Category: Games (Page 1 of 5)

Barcelona, here we come (once more)

It is February, we’re still hanging in there, so we will again be descending upon that magnificent city in Catalunya that is Barcelona (which, of course, is that little bit less appealing because, together with us, there will be a ton of other mobile industry folks in town, so that taxis are hard to get, hotels hard to afford, and parties hard to get into, but, hey…). Because it is the week of Mobile World Congress

This year, I have the great honour to moderate a high-octane panel at the MMIX portion of the Mobile World Congress on a topic that I could call “told you so”. Namely, we will be discussing “Games: the new destination for brands.” I will be joined by some super-cool names in the (pun/no-pun intended) game, namely:

Alas, that is of course not enough. On the very same day and only a short taxi ride down the road, I will have the great pleasure to delivering a keynote at the terrific 4YFN (that is short for “Four Years From Now”) conference, the uber-cool entrepreneurship conference that was the ugly duckling of its big sibling MWC but is soon catching up in size (and has, of course, overtaking MWC in terms of cutting edge ages ago). I will be keynoting with a spotlight on the education sector, urging people to “Change the World: One Trillion Dollar Market at a Time.”

Following my keynote at 4YFN will be a terrific panel on the hot trends in EdTech. It will be moderated by the CEO of Emerge Education (Europe’s leading EdTech accelerator where I am a Venture Partner) and participants will be Jesse Lozano (CEO of Pi-Top), Mads Holmen (CEO of Bibblio), Diego Olchese (CEO of Crehana) and Tom Hatton (CEO of RefMe). Definitely try to attend that one! It highlights the great work Emerge Education is doing and will also expose you to some of the brightest young CEO’s in the space, all of which passionate young entrepreneurs who have chosen to go where they can effect change (rather than puttering about with the 47th something-something-platform-SaaS-something play).

If you’re around, join me for those. It should be great fun! 🙂

[Disclaimer: I am a Venture Partner at Emerge Education, an investor in Pi-Top and an investor in and Chairman of Bibblio].

Israel Mobile Summit

How long have I been waiting? It must be a good 5 years since I have last touched down at Ben Gurion Airport. Alas, no more. Tomorrow evening, it will be time again, and how timely it is, too. The Israel Mobile Week is on, and there is tons of super-interesting stuff happening. MoMo Tel Aviv – one of the most active and well-run Mobile Monday chapters – is in full swing, the Israel Mobile Summit, Droidcon Tel Aviv, the Microsoft Ventures Demo Day of its 4th Israeli cohort plus a few parties here and there of course…

I will have the immense honour of delivering one of the opening keynotes at the Israel Mobile Summit. Specifically, I will be speaking on “Capturing Users” – isn’t it all important how you find them (and keep them!)? Without users, you (or rather your business) is nothing. I have had the pleasure (and challenge) to try and have a crack at this challenge a few times in my professional life, and I am hoping to be able to share some of my hard-learned experiences with the audience on Tuesday (10 June 2014). The event will be on at the YesPlanet Rishon, a snazzy new cinema complex.

There will be talks from the leaders in mobile today, including:

  • Facebook
  • Wooga
  • Intel
  • AVG
  • Waze
  • Paypal
  • Amobee
  • Amazon
  • Deemedya (yes, my very good friend Doron Kagan will talk about his 100m+ game downloads; I can only imagine how that must feel)
  • AppAnnie
  • SingTel
  • HasOffers
  • Grow VC
  • Twilio
  • DragonPlay
  • Hunter & Bard (you should not miss Shira’s talk; she is one of the wisest women in marketing today!)

and many, many more!!!

Join us if you can! It will be worthwhile. And if you don’t think so, I’ll buy you a drink! Promise!

Game Changer: my slides from the Mobile & Tablet Gaming Summit [slides]

Last week, I had the great pleasure of delivering a keynote at the Mobile & Tablet Gaming Summit in London. It allowed me to reminisce: I spoke at the Mobile Gambling Forum in – bloody – 2004! And how far have we come since then, huh? So, the slides are image-heavy and text-light as usual but you will get the gist: the competition is in volume and it is in F2P folks who deliver a lot of fun without the real-money component whilst making tons of money through virtual currencies and goods. This is – gasp – still news to some people…

Here are the slides. Enjoy them and let me know where I went wrong (if I did…):

Apple, Bubble Designs? Dude, We Can Do That!

