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GDC Europe / gamescom Roundup

By Alex

After a great stay in Cologne we are finally back in Vienna, therefore it’s time to wrap up the last couple of days.

The Game Developers Conference kicked off on Monday at 10. We had some meetings and therefore weren’t able to attend all of the sessions. Luckily we could listen to Riccardo Zacconi from King.com. King.com developed the popular game Bubble Witch Saga. He explained their strategy in going from web games to mobile: On the web they are testing weekly prototypes on their own website, and the ones that get high interest are developed for Facebook with further balancing, features and more levels. Afterwards, the game is redesigned to match the mobile needs like interface adoptions (less text, redesigned the buttons) and color adjustments for the different displays and usually brighter surroundings. As Bubble Witch Saga is so popular on Facebook, they put a lot of effort into social feature integration to drive the game on mobile as well: You can increase your lives for instance, if you recommend the game to others, or by buying new ones with in-app-purchases. Furthermore, it is required to connect the game with Facebook in level 5 to continue, otherwise the gamer needs to pay. This makes totally sense, because friend recommendations are one of the three main drivers for new app installs, together with a feature in the App Store and Game Center, all weighing 30% regarding to Riccardo.

The day ended with a Crytek hosted party in the evening, a great opportunity to connect with fellow developers and other people making this business so awesome.

The second day of GDC Europe featured the “Facebook Developers Day”. The schedule was filled with tech talks and developer sessions which gave great insight into the possibilities Facebook offers for mobile and online developers, including friend challenges, wall posting, highscore lists and tournaments, payments with Facebook credits and analytics.

There were also some other great speakers, like Richard Firminger the managing director of Flurry, who presented new data from recent research. He showed that nearly a quarter of the time spent on media consumption is spent on mobile devices, but only 1% of the advertising budgets are directed to this channel. He went on and showed the difference between tablets and smartphones in consumption patterns and hours. Apparently tablets are much more popular between 19:00 and 22:00 and the average age of a tablet user is 38 – 11 more than the average age of a smartphone user. He also pointed out, that 15% of the total app revenue comes from the Top 25 ranked positions, 17% for the Top 26-100 and 68% for the rest of it. This is interesting, because it means you still have a good chance to monetize your app, even if you’re not in the top ranks. He also pointed out the importance of user retention; on average you lose 62% of your users within 1 month, and 75% after 3 months. This exactly was the reason why we built a level editor right into Felgo built games, so players can create user generated content for a higher retention.

The day finally closed with another interesting topic for Felgo. Sean Paul Taylor from RIM talked about native development on Blackberry 10, another platform we’re now looking seriously in. RIM itself has also done a dozen of open source projects (which are hosted on Github), as an example they contributed the Cocos2d-X ports for Blackberry.

On Wednesday nearly the whole GDC moved a hall down the floor to gamescom business area. As a result the session schedule was more relaxed compared to the last days, the quality of the talks and speaker however stayed high.

Paul Heydon, Managing Director at Avista Partners, addressed “fundraising 101 for game studios” in his session. He opened his talk with some numbers raised in the gaming sector. Therefore alone in 2011 over $2.1bn were raised in VC funds, whereas mobile and online is eating up the biggest piece of the cake (if you’re a PC/console developer you better look for other financing options according to Paul’s numbers). Speaking of market size, the biggest growth is predicted for the mobile sector, leading to a total of nearly $32bn addressable market for mobile games by 2016. He then continued with dos and don’ts while speaking to investors and did a fairly interesting Q&A session afterwards. He is apparently a passionate gamer himself as there popped up a push notification of his latest played game on his iPad while presenting his slides. 😉

We spent the rest of the day in the business area of gamescom to meet up with some other developers and studios. We also luckily found another minute for overlooking the gamescom before the mass of people arrived and had the chance to enjoy a round of the upcoming Fifa 13. 😉

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