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BusinessContributionsIndustryOnline

The New Developer Ecosystem – Farm Gate Selling to the Digital Marketplace

November 4, 2014 — by Industry Contributions

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thumbAs the digital marketplace has evolved, it has become a challenging place for developers. With over 20 years of experience in the technology industry, Martin Macmillan, CEO and co-founder of Pollen VC, has seen the challenges that face startups. He looks at how to approach the digital marketplace in this article.


The advent of democratic, open-to-all digital marketplaces must have seemed a godsend for anyone with an idea and basic coding skills that wanted to launch their own app. Yet, as retail spaces such as Apple’s App Store have taken hold, competition has intensified and is giving rise to a new form of digital Darwinism. While it may have been the case that an app developer could become an overnight success without a solid business plan for their product, those days are long gone.

To ensure success, app developers need to treat their apps and games like commodity fast-moving consumer goods as opposed to more niche creative products. Take food as an example. While your wonderfully artisan product has appeal at the local market, where aficionados congregate and share recommendations, for major success, you need to make it in the high-volume supermarkets. To survive in such a cut-throat environment, you will need extensive marketing campaigns, research into consumer behavior and constant refinement of both product and positioning. If not, your audience won’t know what to look for and your product will disappear into the darkness (and the bargain bin, probably).

Putting your product (whether it’s artisan food, a communication app or a text-based adventure game) in front of the right people is key. Hitting the top of an app store’s top chart is one place you can be sure to attract a large enough audience to make your product a success. To get there, you need to think strategically.

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Pollen’s team has first-hand experience in dealing with the challenges of the app world

Danger, Danger

Starting strong might seem like the best way to secure success, and an initial flurry of downloads and recommendations for a new, “hot” game or app can prove a great springboard to achieving healthy revenues. A developer can then, however, face the danger of imitations and clones which can tap into their sales. For example, the designer of Flappy Birds recently found that his follow-up app, Swing Copter, had been cloned within days of launch, with many of the copies doing better on the download charts than the original game.

To exploit any initial success from a well-thought-out launch, app developers need to hack their growth. This means jettisoning the old business models that have worked for offline companies, or the ‘build it and they will come’ approach of early app pioneers. Instead, they must apply a savvy blend of monetization and customer acquisition strategies, balancing product needs with marketing demands.

The Path to Safety

Despite creating a competitive and ruthless environment, these new retail spaces hold an invaluable wealth of data.

The hero in this approach is the digital marketplace. Despite creating a competitive and ruthless environment, these new retail spaces hold an invaluable wealth of data. Coupled with in-app analytics, this gives a developer access to near instantaneous feedback on customer preferences and behavior.

Using this data, app entrepreneurs can drive the monetization of their products from the minute they launch in a marketplace. They can use a formidable array of tools such as promotional activities, new additions to a service or game, and new in-app purchases aligned to user behavior to increase the money a consumer spends on their product. As they develop and deploy each tool, the app developer can use data from the marketplace to check if the strategy is working, make any tweaks necessary, and calculate the return on investment. Using these tools, a developer can calculate the Lifetime Value (LTV) of customers, indicating the revenue that the product will generate per customer.

Home and Dry

Adding to this, developers and designers need to work on customer acquisition, and can again rely on increasingly sophisticated attribution software to provide direct feedback on how successful their marketing and promotional activities are and the quality of users acquired. The developers of a game or app can target different territories and compare different promotional tools with instant data on how they fare. Developers should, over time, be able to calculate a formula indicating the cost to acquire quality users. Once identified and understood alongside with the LTV, a good game should be able to find a virtuous cycle upwards towards strong success, where LTVs exceed the acquisition cost of a user and the opportunity to do this at scale.

The quick, responsive nature of the digital marketplace requires fast investment of revenue back into both the product and its monetization.

The next stage of growth hacking is where the new rules of business come into play again – how revenues are re-invested to ensure the long term success of the business. The quick, responsive nature of the digital marketplace requires fast investment of revenue back into both the product and its monetization. As revenue rolls in, sellers must apply those revenues to supporting future growth. Essentially, the quicker the game can fund its own user growth, the more sustainable and successful it becomes.

And What Have We Learned?

Today’s games developers have been brought up on romantic stories about their predecessors who wrote games for mobile devices in their bedrooms. These pioneers then, through organic, word-of-mouth recommendations, generated cult or even mainstream followings. Happily, those developers and games still exist, and long may they do so. But to ensure a modern game delivers some return or profit, a developer needs to make the market conditions and characteristics work for them, and take time to understand the economics behind the app stores. Use the data generated to inform strategy, don’t be afraid to invest in wider marketing, and make sure you have a long term goal in mind rather than depending on ad-hoc feature opportunities to create your success.

Learn more about how Pollen strives to provide a new way to bring growth to the digital industry on their website.

