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2015 L. A. Games Conference : Gaming on a Higher Level

 lagamesconf title

The Digital Media Wire L.A. Games Conference was held May 6, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:45 p.m. at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Due to renovations at the Roosevelt Hotel where the conference was originally scheduled to take place, a change was made to move the conference to the W Hotel a few weeks prior.

The DMW L.A. Games Conference is an annual conference where the movers and shakers in just about all facets of the video game industry get together, network, collaborate and share ideas not only on the current state of video games, but also on where video games are headed in the future. Some of the best minds in the video game industry got together to debate such topics as Virtual Reality (VR), Alternative Reality (AR), mobile versus console and PC gaming, advertising in video game and a wide range of other video game topics of interest not only to gamers, but to those who can direct the fate and destiny of the video game industry as a whole.

Digital Media Wire 2015 L.A. Games Conference SponsorsDigital Media Wire 2015 L.A. Games Conference Sponsors

Location, Location, Location

It was fitting for the DMW L.A. Games Conference to be held in Los Angeles, California. During the conference, it was pointed out that L.A. is fast becoming just as noteworthy and the place to watch for videogames success as other citiesL.A. is fast becoming just as noteworthy and the place to watch for videogames success as other cities, such as the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York and other mecca gaming locations. Additionally, L.A. is becoming the hot bed to attract great startups and communities who are all about creating video games.

With the E3 video game convention happening in just a few months -- the DMW L.A. Games Conference seemed to be just the right introduction to this event. During the conference, E3 was mentioned and a question was asked by one of the audience members if E3 is still relevant. The response given was that E3 is not as relevant as it was years ago when video gaming was relatively new -- however E3 is still relevant, but to a lesser degree. That being said, everyone was encouraged to attend E3 which is currently scheduled for June 16-18, 2015 at the L.A. Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA. Just to clarify -- E3 and the DMW Games Conference are separate events and are not partners, etc.

Keynote and Roundtable Conversations

Given the varied calibre of video gaming industry experts, speakers, debaters and presenters -- it appeared that no stones were left unturned when it came to sharing views, opinions, challenges, and predictions for the video game industry. The spokespersons were directly involved in the video game industry whether their involvement was deeply intertwined in the making of video games such as developers and designers, or if the involvement was from an investment point of view, such as the investors and venture capitalists who had a fireside chat as well. There was also a discussion from TenCent on China’s request for more western games to be available for play in China.Popular games in the Chinese marketPopular games in the Chinese market

Future or Fad? The Great Debate on Virtual and Augmented Reality Gaming & Entertainment

At the DMW L.A. Games Conference, anybody who was anybody in the video game industry seemed to be there to not only share video gaming information but to debate as well. Like the saying goes -- there are two sides to every story -- which includes the video game industry. It was refreshing to see the panelists not only agree to disagree on some topics, but were also willing to listen to the other side’s argument as well.

An example of this was a discussion on whether Virtual Reality (VR) and Alternative Reality (AR) should be relegated for at home play only -- or if these new forms of video game play requiring headsets and other apparatus, other than today’s gaming consoles, PCs and mobile devices -- could enter into mainstream living. In other words, what would be the ideal setting of VR and AR relative to video game players? Interesting enough, both sides had compelling reasons why VR and AR should be an at home gaming activity only, as well as why VR and AR would be ideal to enhance the social aspect of gaming. This could be done by affording gamers the opportunity to interact with others outside of the home environment. The debate was not settled at the conference; however, this topic did open up dialogue as well as thoughts relative to the future of VR and AR and the impact these types of games will have on society.

VR PanelistsVR Panelists

It was noted that video gamers were expected to lead the advent of 3D television -- which sort of fizzled due to human dynamics as well as poorly executed content. The question was whether VR and AR would face a similar demise, or would it become a part of gaming just as much, if not more so than today’s gaming consoles, mobile devices and PCs.

Comments from Ted Schilowitz, VR Creator & Futurist, 20th Century Fox/CinemaVangelist indicated that to the contrary, VR is destined to become an integral part of video gamingVR is destined to become an integral part of video gaming. In fact, in his position at 20th Century Fox, he spends up to 8 hours a day in the virtual world instead of the real world. He added that hardware is the easiest part of VR, and creating the best possible content for VR is the hardest part. Concern expressed was people will try to give away VR games to stimulate the market -- which should not be done.

