Casual Connect Seattle 2009: Social And iPhone Steal The Show

Written by Administrator on August 20, 2009 – 1:39 pm -

It’s been a few weeks and the memories of Seattle’s Casual Connect still looms with many of us. Casual Connect, hosted by the Casual Game Association, allows game developers, publishers, musicians, game tool developers and anyone else that loves the casual game industry to come and meet with each and chew the fat.

Every year the meat of the discussion seems to change at Casual Connect. Last year, it was all about mergers and partnerships between companies and the big boys coming into the space. Nickelodeon announced their entry into the casual game industry with new games and money awards for games placed on its casual flash game site and the partnerships RealNetworks created with mainstream companies to provide more casual game content.

This year however, iPhone and Facebook were the talk of the show with the visionaries talking about the future being in cloud gaming. Cloud gaming will allow gamers to play a game on their phones, gaming consoles and computers with all your scores and other features being synchronized. With announcement functions inside Facebook to tell your friends of your high scores, this will force gamers to get to their nearest gaming system and try to beat it.

iPhone has grown up since last year to be a contender with the Nintendo DS as the new gaming system. Dean Takahashi commented that more than 300 games are made per day for the iPhone. (This has dropped to close to 100 today accorcding to Mobclix.) This may seem a lot and just adds more worry to the big game publishers as the top ten spots get more and more crowded. But with the amount of money that companies such as Ngmoco, EA Mobile and Gameloft are supposedly making, it’s a tough decision not to get in with the iPhone.

Facebook has become the social media hub and the allowance of applications has allowed for an explosion of games onto the site. With very little tweaking, anyone could create a game to play on the site and share your activities to all your closest friends. Companies like Zynga have jumped onto the trend with other notable companies Popcap, Gamehouse, and Microsoft placing their biggest hits onto the site. It’s a big market as with the iPhone and can lead to the same issues as the iPhone. The only positive that it has over iPhone mass of games is that Facebook’s recommendation mechanisms allow for much easier word of mouth for the players to share their favorite games with friends.

Some companies who decide on iPhone and Facebook for their future game development have also talked about an item that many old timers like myself have heard repeated at Casual Connect: Micro-Transactions. These are items you buy for a penny or a nickel that will let you do things inside a game. Be it dress up an avatar, buy certain special items, or unlock a new level. This has been quite popular in China and Korea with companies like GoPets and Nexon taking some lead in the market. But now it is being re-introduced again to a western audience this year. Listening to the mistakes people made when talking about their games reminded me of the mistakes made in Korea a few years ago in their casual space.

Mochi Media also announced micro-transactions at Casual Connect. Their plan is to create micro-transactions for flash developers that allow anyone to make a game that can be placed on numerous websites and still get paid for their work. This can include new guns, level skipping, and whatever the game developer wants. The plan is probably the best evolution of the flash game. This will allow much more developers to create better flash games and allow any small game creator a chance to test out new ideas and become better developers while having some cash flow come in that isn’t upfront advertising.

Like all years, there is a ton of great information for anyone who is interested to look at and see what the casual space is doing, what you can learn from it or how to get into the space yourself. The greatest thing about Casual Connect and the Casual Game Association is that all the talks are free to listen to. If you go to their lecture site, you can hear the talk and download the slides that came with it. I hope other people (*cough* GDC) will do this in the future. I love it and I know I’m not the only one.

Hope you enjoyed this recap and see you at next year’s event!

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Casual Connect 2009: Facebook Talks, Developers Listen

Written by Administrator on July 23, 2009 – 12:28 pm -

If last year I told you that Facebook would be one of the biggest gaming sites with over 55 million players playing at one time, you’d probably think I’m either a visionary or smoking something potheads only dream of. But as social networking becomes the new buzz word, Facebook has become the place to be for casual game developers.

Gareth Davis, Program Manager for Games at Facebook talked about what was going on at Facebook on the first day of Casual Connect and how those who haven’t started or are testing the waters of social gaming could get a better grasp at the audience.

Facebook users, Davis discussed, are using games to play with their friends, compete with their friends, and looking for fun while on the service. Gamers are looking for frictionless gaming and ways to play wherever they go. Designing your game towards social interaction will make the players come to your games more often and more frequently.

Davis ended the talk with some of the guidelines that game developers should look at when creating their games for Facebook. Make the games fun, social and design for sharing with others. The biggest traps that game makers create are porting games directly, spaming gamers and not measuring everything they can when gamers play your game. Also, Davis said, use the resources that Facebook has with its developers forums and discussion sites.