 

BusinessExclusive InterviewsIndustryOnlinePR & Marketing

Geoffrey Greenblatt in the New Frontier

August 21, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Geoffrey Greenblatt, North American Gaming Director, Mindshare
Geoffrey Greenblatt, North American Gaming Director, Mindshare

Geoffrey Greenblatt, the North American gaming director for Mindshare, became interested in gaming at a very early age. He was four years old when his father brought home a Texas Instruments computer, and he was instantly hooked. Handheld games, Sega, Gameboy, Genesis and Super Nintendo all followed. He doesn’t claim that first computer was the inspiration for his career, but he says it was definitely the jumping off point of his interest in games.

Games and Advertising

His moment of inspiration actually came when he moved from traditional media to digital media. On his first day in that space, he saw an ad in a game, learned that it was served dynamically and thought, “Wow! Games and advertising. Now that’s an area I want to explore.”

After that moment, Greenblatt decided to dive in and see what could be done in the space. He began by putting together integration-based programs and proposing additional opportunities to clients who were interested in the gaming space. His breakthrough came with developing the first content distribution program on Xbox LIVE for Sprint. They were short-listed at Cannes, and interest grew from there. He considers himself fortunate to have had such supportive clients, but the biggest hurdle in getting the project off the ground was explaining how it could drive success for the brand.

This is still the biggest hurdle to overcome. Greenblatt recognizes that brands are not interested in the tactical details of a program; they are interested in how a program can fill their needs objectively.

Working With the Unfamiliar

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His work day differs so much day-to-day that he claims there is no such thing as a normal day.

Greenblatt has now been with Mindshare for 8.5 years. He had spent three years with a different agency in traditional media and then moved to digital media there. He decided the best way to grow and learn would be in an unfamiliar environment. Mindshare had great accounts that he thought would be fun to work on, and, fortunately, they also had an opening for him.

His work day differs so much day-to-day that he claims there is no such thing as a normal day. He spends a lot of his time writing: presentations for client teams or conferences, POVs, booklet write-ups, such as one he just did for E3, and even informative emails, so he is often found in front of his computer, typing away in Word or Powerpoint. If he is not at the computer, he is meeting with vendors to learn about the space and following up with teams to provide them with any information they need to create a successful gaming space program for their clients. He emphasizes, “I love the variety that my position offers, and I very much enjoy working with all the people at Mindshare that I have gotten to know so well over the years.”

It’s All About Monetization

Greenblatt points out that the center of any industry has to be monetization, and it is no different for the games industry. From the console perspective, monetization growth appears to be centered on continuous expansion of the audience, especially beyond core gamers and early adopters. Growing the audience drives the purchase of more games, and in this way, increases the revenue. This is the key point for other platforms as well: growing the audience is the way to increase revenue. As the audience expands, developers can sell virtual goods, integrated programs, data collection, and advertising. All of this drives revenue.

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In the gaming space, the combination of mobile, social and programmatic has created a variety of different options for brands.

He has seen huge shifts in advertising in recent years with mobile, social, and programmatic buying. Mobile and social are completely new spaces that grow and change very quickly. Programmatic buying seems to be the convergence of many different types of opportunities into a more linear opportunity. It can be difficult to keep up with the rate of change, but the changes can also be very exciting. In the gaming space, the combination of mobile, social and programmatic has created a variety of different options for brands: single or multi-platform options, easy-to-purchase or very robust program options, single title alignment or network-based options. There are now so many options for brands, and the gaming space has become more attractive for a greater variety of brands.

Objectives Over Tactics

In the games market, the biggest advertising mistake Greenblatt sees is thinking tactics first. An advertising campaign must, first and foremost, be about the brand’s objectives. An opportunity, no matter how exciting it may seem, may not be the right fit for a brand. He has seen this mistake on both the brand and the developer sides. But developing a program in the gaming space is not about creating a cool experience in the game; it is about fulfilling a brand objective.

He insists, “This problem arises from a lack of understanding about what is really important for the brand and thinking about the game first; this is especially important for game lovers. They tend to look at opportunities from the perspective of a player rather than the perspective of a brand or advertiser. Both brand teams and game developers need to look at opportunities through the lens of the brand: what the brand is trying to achieve and how will the results be measured.

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The long-lasting trend of creative pioneering is something he believes will only continue to grow.

Greenblatt is very interested to see how mobile gaming will continue to evolve. The platform’s accessibility has allowed game lovers and potential designers to create for the first time. With first time developers having the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition, new kinds of games will continue to be created. Add new types of social mechanics and innovative developments such as virtual reality, and the level of creativity in the gaming space is reaching heights never previously imagined. This long-lasting trend of creative pioneering is something he believes will only continue to grow.

