Tag: games (Page 1 of 2)

Can PacMan teach Maths?

Here’s the podcast of a rather intriguing panel discussion I participated in at the Mobile Fringe Festival earlier this year in Barcelona. Moderated by the indomitable Russell Buckley (the big daddy of mobile marketing), I was joined by Vincent Hoogsteder (Founder & CEO, Distimo) and Alina Vandenberghe (Head of Mobile and Gaming, Pearson) discussing how elements of games and, indeed, mobile technology can aid educational demands – not only for the iPad-clad haute vollee of the first world but also in regions where traditional schooling is a lot more challenging.

I wrote about the topic previously and it is one of the areas I take an increasing amount of interest in. Have a listen, let me know what you think.

I tried to paste a fancy Soundcloud widget but this didn’t work out, so go listen to it here.

Amazing Alex? Really amazing?

Now, to get this out of the way: I am a Rovio fan, and I have been for much, much, much longer than most. I have published their very first game – Darkest Fear – and I have published a few of their pre-Angry Birds titles after that. So do not accuse me of Rovio-phobia; there is none…

So, I hope you will understand that I was pretty excited when they announced their first post-Angry Birds title, Amazing Alex. Alas, am I excited? No, not really. Now, don’t get me wrong: it is a beautifully balanced, nicely polished game. Nothing wrong with that. But is it really something über-special? As in Angry-birds-we-will-show-them-special? Erm, I think not.

You say though that they are on #1 in 30+ countries and on #2 in 30+ more (or so the Mighty Eagle tells me over Facebook and Twitter). You say that this amounts to an astonishing success, an impeccable launch. And, yes, I agree. But, aside of the impressive launch power and impeccable marketing and all, is it great? I think not. And, yes, I am disappointed. Rovio has been one of my favourite studios, long before Angry Birds. It is why I have been behind them with previous games, why I tried to push them when their talent had not been amplified by their awesome and unprecedented success of Angry Birds. But… Someone who wants to replicate Walt Disney needs to do better. Folks, you have to follow Mickey with Donald. Is Alex Donald? I think not…

I do hope – sincerely – that they will pull it of. Not because my day job at RIM requires me to stay in their good books, but because I believe that the birth of a new creative powerhouse outside of old-school Hollywood is a seriously good sign for the world, and last but not least because Michael, Peter, Andrew et al are really good people! But I do not think Alex is nearly as amazing as Donald Duck is (or Bugs Bunny for that matter) and I am hoping they will bring it with future iterations!

Come on, my Mighty Eagle and other birds: we really could do with a new Disney; it’s been way too long…

The Power of Games / Slides

Today, I had the great pleasure to attend and speak at the rather wonderful “Games for Brands” conference in good old London town (held near the Tower of London with some lovely drinks at St. Catherine Docks; need I say more?). Great turn-out, great speakers, inspiring discussions and a lot of catching up with good friends and new contacts.

I have been asked to share my slides, which I herewith do. I hope you find them useful.


Mobile Games are Mainstream!

We said it before: mobile is the biggest mass medium on the planet, and now game developers (and not only the sometime masochists that have been there for years) flog to it. According to a fairly large survey by GDR (which can be yours for too many dollars to count and has been reported about here) among 800 developers, a quarter of them are now making games for mobile phones with most of them (namely 75%) – surprise, surprise – choosing the iPhone as their platform of launch. This is doubling last year’s figures (apparently).

The iPhone and its non-phone sibling, iPod Touch (and you have been reading that a year ago here, here and here) are proving a more attractive launchpad onto portable gaming platforms than dedicated gaming systems like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

The reasons will be the same as they were a year ago: a platform that is relatively easy to work to and a simple distribution model. With the number of downloads Apple continues to pile up, it is no wonder that developers from “traditional” platforms (PC downloadable, online, etc) are attracted to that. They will also be less scared of the marketing challenges since they had had to market their games in the whole wide oceans of the Internet previously (i.e. there were no carrier safe havens with feature slots). Whilst this does not mean that every traditional developer’s games will be successful on the app store, the threshold to enter is lower.

It will be interesting to see if the wave will roll further into other “smarter” platforms, including Android, Windows Mobile (see the latest rumours for WinME 7, including full Xbox Live gaming implementation here), Symbian Maemo and Blackberry. With the device numbers clearly speaking in favour of that, platforms becoming more accessible and, last but not least, with easier paths to the users via OEM app stores, this is to be expected. Good times for mobile gamers!

EA & Playfish: Gaming Being Re-Defined

In my last post, I hinted that the Google/AdMob deal might just not be the #1 deal of the week and, whilst one can of course dispute this, here’s why:

On the same day Google’s AdMob acquisition was announced, there were more guys walking to the bank, namely the good folks from Facebook games kings Playfish (well, joint kings with Zynga) who have been acquired by Electronic Arts for a cool $400m (incl. earn-outs).

