Last week, it was Casual Connect Europe time again. And as is good tradition, here are my slides:
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…
This week, I had the privilege to attend and speak at the truly fabulous Game Horizon conference in Newcastle (which is rather pretty as you will see in the picture). There was a plethora of inspiring and insightful talent that taught me a lot, including Torsten Reil (CEO, Natural Motion), Ian Livingstone (Life President Eidos and Founder of Games Workshop), David Helgason (CEO Unity), Mark Rein (Co-Founder Epic Games), Oscar Clark (Evangelist Papaya Mobile), Michael Pachter (Analyst Wedbush), Gareth Edmonson (CEO Thumbstar) and too many more to mention, all chaired by the formidable Charles Cecil (he of Broken Sword fame).
I gave a talk looking out on what we are trying to achieve for BlackBerry 10 on the gaming front, and here are the slides to it (some of which may only make sense if you actually attended…).
Yes, conference season is firmly upon us and, before I descend into the mayhem that tends to come with it, let me tell you where you can find me over the next couple of weeks.
This week sees London at the centre of a lot of things gaming: the Mobile Games Forum opens its doors on Wednesday in the Hilton Tower Bridge in SW1, which combines with the Social Games Forum. I will be speaking on a panel on “How to engage cross-promotion for social game discovery”.
There is also ICE in town but not the freezing variety but the big gaming (as in proper gaming for money and such) expo over at Earl’s Court, which rolls a variety of gaming-related tracks into this. I will be speaking on a panel on their mobile gaming track with the concise title “Incorporate Social and Mobile to create the Ultimate Modern Gaming Experience”.
Only a little later, on 7/8 February, we will be in Amsterdam for BlackBerry DevCon Europe. It is well worth coming to this to get a glimpse of the “new” BlackBerry and our plans there [disclosure: I work for BlackBerry]. Sign up here and hit me if you are a developer; I have a few discount codes left. I will lead a breakout session on Social Gaming with Scoreloop there.
Onwards to my old stomping grounds in Hamburg from there for the annual European edition of Casual Connect where I will deliver a talk on how BlackBerry will deliver on gaming (yes, you read that right!).
After that, there is a two week (conference) break before heading to Barcelona for the monster that is Mobile World Congress. I’ll be there all week!
Barely a weekend’s rest and the Game Developers Conference (or GDC) opens its doors at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Again, it’ll be a full week for me there.
I hope I will meet you at one of those. Sorry that Asia isn’t featuring in this tour de force this time but, hey, it’s still early in the year, huh?
Image credit: http://gapingvoid.com
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A fresh new year and it is time for the latest numbers of the Angry Birds phenomenon, and they are impressive indeed!
Most mobile game developers would be quite happy if their game would clock more than 5m downloads. Hell, they would probably throw a massive office party for that! Well, Rovio made more than that in a day (OK, it was Christmas Day): 6.5m copies of the various Angry Birds games (paid and free) were downloaded on 25 December 2011 alone. Woah!
The formidable Stuart Dredge treats us to some more background on Angry Birds. To cut it short: by December 2011, Angry Birds had more than 600m downloads. That is more downloads than people living in all of North America – all the way from Alaska down to Panama! About 1/3 of those are monthly active, 1/8 daily.
Given that they also make money (seemingly nearing $100m in revenues) and not only from games but from selling 1m toys and 1m t-shirts per month, too, it is perhaps understandable that they are said to have rejected a $2.25bn acquisition offer by Nasdaq newbies Zynga. I can understand that they may not have been too thrilled to work under the hard-charging (according to some, too hard-charging) “CityVille-ains” but I still wonder if that would not have been a worthwhile cash-in (though it would arguably have been a share deal and Pincus only knows what on which valuation of Zynga that would have been based!).
Rovio has great plans, they are hiring senior entertainment talent (Dave Maisel of Marvel fame for instance), they are diversifying quickly, they execute with adorable flawlessness. But they have not yet shown that they are capable of repeating the creative spark with equal vigour and verve. On the one hand, they are a very, very talented bunch (I published games by them previously: great content and lots of polish). And they have some serious reach now, which gets them a lot of promotional punch. They have also been great in getting out on as many platforms as possible to make sure to fuel the brand as a true mass market proposition rather than contentedly sitting on iOS only and being happy with that niche (bear in mind that J2ME is still many times larger than iOS in terms of reach; for brand awareness of a consumer brand, this is a crucial factor).
However, it is a hit business, isn’t it? And I doubt there is a recipe (or that Rovio has it): Anecdotally, Chillingo, the publisher of the original Angry Birds on iOS (subsequently acquired by EA), uses its Chillingo label for the “premium” games and their Clickgamer for the rest. Angry Birds was published under the Clickgamer label. So did anyone know? I don’t think so.
I would love to see them thrive because they deserve it: they are a hard-working and lovely bunch. So go, my good folks, mighty Eagles, Albatrosses and the whole swarm!
A fairly wonderful conference will open its doors on 27 October in London, UK, namely Games for Brands, an event where we will do just that: investigate if and to what extent games may work for brands. Just speak to Barclaycard (their Waterslide Extreme game [done by Fishlabs] did more than 14m downloads on iOS) or Volkswagen (multiple games by Fishlabs [again]) for the Polo and others and a special VW Golf GTI edition of Real Racing by the recently acquired Firemint).
The event features a fairly cool line-up, too, including speakers from:
I also have a goodie for the readers of this blog: four of you can get a very special discount and attend for £95.00 only. Tempted? Contact me (either via e-mail or Twitter or through the contact form here).
It’ll be a good one, so come along!