When Greenblatt is not at work, he likes to keep busy with a variety of activities. He has side projects he is working on with friends and he also has a job with ESPN on ABC production, something he has been doing for 10 years now. If not occupied with these, he spends his time watching TV and movies, going to the gym, watching sports, and catching up on sleep.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Teut Weidemann : “I Teut You So”| Casual Connect Video

August 14, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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While at Casual Connect USA 2014, Teut Weidemann analyzed the monetization of League of Legends. “Riot’s conversion rate is less than 5 percent,” he said. “That’s not good. If you’re looking to copy League of Legends‘ monetization, don’t. It won’t work for you.”

Teut Weidemann is the senior online supervisor at Blue Byte Ubisoft, ensuring games in development have good online game mechanics and monetization practices. While the complexity of online game mechanics is something many teams underestimate, ensuring success requires constant iteration of both the monetization and game mechanics systems. Weidemann is passionate about educating the industry about online games, their systems, how F2P works and what they need to make good online games.

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Teut Weidemann, Senior Online Supervisor, Blue Byte Ubisoft

Getting In

I was the least nerdy

Weidemann became involved in gaming while growing up on Airbase Ramstein in Germany. The officers club had all the arcade games from the US, something that was a rarity in Germany at the time, and he quickly became hooked on Defender, Lunar Lander, Space Invaders, and Battlezone.

It all began when “Our group of coders was bored and started programming our own games, selling them to small publishers for 2500 DM (DM 1.95583 = €1 when the Deutsche Mark was converted to Euro). As I was the least nerdy, I was the one who would talk to the publishers.” Weidemann’s interest in the games industry became a career by a stroke of good luck when a friend asked him to sell his game for 5000 DM and offered Weidemann 20 percent for his contribution to the graphic and level design. The publisher was so impressed, Weidemann fetched 25,000 DM and quickly began supplying the publisher with more games, one of which was a hit: Katakis on Amiga. This success enabled Weidemann to parley university and jump headfirst into the games industry.

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Katakis enabled Weidemann to parley university and jump headfirst into the games industry.

The Future is Online

Personally, I think Al Bots, QTEs, etc. are boring

Weidemann was drawn to online games because he loves interacting with other gamers. Ultima Online represented a turning point for Weidemann where the future of online was clear: Sooner or later, all games will go to online. Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, and Eve Online form the basis for all other online games. “Personally, I think Al Bots, QTEs, etc. are boring; humans write the most interesting stories. Everyone needs to play Eve Online to fully understand the potential of fully immersive online games.”

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Weidemann’s Eve Online Character. He is able to fly the largest ship in Eve.

The best part of making games is sharing the enjoyment with others, when someone he knows picks up one of his games, and likes it, he insists, “You can’t beat that!”

Mistakes are to be Cherished

The Ubisoft philosophy is that mistakes are opportunities we should share proudly and learn from. One mistake to proudly share is Weidemann insisting that a team do what he felt was right, rather than letting them learn from their own experiences. He admits he had a hard time and the situation made him angry, making him so unpleasant, there is a meme to this day uttered frequently in the Blue Byte office, “I Teut you so”. While the story will live on, Weidemann is a new man; after sharing his opinion, each team is free to follow their own path, analyzing how their decisions performed and the result afterward.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Lauren Feldman is Addicted to Data | Casual Connect Video

August 14, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Lauren Feldman moderated a panel during Casual Connect USA 2014 about the ethics of free-to-play. “In 2010, China passed a law to protect children from being on the internet too often,” she explained. “Children were dying while they were in rehab centers for internet addiction.” She directed questions to the panelists on gaming addiction and more during the session.

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Lauren Feldman, Co-founder, MassIntent

Lauren Feldman is an entertainment monetization expert and co-founder of MassIntent, an active learning system that combines business intelligence, predictive modeling, and consumer behavior to provide actionable product and strategy level insights in real time. She is also the managing director for Girls in Tech – San Francisco and a mobile games enthusiast.

“I Would Never Have Pictured Myself as an Entrepreneur”

Feldman did not always intend to become an entrepreneur, but found herself pushed in that direction when she moved from the creative side of games to product: suddenly, it was her job to ensure that her product was successful and profitable. She had to answer difficult and ambiguous questions: What was the balance between consumption and monetization? What goods should she sell, when, and to whom? But Feldman discovered some patterns in the chaos of data and product. She says, “I figured out that monetization wasn’t rocket science. If I could acquire enough users and balance the rate they consumed content with the frequency of ads and pricing of virtual goods, our games would make money. And they did.”

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Feldman moderating a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014

Eventually, Feldman decided to take the entrepreneurial leap and work as a monetization consultant. Of her first client, she says, “It was the first time that something was 100 percent mine, and I just had a feeling it was going to turn into something much bigger than a ‘gig’. Sometimes, we are put in a situation where we don’t have any other choice than to change something about our lives. I would never have pictured myself as an entrepreneur, but here I am.”

