A New Experience – Working in the games industry

Hey there, Usman here!

This is a new experience for me and you could say a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to work in the games industry in some capacity and now I have the chance. Dojit has given me the opportunity work as Marketing assistant and join a talented team to learn and earn some valuable experience with.

I have experience working with top brand names in the technology industry, companies like Microsoft, Lenovo and Samsung, training staff members in PC World and John Lewis on new products such as Windows 8, Lenovo Yoga Book and Samsung Galaxy S4. This has been a good experience as you can bring great product awareness to the staff members and raise sales, which will help both store and the company represented. It also brings brand awareness to the customers; they experience new technology products and learn something new as they come into the store. Now, with the opportunity of working in the games industry, it will take my experience to the next level and advance my career.

Now on to the fun stuff! I love video games! I have been a gamer since the days of the Super Nintendo. Playing Super Mario and Legend of Zelda: Link To The Past early morning before school was the most enjoyable experience’s I had. Getting that once stage further in Mario or finding that heart peace or killing a boss in Zelda was what I lived for back then. Then I moved onto the N64, PS1 and we entered the 3D era. Seeing Link and Mario characters and worlds in fully 3D changed the way we all looked at games.

Jumping all the way to current generation, gaming has changed a lot; we live in an always-connected world, connecting us to people all over in online multiplayer games. We’ve also entered a time of casual games. Games we can play on our mobile phones or in Facebook on a web browser. People do not have the time to put in hours into games on their consoles or PC’s but can spend 10mins on their commute playing Farmville or Candy Crush Saga.  The casual games I am playing at the moment are Angry Birds Star Wars and Plants Vs Zombies. It’s very satisfying to get past a level in a short amount of time and easy to pick up again.

Hope you enjoyed my first post, will be hoping to bring you fun and informative content in the future

Dojit and MAXIME – Move for Change takes London!

Dojit recently went to MAXIME to take part in a games evaluation. A few students looked into our games and what we could do to improve interaction between our games and the real world, and ways to bring these two worlds together in games like Home Bear. They presented us with a lovely presentation and went to spread the message of Move for Change and to ask the people about what made them play certain games, and what they looked for in these games. All in the magnificent city known as London!

MAXIME came up with the idea of Move for Change, where you implement features into the game that allow movement in real life to build up a currency or gain rewards within the game. These features can be personalisation such as a Hat or some Boots, to something that can give you an advantage within a game like a speed boost or the ability to use an already present item. They tell us that by using this feature you can start to engage a user even when they are not playing the game. This is a fantastic point and is sure to take off if we were to implement it in a game. As our games are made for children, parents would see their children actively seeking to be exercising and engaging in sport as there is more rewards for them to gain from it. You can then build on this by making it competitive. You can bring in this element by creating a leaderboard which measures the most active countries using your app and unlocking rewards by moving about.

By engaging the user on more fronts, we can create a more successful game that people will want to enjoy more often and be more involved with, and they reap all the rewards. This is fantastic for parents who don’t have to worry about a child being glued to a screen attempting to grind unlocks as we, by deploying Move for Change, can make unlocking in game items a more physical and healthy way of playing a game.

So should we, and others begin to Move for Change, and Move for Community?

Don’t forget to check out the students spreading the word of Move for Change and Home Bear in LONDON!

How great are the Great British Games and the Great British Games Industry?

As a nation we love games or sports or both. We are world class at making them. Perhaps not playing them, in fact, you could argue that one of our greatest exports was and is games. Which then other countries take to heart and outshine us at – at every conceivable occasion. However, the spirit of sport and the point of games is something which is very, very British! The spirit of fair play embodied in games like cricket helped us gain respect across continents and generations. And whether this fair play is still seen throughout sports (with countless examples of where it isn’t – Luiz Suarez biting someone for example) we can safely say if it wasn’t for the UK we wouldn’t have a truly mind bogglingly number of sports. Football, rugby, cricket, baseball, tennis, boxing, ice hockey (apparently) and I could go on (for those of you so minded – click here for a list of more than 20) But how is this relevant for the UK now?

