I went to Casual Connect in Amsterdam back in early 2008 and it was an awesome experience. I met tons of fellow casual game developers and there were lots of great talks that were relevant to me.
This week I went to Casual Connect in Seattle, which I’d never been to before. When I worked at Big Fish Games I kept asking if I could go but they typically only send “biz dev” types to it. This time, however, I was a speaker on an indie panel and so I got to go for free, which was awesome.
This post is about my experience at Casual Connect rather than being a comprehensive overview or something.
Flash Gaming Summit
On the Monday before Casual Connect I went to the Flash Gaming Summit. It was pretty informative. There was news about Flash’s molehill (now called Stage3D) which is coming soon, and Unity’s forthcoming ability to export to Flash via Stage3D.
Also there was a very interesting talk about Everybody Edits which is an online multiplayer microtransaction game made in Flash that seems to be doing well. Seeing as there’s kind of a ceiling limit on how much money you can make from Flash Game License, making an online multiplayer game and using stuff like PlayerIO to do the backend stuff is probably something we’ll be seeing more of in the next few years.
Casual downloads really are dying now
Things have changed a lot in the casual space over the last few years and now download games for PC/Mac are not the main topic of Casual Connect at all. Mobile and Social games are what everyone is talking about. In fact I’d say that social mobile games (free to play games with in-app purchases) were the darling of the show as people are realising that it’s very hard for small teams without a crazy ad spend budget to make Facebook games
Also a new term floating around is midcore – this means games that aren’t hardcore or casual, somewhere in between. I’m going to be making some midcore games soon too.
Big Fish and iOS
Paul Thelen, founder of Big Fish Games, did a talk about their iOS distribution stuff which was very informative. He said that the iOS counterparts of good HOGs (Hidden Object Games) make about half as much money as the download versions, which was $500,000. Pretty good. Every one of their games is linked to other their games so the cross-selling potential is massive and works very well.
Geordi La Forge
I got a photo taken with LeVar Burton! Recently I got one with Sulu and Uhura form the original Trek series and so I thought I’d better get LeVar while he was in the area.
There weren’t many talks about game design which was a shame, and there weren’t many indie talks. Most talks were about social or mobile and the last day had talks about sound and investment. I didn’t got to a ton of talks and panels anyway because the networking was so good (more on this later).
Portals should stop ripping off developers
The PopCap CEO said that he thought casual download portals should stop ripping off devs and pay them a similar amount to Apple or Steam (70% instead of 35% or less basically). I applauded that.
I also heard that some casual portals are going to be distributing more non-casual titles. If that’s the case then then they’ll need to boost their royalty rates to compete with better established non-casual portals anyway. Also BFG said they are going to be distributing more “outlier” content on iOS which means non-casual titles that fit into the midcore category I mentioned earlier.
Networking and Indie events
Casual Connect is great for networking. I kept on bumping into people I knew and also got introduced to many more people. I was there for two reasons: to talk to casual game portals about opportunities for existing IP and to meet up with indies. There were two indie events on in the same week, the indiegamer forum dinner which was cool, and a large gathering of indies showing off great games at the Seattle Indie Expo, which was way cool.
I also hung out with lots of Vancouverites including Shane Neville and Stephen MacDonald (we all crammed in the same hotel room), and Andy Moore from Victoria, and they kept introducing me to knew people, which was cool.
I got some Grey Alien Games T-shirts printed so I could wear them every day at the conference and this helped people quickly identify me. I’ll be wearing them at PAX Dev later in the year too.
Oh and there were LOTs of great parties with free drinks, plus I kept getting free food because I was a speaker, which was awesome.
Spring Bonus on iOS
I also had a meeting with Big Fish Games and some other publishers to show them Spring Bonus on iPad. It was well received and I hope that it will be accepted and launched soon. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.
Overall a great week, but tiring as I find all conferences are. Glad to be home typing this up and relaxing.
How was your experience?
Did you go to Casual Connect? How did you find it?