Andrew Sheppard has had a productive career – playing key roles at companies like Kabam, hi5, Electronic Arts and Outspark. Now, as the newly appointed CEO of GREE International Entertainment, Inc., he will share his expertise and insights with the audience at Casual Connect Europe in Berlin, Germany, as its keynote speaker on February 7.
So what type of experience does Andrew bring to the conference and what can developers and other games industry professionals hope to learn? Here is a quick look back at Andrew’s career and what to look forward to at Casual Connect Europe.
Séverin Larose of SoulGame Studio has created multiple titles, including Rogue Soul II. SoulGame recently received the bronze medal at Ludum Dare gamejam, which Séverin was extremely proud of since it was the studio’s first time participating in the event.
“The concept we came up with was new to me, I had never worked on a pure puzzle game before so it was nice to check that we could do puzzles as well,” said Séverin. “It also meant that the experience I had accumulated working with Flash was allowing me to ‘impress’ people with high quality polish in just 72 hours of work, since many comments were actually skeptical about the possibility of achieving such a result in such a short time frame… that was really satisfying and motivating.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Séverin, having to work as a part-time music teacher during the creation of SoulGame’s first release: The Soul Driver. There were other games before that, but Séverin was willing to scrap partially complete projects in order to put something out at the level of quality they wanted.
“I think most of us aim at perfection when we create things even if we never reach it, but I think some devs are just more reasonable than I am when it comes to budget and deadline. I did spend a lot of time, hard work and money just to make our games better, when they could have been released. Sometimes I spend a whole day on an invisible detail… I basically only stop when I’m so out of cash that I can’t continue!” detailed Séverin. “It’s just that I really value players’ enthusiasm, a lot. It’s extremely rewarding for me, even more than money. It’s really quite logical after all, we just want to make games that people love, and yeah sure, if I get rich in the process, awesome! But that will be a consequence, not a goal.”
Séverin has also participated in Indie Prize, after talking to Khail Santia from Moocho Brain who talked about how great the experience was for them. “Indie Prize to me was an unique occasion to meet in person a lot of people from the industry. It was kinda epic, to be honest!” said Séverin. “I got so used to working on a remote basis, dealing with email and invisible people, so meeting them after all those years was a kind of ‘real world’ confirmation that everything we lived was actually true. I especially loved meeting and share experiences with my fellow game developers from literally all around the world, some I’m still in touch with.”
I’m Benoit Freslon, I’m 31, based in France, and I’ve liked making games since my childhood. I studied in a gaming school and earned experience in a game studio in Paris before becoming a solo indie game developer in 2009.
EnigmBox on iOS is a compilation of 56 different puzzles that make you “think outside the box”. Use all the iPhone functionalities: move it, touch it, take pictures, capture videos, plug in accessories, use location service, all buttons and the mobile features. At Casual Connect Asia this game won the Best in Show Critics Choice and the Most Innovative Game awards.
Plarium started out humbly enough in 2009 on Russia’s social networks with only a poker game and a farming game to its name. Today they are the #1 hardcore game developer on Facebook and a major force on mobile that is continuing to grow quickly. How did Plarium get from one to the other? It all comes down to its content, its employees and its players – with a dash of marketing thrown in.
Marko Jevtic is the product marketing manager for Nordeus’ Top Eleven franchise. He leads the marketing team, and has worked in digital marketing for over ten years.
“Community management is important to us, and we have a presence across various social media platforms,” Marko detailed. “Market research is also part of my responsibilities.”
Before joining Nordeus, Marko worked on creative, digital strategies and as a media guide for clients like Visa and Samsung in Europe. Nordeus made the offer to Marko, which he saw as a great opportunity, noted that one year in the gaming sector is like 20 in other industries.
A mobile game is able to soar up to top charts, and this is not that impossible: through raising high awareness before launch and getting fast adoption in the first few weeks after (or when awareness reaches critical mass). But the challenge lies in staying on top of the charts, not that much in breaking in there.
What usually happens to the so-called “big bang” titles (think of Clash Royale, Fallout Shelter and Pokémon Go) is that in a few weeks the passionate early adopters become less satisfied, and move on to the next big title or back to previous games they’ve played. “Leaving with them is the buzz and excitement that started the momentum behind the title to begin with. If developers can re-engage early adopters before they lose interest and switch to a different title, it can prolong the momentum behind mobile games and lead to more sustained user acquisition”, researchers from Nielsen suggest. They have analyzed several titles released in the last year that fit the “big bang” adoption curve and found the probable cause of this departure: unmet demand for new content.