I think we have a great opportunity, to do something amazing, to get behind the UK mobile games industry and video games industries and support the 9,000 or so highly skilled development staff that the industry employs. You see just like in days of old, where the UK invented games, UK game developers are export focused. 95 per cent of UK game businesses export at least some of their games/services to overseas markets. The industry, unlike the really rather horrid and incestuous finance and banking sector, is NOT London focused, 80 per cent of the workers are employed outside of London. And it’s not that they are not bright – it’s not the manufacturer of yesteryear in dark satanic mills. 80 per cent of the workforce in game studios such as Dojit Games, Climax, Jagex, Kuju Entertainment, Rebellion and Ubisoft Reflections are qualified to degree level or above. As an industry as well, unlike many others which are falling by the way, the UK game development sector is R&D intensive. Two fifths of UK game developers have a budget dedicated to R&D. UK game developers spend on average 20 per cent of turnover on R&D.   I wonder if the same can be said for construction. And to finish with – the eco icing on the economic educational cake, the video games sector is also low carbon in output.Most of the work in games development involves design on computers, the packaging in games is minimal (with mobile games development this is actually nothing at all) whilst boxed products are relatively light for videos games suppliers to manufacture and to transport. In the future, video games will become even more low carbon in nature as the industry moves towards digital distribution like in mobile games development right now.

So we here at dojit games think that mobile gaming is very important for the UK. Not just because it is creative and cool, but as it brings in needed revenue to the UK, has massive export potential – with 65% of our mobile games at dojit being downloaded in China! And as it follows a long traditional of games creation in this great country we call Great Britain. We make games for our world, exported with pride, and perhaps next time with a little bit of British culture too. Maybe Home Bear, our mobile game for children, should wear union jack pants? With the world now a global market place – isn’t it time Britain started exporting more?

Can you make a quintessentially British Game? If so what would it be? 

How do we make sure the uk economy doesn’t dip again?

A radical suggestion from a radical new industry job maker: Games.

Good news it would seem as The Office for National Statistics released its first estimates for GDP yesterday today with experts saying the news should deliver a “psychological boost to consumers and businesses”.

“Today’s figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing,” said George Osborne. “We are making progress. Businesses have created over a million and a quarter new jobs, and interest rates are at record lows.”

Year on year, the economy has grown by 0.6%, above what the OECD predicted last month. Apparently the big winners or gainers here are in the service sector, which unsurprisingly for the UK is leading the way with quarter one growth of 0.6% whilst more old school tangible building things like in the construction sector shrank by 2.5% whilst production industries registered growth of just 0.2%.

So what does this say about the UK economy? Is it changing, should it change, should the government see this change and do more about it? Or can we rely on people building and buying houses forever?

Let me give you some other stats about a small and growing part of that economy, a part of a larger sector called the Creative Industry, something which has massive export potential, and helps Apple do a very important thing for America. It’s something we are part of at dojit games.

As Apple manufactures it’s products mainly in China but as this very interesting paper shows because of the app economy (i.e. people building apps and mobile games for iOS) The end result of it is that the app economy produces twice as many jobs in the US economy as there are people working to make Apple products in China.

This has BIG implications, and I think it is here that we have the answer for the UK. We start believing in advanced digital manufacturer. We start understanding the economic power of mobile games and mobile games development.

You have to remember that this industry is entirely new: before Apple et al brought out the iPhone and the smart phone revolution that following in 2007 none of it existed at all. It’s a radical new wealth creator. Just like it’s older brother video games. Which itself is advanced and creative digital manufacturing at its best.

The UK video games industry is the largest in Europe and the UK, it’s a world class location for video game development. The UK boasts a substantial and highly qualified talent pool, some of the finest video games studios globally, technical as well as creative excellence, an ongoing ability to generate products that sell well globally and to create original video games IP.

The UK is home to the studios that have developed video games such as Grand Theft Auto IV (the fastest selling entertainment product of all time), Runescape, the Fable series, Broken Sword and LittleBigPlanet.

The video game sector offers opportunities for growth and high value, high technology job creation for the UK. Estimates from PWC suggest that the global market for video games will grow from $52.5 billion in 2009 to $86.8 billion in 2014. TIGA’s, the really rather wonderful games union, has an ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business and so enable the UK economy to secure a growing share of this huge market.

The UK games development sector contributes approximately £1 billion to UK Gross Domestic Product  per annum. Whilst a survey of developers conducted by Games Investor Consulting, saw the sector grew by 4% per cent in 2012, remember the service industry grew by 0.6%. So how’s that for growth George? Let’s get behind the UK mobile game industry and make sure we don’t do the triple dip!

How a small number of Parents could stop Mobile Gaming

There is some dangerous rhetoric being bandied around – with ideas which if they are allowed to take off could ruin the very start of something wonderful which will make money for England.

I am talking about how the mistakes of a small minority might make it impossible for creativity to blossom, how the irresponsible can control the minds of the many responsible, how governments can really hamper a growth sector – our sector – the mobile gaming developers of this world.

And so many reporters are jumping on the bandwagon mainly due to high PR profile cases, for example the story of one young boy who spent £1700 on his father’s iPad in less than an hour. Ok that is bad but let’s get a dose of reality here i.e. I would guess that only 1 person in a million has done this (*the exact analytical stats are not known.)

