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.

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. 

lagc 0269 dmwpodium

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.

lagc 0283 clintonfoy

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).


All Games All Stars

Day 10 - One of the key features of the truck will be high contrast outdoor monitors for videos and game competitions. I’d like to have game challenges/competitions from the truck and tag the leaderboard to that zip code. As we move to new cities, there is a new leaderboard. We’ll also track an overall leaderboard. We’ll be able to develop local rivalries and find the best players in LA.

Those players will become All Games All Stars. They will be the “Home” team for our competitions. They will play against online gamers to rank up or drop out. Winners will be rewarded with prizes and of course free ice cream. 

What are your thoughts on how this could work?


Subscribe to this RSS feed