Posted tagged ‘conference’

Casual Connect Seattle 2009 coverage

July 22, 2009

I couldn’t make Social Games Summit 2009 and I’m totally bummed I missing out on Casual Connect Seattle 2009 too (it has an superb line-up of speakers in the social games track). So once again, I’m left observing the event from afar. Like I did for the Social Games Summit, I’m collecting misc tidbits and blog posting about social games from the event into this blog entry. I will update the entry as more stuff comes thru as the Casual Connect is still going on (until the 23rd of July).

Jessica Tams and the team behind the events do a fantastic job on also sharing the information post the event. All slides and audio recordings will be available free of charge (like they are here for the previous events). Jessica is absolutely right that the value of the Casual Games Association is measured by how much they can do for the industry as a whole and sharing information is key part on expanding the industry.

Misc tidbits from tweets (#casualconnect)

  • @gamersvu_abi Playfish/Zynga/Playdom say social games $1.5B industry in 3 years
  • @mikesego: “love is the most important metric” says @sebdeh from Playfish… best answer of the conference
  • @tadej Zynga: games services rather than products. Number of returning players (not play time) correlates with monetization.
  • @katelollar: There are more than 55 million unique [game] players on Facebook every month
  • @amyjokim: why have >1 currencies in a virtual economy? CONTROL. Too risky to have only 1 currency
  • @noahkagan @ what women want panel, #casualconnectwomen focused on collection, keeping active and socializing. 1 knew exact point count on king.com
  • @amyjokim offer your players LOTS of diff ways to spend money (and diff price pts)
  • @danielleleslie Q: How can game monetization models offer scalable engagement and attract branded dollars? A: Anu from Offerpal: Soon, fb app user will watch movie trailer, listen to music clip, etc. in return for virtual currency.
  • @NPDFrazier: Tom Prata – three pillars of successful games: 1) accessibility 2) sense of newness 3) consumer reaction
  • @bonder Trend 1 Virtual Worlds – YoVille, Pet Society
  • @bonder Trend 2 – Customization & Personalization – Farm Town, Sorority Life
  • @bonder Trend 3 – Collections & Wish Lists – Mafia Wars
  • @bonder Trend 4 – Simulations – Farm Town, Farmville, Barn Buddy, Restaurant City (Realtime sim)
  • @bonder Trend 5 – Narrative – Hammerfall, Bloodlines
  • @bonder Trend 6 – Interesting Missions – Street Racing, Mafia Wars, Mobsters 2, Hero World, Sorority Life (mini games)
  • @bonder Trend 7 – Gift Invites – Green Patch, Farm Town, Farmville, Mafia Wars, YoVille, Sorority Wars etc (it works!)
  • @bonder Trend 8 – Donations – Mouse Hunt
  • @bonder Trend 9 – Virtual Items – Mafia Wars, Street Racing, Vampire Wars, Pet Society – lots of opps to innovate here &gift invites
  • @bonder Trend 10 – Friends – Crazy Planets, Mafia Wars
  • @bonder Trend 11 – Social Games and iPhone – Word Fu (Twitter, email, FB Connect), Drop 7
  • @bonder Trend 12 – Using Social Net Data – Photo Grab
  • @hirson tips for fb game success – pt 1 1. Make it fun 2.make it social 3. Think Service, not product 4. Measure everything
  • @hirson tips for fb games success pt 2 – 5. Design for sharing 6. Build your footprint 7. Tailor monetization mix. 8. No spam.
  • @hirson last tips for fb games. 9 use fb resources (verified game and dev garage) and 10. Be a good citizen.
  • @mikesego Over 9.7 million users played a farm sim game (Farmville, Farm Town, Barn Buddy) yesterday on Facebook
  • @mikesego At Gareth’s talk – More people play games on Facebook than any other site on the web. True.
  • @jewlish Wii Mii’s came from Japanese wooden Kokeshi dolls.
  • @NicoleLazzaro Instead of modeling breeds Nintendogs modeled the most important relationship: btwn the owner and dog.
  • @NicoleLazzaro Nintendo keynote: In 2.5 yrs console and handheld market increased by 30 million players.
  • @jmwhite2: 300 new games released per day on the iPhone – 20% of all apps are games – dean takahashi

