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The Great Tablet Race, What Does 'Awesome' Look Like? Up to You!

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by Screenmancer Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA: Ever since "vi0let" (a/k/a Kim Dong Hwang) snagged the first P-1 Visa, that's the US welcome card reserved for athletic royalty, eSports have had a shot in the arm. At 300 APM (actions per minute), yes, this Korean Pro Gaming Champ is up there in the nosebleed seats of elite athletes. He got the P-1 last year, after League of Legends maker Riot Games literally arm-twisted the US Govt. to recognize pro gamers. Based on this, you'd think things were beyond awesome in the Gaming World. But at LA Games Conference 2014, the word "lukewarm" was thrown around in terms of 'what up' with the industry. Clearly, the economic body blows sustained in 2009 aren't completely healed, apparently, when video game sales slowed to a crawl. Yet, all eyes are looking to the tablet to remonetize the day. Thus the days of the Great Tablet Race have begun. Here are highlights from LA GC 2014 held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 1, a day-long dazer.

The Great Tablet Race: The Stakes, The Shakes

At LAGC, the wry Michael Cai, "the other Chinese fake (English-equivalent) name Michael," moderated a panel on "The Rise of Tablet Gaming: What Does the Future Hold?" He prodded (the other) Michael Zhang, CEO of ZQGame, Chris Petrovic of Kabam, Supercell's Kristian Segerstrale, and Facebook's new company man Steve Carlin to weigh in on All Things Tablet. First, "It's its own platform," Carlin said, as opposed to the smartphone or other mobile choices. Followed by "it's the value proposition."

Consider the math, if gamers will pay $60 for console, but only $6 to $9 on a smartphone version, research shows they will likely pay $15-20 for a tablet version. Even with the lack of joystick pressure sensitivity issues. Granted, converting Free-to-Play diehards will be a trick on any platform.

Which brings up the Freemium to Premium Download question. Cai said "8 years ago" he was all about the FTP model, but now he believes the stars will line up for tablet monetization. Steve Carlin of Facebook, having come lately from Ubisoft was quick with the glittery stats, including: "we have 1.3 BN gamers, 1 BN mobile... we can help you get the word out about your game."

"What does awesome look like?," Segerstrale hypothesized. "We will see games made (exclusively) for the tablet in a few years... How fun is it, that's my most important metric."

As far as 'secret sauce,' some LAGC panelists agreed on a minimum game launch of $250K, times two for marketing budget - not including money thrown at a game over the length of a title's lifespan. The range was up to $2 M USD plus marketing. Yet the possibility of a dedicated crew of bored engineers hatching a winner for zilch is also on the frontier of future tablet games.

Big picture question? Besides not having to drag your console to a LAN party, tablet-specific consumer behavior needs to be mined for those huge payday dreams to come true.

Who Put the Cookie in the Cookie Jam?

Meanwhile, in the same room later, Kyu Lee from Gamevil USA, Jon Walsh (CEO) of Fuse Powered, Immersion Developer Evangelist Bob Heubel, Michael Ritter of SGN, and Scopely's Andy Kleinman were goaded by Clinton Foy to come up with language around "Succeeding in the Smartphone Market: Making Successful Games for iOS and Android."

Kyu Lee laid out the cold hard facts that "if you don't update your game every week (at least in South Korea), they will start to bash it."

Out of nowhere, a friendly fire shoot-out between Canadian optimist Jon Walsh and realist Cookie Jam SVP Michael Ritter on cost-per-user erupted. Walsh threw around .40 per, while Ritter weighed in heavier at $2 per user. Walsh then played to the aggregate with, "If you can get (even) $1 from every user. At 10 M users. That's $10 M." Ritter quipped, "is that in Canadian dollars."

Developer Evangelist Bob Heubel aired his grievances about in-your-face ads and pay-to-jump-a-level intrusions plus other annoyances from the gamer's perspective. "Beat the level," was one panelists' rejoinder, as the discussion slid into the tricky territory known in Hollywood as 'product placement.' How to stuff the sausage with brands is how the video game-makers view it, and until the sophistication of seamless product integration is mastered, the magic of brands remains ineffectively leveraged.

Discovery: New Demo... Those Who Don't Know They Are Gamers?

Which brings us to Pro Gamers vs Joe Gamers, in terms of Discovery. In short, discovering new players/comsumers is key to driving revenue, however, it ain't easy. Thus, from the LAGC 2014 monetization panels came the specter of a new demo - Those Who Don't Know They Are Gamers. Imagine your average non-technical person burning up screen time in the airport on Words with Friends. They wouldn't call themselves "gamers" per se, but they are revenue plot points all the same. "I play the same games as my mother and sister," a panelist offered, meaning the gender gap is closing among those who don't consider themselves gamers. Conclusion? Gamers as a label still has that negative nerd-in-sweat-pants bedroom image to overcome; whereas, when marketing to a broader audience the Tablet Sophisticate patina rules.

Save Your Seoul! West Looks East.

South Korea (SoKo) is still where it's hopping in real-time, messaging-integrated, player-density rich revenue streams. Player density and intensity, if the aforementioned P-1 Visa-toting "vi0let" is any indication. SoKo continues to be a bleeding edge environment for market-testing. In the West, real-time, multiplayer, with messaging is on fire too.

Save the Whales, Maybe Dolphins and Minnows Too...

Okay, so, while game execs continue overfishing out the users seas by Whale Hunting, tracking those individuals who spend between $10K and sometimes even $100K on a single game - Digital Ahab just got a new whale, the Influencer. "Save the Whales," attributed here to Clinton Foy, means the trend is breaking through to a new reverence for metrics. Dmitri Williams, CEO/Founder of Ninja Metrics (who incidentally won DEW 2014 Start-up Challenge), is Dr. Know in this area. (Or, for many,Dr.-Know-More-Than-You; he does hold a PhD.)

To the question "do you think the majority of game execs here at LAGC understand the concept of influencer vs whale?," Dmitri Williams responds on reflex. "Everyone understands the idea of influence just from their daily lives, but I don't think most execs realize that it's something that can be measured and leveraged against the bottom line."

Luckily, a fellow Ninja Metrician spelled it out in practical terms: if someone spends $100 and that's who you focus on, you may miss the $5 player with 1000 friends brought in by said players influence, which translates to more LTV (Life Time Value) for the lower spender. Thus the $5 player is the one you perk-out and work to retain, as they represent the tip of a monetization iceberg.

In Sum, All Okay

The money panels floated the word "lukewarm" for growth, but that is actually good news. At least it isn't dire. In other newsbits, Peter Levin, who just arrived at Lionsgate and took part in the "Investor's Roundtable Luncheon," said 'there's not a lot of roadkill to clean up." Meaning, in his new job, Levin gets to coast into the successful waters of the Hunger Games and Twilight franchises... and the day wrapped up with free t-shirts and knuckle taps all around.

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