Today is a day where I have to sing our own praise a little. Today, as some of you will know, Apple released iOS 7 into the wild. I will spare you a wider critique (I reckon there will be plenty of them out there). But one thing caught my eye. Given my historical interest in social gaming platforms (after all, Scoreloop did a lot of the things – and better – that Apple tried to mimic with Game Center), I went to have a look how they re-designed it (Jony Ive’s hues and all). Now, not only is the dreaded felt gone (phew!) but also did they adopt a playful bubble design. Fits the image and all, right?

Now, it did look somewhat familiar though. And then it struck me: it is very similar to the design approach our very own Blue Beck took when we (well, our teams as I didn’t do much) designed the app for Three, the UK network operator. Compare for yourself (left our Three app, right Apple Game Center):

I actually think, we did the colour scheme a lot nicer! I am still not a fan of Jony’s hues, I’m afraid (though I like the more “contemporary” feel of the new iOS generally…). You can, incidentally, download it here:

And so, tonight I would like to sing the praise of our wonderful team at Blue Beck and our esteemed client Three (on whose style guide we based the design) and will sit with a smug face and think that Apple “borrowed” (which they probably didn’t, but hey) from our own design prowess. Carleton, Dose, Rick, Pete, you rock (and, of course we always knew that), and tonight is the night to call it out! (and, to the rest of the Blue Beck team: so do you – just don’t get the hang of them hues, OK?).

Hail the kings of Blue Beck castle! 😉 (and if you haven’t realised: full disclaimer: I am a shareholder and director of Blue Beck).

Mobile Gaming today: about whales, self-publishing and the like…

Didn’t the world change and quickly? Only a few years ago, mobile games worked like a supermarket: if you have shelf-space, you rule. The early kings of mobile gaming 1.0 (which many users today won’t even know about) were the ones that “owned” the relationships with mobile operators (or carriers if you prefer that word), OEM and the like. Those relationships guaranteed that you would be in front of consumers. Those of your competitors who didn’t? Well, tough luck. Today, the picture is very different. There were a few waves since those early days: the Wild West days of iOS and Android (which didn’t happen simultaneously but with similar patterns), the rise and fall of the Zynga empire (and folks who thought that that approach would cure all [business] evils of gaming and, in its latest pattern, the rise of Supercell, Kabam and King and the scratching of heads (and lay-offs of people) in a lot of other gaming outfits.

So what’s this all about then? Now, I won’t be able to offer you the full Monty in just one small blog post (it’s bloody late already) but there are a few pointers that show both the opportunities but also the pitfalls of the whole thing.

Fun Matters

Ilkka Paananen is the CEO of Supercell who are, arguably, the undisputed money-spinners these days. $2.4m/day is their benchmark, and that was a while back. In Q1/2013, they made $179m in revenues and $109m in operating profits (or so says the FT). Their two (!) games ride comfortably in the top-5 of the top-grossing charts of Apple all around the world, sometimes #1 and #2, sometimes #2 and #4 but never far off… When asked, Ilkka (who is as nice a person as you’ll ever meet) will always tell you that fun is what matters first and foremost (and I reckon this is what young master Pinkus wishes he had known earlier…). Ilkka managed to combine a dream of the free-wheeling nature of the likes of Valve, Inc. with the experience he gained in running as tight a ship as Digital Chocolate who, from the olden days of mobile gaming, were amongst the ones who had perfected the tightly-strung mastery of processes and engines. The result were – now famously – a number of canned projects plus two of the most profitable games (on an ROI basis) produced ever.

Alas, Ilkka will tell you that fun matters. If your game is rubbish and no fun, no one will like it, at least not longer term. Some earlier appstore succresses might have wanted to take note… It is an important bit to remember though: games are part of the entertainment side of things. And entertainment is about fun. No fun = no (long-term) success. There is only so much conning you can do…

Marketing is Part of Design

In the olden days, you had developers and suits. The former had grand ideas and the latter were a pain in the rearside. The success of a game always was due to the former and the success was always claimed by the latter. Now though, even the geekiest of developers has realized that you need to market efficiently if you want to be successful (which also means that your company has a chance of survival). Here’s a post you should read in this respect (it is a bit patronizing but there is a lot of good – if harsh – insight there nonetheless).