“Addicted To Data”

Feldman began to see an emerging pattern in her work: all of the questions she was answering required integrated large amounts of data from multiple sources. She says she became “addicted to data.” Generating revenue required constant monitoring and tweaking, not to mention regular arguments with Excel. But the biggest challenge came from the constant inquiries from managers, creative teams, and marketing. She couldn’t always answer their questions because she didn’t have the data or she didn’t have the time.

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Feldman during a consultation meeting

So simplicity became her new priority.

Feldman began by removing any data that did not directly correlate to her primary revenue sources. She changed her focus from collecting more data to collecting the “right data”. This approach produced cleaner data and better forecasts.

Seeing an opportunity to turn her approach into a product, Feldman co-founded MassIntent.

MassIntent uses the intelligence of machine learning and the benefits of the simplified model to identify weaknesses in business performance and forecast future monetization quickly and accurately while preserving the privacy of users’ information.

Unsurprisingly, Feldman believes data-driven decisions will be the next big trend in the games industry. Her focus is on helping businesses predict their users’ interests and actions to inform business decisions and maximize revenue. She emphasizes, “It will be more than just a collection or messaging service, it will be a new form of intelligence; one that is executed based on simplicity.”

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Feldman having fun at an earlier Casual Connect conference

Science, Sport, and Mobile Games

Feldman’s passion for games and competition extends to her personal life, as well. For the past five years, Feldman’s has competed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, both for the physical and mental stimulation. And she says, “Intellectually, it’s probably the most challenging subject I’ve ever studied.”

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For the past five years, Feldman’s passion has been competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

For gaming, she plays anything mobile: casual, casino and hardcore, believing it is important to understand the fundamentals of what drives people to play. Her study of game design, behavioral psychology and decision making has shown that we are creatures driven by habit and similar motivations. She expects mobile to become the platform of the future, insisting there will be no other platforms.

Feldman’s interest in games is primarily mobile. She also studies game design and behaviorial psychology to understand the habits and motivations of players. She particularly appreciates the accessibility free to play (F2P) brings to gaming and says “everyone should be playing”. She believes the stigma surrounding the monetization strategy in F2P is unfounded. “We watch TV and wait for commercials; we don’t call it F2watch. We are accustomed to commercials. It’s the way it has always been.” So she expects F2P to be accepted the same way in the next generation. “You will get a free sample, but the whole cake will cost you.”

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Barbara Chamberlin’s Insatiable Learning Quest | Casual Connect Video

August 7, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Barbara Chamberlin shared her views on user testing during Casual Connect USA 2014. “The personal epiphany I had was not to resent user testing every time I had to do it, but to find a way to make it easy,” she said.

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Barbara Chamberlin is the director of the New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab. For almost 20 years, she has been developing games for learning. Because she has always hated user testing, she has focused her research on finding more efficient and enjoyable ways to get the kind of feedback from kids that will make learning games better.

Students work together in the Learning Games Lab. (photo by Darren Phillips)
Barbara Chamberlin and Michelle Garza work with some of the youth consultants who test products at the NMSU Learning Games Lab. (photo by Darren Phillips)

As a parent of two children, Chamberlin naturally spends considerable time involved with their activities, such as 4H meetings and swimming practice. She also downloads many children’s apps and finds it exciting to review, play, and discuss them with her children. She brings to her work the advantage of constantly being reminded of how children learn and how things that are mundane to adults are exciting new discoveries for kids.

Learning and Experience

Chamberlin describes herself as insatiable, constantly wanting to learn more, see more, and experience more. In her work, the results of her research immediately spark new questions. When a new construct is implemented, she enjoys thinking of other ways it could be used, and hearing about something new carries with it the desire to learn more.

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As part of her work developing games, Chamberlin speaks regularly to different audiences about the uses of technology, and how to best integrate games and apps with learning.

The best part of working in this industry for Chamberlin is the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of different things. She sees her work as education rather than gaming; everything they create is based on research and has education or behavior change as the end goal. She insists that, although the concepts their games teach may sound boring, the content is vital to a student’s success, so it is equally necessary to do a good job helping kids learn it. “When you really understand how essential this is, it is exciting to realize how much potential you have as a designer,” she claims. “That’s the best part. We’re changing lives here, in small, incremental, but incredibly important ways.”

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In the “Video Closet” at NMSU’s Learning Games Lab, youth consultants give feedback on games they’ve played… avoiding the ‘group think’ that often happens in focus groups, and giving kids more of a chance to reflect.

The Power Of Interactivity

When it comes to developing apps and games for kids, NMSU's Learning Games Lab believes in testing frequently: sometimes that is on the device, and sometimes it is giving input in more open-ended and creative ways.
When it comes to developing apps and games for kids, NMSU’s Learning Games Lab believes in testing frequently: sometimes that is on the device, and sometimes it is giving input in more open-ended and creative ways.

