Thoughts and Impressions on the GDC Smartphone Summit


The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual get-together of video game developers in North America. It’s a 5 day conference but the first two days are a variety of ‘summits’ targeting specific niches in the gaming world. Indie Gaming, Social Gaming, AI, Localization, etc. I choose (for reasons that should be obvious if you’re reading this blog!) to attend the GDC Smartphone Summit which is two days of sessions all having to do with some aspect of gaming on smartphones. I’ll cover off some of some of the general impressions I have gleaned from the two days and some specific interesting tidbits on sessions I attended.The first session I saw was an interesting talk on Social Augmented Reality Games — one in particular that is new: Paranormal Activity. The concept is interesting but it feels more like a “show what can be done” type game vs. a “use the tech seamlessly in a game experience”. The tech-demo style games are always the first to come out with any emerging technology and it does allow you to think about how, when the applications are more mature, the ideas and implementations could be woven in to various games in a way that would be really cool… but it’s not quite there yet. On the plus side, ogmento (the developer) hired great eye candy to hand out cards that promote the game… if that sort of thing appeals to you and all… =)

ngmoco:) gave a real good talk on their experiences building, running and evolving their mobile social game(s). They had some good examples of trying to run sales to increase DAU activity where the results were revenue spikes but not sustained DAU improvements. They stressed experimentation and metrics (metrics was an oft-repeated theme at many talks) for finding the right sales, prices and activities that had positive impacts on DAU/MAU and revenue.

Overall, I would generalize that if you are already have a decent amount of experience in mobile gaming, say 18 months+, then you’re probably familiar with a lot of the discussion that’s happening. There’s a lot of people with little to no experience in mobile gaming around, trying to learn about this ‘new’ frontier for games. The speakers have been knowledgeable but rarely superb — though some attendees I’ve talked to that have less mobile experience have felt differently.

Ultimately a good couple of days and something that new-ish mobile developers, producers and game designers would get a lot out of. If you’re experienced in mobile, you may find it a validation (hopefully) of things you are doing right rather than a light shining on a path forward, but even small insights and tips can go a long way. I will have to review some of the other sessions’ material after the conference and see if I can pick up some hints or tips in them as well.

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