On May 1st AllGames attended the 2014 Digital Media Wire L.A. Games Conference, a one day meetup of 350 of the biggest executives in gaming to network, disseminate knowledge, and discuss the next steps of the industry at the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.
Unlike E3 or PAX, you won't see boothbabes, elaborate displays or even videogames at this conference. Instead, Digital Media Wire's L.A. Games Conference is a series of panels with exciting topics like The Evolution of "Digital Pricing Models Across Consoles, PC and Mobile/Tablets" and "Social Casino Games: Know Your Users; How Predictive Data is Changing the Game". Thats not sarcasm, because behind those boring names lie the roadmap to how games will be developed and sold over the coming years.
I attended four of the more than a dozen panels offered and not once did I hear a mention of processor speed, framerates, or ‘true HD’ resolution. Which leads me to believe that the majority of the topics that gamers are currently arguing about on social media aren’t really all that important. Instead of counting lines of resolution, gaming execs are more focused on digital delivery, ip rights and partnerships with other industries.
The Future of Gaming in a F2P and Cross Platform World
Owen Mahoney, CEO & President, Nexon and Mike Vorhaus
Nexon’s CEO, Owen Mahony led a discussion on Free to Play games and as arguably the leader in the genre, Nexon is the best place to look when taking a gauge of the genre. Mahoney lamented that when it comes to F2P,we’ve had to suffer through five years of bad games filled with copycats, instead of the segment becoming a spotlight for creativity. He remarked that although the economics of F2P are all math and stats, there needs to be a resistance to making Free to Play games becoming 'Pay to Win' and how that actually shortens the lifespan of games. And while I doubt P2W games will disappear from the marketplace anytime soon, it’s good to know that companies are aware that the current status quo in Free to Play isn’t sustainable (or fun). Over the next 10 years, Nexon plans on doubling down on F2P. And seeing how their recent financial reports show a continuing rise in revenue, don’t be surprised when other companies follow suit.
Hollywood & Games: Opportunities at the Intersection of Content and Technology
Susan Cummings, Executive Producer, Doctor Who: Legacy
Jon Radoff, Founder & CEO, Disruptor Beam
Paulus Bannink, Creative Technical Director, Zoic Studios
Jean Mathews, Consultant, Strategy & Business Development, iMAGINATE
Avi Gandhi, Digital Agent, William Morris Endeavor
Moderator: Marc Graser, Senior Editor, Variety
The short name for the next big topic should simply be "Intellectual Property". While it’s possible to spend time and money to create your own characters and story, why risk it when Hollywood already has a large surplus of them waiting to be made into games? The Hollywood & Games Panel was filled with representatives from Dr. Who, Game of Thrones, iMaginate, Zoic Studios, and even the William Morris Agency. It was made clear that just tossing a big name at a game doesn’t always guarantee success. You don’t get much bigger than Beyonce’ these days, but even she wasn’t able to sell a poorly developed fashion title. According to the panel, it's dangerous for a game to depend too much on the strength of the license while failing to build up a solid about of original content. The underperforming Defiance MMO was brought up a number of times as an example of how meshing Hollywood and videogames isn’t always a slam dunk. In the end, you’re still developing a game, and once the licensed material is exhausted, you still need to continue to provide original content. It’s also important to keep in mind that companies like HBO and BBCAmerica have different metrics for considering an online title like Game of Thrones or Dr. Who:Legacy a success. They’re more interested in making sure viewers return each week and their games focus more on retaining a community than they do on getting players to buy upgrades.
Video and Game-related Content
Michael Powers, VP & GM, GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Ongamers, CBS Interactive
Matt Cohen, Director of Business Development, Machinima
Rodrigo Velloso, Director of Gaming, YouTube
Amy Cotteleer, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, A Squared Group
Matthew Patrick, Producer, Game Theory / Senior YouTube Channel Manager, Defy Media
Moderator: Phil Ranta, VP, Talent Operations, Fullscreen
TV is dead. Well, not yet, but we all see the writing on the wall. This panel featured both video content channels along with notable creators. It was fairly Youtube specific, with Twitch getting only a passing mention. It’s hard to deny that Youtube is the main platform for online gaming video, but Twitch is a major force in delivering live content. Machinima’s Matt Cohen explained the difficulty in managing a business where you need to merge high power, professional businesses with video producers that have little respect for NDAs. The panel explained how ‘small time’ youtube stars have quickly grown into accomplished production houses with budgets that can at times rival tv shows. Defy Media’s Matthey Patrick chronicled the evolution of gaming videos from ‘angry game reviews’ to special effects laden videos from Freddie Wong.
To Live and Indie in LA: Indie Game Development in the Southland
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, OUYA / Co-Founder,thatgamecompany
Spencer Yip, Director & Founder, YummyYummyTummy
James Liu, Founder, CEO, Writer, Developer, BoxCat Games
Brendon Chung, Founder, Blendo Games
Mariel Cartwright, Lead Animator, Lab Zero
Moderator: Jamison Selby, VP, Games bspot and Board Member, IGDA Los Angeles
My final panel of the day was one of the most informative. It was outwardly about the rigors of being an indie developer in Los Angeles, but I found it to be more about the easily overlooked facets of being a game creator. When the panel was asked what their biggest challenge was, it wasn't deadlines, or hardware contraints. It was traffic. Just being able to move about the city was so much of a struggle that it's impacting game development. Another issue was simple communication. It's ironic that in a tech based industry with dozens of near instantaneous messaging services, being able to communicate with other developers and the city itself seemed to be a hardship. For example, all of the panelists noted that a tax break for small developers would be a big help. Only to find out from the L.A. CTO who was in attendance, that tax incentives have been available for years. The same CTO, Peter Marx, also informed us that he wasn't made aware that the conference was even being held until a few days prior. Communication, it's important.
In all, I found this year's DMW L.A. Games Conference an insightful experience. It's a fascinating look behind the scenes of the games industry and an invaluable opportunity to mix and mingle with gaming giants. The $500 ticket price may be prohibitive, but if you can swing it, it'll be money well spent.