Fun Facts:

  • 70% of users are out of country.
  • 55+ million people are playing games on Facebook at one time.
  • Games are the most popular applications on Facebook.

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GDC Canada 09: You Might Be Getting A New Console If…

Written by Administrator on May 19, 2009 – 11:13 am -

How does Don Daglow know when the next game consoles are coming out?

Don Daglow, former president and CEO of Stormfront Studios, spoke in front of an audience of students and developers on the first day at GDC Canada about how game developers and gamers will know when next-generation consoles will be released. Daglow said that many people won’t believe that the next wave of consoles will come out out much later than anticipated. He refers to industry analyst Michael Pachter, of Wedbush Morgan Securities, and the announcement which Pachter made in Edge Magazine last month that the next wave of consoles will arrive in 2013.

Daglow said further that Wall Street, on the other hand, disagrees with Pachter’s analysis because the two previous consoles’ cycles have gone through five year lifecycles. Thus, according to Wall Street, the next game system will more likely be created by 2010.

Gamers also disagree with Pachter, says Daglow, as gamers are always looking for the newest hardware. Daglow, with over 30 years of experience, emphasized that he has seen it all. The following is a discussion of what Daglow found to be the six factors to the creation of a company’s new game system:

One of the players is losing dominant market share which imposes upon Wall Street’s need for marketable growth.

Wall Street is always asking for growth. If a company starts to lose market share they might be starting to release a new console, Daglow said.

They have a lot of cash to pay for the ramp up.

A company must have tons of cash in order to excel at research, marketing, creation costs, etc. Companies also need to tear down the whole notion that customers will trust that they they will only sell the best consoles on the market even if it isn’t true. If you see a company holding tons of cash, they might be at that point where they are about to promote or release a new console even if their former consoles were less than ordinary.

Developers must have something that “wows” a non-player.

Daglow said that the Wii brought a new way of game play into games that brought interest to the casual and non-gamer. If a company produces some “wow-like” things in their new console, then they might be starting to release a new console.

You need to get the cost of the system under $500 at first and quickly to $300 and later $200.

The compulsive gamer will pick up the system at $500, but if the costs aren’t brought down fast then the oppurtunity to saturate with the rest of the gamer community, or the opportunity to endeavor in money-making schemes, will be delayed. If a company can create a game system for distribution at $500 or less, then they might be starting to release a new console

The press calls your brand “next generation.”

When the press begins to talk about what your next generation gaming system will do and what it should have, then the company might be starting to release a new console.

Big publishers start to support the new system.

When large publishers like EA, Capcom and Ubisoft begin to support a company’s new game console system to see what the company has for the next generation system then the company might be starting to release a new console.

Game sales peak one year before the next generation console is created.

Daglow said that all new consoles are released when the games for the earlier system peak the year before the console is released. So if a company’s games sales are starting to peak for the current console, then they might be making a new console.

Editied by Nary Pung

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GDC Canada 09: Out with the old and in with the new

Written by Administrator on May 12, 2009 – 11:46 pm -

Don Daglow has some wise words for you young developers. As one of the oldest game developers still in the business, he has seen it all. During his talk at GDC Canada 2009 for the future play summit, a group of sessions focusing on future game development, Daglow conveyed to the crowd about what game developers of today should look for in this new age.

“If only the machine could stop holding us back. Now, we only have ourselves to blame,” Says Daglow speaking about how far we have come from his first games to what is available today. Daglow continued by saying that the old ways of creating games to fit a certain genre, ESRB rating, or whatever your competitors are doing. Game developers need to change the way that they think and leave the old ways for newer, better ideas.

Speculating on the future, Daglow said that developers no longer have to worry about technology and must instead develop for the fun of the gamer instead. He discussed the importance of finding what gamers think is fun. Daglow’s ideas include not thinking about whether gamers are either online or offline, but how to merge them together. He also felt that developers should look into what age group would like this game, how the gamer interfaces the game, and making better puzzles and bosses that gamers want to beat.

Daglow’s talk ended with a question for the developers. What do gamers spend the majority of their time doing? If a gamer is doing a certain task more than you thought they would, then you need to either change the game to what the player enjoys, or scrap the idea entirely. An example Daglow gave was games that allows you to be a hero for five minutes with 40 minutes of grinding and item trading. Gamers may not like the grind and may in give you more negative opinions about you game than you expected.

Edited by Nary Pung.

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