Some of the challenges discussed relative to VR and AR included safety issues as well as the difficulty of making VR and AR video games.

Money and Video Games

For these discussion topics, the politically correct term of “monetization” was used instead of “making money” in the video game industry with topics such as   The Evolution of Free-to-Play,  Mobile Advertising: Maximizing The Value of Advertising, Mobile Games: Strategies for Cost-Efficient User Acquisition, Investor’s Roundtable as well as other monetization discussions.

The company’s bottom line is the basis for the video game industry which cannot be ignored. The company's bottom line is the basis for the video game industrySure, the conference was enlightening and it was sometimes eye-opening to find out the inner workings of the video game industry; however, at the end of the day the question must be answered -- How will money be made from video games?

Towards this end, a fireside chat was held on how to use ads in video games as a way of monetization. Discussions included how to embed ads in video games without taking away what could be an enjoyable video game experience for the video gamer.

Specific methods discussed to introduce ads seamlessly to the video game player was to bring the ads in slowly, depending on how long the game was played. For instance, if someone just started playing the game, the strategy used was to wait until the game is played for longer periods of time before ads are slowly introduced. 

Another idea presented was to have the ads become part of the video game play itself. For instance, the gamer would have to click on the ad to either get more points or to advance to another level in the game, etc. In this way, ads would be used as incentives or rewards for reading or even clicking on the ads.

A statistic shared was that only approximately two to five percent of video gamers actually click on ads with the remaining players, either skipping or ignoring the ads. Even though the numbers of gamers clicking on ads are relatively low -- this does not dissuade video game companies from concentrating their advertising efforts on those two to five percenters which could possibly grow in numbers.

There was an agreement among the panelists during this discussion that if video games were of high quality, gamers would be more tolerant to ads appearing in the game. The message seems to be for developers and others to provide more high quality, innovative video games to equate to higher revenues from ads. An example provided of a video game that uses ads appropriately was Compass Point West, a free online game.

An additional method of monetization of video games discussed was to use subscriptions which would almost guarantee gamers will return to play the game, while at the same time being exposed to ads which could result in more revenue.

As a footnote: The monetization fireside chats were well attended. During one of these chats, a group of ad executives sat on one side of the couch and the developers sat on the opposite side -- which made for a productive exchange of information and ideas relative to the monetization of videogaming.

Hollywood & Games: Opportunities & Strategies

Since the conference was held in L.A., the topic of Hollywood celebrities was a given. Several experts shared thoughts about Hollywood celebrities and video games. It was mentioned that more celebrities are being urged to become part of the twitter universe, especially if they have aspirations of having their own video game. With the monetary success of Kim Kardashian’s game, Kim Kardashian:Hollywood, it is not surprising that some celebrities are looking to capitalize by having their own game. The benefit mentioned during this discussion was that unlike movies, with video games, celebrities have a more intimate relationship with the game. 

Hollywood and Games PanelistsHollywood and Games Panelists

Distribution Track - Myst to MP3S: Music in Games: The Next Generation

How would video games fare without music? Probably not as well as video games do with music. During this fireside chat with the experts which included Brandon Young from Blizzard, Siegfried Paquet of FreshPlanet, Les Borsai of SongLily and others, discussion ensued on the sometimes daunting task of making sure all the licenses are in place before music, songs, arrangements, etc. are added to various video games.

Music in Games

One may think the only person’s license that is imperative to get approval for is the songwriter. However, this is sometimes not true. In fact, narrowing down who the licenses should be obtained from as well as locating the applicable people to discuss terms, etc. for the licensing -- appear to be a job in and of itself. Brandon Young indicated the timeframe for licensing for some video games can take up to four months. On the other hand, it was noted by a panelist that the time frame for getting approval for licensing music for video games in China is much shorter. Sometimes approval is granted in as little as 24 hours since there are no layers to muddle through to get licensing approval. The flip side of the short time frame in China according to one of the speakers was the high cost of licensing there when compared to the U.S.