Game design is a fine art, and video games can be created by small teams in garages along with large teams in huge office spaces. During the Game Maker track for Casual Connect Tel Aviv, some of the greatest game makers on the planet will talk about their craft. Nir Miretzky, Co-founder of TheGamers.TV and Tsahi Liberman, CTO at TapOnIt will be the first in this track at the event.
Nir and Tsahi are also Chairman at GameIS and a Content Manager at GameIS respectively, a non-profit organization designed to unite Israeli game companies. As a sponsor of the Game Maker track, GameIS hopes to facilitate connections within and without the Israeli gaming industry.
Game Development in Israel
GameIS will also be represented by Tsahi Liberman moderating the panel Sound Session – Same But Different. There, Alon Kaplan, Mojo Kid Music Producer and Composer for Games Yinon Kuperstein, and Capricia Productions CEO Arnold Nesis and NivGo CEO Niv Golan will talk about what they made when working for the same client. Related to regional issues, 87 Owner and Game Developer/Designer Suhail Habib will talk about the political and cultural issues that have helped inform their game creation in the session How Being an Israeli-Palestinian Influenced My Games.
Creating the Next-Generation
Ask a lot of gaming professionals, the AR/VR scene has the most potential to blow up over the next several years. Still, nobody quite knows what form that will take, and that’s where Mark Shovman, Head of AR UX Research at Eyeway Vision, comes in. Mark will talk about how Pokemon Go might portend to the future in AR Gamers – The Next Generation.
Whatever future for VR, Valve’s Steam will surely have an impact on it. Steam Early Access is a good way to generate revenue and feedback, but some use it incorrectly or maliciously. Tomer Barkan, CEO and Founder of Suncrash Studios will discuss the hows and whys of using the platform in Steam Early Access Done Right. Similar to Early Access for mobile is a soft launch, and consultant Adir Ron will talk about what to do when launching a mobile title for To the Stars! Scaling your Game from Concept to Soft Launch (and Beyond!).
How to Make Games for Everyone
Before games are launched in any form, most are displayed at public and private events, which brings particular problems that can be hard to account for. Shalev Moran, Games Program Director for Print Screen Festival and Steamer Salon Festival, will talk about showing off your games in these settings at the session Exhibition Mode: How to Prepare Your Game for Exhibitions. Ultimately, it’s best to convey as many features that are important to the game, including how the narrative and gameplay are woven together, something Fireberry Studio Game Artist and Developer Stav Goldstein will talk about during the session Combining World, Story and Mechanics in The Splitting.
Women are huge consumers for the mobile game industry, yet they are often underrepresented in games, something Shulamit Ferber, Game Developer at Helen Doron will talk about in the session No Need for the Pink Hair Ribbon. Also on the docket will be Amir Dori, Senior Game Designer at Matific, at the session Kids, Technology & the Future of Education where Amir will talk about using games to make education fun and Ohad Barzilay, Producer and Game Designer at Sidekick Games, will talk about what works in Asian mobile games for the west (like Gacha mechanics) in Asian vs. Western Games: Successful Gameplay and Design Elements That Makes No Sense.
Make it out to Tel Aviv
Plenty of game creators and game publishers will be in attendance for Casual Connect Tel Aviv on November 1-3, many of which will be seeking networking opportunities. Info about the Game Maker track and move can be found at TelAviv.CasualConnect.org.
Funding is a vastly important part of starting a new studio, and M&A is vital for large companies to infuse themselves with new talent and fresh IPs. Casual Connect Tel Aviv has got both covered in the Funding and M&A track, where various partners will be on hand to talk about effective ways to expand.
Fast Track to China
One of the major elements of both funding and M&A is China, both going into and going out of the country. There will be multiple sessions dealing with this in China and Asia in general, including Doing Business in China: The Perspective of an Entrepreneur Who Did It given by Reinaldo Normand, Investment Partner at GameFounders and Entering Asia by Sean Lee, Chief Corporate Development Officer at Wargaming Group.
For those looking to be acquired by a Chinese company, there’s a lot to consider. It can be hard to reach out to such companies or even know what they’re looking for. Corum Group Executive Vice President, Jim Perkins, has dealt with several M&A’s in the region, including the sale of Digital Extremes to Leyou Technologies and will address the subject in the session Is Your Company’s Buyer In Asia?
Large Purchases, Big Deals
The panels for Funding and M&A also have a focus on the Chinese region. With companies like Supercell, Playtika, Smaato and Media.net being subjects of M&A activity and China, it’s important to know what’s causing these deals and what happens to the companies. In the panel M&A in China – What is Driving Acquisitions by Chinese Firms?, Perfect World Head of Global Investment Bill Wang, CV Capital Adviser Jim Ying, and Youzu Interactive Vice President of Corporate BD Yuli Zhao will be moderated by Jim Perkins, Corum Group Executive Vice President and will talk about all qualities of these acquisitions from both sides.
