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

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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.

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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.

Wrap-Up

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

 

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dmw conf panel 7aOn Friday April 19th, 2013 I attended the the Digital Media Wire Games Conference in Los Angeles, CA ( http://www.dmwgames.com). 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.

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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

 

2016 Digital Media Wire L.A. Games Conference

On April 19th, the most important videogame conference you’ve never heard of was held. While the masses were preparing the descend on Boston’s PAX East later in the week, a few hundred game industry executives gathered in the W Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard to discuss exactly how the next few years in gaming will play out at Digital Media Wire’s L.A. Game Conference.

lagc 0164 bannerThe DMW L.A. Games conference isn’t your typical gaming convention. You won’t find cosplayers or boothbabes. There are no special game reveals or console announcements. Instead you'll find a series of panel discussions by giants in the industry speaking candidly about very specific topics. This year there were eighteen panels total, with titles ranging from the broad ‘Virtual and Augmented Reality for Games and Entertainment’ to the niche ‘Finding Success in the Chinese Market’. You could listen to the VP of Walt Disney’s game division discuss the best way to manage intellectual properties in one room, or how eSports can be integrated into brand marketing in another. If all of this sounds slightly boring, well, it is at first glance. On it's surface, sitting in a room listening to people break down games and players into metrics and graphs is not as compelling as even the most mundane display at E3 or PAX. 

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There were no WW2 tanks or dancing animals to be found. But it quickly becomes apparent just how important these panels are. These discussions are a roadmap to how gaming will develop in the near future with no time wasted on pomp and circumstance. For example, it was made clear during the panels that as much as virtual reality is dominating the news, blogs and youtube, it’s not a big concern for major game companies. Large publishing and development houses aren’t planning on spending any significant amount of money on VR Game development. The market simply isn’t big enough and the cost of developing a AAA title could never be recovered. Instead most are happy to simply publish whichever indie titles that seem promising. So if you’re expecting a VR Call of Duty or Final Fantasy anytime soon. It’s not going to happen. It’s information like this which makes the L.A. Games Conference so fascinating. You can see the wide difference between the perception of the game industry and the reality behind it.

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A few years ago eSports wasn’t even a topic on the conference agenda but this year there were two separate panels dedicated to it. It’s interesting to note that the people on stage who are be helping to shape competitive gaming weren’t full time gamers or even game developers. They were former bankers and lawyers who are now owners of their own eSport companies or franchises. eSports is a segment of gaming that is growing quickly in the number of both players and spectators and also in the amount of money it’s responsible for. As big as it is now, Bill Mooney (Skillz) expects it to grow 20x over the next decade where it will quickly begin to rival traditional sports in terms or marketshare and marketing revenue. As the audience for traditional sports ‘ages out’, or gets older, they aren’t being replaced by new fans. Instead that new audience is joining the eSports fanbase. So as Soccer, Football and Baseball are seeing their popularity shrink each year, eSports are growing tremendously. This hasn’t been missed by the owners of those traditional sports teams. Many NFL and NBA team owners are in talks to buy, or have already purchased, eSport franchises. There is a looming issue, though. Clinton Foy, from CrossCut Ventures, an investment group and owner of the ‘Immortals’ eSports team addressed the lack of maturity in the behavior of the players in a very matter of fact way. ‘It’s a shit show’ he said. Explaining that the problem lies in a player base that is filled with young kids who grew up playing online on the internet where there are no consequences to bad behaviour. And now that poor behavior has filtered into the professional side of gaming. The solution, according to Mr Foy, lies with the owners of the teams. As owners pour more money into the franchises, they will be the ones to demand that the players adhere to a higher standard to protect the team’s image. He says that as the money grows, players will be forced to ‘Level up’ in their maturity.

lagc 0219 vrloungeThe panels are a large part of what makes the LA Games conference special, but no less important is the downtime between the panels. Scheduled networking breaks give attendees times to meet and discuss topics among themselves. While some attendees took test drives of VR apps in the VR lounge, I listened as a former development exec outlined how social media talent can be better utilized in game content. Even though social media has invaded all parts of life, there’s still no substitute in business for meeting and speaking to someone face to face. And that's an opportunity that the LA Games Conference excels at.

The 2016 DMW L.A. Games Conference was again a eye opening experience and a clear look into the behind the scenes machinations of the video game industry. When you’re ready to move beyond simply playing games and aspire to being a part of creating them, then there’s no better way to spend a day (and $500 for a ticket).

 

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