Casual Connect 2018 Round-up: Evolving Opportunities in Mobile Game Development

January 17, 2018


MVIMG_20180116_153532.jpgCasual Connect 2018 has come to a close. This year’s conference kicked off in Anaheim and was packed with sessions for both industry newcomers and veterans alike. But for those who couldn’t make it out to all the talks, we'll be here all week to give you the highlights.

Here are some key insights from the day:

The state of the mobile app economy is evolving
Getting your app discovered by consumers remains a tricky proposition, according to mobile game developer N3twork. The rate in which it’s changing is rapidly increasing, so it’s important to think about how consumers will think about where and how they discover new apps. But layering onto this complexity is the increased legal regulation app economies are facing. This compounds the complications already inherent to building a business within the walled gardens of Apple and Google.

Improving game adoption starts with getting influencer adoption
While it's still true that getting people to play your game starts with making a good game, continuing to build that audience requires more work. Specifically, it's effectively leveraging social media influencers to garner player awareness and adoption, according to Twitch at the company's session. Game streaming is remarkable at driving organic adoption, but doing this well requires making games that are streamer friendly. Some tips to developer include incorporating privacy protections in a game’s interface so that sensitive information, like IP addresses or passwords aren’t accidentally broadcasted, and also giving the option to silence copyrighted audio. Developers should also think about ways to let streamers give away in-game items and other promotions in order to foster goodwill.

Studio acquisitions are driven by good publisher and developer relationships
Game studio mergers and acquisition was discussed in-depth by a panel featuring executives from Kongregate, NEXON M, Scopely and Tilting Point. They agreed that developer buyouts don’t happen overnight, but occur gradually over the course of the publishing partnership. Generally, publishers don’t just look at revenue when buying a studio, but also how well the studio gels with the publisher and fills in gaps. Easy and frequent communication is key, and developers looking to be acquired should look at the first day of their relationship with their publisher as the beginning of the M&A due diligence process itself.

Venture capital money is still alive in games, but focus is starting to shift to eSports titles
While some industry insiders believe that the mobile games are too crowded to attract new investor money, VCs aren’t abandoning the space. Rather, investors are looking for genres where opportunity is still fertile. And for many, that means titles with the potential to become behemoths in the world of eSports. Titles like Vainglory and Clash Royale present huge upsides. But picking winners in the genre is hard (for instance, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds came out of nowhere). But that uncertainty of what will be the next hit is also what’s attracting investors.

Investors are still bullish on VR titles
VR isn’t dead, but the outlook for success is more along the lines of three to five years, rather than in the immediate short term, that's according to a panel of investors from Crosscut Ventures, Greycroft and NBC Sport. One of the reasons holding VR back is low consumer adoption due to expensive equipment. But as costs begin to come down and more people start to experience VR, consumer adoption will increase. The panel also agreed that AR games will continue to grow as long as hit titles are released. Such titles can be the catalyst for developers to take notice and attempt to create their own AR games to replicate the success (Niantic’s new Harry Potter game could be just the spark to do so).

Censorship remains an issue in China
Localizing and launching games in China is still a proposition that requires careful thought on how to placate the country’s censors. Violence and overly sexualized characters are among the most frequent reasons why a title’s release maybe stymied. This can be a costly delay especially as local developers and publishers adapt their own versions of hit games from outside the country, according to a panel discussion featuring execs at 360 Games, CMGE, iDreamSky and Linekong. But the potential for censorship doesn’t diminish the huge market opportunity still present in the region.

That was just the first day of Casual Connect 2018. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more highlights from the event.

Upsight will be at the Casual Connect 2018 all week long. We'd love to show you our new user acquisition cost dashbord. You can request a meeting with us at the show here. And be sure to also come by to our Casual Connect party tonight.

In: Industry News, Events

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