and cunning. Yonder describe the game as “a real mini-games box, a sort of kaleidoscope of playable pills with a joyful and inclusive soul.” But the competitive aspects are always retained. There are dozens of different arenas and the ring could be anywhere a circle could be imagined, even a traffic circle.
Every developer knows how critical user acquisition is to the success of a game. But the mobile app landscape evolves at lightning speed and new challenges constantly arise. So how do you keep up? Fortunately, new solutions are also coming to deal with the latest problems.
Martin Price, Vice President of Product at Vungle, is one of the best people you could ask about user acquisition challenges. Martin runs Vungle’s product team and, as well, is responsible for roadmap planning, research and development, user experience and product design. With over fifteen years experience leading product teams, Martin also has had executive roles at Yahoo!, Vdopia and OpenX and strategy roles at Vodafone and Nokia.
At Casual Connect USA 2018, Martin presented the session Tricks of the User Acquisition Trade: How Advertiser Tools are Changing and What You Need to Know to Drive More Revenue. They discussed what today’s user acquisition challenges are and how creative optimization plus data give the opportunity to transform the way audiences are grown. And they described the ways creative optimization and self-serve advertising tools help to empower a new kind of mobile advertiser. Be sure to watch the video of this presentation to learn more.
Macy Mills is a business development specialist focused on the gaming industry. Currently, she works with game publishers who are interested in scaling their user base with influencer marketing. Before GameInfluencer, she was the VP of Strategy and Business Development at Hitcents, creators of The Godfather: Family Dynasty, Draw a Stickman, and Hanx Writer. At Casual Connect Kyiv, Macy spoke about different, unorthodox approaches to influencer marketing.
Europe and Asia are bringing some exciting participants to the Indie Prize during Casual Connect USA 2018 at Disneyland® Hotel. The games bring a variety of worlds and experiences, imaginary, realistic and even historical. The story lines are as varied as the environments, and challenge, adventure and learning are involved in all of them.
Game Title:Bushy Tail Developer:Fuero Games Platform: Desktop Win Country: Poland
In Bushy Tail, three children are processing their experiences when refugees and foreign cultures suddenly arrive. They dive into the fictional world and tell the story of their hero, Little Fox, who goes through, adapts and overcomes the challenges of change. The game is constantly transforming, depending on which child is telling the story, giving the player the sense of influencing the plot.