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Asia 2014Video Coverage

Shawn Bonham: Advantages of Consolidation | Casual Connect Video

June 6, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“We are moving into a period of increased consolidation right now in the gaming industry,” Shawn Bonham said at Casual Connect Asia 2014. “As we move into this phase, it’s really important to identify the key components of the business back to scale. Just like that perfect black jacket or black dress that you can wear clubbing or you can wear to a wedding, figure out what your core components of your tech stack are, what the core components of your business are, and then you can really scale them as you build out your business across multiple dev teams, or as you work as a single developer with multiple publishers.”

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Shawn Bonham, Senior Managing Director, APAC, Upsight

Shawn Bonham is the senior managing director, APAC at Upsight, a company that delivers actionable analytics and marketing to mobile games. Upsight resulted from the merger of Kontagent and PlayHaven last December and has now launched its freemium platform. They offer unlimited access to core acquisition, engagement, and revenue metrics, as well as tools for performing in-app marketing and targeted push-notification. They will also offer multiple upgrade paths to allow developers to choose the right features and capacity at the right time. The merger makes it possible for them to offer value through a mobile’s tech-stack, as all of the components for deep analytics, in-game marketing, and push are connected together in a unified system.

Bonham also announces that Upsight continues to improve its product localization and have added Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Korean tool tips to its dashboard; more localized documentation will be coming soon.

At Upsight, Bonham manages operations and strategy for APAC and consults with mobile companies throughout the region on best practices in actionable data analytics. Previously, he held management positions at Havok and NVIDIA, working with publishers and developers to identify the business case for new technologies and to realize tangible ROI from their implementation. At Havok, he started the APAC team and helped to expand the adoption reusable console middleware in Japan in the PS2 era. At NVIDIA, he worked on many partnerships with mobile developers to create mid-core mobile games that reach the core gamer audience.

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Upsight provides analytics and marketing for many companies

Energized By Innovation

Most of his career has been in the APAC region, including China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Southeast Asia; he is always energized by the speed of innovation and business in this area. He says, “It’s not about figuring out the right answer tomorrow, it’s about figuring it out today!” He emphasizes that each country is vastly different in language, business culture, business models, and game preferences. It is valuable to understand each in order to find the best business fit for various technologies and to consult with partners as they expand to the West and to other APAC regions.

Middleware Explosion

Bonham has seen mobile games become increasingly complex in their mechanics and budgets for development; operations have expanded accordingly. There has also been an explosion of middleware in the mobile space in the last few years to meet the needs of publishers and developers. As a result, developers must implement a vast array of SDKs and, on the operations side, view information on multiple independent dashboards to manage and optimize an F2P game’s performance. In response to these trends, he expects both developers and publishers will consolidate to mitigate development risk. And he expects to see consolidation in the middleware space to leverage multiple technologies through a single SKD. He believes platform will be a major theme in the next few years.

He claims, “The merger of Kontagent and PlayHaven is a great example of the consolidation trend. We’ve been able to really empower developer while simultaneously making their lives easier by putting the tools for deep analytics, in-app marketing, and push together in a single, unified dashboard and SDK.

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The Upsight Team

Wearable Technology

He also believes wearables will be an interesting disruption over the next few years, saying, “I look forward to seeing how game mechanics and business models will be tweaked for these new technologies. All of this is going to require a great deal of trial and error, for which concrete metrics and solid use of analytics to gauge progress will be key.”

When not involved with work, Bonham enjoys playing tennis and basketball with friends and working out, especially Olympic-style weightlifting. He appreciates the terrific live music and DJ scene in Tokyo, so he goes to shows whenever he has time. And he is a big gamer, making an effort to try out all the major releases on PC, console, and mobile.

Bonham used to be a huge console gamer and a fan of Japanese RPGs and action games. But these days, he rarely has time to finish epic games, so he now turns toward short-burst competitive PC and mobile titles, such as Clash of Clans, Hearthstone, DATA and many others. And, as a fan of American football, he occasionally plays the Madden series on consoles.

F2P Challenges

He sees F2P as a two-edged sword depending on the interaction between in-app purchases and game mechanics. A play-to-win mechanic can cause large problems in multiplayer games and in the single player genres. If a player feels manipulated into purchasing an item or power-up just to finish a level in a reasonable time or to collect an achievement, then it will leave a bad impression and negatively affect retention.

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Here is an example of how SEGA used Upsight

However, if the micro-transaction can be successfully decoupled from in-game success, then F2P makes it economically feasible for a developer to focus on perfecting game balance and adding iterative improvements and content to a title while maintaining an F2P revenue stream, without worrying about adding potentially unnecessary mechanics and features to justify another full-priced premium package purchase to the consumer. Bonham believes the key to succeeding with F2P is making users feel they don’t need an in-app purchase, but just really want it.

As a longtime console gamer, Bonham owns both PS4 and Xbox One. He plays more on the PS4 because he prefers the clean interface and finds Playstation Plus a fantastic value. He is curious to see how this generation of consoles will evolve. He believes we are beginning to see hybrid games combining some free-to-play business models and game mechanics inside traditional packaged console games, and is excited to see how this will develop.

