Kwalee at Mobile Gaming USA

Kwalee’s Brand Evangelist, Lizzie Stabler, talks about her experiences at the Mobile Gaming USA conference, which was held last week in San Francisco.

Mobile gaming is expanding at an astonishing pace, quickly becoming the fastest growing sector of the gaming industry. Projected to become an $18 billion industry by the year 2016, thousands of new publishers and developers have joined the marketplace over the last few years, and Kwalee is just one of them.

Held in San Francisco’s Japantown, Mobile Gaming USA is America’s first smartphone and tablet gaming conference. With Kwalee still at the beginning of developing and publishing iPhone games, Chairman, Jim Darling and I were able to attend and receive valuable insight into developing and marketing iPhone games from the leaders of our industry.

Director, Max Rollinger and Conference Chair, Paul Philleo created a two day conference consisting of priceless advice and information which will help Kwalee to read the market correctly and develop the best games, as well as network with some of the best mobile gaming professionals. Not to forget Paul’s advice on cocktail bars. Man, those American’s like their drinks stiff!

Mobile Gaming USA

So why mobile gaming? Over 100 million Americans own a smartphone. That’s a 35% increase from just last year. Mobile gaming is an increasingly demanding market, pushing social gaming from Facebook to your smartphone and causing a downturn in the console game market. Consumers want personal entertainment experiences that are as cheap as possible. User generated content (UGC) and Facebook integrated games are now personal between the user and their friends. A simple “log in, log out” casual experience that can be enjoyed any time, anywhere, just by using your smartphone. Utilising Facebook with mobile games creates an easier experience for the consumer playing on both platforms.

90% of games are predicted to be free to download by 2013 and at the moment half of the games on the App Store are free. Free to play (F2P) gaming is becoming the most popular within the app store. It is pretty much certain that the next killer app will be F2P, very likely multi-lingual and definitely with multi-platform availability. Statistics show that consumers are beginning to abandon their consoles and divert their budget from paying for expensive games, to the odd $5 here and there. These mobile gamers, or “whales” as they are also known, spend up to $25 a month, per game on virtual goods.

Simple game mechanics are the most appealing gameplay experiences, as well as being social, personal and relevant between players. If the game can work across all devices, metrics will go up. An innovative game speaks for itself, and metrics are always superior on mobile games. Playing a game that takes only minutes out of your day to make a move is appealing. Being able to make a move from your Facebook profile whilst at your desk, as well as continuing the game on your commute home, opens the doors to “casual gamers” who wouldn’t necessary own a console. iPads and other tablets are great for this type of gameplay, with no need to sit and wait for your computer to load, and quick gameplay experiences for any age.

Mobile Gaming USA

Monetization within mobile applications has, until recently, been through mobile ads, but this has affected a user’s experience. Banners that aren’t relevant are “spamming” a gamer’s experience, causing them to lose interest. Hence the huge growth of in-game virtual goods across all platforms. Panelists discussed creating alternative monetization opportunities, targeted towards gamers that aren’t normally willing to pay for virtual goods. The majority of top grossing games are free.

Cross platform gaming is the biggest opportunity for a mobile gaming publisher. Creating the same game and making it available on numerous platforms allows it be more accessible for players and their friends, keeps consumers loyal, provides deeper social engagement and builds brands globally.

This also relates to the need to develop games for the Android market too. Apple consumers are loyal to Apple products, as they know what they’re getting and the Apple App Store is more successful than any other. However, Android phones give a lot more for your money, and consumers are purchasing many more Samsung Galaxy and HTC devices. Android phones are predicted to outperform the iPhone soon. Android devices are outpacing iOS as their platform grows, but as easy as monetizing Android devices is, there are thousands of models to work with. Indie games companies should move over to mobile, if they haven’t already. Take Jetpack Joyride developers, Halfbrick, for example. They moved to mobile gaming from PSP & DS and they’re now huge on downloadable platforms.

It’s all about creating a game that users want. To be engaged, invite their friends to play and enjoy. That’s what we want to achieve at Kwalee. Create a brand that will succeed, that no one else can offer, and create games that consumers will feel happy playing. We have learned a lot from speakers at the conference as well as attendees that I spoke to one-to-one. It was a learning experience for me personally too, not to mention seeing the beautiful city of San Francisco. I’ve made some great contacts and friends to help Kwalee improve their game development.