Why is this more significant? Because it is (like Google/AdMob) a cross-platform play that (unlike Google/AdMob) also expands the basis of business models deployed. Playfish derives the majority of its revenues from so-called virtual currencies, and in particular also from lead-generation deals (which recently have become “a little bit” under fire for queries of their ethics). But ethics or not (and Playfish seems to have been fairly clean in this respect), the main point is that there has been a business model that is new, well -ish: it is not reliant on display ads nor paid subscriptions or download fees, etc. It is a new form of engagement there, crude in its beginnings but new no less: users are encouraged to interact with brands in exchange for personal details. Now, if done – as often – crudely, this has a bad feel.

But brands might also want to grab this with both hands because it offers unprecedented opportunities to truly enagage their users: interact with them and they will be more forthcoming. Behave and their sentiment will be positive. Be sincere and they will recommend your brand to their peers (which accounts for 74% of purchases online!). Check my recent keynote on this topic…

EA had changed the mobile gaming world when it acquired Jamdat by using a significant distribution footprint and leverage it with its own brands and the financial muscle only someone with its revenue HQ outside mobile could at the time. The acquisition of Playfish provides a similar footprint in the online world (do not forget that Facebook is “only” the largest bridgehead of online games).

As with Jamdat, EA is expanding the options of available business models and this is to be commended!

iPhone Usage

Here’s a report about an interesting piece of research into the elusive animal that is the iPhone and Android user, or more precisely that animal’s usage of apps (“… there’s an app for that…”).

The researchers from Gravity Tank chose Android (well, the G1) next to the iPhone because Android Market and Apple’s App Store both allow “unlike older smartphones [sic!] easy access to a range of free or low-cost applications”. Now this is what the (mobile) world has become in the last 12 months…

Anyway, the survey finds that the average (!) user has 23.6 applications on his/her phone and uses 6.8 of them every day. 48 percent report shopping for apps more than once a week. About the same number (49 percent) report using apps on their phone for more than 30 minutes a day. Woah, nice!

But it goes on: 32% said they used portable gaming devices less because of their app-enabled phones. This reminds me of one of my predictions on how the iPhone would eat into the handheld gaming market (see here, here, here and here).

And it shows, more importantly maybe, that these owners of the “newer” smartphones use them as true multimedia devices rather than only phones: 31% read newspapers less, 28% use GPS devices less, 28% use MP3 players less (well, they have one of the better ones if they use an iPhone), and 24% are watching less TV. Media going mobile then, finally…

And then – another indication on how far we have gone – the NY Times starts to whine: it notes that “despite Apple’s relentless advertising of its App Store, it seems that the availability of applications is not the primary driver of phone-buying behavior.” Doh. Now, here’s a finding. 74% of the respondents said the device “allowed” them to check their e-mail and calendar, and it allowed them to consolidate multiple devices into a single device whereas “only” 67% cited the availability of new games and applications. Only 67%, huh? Brave new world!

iPhone Mobile Entry Gate for Game Developers

Having just spent three incredibly inspiring days at Casual Connect Europe in beautiful Hamburg, there were – in respect of mobile games – two observations to be made: 1) the horror online and PC game developers express when looking at the fragmented space and the resulting “crazy” (quote) business models and 2) the iPhone is different, from a developer perspective this time.

Many, many developers of PC and Mac-based games (be it downloadable, online, browser-based) look at the iPhone as an entry gate to mobile gaming. A lot of the developers I spoke with were interested to work with a specialist mobile games company with a view to bringing their content across to the mobile platform but would not consider including the iPhone in this: “We’ll do iPhone ourselves. It’s a pretty easy platform to work towards and we understand the distribution model.”
This is likely to mean that there will be an ever-growing influx of games from reputable and experienced game companies onto the iPhone, and this might just increase the gap between Apple’s hit phone and the “rest” in content terms even more. Today, there are c. 4,500 games available for the iPhone (or so I hear; and remember that this is a mere 7 months or so after the AppStore launched), and a lot of providers are still missing on there. Whereas “traditional” mobile games have very high barriers to entry because of the complex (and hence expensive) landscape that one needs to address (hundreds of handsets, hundreds of distribution deals all to be struck with very big, often slow-moving “old-school” companies), none of this exists for the iPhone: Apple provides a simple agreement, there is one build to be delivered and one store where it is sold. Easy!
Irrespective of where the remainder of the mobile world will run (and they all seem to run now in order to catch up with the latest “Apple Revolution“), the AppStore is likely to become the first test case where game developers from different backgrounds (PC, online, etc vs. “traditional” mobile) will compete for customers directly. The former have a huge advantage in that they could leverage their online presence to promote the mobile version, too. This is only done by a few of the mobile “pure-plays” and it is tough to compete for eyeballs with an online games company that has 100m+ unique users per month. On the other hand, the mobile specialists have better knowledge about the specific mobile device constraints (which are very different to the ones on a PC).
Another interesting field to watch this year!

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