Shouldn’t it be, ultimately, the parent’s responsibility to check what their children are doing. Or to know about opt in and opt out choices work as according to Charlie Osborne of ZDnet, “not every parent understands how an application works, the fact you can turn off in-app purchases in settings, or even that in-app purchases exist.” Isn’t this like saying people don’t know that you can call people on mobile phones, that your child, unless you chat to them about it, could call a premium number on a landline? And that you can block children from access to things?

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This is the nanny state gone mad. As of now, the OFT has launched an investigation into whether children are being unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content in ‘free’ web and app-based games, including upgraded membership or virtual currency such as coins, gems or fruit. So mobile games developers and the industry is to be pressured into NOT creating engaging games and getting them paid for with upgrades? This IS Dangerous!

We understand that as part of the investigation, the OFT is looking into whether these mobile phone games include ‘direct exhortations’ to children – a strong encouragement to make a purchase, or to do something that will necessitate making a purchase, or to persuade their parents or other adults to make a purchase for them. Again isn’t this an attack on basic freedoms. I don’t hear anyone picking on the toy industry for advertising on Nickelodeon.

People use Google for free as other people’s advertising pays for it, you use Facebook for free and give them your personal details, you use apps for free and you can upgrade your experiences, you watch ITV for free and advertising again pays for it. You can get a free piece of a cake at a shop – and the shopkeeper hopes you buy some more later on. Surely everyone knows this by now – and trying to stop this is counterproductive to productive people – people working hard to make a new way of living. People who are making great mobile games and doing great things.

With this weak thinking, the OFT should look into whether parents who give their children their credit card details and pin numbers should be reimbursed? Madness! Or should the government investigate whether shopkeepers are allowed to entice people in with sampling their wares? Should all “so called” freebies be stopped – whenever you can “try before you buy” we should monitor the effects on people, of course not.

Sampling, freemiums, try before you buy, test drives, upgrades, the ability of the customer to make a decision are all things we should praise and triumph. STOP this madness! Didn’t we go through this before with credit cards and the internet? And before then with landlines and naughty numbers!

It is simple. If it is connected to your finances, if it can take money out of your wallet, if you give access to it to your children, in ANYWAY, the responsibility for your child’s action have to lie with you, as the responsible adult.

One simple solution rather than smashing the whole mobile phone games industry, throwing the baby out with the bather water, might be as reported in ICT Innovate, to “Make sure you’re logged out and don’t give your password to your children in the first place.“ I find this works every time.

Freemium or Premium? That is the question… Or is it? Part Two

It is interesting that new research reported by Shane Schick shows offering virtual merchandise is a key monetization strategy for iPhone and iPad apps. Not the freemium model as previously thought. For a while now in the mobile / hand held gaming world (which for a very quickly changing world is not very long) we have seen iOS leading the way for in app purchases. The thinking from massive games like Clash of the Clans being keep apps free but offer some opportunities for consumers to open their wallets once they’re engaged – a lot of opportunities. Distimo’s recent research report: “How The Most Successful Apps Monetize Their User Base” backs this up with some really lovely numbers. The Netherlands-based company, which provides an app store analytics tool, looked at the highest-grossing 250 apps in Apple’s App Store in February that have been released in the last year.

 The Stats:

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More than three-quarters of all revenue was generated via in-app purchases (IAPs), with 90 percent coming from Asian markets. Which is something I found very interesting – as this is the area we wish to enter with titles like Dragon Dancer. Countries like Japan also tend to spend more on apps, but the overall average price was $0.99. Freemium doesn’t work–at least based on this data. Many of the freemium apps generated less than $0.99 on average per user and the overall average revenue was $0.93. Freemium trailed far behind other monetization models such as in-app purchases or even paid downloads. IAPs and paid downloads go together almost as well as chocolate and peanut butter: Distimo said this combination generated even more revenue for the developers that have tried it. Screen size may matter: iPads with IAPs generated more money than IAPs on iPhone apps, and the average price point was higher, with more than $4 for the tablet apps vs. just over $2 for smartphone versions.

Fantasy games can turn into real cash. On Distimo’s top 10, the app with the highest all-time average revenue per download was Rage of Bahamut, which gets more than $7.00. “Even though the (IAP) model is successful in all countries, it doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed in all of them,” the report says. An example of this is one of the top revenue generating countries for the Apple App Store for iPhone–Germany–where only 61 percent of revenue was generated from in-app purchases in February 2013. Although the overall approach to data analysis looks quite sound in this report, there is one fairly large gap. Distimo limited its research to revenue generated within the app store, probably because that’s what its tool, AppIQ, focuses on as well. This leaves out ad revenue that could be substantial for a number of apps, depending on whether the developer markets their app or game through an ad network. The study is a good endorsement of IAPs, but the study offers no real guidance on approach–how to offer IAPs as part of the app experience, how to price merchandise and how to nurture a paying customer relationship over the long term.