Twenty years ago, when she was creating interactive touch screen kiosks for public environment, she realized the power of interactivity for learning, and thought, “It should all be like this.” So she has spent her career at NMSU figuring out educational gaming and seeing it evolve and grow. Recently, she has seen an increase in great educational games and public acceptance of educational game play. She maintains, “Just as every game developer should be a game player, so should every learning games developer be a learning researcher. We can do so much more than make quiz games for learning; we can change behavior, alter mindsets, influence emotions and really empower inquiry. I’m excited to see the industry moving in those directions.”

The Monetization Challenge

The most serious challenge Chamberlin sees facing the games industry today is the monetization of casual games. While she realizes game development is a business, she also recognizes that we now know so much about human behavior that we can tweak every impulse and scientifically manipulate each person to spend, contribute, and buy. Unfortunately, it also makes the game less fun, and, she says, “It doesn’t do much for society either.” These games may distract the user and tickle the part of the brain that responds to incentives, but players’ lives are not made richer from the experience. She would much prefer to see people make money by crafting beautiful, engaging, and enriching experiences.

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In Gate, learners free imprisoned shadows while building number groups, developing crucial skill for algebra. Chamberlin prefers to see people crafting beautiful, engaging, and enriching experiences such as this.

Chamberlin does not face the issue of monetization directly, since most of her work is grant-funded and does not have to show a profit, yet they — like many developers of educational games — are still looking for a viable model for disseminating, promoting and maintaining their apps, once developed.

In this competitive space, many educational developers still face the challenge of promoting and disseminating their games into classrooms and to learners. One of biggest questions in the educational gaming right now, according to Chamberlin, is the school-based dissemination of learning software. Everyone in the industry is trying to anticipate how teachers and parents find and buy apps, how schools decide what systems to use, and how children engage in the apps most specific to their needs. She says, “We are still trying to predict the best way to get effective learning tools the hands of the learner.”

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Mike DeLaet – Understanding In-Game Economies | Casual Connect Video

July 28, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“History tends to repeat itself,” says Mike DeLaet in a panel during Casual Connect USA. “You’ve seen, with the feature phone days, this happened: original IP came in and took over because licensing costs kind of went through the roof. As more and more developers start going licensed IP, you will probably see this happen again.”

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Mike DeLaet came to Kabam in March 2013 as their senior vice president of worldwide business development. After 2012, when Kabam had the #1 Top Grossing Game on iOS for the entire year, he recognized that Kabam really understood free-to-play monetization, and realized this was a place he wanted to be. When Kevin Chou approached him about a unique opportunity to help them grow to new heights, he was quick to sign on.

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When Kevin Chou approached DeLaet about a unique opportunity to help Kabam grow to new heights, he was quick to sign on.

Understanding In-Game Economies

DeLaet has strong opinions about F2P. He applauds how it makes game companies create really engaging and deep games that allow consumers to vote with their wallets, rather than charging them $60 for a game that could be terrible. He sees only one serious drawback: most game companies still don’t understand how in-game economies work and how to best utilize them in their games. Unfortunately, they tend to make paywalls in the game as a monetization strategy. This approach only alienates the players, causing them to fall out of their games and hurting the image of what a good F2P game really is.

At Kabam, DeLaet runs the global business development team, which involves managing all their platform partnerships on a global basis. The team is responsible for all business development at the company, as well as driving many great customers into their games. Since joining Kabam, he has effectively led the company forward through platform partnerships with Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.

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Since joining Kabam, he has effectively led the company forward through platform partnerships with Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.

Finding A Winner

For the past 15 years, DeLaet has been involved with mobile. He served as the senior vice president of global publishing at Glu Mobile, Inc., where he led the company’s expansion into Asia and gained significant market share in China, South Korea, and Japan. Prior to this, he worked for Sprint, most recently running the games business with more than 30 partnerships, including EA, Glu Mobile, Gameloft, Disney, and Popcap. But the proudest moment of his career was joining Kabam; he says, “I knew this was a winning team that could be very disruptive to the entire games industry.”

Upcoming Trends

He believes the next important trend coming to the games industry is higher fidelity products with monetization of the 2D strategy games that dominate today. He also expects to see more users playing on tablets or phablets for a deeper experience while on the go.

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DeLaet believes the next important trend coming to the games industry is higher fidelity products with monetization of the 2D strategy games that dominate today.

DeLaet is a gamer who enjoys playing on all platforms, so he owns a PS4, Xbox One, PS3, PS Vita, and multiple iPhones and iPads. He claims, “I definitely appreciate a great mobile game or a deep console one”. But his favorite platform is mobile, because it allows him to play wherever he goes and in short sessions while still getting the satisfaction he wants from gaming. Currently, he is playing The Hobbit: The Kingdom of Middle Earth.

His work leaves him with little free time, and he is also very busy with his three children and their activities whenever he is not working or traveling. But he still loves gaming and sports such as football, baseball, and basketball.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Marguerite Dibble: Problem Solving With Games | Casual Connect Video

July 24, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“There is a necessity for understanding what is the worst case versus what is the best case,” says Marguerite Dibble during a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014.

