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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.

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.

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.

REACH Panel: The Future of Gaming

 

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On October 24th, Cross Campus hosted a panel discussion titled, Disruptive Technologies Impacting the Future of Gaming. It’s part of REACH, a quarterly event by TechZulu and Gadget Review. I attended mainly because the moderator of the panel was our very own Scot Rubin, founder of AllGames. I planned on simply hobnobbing with the boss but in the end I also got a primer on how gaming will expand in the future directly from the people that will be influencing it.blog reach scot rubin


The panel consisted of Josh Yguado (President SGN), Chris Hewish (Head of Global interactive at Dreamworks Animation), Wilson Kriedel (President Paltalk| Former Zynga/OMGPOP CRO), Robin Kaminsky (CEO 1st Street Partners|Former Activision/Blizzard EVP), and of course, Scot Rubin (Nitropod Owner| BigDoor SVP|CoFounder G4TV). You may have noticed that the panel is heavy on mobile devs and execs. Thats because the gaming industry has pretty much decided that the future of games will be all about mobile.


Here’s something you should know about events like this. The panel, no matter how informative, is secondary to the social aspects. You’re there to meet people with like interests and who can help you in whatever you’re trying to do. It’s a bar that doubles as a business expense.


When I walked into the Cross Campus venue, it was filled with plush couches and large bookshelves and had a pretty ‘homey feel’. I felt like I was walking into a private club, which was made more apparent by the full bar serving drinks to the attendees. Of course there was the usual line of sponsor tables pushing their products. Verizon was busy showing off their new 4GLTE phones. GM brought a Corvette to show off to the tech savvy crowd. IndieGogo announced they were paying for everyone’s drinks, which immediately made them the most popular people there.

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After the obligatory drinks and mingling session, the panel began. I’m always fascinated to hear executives discuss the gaming industry. Everyone on stage sees gaming from an entirely different perspective than most ‘gamers’ do.


"Games are services now"Mobile is the future not because the games will be better or the technology is growing so fast. Mobile is the future because that’s where the money is. Microtransactions have become the dominate revenue stream. That means less focus on big budget games with long development times, and more short form projects that can be served up piece meal to the user over the course of a year or more, with them paying for it all the way. One quote from a panelist summed it up perfectly, ‘Games are services now’.

 

Thats not necessarily a bad thing, especially from the publisher’s point of view. Developers will be able to push out more games, faster. Sure Grand Theft Auto V sold a billion dollars worth of content, but that also took hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge team. Thats a huge risk that companies hate having to take. Instead, they’d much rather take a small team, spend a few thousand on development, and release a new title every few weeks. The fact that mobile games don’t really expect AAA quality on a game that costs $1 (or less) doesn’t hurt either. When you can get a huge hit like Candy Crush with only 6 months of development based on a standard ‘Match 3’ template, why not?blog reach panel

 

"You can buy your way to success"Quality is still important, but it’s not the most important attribute of a game. Mobile games are sold via word of mouth and social networks more than old school tv/radio marketing. But that doesn’t mean the top games are there on merit alone. The panel discussed the hidden truth on how a spot in the top 5 is yours to be had with $30,000 and a ‘farm’ of chinese workers whose job it is to install the games of the highest bidder. Another telling quote from the stage was ‘You can buy your way to success’


blog reach afterpartyAfter the discussion was over, the audience went back to socializing over free drinks and tacos. I hung out with Scot and some new friends discussing neo-utopian societies, yoga, and the art of DJ’’ing. REACH was a good event that should be on your list of required reading whether you’re a gamer, a developer, or just someone who wants to see a little bit into the future.


You can watch the full panel below, and you should, if only to see where gaming is going in the next few years. Whether it’s a good or bad direction is based entirely your point of view.

 

{youtube}http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXn6tkeNtF8&feature=share&t=28m3s{/youtube}

 

 

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