REACH Panel: The Future of Gaming

On October 24th, Cross Campus hosted a panel discussion titled, Disruptive Technologies Impacting the Future of Gaming. It’s part of REACH, a quarterly event by TechZulu and Gadget Review. I attended mainly because the moderator of the panel was our very own Scot Rubin, founder of AllGames. I planned on simply hobnobbing with the boss but in the end I also got a primer on how gaming will expand in the future directly from the people that will be influencing it.

The panel consisted of Josh Yguado (President SGN), Chris Hewish (Head of Global interactive at Dreamworks Animation), Wilson Kriedel (President Paltalk| Former Zynga/OMGPOP CRO), Robin Kaminsky (CEO 1st Street Partners|Former Activision/Blizzard EVP), and of course, Scot Rubin (Nitropod Owner| BigDoor SVP|CoFounder G4TV). You may have noticed that the panel is heavy on mobile devs and execs. Thats because the gaming industry has pretty much decided that the future of games will be all about mobile.

Here’s something you should know about events like this.

The panel, no matter how informative, is secondary to the social aspects. You’re there to meet people with like interests and who can help you in whatever you’re trying to do. It’s a bar that doubles as a business expense.

When I walked into the Cross Campus venue, it was filled with plush couches and large bookshelves and had a pretty ‘homey feel’. I felt like I was walking into a private club, which was made more apparent by the full bar serving drinks to the attendees. Of course there was the usual line of sponsor tables pushing their products. Verizon was busy showing off their new 4GLTE phones. GM brought a Corvette to show off to the tech savvy crowd. IndieGogo announced they were paying for everyone’s drinks, which immediately made them the most popular people there.

After the obligatory drinks and mingling session, the panel began. I’m always fascinated to hear executives discuss the gaming industry. Everyone on stage sees gaming from an entirely different perspective than most ‘gamers’ do.

“Games are services now”Mobile is the future not because the games will be better or the technology is growing so fast.

Mobile is the future because that’s where the money is. Microtransactions have become the dominate revenue stream. That means less focus on big budget games with long development times, and more short form projects that can be served up piece meal to the user over the course of a year or more, with them paying for it all the way. One quote from a panelist summed it up perfectly, ‘Games are services now’.

Thats not necessarily a bad thing, especially from the publisher’s point of view. Developers will be able to push out more games, faster. Sure Grand Theft Auto V sold a billion dollars worth of content, but that also took hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge team. Thats a huge risk that companies hate having to take. Instead, they’d much rather take a small team, spend a few thousand on development, and release a new title every few weeks. The fact that mobile games don’t really expect AAA quality on a game that costs $1 (or less) doesn’t hurt either. When you can get a huge hit like Candy Crush with only 6 months of development based on a standard ‘Match 3’ template, why not?

“You can buy your way to success”Quality is still important, but it’s not the most important attribute of a game.

Mobile games are sold via word of mouth and social networks more than old school tv/radio marketing. But that doesn’t mean the top games are there on merit alone. The panel discussed the hidden truth on how a spot in the top 5 is yours to be had with $30,000 and a ‘farm’ of chinese workers whose job it is to install the games of the highest bidder. Another telling quote from the stage was ‘You can buy your way to success’

After the discussion was over, the audience went back to socializing over free drinks and tacos.

I hung out with Scot and some new friends discussing neo-utopian societies, yoga, and the art of DJ’’ing. REACH was a good event that should be on your list of required reading whether you’re a gamer, a developer, or just someone who wants to see a little bit into the future.