From 2009-07-22

  • @albertsupdates: “3 min user experiences are too long, 90 seconds (engagement cycles) is more optimal (on iphone)”
  • @albertsupdates Episodic content the future of iPhone games — are there parallels on Facebook?
  • @Jeff Shervin’s stats: Saturday peak days for installs, 25K to $40K daily installs for top paid games (= $250K/day for a $10 game)
  • @GameAddict Interesting numbers about ipod touch making up 30% – 50% of game sales from the panel sales
  • @katelollar 25% of all iPhone games are updated each month
  • @Jeff Bart shares a couple of updated stats on Tapulous: 15M users after a year, half a billion Tap Tap Revenge games played
  • @Jeff AppStore: 68,000 apps, 1.5 billion downloads, 20% of apps = games. Bart points out that apps’ installed base is typically 40/50% iPod Touch
  • @GameAddict Dave Roberts of Popcap: “13% of the market is paying for 65% of the games sales.” 13% = 14 – 24 y.o. Males
  • @gamesdotcom 13% of the population (14-34 men) drives the retail game business. Casual games are after the other 87%
  • brodiegames Day 2 #casualconnect. Enjoyed Arthur’s (@LastDayOfWork) talk. Takeaway: brand building around innovation can win vs high output/low quality.
  • @GameAddict 300 game submissions for mochi coins since yesterday’s announcement by Mochi Media.
  • @johnhcook: Is advertising dead as a business model for games? “No it just sucks right now,” says RealNetworks’ Dan Prigg
  • @johnhcook MSFT’s Hegenderfer at#casualconnect: No Zune phone coming.
  • albertsupdates FB Game Templates Poke/WallApps > MobGames > FarmeGames — What is the next template? Are template going to keep working?
  • johnhcook Hegenderfer of MSFT’s Windows Mobile on app stores: “Anyone who thinks Apple is going to run this thing is sadly mistaken.”
  • albertsupdates “v1.0 of marketplace launching nxt week”-steve/group manager, windows mobile| does anyone care? or is it a greenfield?
  • @lisaopolion Trends in casual online game – Thibaut from Gametap, “casual could become the #1 game genre within 6 mos”
  • gamesdotcom Metaboli.com is learning what casual game portals always knew. The audience plays a HELL of a lot! Casual most played
  • @albertsupdates: “Apple iTunes/Appstore is the new carrier deck” -still sucks w/o strong alternative (social) distribution
  • Kontagent Mindjolt is #7 app: aggregation of games w/ a social wrapper.Whos next to ship something similar from casual game pubs?
  • albertsupdates Thought: 5 stages of game distribution/evolution: box>downloads>flash>social>social/mobile; Can all survive/prosper?
  • @GameAddict: Greg Ballard , CEO Glu Mobile: “there are too many games in the App store and may follow the Atari disaster.