 

News

Big Viking Games, Kickstarter, Community, and the next level of UGC

September 12, 2013 — by David Nixon

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KS LogoSince its inception in 2009, the crowdfunding site Kickstarter has seen successful funding of hundreds of game-related projects. From modest one-man projects requiring only a few hundred dollars to over $8,000,000 raised by the microconsole innovator, OUYA, little doubt remains that crowdfunding, and Kickstarter in particular, is a non-trivial force in the creation of new video game content.

 

Big Viking Games Taps Kickstarter

London, Ontario-based Big Viking Games hopes to soon join the growing ranks of game companies that have found creative independence, funding, and community support on Kickstarter with their new project, Tiny Kingdoms – kicking off today, September 12, 2013.  Founded in 2011 by Albert Lai and Greg Thomson, each individually successful social games industry innovators responsible for products like YoVille and Kontagent, Big Viking Games is “A passionate group of artists, designers, and engineers that love making great games as a part of a great team.” Big Viking pursues success through cross platform mobile and social game experiences based on HTML5.  For more information about HTML5, make sure to check out Chris Shankland’s talk on The Technical Challenges of HTML5 Development from Casual Connect USA in San Francisco.

Tiny Kingdoms is a free-to-play, RPG adventure game for mobile and social platforms.

So in the crowded world of crowdfunding, what makes Tiny Kingdoms stand out? First – a clear focus on User Generated Content as value of the community experience that comes with any good Kickstarter program. The campaign promises future backers that, “Through this Kickstarter campaign, you will not just be helping to fund this project, you will be helping us create it! We want to reinvent the game design process, and change what it means to be a funder. You will receive game updates, dev diaries and partake in polls which will determine the nature of future game assets.”

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Albert Lai, CEO of Big Viking Games

The message is further re-enforced by the company’s press messaging which states,”…what really makes this game different from any other is the way players will be able to influence the development of the game, with unprecedented access to the game creation process. When players become backers in this campaign, they will help craft the vision and direction of the game, along with the developers at Big Viking. They will be given the opportunity to offer ideas and feedback on characters, environments, items, features and tactical gameplay modes. Big Viking sees the backers becoming part of a tight knit development team, as they experience rare insight into the development process. To facilitate this process, Big Viking will host live chats, provide designer diary updates and conduct polls throughout development. This feedback will begin when the game reaches beta and will continue through and after launch as the game evolves.”

Albert Lai, CEO of Big Viking, sees this as a unique opportunity for players to leave their mark on the game and build the game they really want to play, saying, “We want our fans to go beyond just pledging their dollars to also lend their ideas and creativity. The ultimate goal will be to re-imagine the way players interact with game developers, through both Kickstarter and collaborative online platforms.”

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Greg Thomson, CPO

Second – a very modest initial funding goal of $50,000 coupled with the wide variety and professional polish of the assets developed to kick off the Kickstarter campaign suggests that while Big Viking Games could potentially bring this game to market on their own, they genuinely see value in letting consumers behind the curtain to become a part of the creative process.  While a few thousand extra CAD isn’t anything a successful games industry indie is likely to turn away, it’s clear to anyone familiar with the genre Tiny Kingdoms occupies that both Albert and Greg conceive of a game that is far, far bigger than $50k will buy. In a super-savvy move, the founders of Big Viking appear to tap the passion of the games crowdfunding community to guide their offering AND build their foundational community at the same time. The low funding threshold also virtually guarantees funding success while compelling stretch goals like free new characters, Co-Op and PvP Multiplayer functionality give ample ammunition for convincing their backers to pony up to the next level for those popular features.

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“When players become backers in this campaign, they will help craft the vision and direction of the game, along with the developers at Big Viking.”

Third – virality is built in from the very beginning. Tapping into the natural social component of today’s games, the RPG genre, and the crowdfunding community, Big Viking has built in social benefits even before the game is available by rewarding backers with bonus “buddy” rewards to share with friends. Clearly, the folks at Big Viking understand that gamers, especially midcore online and mobile gamers, want to share the love with their gamer friends, and in doing so, promote the Kickstarter campaign to the exact market most likely to find value in it.  With this core understanding of the power of virality and the gamer’s social networks, Greg, Al, and their team can surely expect to build strong social features into the game as well, completing and perpetuating social positive-feedback loops that enhance Tiny Kingdoms’ growth.

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More about Tiny Kingdoms

Tiny Kingdoms is a free-to-play, RPG adventure game for mobile and social platforms. In this game, players take on the role of adventurers on a quest to prove their worthiness to become the next ruler of the kingdom. To do this they must defeat deadly creatures through hundreds of strategic battles as they conquer the most insurmountable odds. They will have to choose a tactical team, craft items and weapons and find the loot that will strengthen their warriors. The powerful enemies in this gameplay can only be defeated through tactical strategy, item and weapon crafting and obtaining the amazing loot. The game is built using HTML5, which allows player to seamlessly play across different platforms, such as Facebook and their mobile devices.

To learn more or to contribute to the campaign, visit Kickstarter.  To learn more about Big Viking games, visit their website.

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