2013 L.A. Games Conference and gaming

Digital-Media-Wire-LogoThursday, April 18, 2013, D.M.W.’s L.A. Games Conference kicked off at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.  This is the first year that the conference takes place over two days and even with the expansion, it has trouble accommodating all of the content.  The more complete focus on gaming was evident from the initial roundtable on “The State of the Games Industry.”  The five-member panel included industry analyst icon, Michael Pachter, Chris Early from Ubisoft, the always insightful Nanea Reeves, now COO of Machinima and was balanced with the insight of game designer, Raph Koster (Ultima Online.)

Mobile superstars like Rovio and SuperCell, the creators of Angry Birds and Clash of Clans respectively were roundly dismissed as outliers and not suitable providers of instruction about the gaming industry as a whole.  The only real takeaway that can be gleaned is a new trend of a huge number of low risk forays into the market with the hope that eventually one gets noticed and is hugely successful.  As you can imagine, with this type of market saturation, the chances of creating a new brand is increasingly difficult.  A better opportunity does seem to lie in what is called mid-core games, which could best be described as similar to last gen console games.

DSCN3431SIt only took about a half an hour for E.A.’s recent and disastrous launch of Sim City.  Machinima’s Nanea Reeves offered the mention, though Pascal Brochier E.A.’s Senior Vice President of Americas Publishing was next up at the podium.  Brochier understated the highly criticized launch of Sim City as an “opportunity.”  The majority of his time was spent on a gaming survey run by Ipsos over Q4 2012.  The results showed 68% of Americans aged six to 64 are gamers.  The real puzzle in the data is in deciphering opportunities between retail, mobile and other online gaming.  Retail makes significantly more money, though mobile has more transactions and other online services have significantly more engagement.

Previously the L.A. Games Conference focused on computer platforms and Facebook.  The new format presents a more balanced approach to gaming overall.  For the most part time blocks were split into dual tracks with one offering a choice between “How to Win the Free-to-Play Jackpot” or “What’s Next in Console Gaming?” Considering the big hits in mobile and the transitory period of console gaming, they are both relevant topics.  It is worth noting for those looking at getting into game development, that if you want to develop for the major consoles, you need a solid track record.  Your best bet is to develop for an open platform like mobile first and then work your way on to Xbox Live or the Playstation Network.  If you’re good, you could then move on to retail for consoles.

The event wrapped up Friday, April 19, 2013 with the general session topic of “Game Development in Los Angeles: Future Prospects – Promise or Peril in the City of Angels.”  The segment was moderated by James Selby, Director of Monkey King Games and Chair of the Los Angeles Chapter of the International Game Developers Association.  Also on the panel were Tian Mu, Co-founder of Naked Sky; Kellee Santiago, Ouya’s Head of Developer Relations, previously a founder of That Game Company; and Brent Bushnell, CEO of Two Bit Circus.  A couple of late additions were L.A. County’s Bill Allen and Ben Hoight from 47 Games.  With so many other localities attempting to lure game companies away, it was a fitting end to the event.

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