From 2009-07-23

  • @albertsupdates Focus on 2 Numbers – “Avg. Revenue Per User,” and “Avg. Revenue Per PAYING User
  • @RealTweeter Is wellness gaming the next big casual games trend
  • @dwlt NPD: “33% upgrade from free to paid games on iPhone”
  • @georgebray NPD: Gamers spend avg $7 on iPhone games in last 3 months
  • @Kontagent: IMO: 3 metrics: 1. ARPU, 2. Churn & also 3. (v)CAC: (viral) Customer Acqusition Costs
  • @Kontagent 2 years it took Zynga to get to ~$100M+ from $0; How many years does it take traditional co’s to build a MMO?
  • albertsupdates EngagedConf is now going to be hosted next to toyfair – Why? Because VirtualWorlds+BrandedToys = BigTime; Webkins=#1 toy
  • ElaineChase Casual mmos as loss leaders when used as marketing for a bigger property = tough market place for making them a business
  • albertsupdates “MTV has been the most prolific publisher of casual MMOs of anyone in the industry” – Ralph Koster
  • dwlt Koster – Casual & VWs should learn from AAA industry and avoid becoming too enamored with tech
  • georgebray NPD: 25% of online game players use a console. 59% of gamers use a console, 39% on PC and 35% use game websites
  • GameAddict NPD: The most notable changes are increase in women console gamers and decrease amount willing to pay for microtransactions
  • jmwhite2 NPD session – more people playing online educational games than online shooters. (26 pc vs 23 pc).
  • GameAddict NPD: Card/puzzle/arcade/word games are dominating the casual space with 56% of the market for online gaming.
  • GameAddict NPD: $701 mill in Retail PC, $740 mill in subscriptions, and $425 mill in PC Digitial dl’s in 2008.
  • GameAddict NPD Video games sector is the ony category of entertainment to grow in 08′, 33% of entertainment dollars towards gaming
  • GameAddict NPD: Kids lesiure time. Video Gaming and computer use have increased but only by 1 or 2 percent in 2 years
  • @GameAddict 90% of the revenue comes from virtual goods at QQ
  • GameAddict 6 million users on the casual side of QQ. (me: I totally wish more devs looked at asia for advice and tips. They’re on fire.)
  • @albertsupdates Game industry has always been highly fragmented, any market leader (i.e EA) has less than 20% marketshare
  • albertsupdates Game Publishers Focused on “Launch” and “Pushing Users Over $50 Barrier” vs. Social: Virality opt.&commnity building
  • ElaineChase “When NEuropean business does’t know if they can do something they say “no, we can’t” US defaults to “sure, we can do that”
  • albertsupdates Mobile Games 1.0 = BizDev Competitive Advantage; Mobile 2.0 = Content; Mobile Games 3.0 = Social Distribution IMO
  • chriscummings01 Think about this: Tencent in China has 6M simultaneous players at peak; in Q1’09 did $360M gross rev (90% from virtual goods)
  • ElaineChase Swoopo has a ridiculously brillant & evil buisness model based on the premise that humans as a group act stupidly
  • getgambit The ideal competitive model = users who win want to keep playing, and users who lose want to keep playing (until they win)
  • MargaretWallace Nuff said: (Tim) Chang: VC’s are devil-avoid us at all cost. Make it so they call you and want to invest in you.
  • lisaopolion Tim Chang “Content is king, but distribution will be God”
  • GameAddict Chang: Casual 3.0 will be 3d, streaming gaming, cloud gaming (same game on different devices), virtual currency exchange.
  • GameAddict Chang is using the analogy of dance clubs as game business models. Velvet ropped areas easy to see and people pay to get in
  • chriscummings01 “Pitching a VC today? No faster track to the recycle bin than anchoring your business model to advertising.” – Tim Chang
  • @chriscummings01 “From a VC perspective, survival is the new growth.” – Tim Chang, Norwest

Blog coverage

From 2009-07-22

From 2009-07-23 and later

Coverage of Social Gaming Summit 2009

June 24, 2009

sgs2009

I’m catching up on the Social Gaming Summit 2009 on the net, and here’s my bounty of news, twitter tidbits and links to further coverage.

Presentations

Blog coverage

Misc tidbits from #sgs09 backlog

These are misc tidbits from the backlog that stuck out.