While there have been some of the largest purchases in the mobile/casual industry instigated by Chinese companies, some think the investments from Chinese companies into Western markets has only begun. Bill Wang, Head of Global Investment at Perfect World, Ringo Zhu, Director Business Development for North America at CMGE, and Reinaldo Normand, Investment partner at GameFounders, will discuss in the panel Jumping the Great Wall – Funding Insights for China moderated by Jason Della Rocca, Co-Founder and Indie Evangelist at Execution Labs will talk about what Western studios can expect when exploring investment from China.
How to Pitch Your Company
The panels continue to talk about innovations that will drive investment, with voices coming from all around the world. Jim Ying, Adviser at CV Capital and Guy Bendov, CEO of SIDEKICK Games will participate in a the panel What’s the Next Big Innovation Opportunity in Games? moderated by Xiang Lin, Partner at Troodo Mobile.
Regardless of innovations, it can be hard to pitch an idea to investors. Jason Della Rocca, co-founder and Indie Evangelist at Execution Labs, will give tips in this session: Pitching Pro: 10 Non-Obvious Red Flags to Avoid When Seeking Investment. Sebastian Storfner, Director of Corporate Development at GREE International Entertainment, will also address the subject during the session The Changing Investment and M&A Scene in Mobile Gaming: Opportunities for Developers.
Seize the Opportunities
Whether you’re looking for investments or hoping to invest, there will be plenty of customers at Casual Connect Tel Aviv on November 1-3. Look to network during the formal events that will be offered, in addition to between the various sessions and panels. Find out more about the Funding And M&A track and more at TelAviv.CasualConnect.org.
All companies have to start out somewhere, and whether you’re a new start-up or an established developer looking to expand, you can benefit from the Growth Track at Casual Connect Tel Aviv. Find out more about ways to get funding and distribution across Growth’s various sessions, starting with Stanislav Sychenkov, Head of Publisher Relations at Mail.RU Group in the morning and Michal Skurnik, Game Designer at Mohican Lab in the afternoon.
Fishing for Whales
There are certain customers, sometimes called whales, that generate a majority of the revenue for apps. Mike Hines, Developer Evangelist at Amazon, will share the company’s insights into who these “power users” are and how you can they be cultivated and engaged in the proper ways in the session ‘Understanding Your Power Users and Fostering More’.
In order to get the most out of advertising revenue, it’s important to understand the analytics that are at the core. Charles Manning, Founder and CEO of Kochava, will look at the ways to improve ROI in digital marketing in the session, The Hidden Truth Inside Your Data: Leveraging Dynamic Campaign Management to Expose Fraud, Strong Influencers and Maximum ROAS.
Cracking the Black Box
Also touching on the theme of ads is the panel focusing on the trends of large public companies like Zynga and Glu, who have more than a quarter of their revenue from ads. The panel with Yaniv Nizan, CEO and Co-founder of SOOMLA, Guy Tomer, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer for TabTale, Niko Vuori, Co-founder and COO of Rocket Games, Fernando Pernica, Senior Manager of Monetization and Publisher Growth at AdColony, Efrat Levitzky Krakover, VP Media at Matomy Media Group led by moderator Lior Shiff, founder of Games Growth Partners, will talk about the multitude of different things being tracked in What’s Inside the Advertising Black Box? Tips from Data Driven Publishers Who Monetize with Ads.
The other panel in the growth track will tackle the tricky subject of Intellectual Property and mobile/social games. Appearing at the panel will be Devin Radford, VP of Mobile at Fox Digital Entertainment, Caglar Eger, Expert of Business Development at Goodgame Studio and Sam Glassenberg, CEO of Playtech Casual Games. Henry Lowenfels, Vice President of Business Development at Scopely will moderate the panel.
Reach for the Right Market
One of the biggest areas to seek growth is in China, but it’s a challenging market to try and penetrate. Shlomo Freund, founder of AppInChina.co, will talk about the current state of the market and how to approach it in the session Conquering the Chinese App Market – Challenges and Solutions.
It’s important to realize, whether entering a new market or a new social media platform, thinking outside the box is a huge component to success. Shay Gabay, Business Development Manager at Bidalgo will talk about how to engage Instagram users in the session When Creativity Meets Technology – How to Unleash UA Potential on Instagram.
Grow Yourself and Your Company
Those who can’t wait to grow their business should attend Casual Connect Tel Aviv on November 1-3. A range of social and mobile gaming sessions will be offered over several tracks in addition to the Growth Track with organized networking opportunities for those interested. More information about Growth and the other tracks is available at TelAviv.CasualConnect.org.