So I attended the LAGC 2014 conference this year, it’s been a favorite of mine for quite a while now but with the reduced schedule jammed into one day I wanted to see how it stacked up and what the panelists were bringing to the table.
For newbies to the event, LAGC covers a more business focused track of topics, from monetization models, current trends, state of the industry and where people are going next. It’s not a showcase of game demos and booth girls which is a relief. This year focused heavily on what’s next in the industries, addressing Free to Play and related models, tablets, user generated digital content and crossover challenges and branding.
Tons of large topics although while it might not deliver exactly what was expected it gives some insight to the other side of the table beyond PR and normal channels we interact with.
Next Big Thing in Gaming Panel
Kristian Segerstrale of Supercell, GluMobile and Playfish was on hand in the opening to discuss the next big things and where we might expect them. Topics covered the change of hardcore traditional and casual to midcore titles that brought a new audience (midcore) games like Hearthstone capture this market and it’s likely just the start of this new branch and player base. We’re watching genre’s bend and new changes take over as seen with the MOBA field that dominates the landscape.
When asked about team building and capital to get into these genre’s there was a pretty flat response, about 12-14 staff in development to try and produce a MOBA or RPG and $3-5 million in capital to back it with more post launch to support the new infrastructure especially if it takes off. Lesser is possible with teams using 8-12 members and $2-2.5 million but it will be more work.
The big transition the discussion leaned toward was driving a moba experience to a tablet but the issue is internal testing vs live testing and it seems at the moment Apple is hesitant to embrace allowing companies to run an open beta of an app to work on stress, bug hunting and other things normally discovered in a traditional product release these days. As the platforms for iOS are standardized there’s a huge potential to do something there and create that universal experience. Who does it though is in the air and the big stress was that given the worldwide adoption of these platforms, it could be from anywhere and investors can now digitally manage and observe those teams without having to bring them over, instead just reaching out can be sufficient and cost effective.
Monetizing Games through Free to Play
Universal agreement really hit this panel, F2P gaming is a challenge that hasn’t really found a formula yet. There are models but largely it depends on how you start your development, are you designing for monetization or are you adding it in later? Is the game using monetization for aesthetic growth or is there a pay to win design? All these factors are items to consider and depending on the analytics of the market targeted they may or may not work.
Focal points were making the game fun before focusing on the money, this doesn’t mean you ignore the features or implementation, it’s just not the primary view. Designing for pay to win is a bit of a falling star for many games (Maple Story) and that ideally, free and paid have equal perks to retain those users in the system for the long haul and can be beneficial depending on how micro transactions and ad development are used.
Ultimately the game once it reaches market needs to continue to adapt to the audience instead of trying to mold the audience to one model, Nexon notes that just about every version of Maple Story is different depending on the region, not only does the art and story adjust but even the monetization model. Ideally using proper analytics to study behavior there would be frictionless ad placements when the user is stumped or at an idle point in the game so there’s timed user interaction and exposure. The focal point is delivering an organic experience vs a poorly timed or executed delivery to the end-user.
As Free to Play expands the data is coming in for devs as they witness changes of 8-12% participation on transactions (in-game items) vs a growing 20%+ on consoles, a large factor attributed is the console users are invested in the hardware and likely to continue to invest to better their experience as they’re accustomed to a $60 game and a $300+ system just for this purpose. The big point here is frequency of that content fresh and story updates within the game, what events are being used, how are the ladders working, what is succeeding and is it being nurtured to encourage more.
On the mobile front this is a tougher area, social competition using leaderboards and push notifications getting them to challenge each other at the right moments depending on the usage patterns. Timed updates are essential to getting that return engagement though vs just sending it out there and having custom events that allow higher social interaction with the core team (GM’s, devs).
Evolution coming forward is a change in how these games continue to grow, with mobile there’s the push to see more real time gaming happen on iOS and Android, Fire Age and Clash of Clans taking notes from the PC market and driving higher interaction for more invested hours into the game and higher return rates. This won’t necessarily convert the 35 and above female market that King has reached out to capture but it can bring in fresh players. It’s unlikely we’ll see genuine casual to hardcore crossover but conversions from hardcore to midcore or casual are out there and happening.
More coming soon, stay tuned for part 2 later this weekend