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Marguerite Dibble, President and Creative Director, gametheory

Marguerite Dibble is the president and creative director of gametheory (formerly Birnam Wood Games). While still a student at Champlain College, Dibble founded Birnam Wood Games, a company which produced its own IP, as well as doing contract projects and engagement consulting for clients. During the past two years, the company has released more than a dozen titles for iOS and Android platforms.

Dibble credits Champlain College with helping her start a game company through their game development program and entrepreneurial-focused curriculum. The program and faculty members were always available for advice and the opportunity to make connections.

Receiving Praise

Their most recent release, Pathogen, received outstanding reviews and won several awards. In the App Store, it ranked #1 board game on iPhone/iPad in 11 countries and hit the Top One Hundred Games in 45 countries. Dibble says, “It was pretty awesome to see our title in ‘Best New Games’ the day we launched it on the App Store. We have a great title and a strong publisher that all came together for that result.”

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Pathogen received outstanding reviews and won several awards.

Game Theory Problem Solving

In 2014, Birnam Wood Games was renamed gametheory and given a new direction and brand. While continuing to produce their own titles and doing contract game development, they now focus on bringing game theory into new businesses and fields to solve problems by making them more fun and satisfying to address. Dibble states, “We’re excited to bring gaming tools into whole new areas, letting games spread what they do best: engage and entertain, directing those ends towards larger goals.”

As the games industry evolves in the next few years, gametheory will be interested in following how user behaviors in general will develop and how games will intersect with other businesses and interests. Monetization is another aspect of the industry that Dibble expects to change significantly. She emphasizes that, with paid apps barely scraping by and IAP inspiring restrictive legislation, a new and evolving model for monetization is a necessity.

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As the games industry evolves in the next few years, gametheory will be interested in following how user behaviors in general will develop and how games will intersect with other businesses and interests.

When Dibble is not working, she enjoys writing and watching TV, especially British panel shows. She also reads, spends time on boats and enjoys the company of her parrot.

Her gaming these days is usually done on her phone, but she actually prefers playing on her PC or her 3DS. Currently, she is playing ME3, simply because she just didn’t get around to it earlier. She is evidently a very disciplined free-to-play player, never having spent more than $20 in a game. And that was for Clash of Clans, for testing purposes.

Dibble owns and plays on several consoles: N64 for Ocarina of Time, Xbox 360, originally for Oblivion, and PS2 for Amplitude and Space Channel 5. But she has never had to pay for any of them; they were all acquired from people who were throwing them away for various reasons. “Except for my 3DS,” she says. “I certainly paid for that!”

 

Asia 2014Video Coverage

Jonathan Zweig: Excited About Mobile Ads | Casual Connect Video

May 20, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“How do you monetize the 98 percent that are not buying in-app items?” Jonathan Zweig asked his audience at Causal Connect Asia 2014. He went on to answer the question during his presentation, which you can see below.

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Jonathan Zweig, Founder/President, AdColony

Jonathan Zweig, as Founder and President of AdColony, has built a market-leading mobile video advertising company. AdColony’s proprietary Instant-Play™ technology serves razor sharp, full-screen video ads instantly in HD across its network of iOS and Android apps. The company works directly with Fortune 500 brands to help them reach consumers on mobile, and they also work with more than half of the top grossing publishers in the App Store to help them maximize monetization by integrating mobile video advertising.

Ads Go Mobile

With the continuing shift to mobile commerce, he sees huge changes ahead for AdColony and the products it offers during the next two or three years. He says, “As more people get comfortable buying things via their mobile devices, combined with the television style advertising that we provide, you will see incredible products coming out of our pipeline.” But he still views Free-to-Play as the trend which will most affect the games industry as a whole.

As more people get comfortable buying things via their mobile devices, combined with the television style advertising that we provide, you will see incredible products coming out of our pipeline.

Success and Innovation

Zweig tells us there have been many wonderful moments in the five years since he founded AdColony. In particular, he especially enjoys seeing the faces of his colleagues when they have closed a big deal for the company or released a new product onto the market. He feels that seeing the AdColony family succeed has been far more gratifying than any of his individual accomplishments.

One of the most difficult aspects of his career has been balancing focus with the need for constant product innovation. He points out, “AdColony is in one of the hottest and yet always changing industries, so the temptation to cast a wide net of ideas is always there. But with the help of a world-class management team, we have been able to strike a balance with focus on both video and new product innovation while growing the company quickly.”

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Screen shot (end card) from a mobile video ad campaign for Xbox Gears of War: Judgment featuring an interactive video end card.

Up in the Air

Today, Zweig spends most of his time evangelizing their products and technology. He travels around the world talking to developers, both big and small, about the value of AdColony’s monetization products, explaining how they can add incremental value to the bottom line with a few lines of code and strategic placements of their monetization units.