Building Brands is Cool (and Hard)

So, let’s go and build a brand, right? Because then we can replicate things, right? I mean, Rovio did this with Angry Birds, right? Yes, they did. How many others do you know who did? Not very many, right? Because, you know, it is not easy. Many tried (and are trying). Many see some traction. None I know of have had counterfeited bobble hats sold in San Francisco so far (yes, there are hand-knitted Angry Birds beanies on sale every weekend at the farmers market at the Ferry Terminal in SF! No, I haven’t seen beanies of the Cut-the-Rope frog yet…).

If you can get it right (and there is some magic (and hard work required), building an entertainment brand is insanely rewarding (just ask Walt Disney, George Lucas, Stan Lee, etc.). However, it is also very hard to do. And it is not for the faint of heart. So think twice… Oh, and hire the right people (two of Rovio’s rockstars just started his own thing in this realm. Go, Andrew!).

Those Bloody Whales

There was a time when only one-legged near-pirates hunted whales. Nowadays every game developer and their dogs (or cats or rats or pet hedgehogs do). According to Forbes, here’s (well, below) is why. Those are the folks who bring in the money. By my reckoning, the numbers Forbes calls out are not actually the industry benchmark but – perhaps – an averaged out number. This means that, if you’re good at what you do, you should be pulling in a lot more than what their article has you believe you should. And that is something that can be a little daunting. So, kids, there goes your easy career in game development…

Before I link to this Forbes thing then: it is not easy, mind the fun, get some kudos to them suits and be in for the ride… 😉

Here’s the Forbes article (from which I copied the infographic below and where you can get the fully scalable version).

Privacy Policy in Apps [ with Infographic]

Developers want to do pretty and cool apps. Tedious privacy policies are often considered “suit-imposed” and not nice. Well, heck, they’re just text, aren’t they? However, not only do 70% of consumers actually want to know what you are doing with their data (this is according to MEF Global Privacy Report 2013). But there also legal obligations, you know. And, since July, there is a revised version of COPPA out (short for the Children Online Privacy Protection Act), which places even more onerous requirements on anyone publishing content aimed at minors.

It is however not only important that you do it at all but also how you do it. Transparency of terms is essential in a world of data (and, yes, I think since a certain Mr Snowden we are all a lot more aware just how significant that can be). If you only link out to a web page with 8,000+ words, you are not doing anyone favours: it doesn’t actually look very good (haven’t we all laughed on the 48 pages Apple wants us to read every time before we accept something? no one in their right mind will believe that even one consumer will do this; shady, isn’t it?). So best practice looks different and I would urgent everyone to follow best practice also for these “little” things.

MEF (full disclosure: I am director of their EMEA Board) has published a neat little infographic highlighting a few dos and don’ts. Have a look and go here for the full thing (and a version into which you can actually zoom into, too).

Mobile Gaming Whitepaper (and Event)

So I had recently the honour (and joy) to participate in a whitepaper on mobile gaming that the good folks of Video Games Intelligence commissioned as a backdrop for their Mobile Gaming Europe conference.

It is freely available here (though you need to register your details) and it is – needless to say – eminently worthwhile your attention… 😉

The conference itself will be on 20/21 November in London and is looking promising (even if you want to ignore my very own wisdoms). They assembled a speaker line-up that is the top of the crop in mobile games these days, including the head honchos from:

  • Super Cell (yup, the folks with the money)
  • King (the folks with the other bit of money)
  • Eidos (Ian Livingstone himself!)
  • Boss Alien (who did CSR Racing, one of the trailblazers in the F2P world)
  • Digital Legends
  • Fishlabs (the ones with the most awesome Galaxy on Fire)
  • DeNA
  • Facebook (the ones with the many users)
  • Digital Chocolate (the ones with the many years in the industry)
  • Bossa Studios (the ones with a BAFTA)
  • etc. etc. etc.

You get the gist: come along, join us, have fun and, perhaps, learn a little…

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