That’s still something that us mobile game developers will have to figure out on our own.

Freemium or premium? That is the question…or is it?

Mobile games for many years have been simply pastimes which came free on your mobile phone. Back in the day of WAP and Nokia, games like snake etc, where very basic graphically poor (rich in their environment) games came free with your phone. And so they were amazingly successful. The same is said for the most successful computer games every (by game play) which was and is solitaire. A game played by bored office workers the world over.

Smart phones have changed all this and created a multi-billion dollar industry from practically nothing from 5 years ago. Many developers didn’t notice the change, but others made games that were social from their very beginning. Games that went viral, games people shared, games people had to share in order for them to enjoy them fully. This social factor, was built into the very DNA of the companies.

Now the understanding that social is all is also being questioned with many giants of this space, Zygna etc, starting to find that Facebook has a saturation point. And not only that but that the freemium model which many modern mobile games developers take almost as THE given route to market may not be the only way to move the industry forward. That being said , for iOS, freemium provides 65% of top 100 most profitable applications and research shows that approximately half of total mobile gamers download only free games (Mintel, 2012). So the past thinking was simple, create social games, make them free, playable through Facebook and on mobile devices, on which people can buy in app purchases to either save time or become more (status wise.)

However, the issue was / is prolonging freemium customer playtimes. As this is not a simple task to achieve as freemium users tend to switch the games fairly often given that any new games are relatively easy to acquire. Unlike those dedicated premium mobile games produced by console – based developers where the gamers have to pay the price in order to download, freemium gamers do not need to give in any tangible value in return for their everyday freemium games hence will switch the game instantly right when they experience boredom.

Yet, for some social games, the hook is in the social nature of the game, the emotional connection, the very first premise, the ease of understanding and then the platform itself. But it is NOT the same for all platforms as the mobile – game spending pattern between Apple and Android users are completely different. Apple users are more likely to purchase premium games, while Android users are more likely to purchase virtual goods inside the freemium games, for example in-game currency and items that alter character competency or appearance (Guo & Barnes, 2007).

So perhaps it is the combination of Android handsets mass penetration (up some 20% year on year from 2011) along with the fact that Android user is more likely to undergo micro-transaction to enhance their mobile gaming experience, means that developing freemium games on the Android platform might be the optimal pathway for all mobile game developers.

The popularity of ‘Android – Freemium’ combination has attracted game developer to shift focus toward free-to-play business model as evident by the recent decision from ‘FishLabs Entertainment’, a high profile Germany-based developer, to import its masterpiece – premium Galaxy on Fire from iOS to Android as a freemium game.

Interestingly, even in the none game world, like WhatsApp Messenger, which has traditionally always monetized through a $0.99 paid download, adopted a freemium subscription model with its newer Google Play version launched a year ago, where a $0.99 per year subscription kicks in after the first free year has passed.

Could the same be done for our iOS games like Home Bear and SoccerZillionaire – which we have converted into a free mobile download game for a while to celebrate spring in April in the UK. Could bringing these mobile titles into “freemium” for a month with an upgrade afterwards make sense and make us money?

What do you think? What kind of changes are you making to your games?

 

How social is mobile gaming? How mobile is social?

Sitting on the train going to the next station you see lots of people of all ages on their mobile phones, on their smart phones, probably on mobile apps, most probably playing games. But how many of them are still playing free mobile games which are social in nature? How many more invites to FarmVille or CandyCrush can the world take?

Social for many developers has apparently started to lose its shine. Talking to, many of the UK game developers, as part of the TIGA event in the House of Common’s last month, I realised that apart from the BIG players in the market place the success that Facebook seemed to instantly give creative game developers seems to be on the wane.

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Part of this I believe is that Facebook didn’t move quickly enough into creating a satisfying mobile experience. They and other social networks have for nearly a decade dominated the web. However, it is the combination of the smart phone and tablet mobile device, the technology and the app stores that have created new opportunities for global social experiences that were not possible in the web. But many of the main players realised this too late. As such, this created new business opportunities those developers who are utilizing the camera, real-time sharing, location-based technology and virtual items to reshape social experiences on mobile. Apps like WeChat, LINE, Kakao, Zoosk, Badoo, and Find My Friends are at the forefront of this newfound growth. And some of those publishers are starting to figure out ways to monetize this distribution. But they are doing so often without gaming.