AdColony Side by Side Performance
The company’s Instant-Play™ HD mobile video technology delivers mobile video ads from Fortune 500 brands instantly in HD across their network of some of the hottest apps in the world. No long load times and no grainy, choppy footage.

In his free time, Zweig plays basketball and enjoys hitting the gym. The creative side of his personality is evident as he describes his appreciation for classical music, saying the music, devoid of words, allows him to create his own thoughts based on the sounds.

But his major focus is clearly on the company as he describes how AdColony’s technology eliminates the pain points of mobile video advertising with razor sharp, full screen video ads instantly in HD. No more long load times or grainy, choppy videos!

 

News

Playnomics Releases the Latest Player Engagement Study

December 24, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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Playnomics has just released its Player Engagement Study for the third quarter of 2013. Playnomics has a data base of over 300 million player profiles. From this data base, they have extracted information on the engagement and monetization of a representative set of players. The report compares the in-game behavior of players in mobile (native Android, iOS and Unity) and non-mobile (web) games.

The purpose of the report, according to Playnomics CEO, Chetham Ramachandran is to provide the understanding of the patterns of player behavior that marketers need. He says, “For the third quarter, our findings revealed that players of mobile games were likely to monetize dramatically faster than players of web games. Insights like these enable marketers to better retain, engage and monetize their audience.”

Mobile Spend

The faster monetization Ramachnadran refers to is indeed dramatic, with mobile players spending 63.4 percent of their total lifetime spend on their first day in-game, compared to only 10.4 percent in the first day for non-mobile players.

The report also found a more even distribution of spending within the group of mobile players compared to non-mobile players. The top 20 percent of mobile players contributed 56 percent of the total spend, while the top 20 percent of non-mobile players were responsible for 86.7 percent.

Monetization

The report displays an additional aspect to the monetization of non-mobile players: a three-day threshold. With 74 percent accuracy, Playnomics shows that if players play more than three sessions within the first week, they will monetize, but if they play less than three sessions they will not monetize.

Playnomics discovered other interesting characteristics of player engagement during this quarter, such as the fact that men and women play almost equally, with men playing 114 minutes during their first 60 days and women, 106.

Scale

And where are people playing? Mainly in the Middle East and North Africa, where 50 percent of the top ten most engaged countries are found. Turkey leads them all in engagement levels, with an average of 47 minutes per play session and 845 total minutes per player.

A very significant change in engagement occurred in the United Kingdom. In the first quarter of 2013, it ranked second, but by the third quarter had dropped to fifteenth.

The full Playnomics Player Engagement Study Q3 2013 can be accessed at http://www.playnomics.com/player_engagement_q3/.

Playnomics is made up of entrepreneurs and industry experts who have pioneered predictive data mining in finance, information security and bioinformatics. Across hundreds of freemium apps and games, with over 300 million user profiles, they capture user behaviors to help marketers retain, monetize and personalize the app experience for their customers. More information about Playnomics and the services they offer is available at http://www.playnomics.com.

Video Coverage

Patrick Wheeler: Bringing Mobile Gaming to China | Casual Connect Video

October 31, 2013 — by Catherine Quinton

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“China is big, we all know this,” Patrick Wheeler tells his audience at Casual Connect Kyiv 2013, “but to deliver games there, you need to be wary of the regulations and choose Chinese partners carefully.”

DOWNLOAD SLIDES

Patrick Wheeler, CEO of Smartions, describes his company as a provider of comprehensive game and app adaptation services for the Chinese mobile market, supporting their clients in effectively monetizing games and apps, as well as increasing user acquisition and retention. Their goal is to make China accessible to foreign game developers, so they act as a business enabler through providing services in adapting, publishing and monetizing games in China, as well as a technical enabler with their China SDK and tools. Patrick says, “Bringing great mobile games to China and making the experience as painless as possible is what we are all about.”

Patrick Wheeler, CEO of Smartions
Patrick Wheeler, CEO of Smartions

He explains that his experience while working with Aeria Games in Berlin taught him a great deal about the economics of free-to-play games since monetizing in difficult markets is something Aeria Games excels at. As well, every member of the Smartions team brings an understanding of the B2B market in the West and the B2C market in China. As a result, they are working with more and more great publishers and developers to bring their games to China.

Establishing a Business

Patrick started his career as a developer many years ago, at a job where his focus was on the details, the components of a problem, and finding a solutions to complex code level issues. He found running a business naturally requires a broader focus, looking at the big picture and the road ahead. Finding a balance between these perspectives took a lot of discipline, and being able to see enough of the detail in the day-to-day challenges, while at the same time keeping an eye on all-important business objectives was difficult. He maintains, “You learn that being a perfectionist is a sure way to bury yourself with stress, so sometimes a little compromise is required in order to get things done.”