Attendance at the DMW L.A. Games Conference is highly recommended. Not only was there a multitude of compelling discussions on video games as well as the video game industry, but the venue provided an opportunity to network and collaborate with others. Attendance at the DMW L.A. Games Conference is highly recommended. The cost is sky-high to attend, but when one weighs the positive benefits of getting instant answers to questions one may have about the video game industry, as well as to learn more about the video games from the developers’, strategist, and even investors’ points of view, the money can be considered money very well spent. To find out what is happening, not only on the outer edges, but down to the core of video gaming, this well represented, and well attended DMW L.A. Video Game Conference was by far the place to be.

Digital Media Wire Games Conference - Report







dmw conf panel 7aOn Friday April 19th, 2013 I attended the the Digital Media Wire Games Conference in Los Angeles, CA ( The attendee list read like a who’s who of the game industry. From behemoths like EA, Zynga, and Dreamworks, to growing companies like Ouya, 2 Bit Circus, and Tapjoy, I was surrounded by the top names in gaming. If you’re picturing the DMW Games Conference as an upscale E3 , you’d be wrong. Well, you’d be right. Because there’s a part of E3 that most people don’t see which is just as, if not more important than the flashing lights and elaborate spectacle that’s usually reported on. There’s a part of E3 behind the scenes where deals are made and ideas are exchanged between the people that really drive the video game industry.That’s the DMW Games Conference.


When I walked into the Roosevelt Hotel, I felt a little out of my element. The place is beautiful. Beautiful. It’s so far from any convention center or hotel conference room that it really can’t be compared. So, I was just a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t expect to see cosplayers walking around, but I also didn’t expect a pool, bar, and carpet nice enough to sleep on. But hey, no matter how swanky the venue, deep down we’re all gamers inside, so I quickly adjusted. Plus, a few minutes in a VIP lounge relaxing in a deep leather chair overlooking Hollywood Boulevard has a way of making adjusting easy.


The DMW Games Conference is a series of panels where industry leaders discuss the parts of the gaming industry that most games don’t care about or didn’t even know existed. The ideas being discussed on these panels will greatly affect each and every gamer But these are the aspects of video games that are really driving the next generation and moving the industry forward. Panels included titles like Productized Monetization, Latest Trends in Ad Models and Micro Payments for Games, Maximizing Value and User Acquisition on Social Platforms, and What Does it Take to Get Funded. Sure, they don’t sound as exciting as Best Fighting Game Combos, or GT5 vs Forza 4: Burning Rubber, but believe me, the ideas being discussed on these panels will greatly affect each and every gamer.


dmw conf panel la aI attended 2 panels, one on User Acquisition Via Social Platforms and the second was focused on growing and enhancing the LA game development community. Hearing companies discuss the different ways used to convince people to play their games was very interesting, mostly because I’m sure that many gamers believe in the ‘Field of Dreams’ strategy. If you Build It, They Will Come. Well, when a developer has spent thousands (or millions) of dollars making a game,they can’t afford to sit in the proverbial cornfield and just hope people notice their efforts. The ways companies will pull users into a game are wide ranging. Everything from switching the font/color on a Download Now button, to completely changing the core mechanic of a game was discussed. It was also eye opening the extent that user feedback plays in a company's decision. I was reminded that the gamer is only a single part of a multifaceted machine that includes distribution partners, advertising providers, and marketing teams. What makes one of these groups happy, will usually make another group not so happy. It’s finding the balance thats the key.

The panel on growing the LA Game Development Industry was also extremely informative. When you see a story about a studio being shut down and it's employees scattered, there's a very good chance it was a result of the issues and decisions discussed in this panel.When you see a story about a studio being shut down and it's employees scattered, there's a very good chance it was a result of the issues and decisions discussed in this panel. Many people may not realize that 'Los Angeles' is actually a few dozen seperate cities that as a whole, make up L.A. County. And the diverse cities each have their own strenghs and weaknesses when it comes to hosting a company, from the trendyness of Santa Monica, to the star power of Hollywood. Los Angeles knows how important it is to have game developers in the city, especially since other cities are actively luring companies away. Montreal, Canada and Alberquerque, New Mexico may become the next hotbeds of gaming, or even a small city in the middle of China that is offering companies over a million dollars to relocate. Where the next 'triple A' title is born may have more to do with traffic congestion and tax rates than anything else. It's difficult to know whether Los Angeles will take to heart some of the suggestions (I, personally would like to see the Video Game Walk of Fame that was repeatedly mentioned), but to his credit, the goverment representative on stage was taking more notes than anyone in the room.