Over the past year, social Networking apps as a category was the third-largest in iOS revenue, up from twelfth one year ago. While revenue growth was seen across all major countries, Japan stood out with a tenfold increase in monthly revenue year-over-year, led by the runaway success of LINE. Whilst In the last year, global revenue growth for social networking apps has outpaced growth of its own downloads as well as revenue for other app categories.

As of January 2013, the Social Networking category ranked third in monthly revenues, behind only Mobile Games and Productivity Apps in the iOS App Store. And that’s up 87% compared to January 2012 monthly revenues, representing 3% of total iOS App Store revenue. Its growth is impressive and nowhere near its ceiling.

But are mobile and social gaming truly mixing and mixing well? iPad Games like Supercell’s “Clash of the Clans” are intrinsically social and make money from in-app purchases after social platforms have given them the launch they need to be viral. Their advertising done by social, they are free to be free, monetising en masse swapping your now invested time for money invested in skipping time – in doing the impossible – becoming god of time – if only in the game and only for one moment. But again how social is this really? How much FarmVille is really played on a truly in your pocket mobile device? Does this increase if the mobile gaming environment this is transferred over to on an iPad? Does it decrease or increase with the time of day you give your “social reward” for actions taken by the user.

Will it make a difference with Facebook’s new move, with Home, trying to take over the home screen of all android mobile phones? Will this finally work out for some mobile game developers the problems of discovery for their game / app? Will Facebook created a PPC version of this to help their monetisation strategy?

Should dojit only be producing mobile phone games, purely for Android, knowing that the changes are coming, or is it just hype as our wise old CTO believes?

From a marketing POV, the stats on where people play casual games for free would be a great thing to have. Especially for marketing our new releases like Home Bear and Soccer Zillionaire, as I know that people spend longer on apps in iPads and click on more adverts and buy more stuff when they do. But games wise, right now, we are rather unsociably in the dark.

Mobile Web is Dead… Long Live the Mobile Web…

In the world of statistical information (and often economics) a certain gentlemen called “Pareto” is often king. His simple analysis findings that 80% of something is often owned or done by 20% of another became a thing of legend. You will wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time, apparently. 80% of your income will come from 20% of your potential customers. Well now, we in the mobile world can add another to this.

Only 20 percent of American consumers’ time on mobile devices is spent on the web. A massive majority, 80 percent, is spent in apps: games, news, productivity, utility, and social networking apps.
It turns out, it’s an app world, after all.

According to app analytics firm Flurry, which tracks app usage on a staggering 300,000 apps on over a billion active mobile devices, we spend an average of 158 minutes each and every day on our smartphones and tablets. Two hours and seven minutes of that is in an app, and only 31 minutes is in a browser, surfing the old-school web. Great news for dojit, is that a big chunk of those 158 minutes is taken up with playing mobile games — around 32 percent — but it’s almost shocking to see how much time a single app and a single company eats up. Eighteen percent of all the time that Americans spend on their phones is spent in the Facebook app, a figure that by itself dwarfs all other social networking apps. What would be interesting to see if how much of this is spend in mobile social games?

As we all know by now – there is a huge market in traditional social platform games development, with giants in the industry literally turning over millions a day with computer games on facebook.
Flurry also says that people are now using more games and apps than ever, launching 7.9 per day in the last part of 2012 versus 7.5 per day in 2011 and 7.2 per day in 2010. The great news for us mobile games developers, is that consumers are continuing to try new apps as well, with long-term users adding new apps regularly to their existing stack. A lot of these being “new mobile games” as mobile games developers continually create new mobile games to fit the expanding market.

But the bigger question for us here at dojit, is what kind of games to create. Where is the sweet spot not only in creative direction but also in application platform development. Should we go Android or iOS? Should we create MVP’s in HTML5 first and test some thinking? There was a time when developers thought HTML5 would kill the mobile app, with experts like Mike Rowehl saying things like: “We’ll forget that we even passed through another era of native apps on the way to the mobile web.” Silly man. I personally argued with app developers on other projects last year that this was a nonsense. That native would always play a part especially in gaming.

It looks like I was right as in an interesting twist, HTML5 is being used more as a tool for cross-platform native app development. In fact, it’s now the number one choice for developers building apps for multiple platforms. Which is what we here at dojit enterprises are now discussing – I am personally voting for 80% of our time to be spent on such mini MVP’s created on HTML5 so we can test our mobile marketing and social power of such creative games. And so 20% of time is on what people might call ‘real world’ mobile games development.

What do you think? What do you do with your development?