Founding the Smartions Berlin office in June of this year with his colleague, Rajmund Balogh, is the time Patrick feels has brought him the greatest satisfaction in his career. They had both worked with Smartions China CEO, Fang Liang, and with their combined industry experience, as well as the increasing focus on the mobile gaming market in China, it made sense to use their shared passion for the business to establish a presence in Europe.

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Both Patrick and Rajmund, founders of Smartions Europe, work closely with Smartions China

Regulation

Since the focus for Smartions is mobile gaming in China, their greatest challenge is regulation, especially possible changes in regulation. In China, the only model that works for mobile gaming is free-to-play. As a result, developers are centering their attention on increasingly aggressive free-to-play monetization models, some of which cross the line between free-to-play and pay-to-win. But China already has regulations governing foreign games, virtual money, gaming consoles, and online gambling, as well as legislation requiring anti-fatigue and addiction mechanisms in online games. So the industry in China must police itself with regard to monetization methods in free-to-play games or risk the potential for more government regulation.

“To thrive in China, one typically needs a more robust free-to-play monetization model than in the West. And if a game lacks well thought-out monetization, it can be difficult to retrofit without diluting the gaming experience.”

Whilst Patrick does not see self-regulation as being likely for the industry in China and believes that this may prompt further intervention in the Games market by Chinese regulators, he emphasizes, “To thrive in China, one typically needs a more robust free-to-play monetization model than in the West. And if a game lacks well thought-out monetization, it can be difficult to retrofit without diluting the gaming experience.” Patrick reminds us that although China has a history of issuing broadly worded notices that impose strict regulations affecting various aspects of the gaming industry, he also expects the west, including EU, may also start looking at more controls on free-to-play gaming in the coming years.

He suggests that in China, app stores may play a part in responding to this situation through their approval processes, possibly mitigating the perceived need for more regulation. But it is up to individual developers and publishers to make sure they stay on the right side of the line between robust monetization mechanics and monetization mechanics that verge into grey areas, either legally or ethically. It is especially important to self-regulate when bringing a foreign game to China via one of China’s local publishers.

Bringing a Game to China

Patrick describes the process Smartions goes through in bringing a game to China:

“When we look at a game and the market-fit in terms of China, we take a look at all aspects of the game, including monetization. We will evaluate and adapt the monetization model for China and, before making changes to these mechanics, we consider how these changes will impact (positively or negatively) the player experience, and if there may be any “harmonization” issues. In other words, we need to calibrate the monetization model to the market and be responsible in doing so.”

“When we look at a game and the market-fit in terms of China, we take a look at all aspects of the game, including monetization." Game Screen from Magic Beanie
“When we look at a game and the market-fit in terms of China, we take a look at all aspects of the game, including monetization.” Game Screen from Magic Beanie

Evolution of Mobile Gaming

There are now several trends that Patrick sees converging in the industry. The console hardware that will soon be available to gamers will provide more immersive gaming in free-roaming worlds. The consoles themselves, head-mounted displays, and motion controllers are all components of this trend. He is also interested to see how cloud computing will be harnessed to complement the processing capabilities of consoles and smart devices. The increased power of smart devices will allow more sophisticated AAA titles to be targeted toward mobile gamers.

He emphasizes, “The evolution of mobile games and development environments, whether Unity, Marmalade, Game Maker, native etc., means we have to constantly ensure our teams’ skills are sharpened and expanded. We need to maintain both a broad and deep skillset internally. To incorporate this in our planning means a lot of time is dedicated to training and ensuring we do what we can to retain knowledge internally. The basic principle here is simple: we hire great developers who love games and do what we can to make sure that they are happy in their work!”

At Casual Connect Kyiv, Patrick announced that Smartions will be releasing some great mobile titles in China in the coming months. According to Patrick, they have signed Czech publisher Craneballs and will be bringing their highly popular shooter Overkill 2 to China on Android, as well as Magic Beanie, a beautiful 3D endless runner built on Unity made by Byte Rocker’s in Berlin. In addition to the multitude of character customizations within the game, Patrick says, “The launch itself is unique in the fact that it’s a China first launch, and we have been lucky to have been able to work closely with the Byte Rocker’s team to develop some really engaging China focused content and mechanics within Magic Beanie, so we are very excited to be bringing these and other games to China in the coming months.”

Overkill 2 is just one of the games Smartions will be releasing on mobile.
Overkill 2 is just one of the games Smartions will be releasing on mobile.

Also, before the end of the year, they will be making Smartport China SDK available externally. This SDK provides mobile game developers with direct access to popular mobile payment services in China (both carrier and independent) as well as Social Media platforms such as WeChat, Sina Weibo and others. Supported by their China analytics platform, the SmartPort SDK enables developers to monetize their games and build their player community in China. Plugins for Unity and Marmalade will follow close behind. SmartPort is an important component of the solution they are building to open up China to foreign developers.

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