  • Social Gaming ARPU’s: top games $1-2/month, good FB $0.30-0.40, good MS $0.60-.070
  • Conversions to paying users for social games 0.5% to 1.5% much lower than traditional MMOG’
  • Greg Tseng/Tagged: The most important social network conversion rate is # of monthly users that become daily users look closely at conversion from monthly active to daily active — and see 50% as a gold standard.
  • Jia Shen/RockYou – 5-7% of daily returning users is good (discounting promos), Shukla – RPGs can see 40%
  • Panel on retention/acq: use FB and provide free virtual goods at a staggered pace to bring user pack to app/game
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: Vanity URLs help with branding and discoverability in Facebook. Finding apps is still hard
  • Simplest thing for retention is to give incentives or alerts at a specific amount of time. Mafia Wars’ alert says New Jobs available
  • jnusser/vindicia: in RMT, friendly fraud 100x real, malicious fraud
  • Women, 34 to 50 in the US is the best audience you can get for monetization
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: FB retention is easier. Nobody uninstalls apps, devs can always try to reingage. MS has signif churn on apps
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: News feed momentum is important metric for distribution that is overlooked now. The reciprocation must happen quickly
  • Jia Shen/RockYou – the new FBook redesign is creating the same engagement growth as FB had during prev peak… but less spammy
  • Super Rewards: Free-mium social game monetization rates ~5% of users playing on any given day.
  • Zong: Fraud chargeback rates often in 5% range. Developers usually very happy with 1-1.5. Paypal: greater than 0.5% a concern
  • Virtual goods business in China is worth $4.5-$5Bn this year. Many games have over 1 million concurrent users
  • Playfish:5 weeks ago, we launched RestaurantCity with no cross promotion & grew to 5M users.
  • MySpace interesting stats: 70MM monthly in the US, 30MM are active app users
  • Playfish sold 20 million christmas trees and ornaments mirroring social behavior in real world
  • Zynga invested $2mil in guild of heroes. Seems kind of high!
  • on FB, there are 100 games with 100,000 players 30 games by 1 million, 3 games with 10,000,000 games
  • Zynga: Building social capital can go beyond your real friends” – Pincus; but 70% of the time you log into Poker, a ‘real’ friend is there
  • Playdom sold $100K worth of virtual pink Volkswagon’s on Sorority Life in 2 days
  • Keys to a successful social game by Mark Pincus at Zynga: 1) real friends, 2) self expression, 3) stored value
  • Zynga (Pincus) games have to give you 1) feeling of playing with friends, 2) social outlet, expression 3) invest in game
  • 3rd secret to Pincus – buy items (i am paraphrasing). Result is that players has social capital. Pincus is master of buzz words
  • 2nd secret: Pincus from Zynga – social games must be playground for your personality. Express yourself (channeling Madonna)
  • 1st secrets:  Pincus:  Games must appeal to your friends
  • A pillar of social game is to invest in game over time and give players a sense of value. This is why virtual goods are valued.
  • Design games as objects of social interaction, you get the benefit as a user of inviting your friends into the game
  • game themes (pets, farms, restaurants) in top 10 apps – starting to mirror the over 35 crowd (similar to casual games)

Read the full backlog via Twitter search

At Game Developer’s Conference 23rd – 29th March

March 19, 2009

gdc09

The Game Developer’s Conference is the event for game developers. I thought I could take a break from going this year as GDC’s focus is mostly “traditional” game development (consoles, PC etc), but I couldn’t resist the siren’s call after all ;-). Personally it is going to be primarily about meetings and networking, and hanging out with fellow game developers.

The most relevant stuff for Everyplay is in the Worlds in Motion summit held on Monday and Tuesday. I especially look forward to Raph Koster’s kickoff for the summit – his presentations are always thought provoking. It’s too bad that I’ll miss the Tuesday sessions of Worlds in Motion summit, as I’m going to be VentureBeat‘s GamesBeat 2009 event).

A couple of friends are also presenting at GDC. Check out e.g. Adam Martin’s, Sulka Haro’s, Petri Purho’s, Matt Swoboda’s and Thomas Bideaux‘ presentations.

If you are at GDC or in downtown San Francisco, and would like to meet during the week, drop me an email at jussi dot laakkonen at nospam-gmail dot com.

Casual Connect Europe presentations online

March 13, 2009

casual-connect-no-date

Quick note: the presentations from Casual Connect Europe are now online among all of the great Casual Games Assocation presentations and articles.  My personal favourites from the show include:

I had a great time in Hamburg, and Casual Connect Europe 2010 will definitely be on my calendar.

P.S. I will be speaking at Nordic Game held in Malmö from 19th to 20th of May. I will be reprising my “How to start a game business” presentation with more lessons learned since.

Speaking at Casual Connect Europe 2009

January 27, 2009

casual-connect-no-date

I have a very special relationship with the Casual Connect conferences. Back in early 2006 I was totally within the  core console games “reality bubble” and I thought I should learn something about the emerging casual games market, so I took the plunge and headed to the lovely Amsterdam for the Casual Connect conference.

