Innovations Driving the Future of Connected Games

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In this panel at the LA Games Conference, the expert panel talks about innovations in connected games. What does it mean to be connected? What are the big changes and what’s next? This is a continuation of our live blogging at the fifth panel from Digital Media Wire’s LA Games Conference 2008.

Keive Huffman, SVP, Business Development & Sales, Championship Gaming Series
Robert Norton, VP, Business Development,
Rob Uhrich, Senior Director, Digital Markets, PaymentOne
Brent Hurley, Strategic Partner Developments, YouTube
Jason Rubinstein, Senior Director, Entertainment, Mobile Devices, Motorola
Moderator: Jay Moore, Head of Special Ops, The Strategery Group

Jay asks What is connected gaming? What’s your perspective on what Connected Gaming is.

Jason: Connected gaming is a better experience. The ability to get it from your friends the ability to get it easily on your phone, and ulitimately how social networks connect with games.

Brent: Game developers can pull in relevant data to make the game better. If it’s raining outside, it could be raining in the game.

Rob: Connected relationships are what it’s all about. Usually my kids fight all the time. Seeing my kids working together on webkins shows the power of connected gaming. Strengthening current relationships and develop new relationships is an important part of connected gaming.

Robert: In all our games you are playing against other people. It’s about people vs. people. Helping them connect. The lobby system is the most important part of our site.

Kieve: We look at connected gaming as a huge part of what Championship Gaming Series is all about. We see a way for connecting a competitive gaming to main stream audience. Television is CGS’s primary distribution channel. The online element introduces a new element of interactivity. CGS just announced a YouTube channel.

Jay: What have been the big breakthroughs in the past year?

Robert: Figuring out pre-roll and post roll advertising has opened up free ad supported games. Another breakthrough is the social network sites that allow game developers to reach very large audiences.

Jason: VMK had to shut itself off due to unexpected success. Scrabulous is great. A couple of guys in India introduced something that ignited a lot of interest in casual gaming and it has a business model.

Kieve: It’s amazing how strong the communities are. Any time we run a tournament it’s a frenzy. Our traffic goes up 10x.

Robert: Scrabulous reinvented turn based games. The game had been around for a year before it went on Facebook. The social network allowed the game to become the marketing tool itself. By building in the right features, the engineering could drive the marketing of the game.

Jay: What’s been driving connectedness in the MMO space?

Kieve: We work with World of Warcraft. It’s been a lot of fun to work with them. They’ve created this immersive environment. The fun has been trying to mainstream this community by publicly broadcasting the game tournaments.

Jason: What’s not happening is MMO expansion into mobile. It doesn’t even have to be the game. There’s tremendous opportunity in mobile for applications like tools, utilities and teaser games.

Jay: Will the iPhone be disruptive?

Jason: The SDK and platform is not really open, so publishers should beware. Apple shattered some ceilings that only they may have been able to shatter. It still needs to achieve volume to be disruptive. Google’s open mobile is more likely to be disruptive.

Jay: What is the future of UGC games and mashups?

Brent: We want to encourage sharing of game video so people can share their in game experiences.

Robert: This is one of the most significant developments. Over the next 18 months, UGC around the game. The combination of community, games and flash skills set this up to grow. It opens gaming up to anyone with the right skills.

Kieve: One of the most popular things is sharing your best victory. Ode to Gamer Girl is one of the most popular videos around. It’s hard to beat this kind of marketing.

Kieve: Counterstrike is one of our most popular games. For the upcoming season, we are using a user generated map.

Jay: How will advertising play out?

Robert: Everyone is experimenting. Micro-transactions are the real revenue now. Advertising is the potential for real growth. Right now we’re experimenting with what works for users and how it impacts user’s interactions with the site and the games.

Jason: I side with the consumer. The consumers want free and they want quality. Diner Dash costs $20 for a download. On the mobile it costs $4-5. Consumers expect that games will be on the handset. Advertising could make this possible.

Rob: Advertising as a part of the business model continues to be a important part of the revenue mix. Game developers just need to be careful about how they integrate into advertising into the games.

Jay: What needs to change in the home?

Kieve: The technology in the US is getting better, but it still is not a great user experience. In Korea and China where they have the bandwidth, particularly in mobile, connected gaming is doing very well.

Rob: It needs to get much simpler.

Brent: Bandwidth into the home is the block for streaming high def into the home. So hitting the mainstream will take some time.

Jay: What categories will be disruptive in the next wave?

Jason: The companies that are positioned to do well are the big companies and the people who spin off from them and really understand the networks. Companies that are thinking about where the real numbers are and how to reach them with proven game mechanics can light up the mass markets.

Jay: What do you see happening next? What would like to see?

Kieve: True connectivity, that’s ubiquitous and that works.

Robert: The games that represent the cutting edge of content are teaching us about new things that work. Seeing these things move to other activities and applications is exciting.

Rob: The gaming market will become much more competitive.

Brent: Excitement about derivative works. It can be exciting to see and interact with the game and game play in different ways.

Jason: Open mobile networks. Fewer mobile operating systems. Super distribution – the ability for people to send media to friends get. Like to see US legalize online gambling.

[tags]LA Games Conference 2008, Connected Games, gaming[/tags]

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