Casual Connect Review

At last, I have some time to collect my thoughts, take a look back on the Casual Connect Conference and see what I learned. Overall, I will say that I didn’t really “learn” a lot as I do keep up to date with most of the major goings on in the industry, so a lot of the information was confirming what I already knew. I was content with that, as many of the presenters gave out a ton of facts and figures, which are always useful. Anyways, enough about how I felt and on with the subject.

I spent most of my time in the Monetization track, mainly because I really wanted to know how people are able to support themselves on $0.99 titles. After going to many of these talks, the general answer is that it is not easy to survive, let alone thrive against the behemoths that are now in the ring. One way that seems to be beneficial is to not build full games, but rather, build solid prototypes and release those to the masses. While the early adopters will jump on it, the developers can watch what the users are doing, what they seem to like and dislike, etc, for the first couple of weeks. Then you update the game, fixing the problems, adjusting to the player’s natural tendencies, and then repeat the process. This seems smart as you can really tailor the game and maximize your results. The downside to this is that you could turn the game into something that it isn’t supposed to be, like another Farmville.

One thing that did disappointment me (though not unexpected) was how money focused everything was. Yes, I know, I was in the monetization track, but this was a bit different. I have often been to events and meet ups where people are trying to find ways to make money at doing things they love. Comic books, baby clothing, cupcakes, you name it and there are groups trying to be successful in those markets. The difference I saw here was that many of these people are not interested in games at all, but rather completely focussed on getting more money out of the users at all costs. It’s disheartening to say the least.

As for facts and figures, here are some of the nuggets that stood out to me.

  • More than 90% of people who play your game will not even consider buying the game
  • Only 1-2% will actually purchase the product, and only if you make it easy to do so.
  • It is better to not discount your product as while you might get more sales, you will likely get less revenue
  • Viral marketing is dead, as people are tuning it all out (or Facebook is)
  • You can no longer survive on one business model, you need to use multiple models to survive.
  • Virtual goods is steadily growing and should be a part of most business plans.
  • You need to build the game with the business plan in mind. Tacking on virtual goods at the end will not work.
  • The less clicks it takes to purchase, the more people will buy your game. In comparison, utilities need more clicks.
  • Every click added results in a 10-15% drop in sales.

Pretty stark stuff, but it does make you think.

Finally, I did find the event amusing in how the casual industry looks upon itself. It is a very fun and exciting time to be working in this area, but they don’t seem to realize that they are essentially copying the console industry history. They are all talking about how we need more story in the games, multi-player modes, better graphics. We already know where that road leads, and unfortunately, I think this industry has a faster vehicle.

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