It totally bursted that “reality bubble”. There was a completely amazing new sub-industry being born, where new game genres were created and new business models explored. Not only did I discover the downloadable casual games segment, but also the totally rule-bending Korean virtual goods driven online games segment.

In particular one session stood out: the “Hype or Real Deal” panel. Four CEOs and founders of diverse companies on the stage holding two large sign cards: Hype and Real Deal. The moderator would ask a question and each one of the panelists had to reveal their opinions simultaneously. It was a great format that stimulated a lot of heated discussion as the panelists had to defend their positions.

erikbethkeTwo questions that the moderator asked struck me: “Will virtual goods ever work in the western world?” and “Will casual games go online and become more like MMOs?”. Just about everybody in the panel called these “Hype” while Erik Bethke, the founder of GoPets, vigorously defended them being the “Real Deal”. Erik lost out then as the whole conference really didn’t think much of these trends. But I did. The opportunities were mind-boggling. I scampered immediately after the panel ended and waylaid Erik as fast as I could for a further chat.

I have to really hand it to Erik for single handedly blowing away my ignorance (BTW, you should read his excellent blog which he updates all too infrequently =)).

As we all know, those trends become the “Real deal” already in year 2008 and they are going a lot stronger this year.

casual-connect-no-date

casual-connect

Speaking about how to start a new game business

It is an honor to be invited to speak at Casual Connect and I’m delighted I can be giving back a little as I received so much at the 2006 event. I will be speaking about how to start a new game business – something that I have gotten a bit of hands on experience during the past 6 months =). The session is on Thursday 12th of February at 11:00.

If you are at the event, I’d love to meet!

Virtual Goods Summit 2008 mindmaps

December 16, 2008

vgsummit2008Before I started Everyplay I was researching the virtual goods market, and I stumbled upon the most excellent Virtual Goods Summit 2007 organized by Charles Hudson. I was glued to the panel videos (BTW, they are still relevant). The US pioneers of this market were speaking frankly, openly and insightfully. There was lot to be learned: from market data, conversion rates, ARPUs to best practices.

The Virtual Goods Summit 2008 lived up to the great expectations set up by the first event. The sessions ranged from very good to simply outstanding. The Metrics presentation by Daniel James and Andrew Chen was amazingly detailed, candid and stock full of industry leading insights. I loved when Susan Wu put the virtual good economy vendors on the hotseat. David Perry of Acclaim, Gene Hoffman of Vindicia and several other panelists really delivered on their respective panels.

However, watching 7 hours of video is not for the faint of heart and not all of the sessions were covered by bloggers. So I decided to post-humously liveblog live-mindmap the video recordings. These are not the most readable mindmaps I’ve created as I focused on capturing detail, not on distilling the gist of the panels.

What Users Want – Branded and User-Generated Virtual Goods

Making Virtual Economies Work – Lessons from the Leaders

Virtual Goods and Social Networks

Metrics for Virtual Goods Businesses: The Whirled Case Study

Generating Real Revenue from Virtual Goods

Getting Paid – Building a Dominant Payments and Billing Strategy

Do leave a comment if you found the mindmaps useful!

WOW epic mounts vs. Friends for sale

October 12, 2008

The game industry used to be packaged goods industry. We spent anything between six months to several years in product development mode trying to guess what the customers would want to buy, what we could do better than our competitors do, building technology, tools and content. When all was done, the ready game was shipped to the manufacturing plant and out would pour truckloads of shrink wrapped boxes ready to be hoisted on the shelves of GameStop, EBGames or at Amazon’s virtual shelfs.

For all its technological and media breakthrus, the games industry in the 1990s was following a business model borrowed from cereal manufacturers. We even didn’t have the long tail of movies , which have first box office sales, then pay-per-view TV, then premium channels, hotel channels, DVD sales, network TV, soundtracks… Well, you get the picture. All we had was a a couple of months to get the game sold at brick’n’mortar stores, and if we were lucky, the store would restock our title. The luckiest titles could see a release as a Bestseller title a year or two later at a discounted price.

Not terribly exciting is it.