These are the types of discussions that go far deeper than the scope of this article. Also, the panels aren't the real point of the conference. The biggest draw of the DMW Games Conference isn’t the information exchanged in the panels (and there’s a lot of information). The biggest draw is meeting the other attendees. This is what the executive types call ‘a Prime Networking Opportunity’. Every attendee is a decision maker in the industry. From online developers, to console creators, to publishers. And they’re all there to talk about video games and hang out. Imagine shooting the breeze with a bigwig from Dreamworks on one side and an exec from Ouya on the other while VP’s from Activision and Ubisoft banter next to you. Sure, it -could- happen at Pax, or GDC, but at DMW, it was the norm. And you could do it with a drink in your hand. That’s where the true value of this event lies. A gamer in an expensive suit is still a gamer. And when gamers get together, they talk about games.

dmw conf panel 5admw conf panel 5a

The DMW Games Conference probably isn’t the perfect conference for the average gamer. First of all,it’s expensive. If you thought those 4 day PAX passes you got on ebay made a dent in your bank account, then the $599 starting price won’t seem like a bargain. And there aren’t any gaming displays or new release announcements. What it does have are rooms full of people who have made gaming into a business that rivals the film industry, and who are open and ready to talk to you. If you’re even considering becoming a developer or a pursuing job in the industry, it’s something that you need to add to your agenda. Plus, that leather chair is really comfortable.  

 -Derrick Hopkins


The B Team is at PAXEast!

As you probably know, Penny Arcade Expo East is around the corner (April 11-13). This year, as we do every year, we will be covering the event and broadcasting Friday and Saturday night (the 11th and 12th, respectively) live from the convention center. Best of all, we want you to join us to participate in the podcasts to share what you observed at the show.

We will iron out the details closer to the event (and update this post with them) but the following are the tentative details:
What: PAX East 2014 Live Podcasts
When: April 11th and 12th; at approximately 9 PM Eastern
Where: Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, likely outside the media room. Room 211.

Feel free to contact us to let us know you are coming. Thanks and we hope to see you there. We plan to be doing 2 live shows from the center. The current plan is to broadcast live from the Convention Center starting at 9PM. If you are attending PAX and would like to join for the show, we would love to have you!

We're Going to the DMW L.A. Games Conference

Digital Media Wire’s L.A. Games Conference will be held on May 1, 2014 and AllGames will be there to cover it. The LA Games Conference stands apart from public events like Pax and Industry events like E3 because it focuses the business side of gaming. This one day event at the famous iconic Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, CA would be closer to an Executive Corporate Retreat. Instead of showing off new games and hardware, the innovations rolled out will be customer acquisition strategies and monetizing game plans. It’s a rare peek behind the curtain on how and why successful game companies become successful game companies. The decision makers from powerhouses like Sony, Facebook, EA, Nexon, and Activision will sharing some of the secrets to their success. If you want to know whether F2P will survive, or the next step for DLC, or how much longer will physical media survive, then the place to be isn’t at a random online blog, it’s a at the DMW LA games Conference.

If you arent able to blreak the piggybank and get a ticket, ranging from $499 to $1000, don’t worry because AllGames will bring you hot button topics from the conference floor.Find out more about the event at and

While you're waiting, check out our report from last years coference.

Digital Media Wire Games Conference 2014 - Report


dmw 4486On 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 Owen Mahoney and Mike VorhausNexon's Owen Mahoney 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

Jean Matthews, iMAGINATEJean Matthews, iMAGINATEThe 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

Amy Cotteleer - A Squared Group, Matt Cohen - Machinima, Michael Powers - Gamespot, Matthew Patrick - Defy Media, Phil Ranta - FullscreenAmy Cotteleer - A Squared Group, Matt Cohen - Machinima, Michael Powers - Gamespot, Matthew Patrick - Defy Media, Phil Ranta - 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

Mariel Cartwright - Lab Zero, Kellee Santiago - OUYA, James Liu - BoxCat Games, Spencer Yip - YummyYummyTummy, Brendon Chung - Blendo GamesMariel Cartwright - Lab Zero, Kellee Santiago - OUYA, James Liu - BoxCat Games, Spencer Yip - YummyYummyTummy, Brendon Chung - Blendo Games

 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.

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