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Last update: November 2020

4 mins to read - 2020/11/02

GDBAY 2020 Recap: Top Takeaways

On October 21-23, OpenBack attended the GDBAY Conference, an eye-opening online event gathering some of the most innovative developers and publishers in the gaming industry. OpenBack CEO David Shackleton gave a talk on Day 3 about the potential of mobile edge computing in the player engagement realm. And otherwise, OpenBack had representatives listening in on panels and connecting with other conference attendees. It was a fantastic three days, and here are a few of our top takeaways.

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GDBAY: Day 1

Pitching Your Concept

The conference was all-encompassing, and covered all aspects of the creation, development, and launch of a game. Elena Lobova, the founder of Achievers Hub, a platform that connects hopeful games developers with investors, publishers, and mentors, looked into the conceptual network stage of developing a game. According to her talk, 25% of indie games developers work with publishers, which can offer various benefits, such as:

  • user acquisition
  • PR and advertising (e.g. trade shows)
  • preparation for release
  • post-launch support

More experienced publishers also bring expertise along with them, and they can act as a mentor to new developers. She also provided advice on where developers can get in touch with publishers (e.g. both online and offline events, as well as social media) and a practical checklist of things developers should consider before pitching a publisher with a game concept:

  • vision of the game
  • playable demo
  • mockups/fake screens of the game to share
  • how much time/money is needed to finish the game

Marketing, Branding, and Revenues for Changing Demographics

The rest of day 1 also focused on the very practical aspect of games developing. Various speakers talked about forging connections in the industry, as well as using online events to maximize exposure of your game. Nicholas Napp, CEO of XMark Labs, explored the exponential growth of the gaming industry in recent years, and how this means developers need to expand their idea of who the target player is. With 2.7 billion people worldwide who play games, the idea of the stereotypical “core gamer” – a straight, white, middle-class male in his teens and early 20s, playing console and PC games – is no longer an accurate depiction of who developers should be catering towards.

Interestingly, mass market mobile gaming is what has tipped the demographics balance over towards a more diverse market, with the majority of games players currently female. Napp points out that, in addition to the obvious moral and ethical imperatives for more diverse representation in the gaming industry, developers and publishers are missing out on huge revenues by not expanding their focus to reflect the changing demographics.

GDBAY: Day 2

Day 2 of GDBAY focused on more of the creative aspect of games developing. Ranko Trifkovic of Grandpa Tiger’s Narrative Design, a game-writing app, looks into the craft of writing narrative for a game. This includes all the building blocks of fiction: theme, plot, characters, dialogue, worldbuilding, and anything else that can make progression through your game more immersive.

Later in the day, Ruslana Kruchek, co-founder of VP Production audio agency, explores the role of audio development in games. A lot of this begins during the preliminary marketing stages, but it’s important to have at least a basic concept of your game before you start working on the audio. Soundtrack, sound effects, and character voices will all help set the atmosphere/mood of your game, and tell the story. So they will all go a long way toward grounding the UX of your game.

Alexander Ivanov of the online game Imperia Online JSC then spoke about the importance of LiveOps for your game. Especially important for F2P games, LiveOps are the real-time updates to games that can boost engagement and monetization. He laid out the key pillars of a successful LiveOps campaign: events, promotions, new content and features, and communication and community management. He outlined a few creative ideas for LiveOps events to spur enthusiasm in your community, such as tournaments, bonus levels, and special holiday events for testing out new features.

GDBAY: Day 3

The final day of GDBAY saw presentations on the more financial and negotiating side of things. OpenBack CEO David Shackleton talked about the potential of edge computing to offer mobile games a real-time, hyper-precise mobile engagement experience. Jon Hook of BoomBit looked at strategies for negotiating a deal with a publisher of hyper-casual games, including which KPIs to prioritize.

Later in the day, Vera Karpova of the analytics service Devtodev explored strategies for optimizing your app’s in-game shop. Her first piece of design advice was to add a button that leads to the shop on your app’s home page, so the shop is easy to navigate to. (She suggests putting the button in the lower third of your screen, which is the most comfortable place for device-users’ thumbs to access.)

Karpova also provides some interesting psychological approaches to maximize purchase conversions. If you offer players in-app purchase bundles, where the more you spend, the exponentially more extra lives or in-game currency you receive, the player will interpret that as a bargain. Similarly, she warns against the “paradox of choice” when it comes to stocking your shop. If you provide the player too much variety to choose from, they will get overwhelmed and will probably not make any purchase at all. The magic number of different items or variations to choose between, she says, is around 7 to 10. She also suggests offering “starter pack” purchases, for players who might not want to make large purchases. Small microtransactions for these “minnow” customers can give them a taste for in-app purchases, and may lead to them becoming “whale” customers down the line.

Overall, it was a wonderful event where we got to connect to professionals from every aspect of the gaming industry.

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