Luckily broadband entered into the picture in late 1990s, and became prevalent in the early 2000s. Games could be delivered electronically as downloads, but a lot more importantly, games could be online services. MMOs like Lineage, Everquest and finally World of Warcraft (11 million users at last count) came to the market and attracted millions. Virtual worlds like Habbo Hotel (108 million registered, 9,5 million monthly users), casual MMOs like Maple Story and social playing sites like Stardoll (20 million registered users) appealed to audiences outside of the traditional gamer market.

But there’s no hiding the trouble.

PC single player market is dying

Max Payne, multi-million seller in early 2000s. Best known as a PC game, but sold vastly more on PS2.

Max Payne, multi-million seller in 2001 & 2003. Best known as a PC game, but already five years ago sold vastly more on consoles, especially on PS2.

As a mainstream market the PC single player market is dying. The main culprits are rampant piracy and the success of video game consoles. The situation is so bad, that releasing a PC version simultaneously to a console version of a game, you are pretty much guaranteed to loose out on a lot of sales. The PC version will be pirated typically before the game is available at retail, and many console gamers will get the pirated PC version and forgo buying the console version. We can argue the reasons, but the proof is indisputable. Game publishers are increasingly postponing the PC versions or cutting them completely, even if the added cost of developing a PC version can be relatively low.

You can still succeed with PC single player titles targeted at niche audiences (e.g. hard core strategy games). Downloadable PC casual games (see e.g. Big Fish Games) are doing quite well and The Sims are also doing quite well. The reason is simple: their demographic is less likely to pirate the game and increasingly these titles use some kind of online persistence to add fun to the game and prevent piracy.

PC online market is thriving

The solution to this PC problem is clearly evident. All PC titles need some type of online persistence and preferably online multiplayer support. It doesn’t have to be a full fledged MMO. You can start with relatively simple things like

  • Leaderboards, cups, challenges
  • Shared content
  • Shared actions (something I do has some effect on your gameplay)

Full-on, persistent world, massively multiplayer environments naturally are most resistant to piracy as well provide highly compelling reasons to play. WoW having 11 million great reasons (=users) going for it.

Core vs. social & casual markets

The core gaming market (PC single player, MMO, console games) is huge market. Its revenues from the vast majority of the $37 billion global games software sales (year 2007). This market is predicted to grow steadily at around 10% compounded average growth rate. The revenues are huge, but the audience size isn’t nearly as impressive when compared to what the social and casual gaming segments have been able to attract is just a few years.

Casual games, to which I include also casual console games like Guitar Hero, Singstar, Wii Sports, Brain Training and the like, sell in overall in the billions of dollars, and are the industry’s primary growth driver. It’s been two years since the launch of Nintendo Wii, and it still selling out. Guitar Hero launched a huge music game segment, that almost single handedly raised Activision as the world’s second largest games publisher (after merging with Vivendi’s game unit, the combined Activision-Blizzard is now neck and neck with Electronic Arts). These titles have expanded the definition of games, made the much more socially acceptable, and attracted millions after millions of new players. They’ve converted diehard opponents of digital games into fun-loving players. I can overstate how amazing this has been.

At the same time social games on social networks like Facebook and MySpace are the second largest category after “just for fun” apps like Funwall and Superpoke. These simple, addictive and often outrageously viral games attract at best over million monthly average users. The monetization has been primarily advertisement based, but new Cost Per Action (CPA) methods (Offerpal, Super rewards) as well as the sales of virtual goods are starting to make a difference. It has been claimed that Mob Wars is the best monetizing game application on Facebook and allegedly makes over $20 000 a day, which would mean well over a one million US dollars in yearly revenues.

I’ve tried to summarize my thinking about the core, casual and social markets in the diagram below as well as make some predictions on where the market is headed.

Please note that the diagram is a generalization and I’ve purposefully omitted all figures. You should take it is an opinion, not as a market research data.

Presentation

I did a 20 minute presentation on this topic recently at the Mindtrek conference. You can find my slides at Slideshare along with an audio track.

I blogged earlier about the excellent panel that followed the three presentations in the “Business of playing together” track.

So, what do you think? Is the PC single player market as doomed as I think it is? Are there going to be big returns on the huge investments VCs are making in the market as we speak?