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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2012 Game Developers Conference (GDC) Summary

I have to say that I was less than impressed with the 2012 conference relative to the 2011 conference. It appears that the big studios, with the big budgets  and the age old MMO and RPG developers are back with a vengeance. This is in stark contrast to the conference in 2011 where there was more representation of different gaming models and an excitement  about what could be done with the social web and mobile platforms. I am sure there are plenty of new games and new game development startups experimenting with new approaches to the definition of a “game” and actually leveraging the concept of “social mobility” to create some really great game content.  However, GDC does not appear to be particularly interested in giving exposure to and encouraging that future of gaming.

With that said there certainly where valuable take aways from the conference.

Google+ – Google has begun to experiment with games in their social platform. They have “invited” certain game studios and companies to develop and launch games within Google+ on a limited basis. Of course, they have gone the same route as GDC and only allowed big studios/companies, with traditional game content  to participate resulting in less then interesting implementations as a first go in their gaming world. Despite this the representative companies had some interesting commentary about their Google+ deployments.

  • 5% Versus 30% Virtual Currency Hair Cut - Unanimously, they all loved the fact that they did not have to pay the Facebook 30% virtual currency transaction fee for using Google currency. Of all of the publishers commented that they “really” liked Google+ for the 5% reason.

  • Traffic And Virality – The game developers indicated that traffic was good enough to make money on their games given the 5% transaction fee. However, they all agreed that the social interaction features where less then desirable and could use more work. Essentially very little help from Google in leveraging social interaction to acquire players.

  • Game Platform – The developers indicated that they preferred the Google+ platform over Facebook because it was easier to work with and made mores sense from a developers perspective. They all loved the payment system because it was easy to integrate with their games content. However, they are not abandoning Facebook for Google+. Facebook rocks despite the 30% haircut.

  • Applications and Social Network – The developers did indicate that there was a clear disconnect between the application and social environments in Goggle+. Google is far from integrating the two worlds leaving consumers and gamers in the dark about where the games are and how to engage fellow social gamers in games they are playing.

  • Questionable Interest In Google+ Or Google+ Games? – The Google+ game presentation was setup in one of the larger rooms and the room was less than 1/3 filled. What does this mean?  It could mean that Google+ itself is not that successful. It could mean that game developers are not interested in Google+. It could mean that Google+’s strategy to cherry pick what game companies to host in Google is turning everyone else off.

Mobile Cross Platform Play – Game developers are starting to explore ways to   build games that can be played across mobile platforms.  This means that game developers are now comfortable with Android and iOS development and see a future combining these communities across the platforms. This certainly seems feasible.

Microsoft Is Back – Microsoft is trying really hard to get the GDC to promote their new mobile O/S as it relates to games. Unfortunately. no one is biting. Once burned twice shy. If Microsoft wants to pay studios to build games for their platform maybe.

Mobile Game Development Platform – Many of the developers and studios insist on developing in Objective C and Java for the two mobile device platforms. HTML5 and Javascript  were mentioned but the emphasis was on native O/S development. I think the reason for this was once again the prejudicial selection of the speakers by the conference. These people are definitely  old school console game developers that feel more comfortable working at the hardware level thus the justification for big studios and large development crews.

Analytics – All the game companies are grinding the numbers and using in-house build analytics with perhaps Vertica BI style tools to supplement the in-house developed reports.  The irony of this is that they are all looking at the same reports; the funnel report, ARPU, ARPPU, K-Factor,etc. Not sure why  vendors such as Kotegent can not host a really comprehensive cloud game analytic solution. However, I do see a new startup(not represented at the conference of course) called GameAnalytics(www.gameanalytics.com) that might have an answer. This area is certainly an investment opportunity for someone!!!

Clearly the 2012 GDC was a flashback to the revenge of the console gamers. GDC is once again promoting this crowd and their mobile and social initiatives. Unfortunately, this emphasis is masking what is really going on in the game world. There are much more interesting and creative games being made. We will just have to explore these games and  meet the people that are making them on our own.

Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane, Inc. Kevin writes extensively about online games and their impact and integration into iGaming and E-commerce environments. Kevin is a frequent speaker at online game events and conferences in Asia, Europe and the US. Kevin and his Gameinlane team are currently working with online gambling, social gaming and e-commerce companies integrating social gaming with online gaming operations and integrate game mechanics into e-commerce applications.

2012 Game Developers Conference (GDC) Summary

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