Jesse Divnich (Vice President, Product - Hibernum) and Patrick Walker (Vice President, Insights and Analytics - EEDAR) are going to join us in Paris at Game Connection Europe 2016 as keynote speakers. Find out why and what they're looking for at Game Connection this year. Click here to get more info on their keynote.
Our audience is predominantly made up of CEOs of development studios – what’s one bit of advice based on your keynote topics that you would give them for the next 12-18 months ?
PW: I would encourage studios to balance preparing for future trends with realizing current opportunities in the verticals that may seem less sexy. For example, creating an online PC game may not be as exciting as starting a VR studio, but the chances of creating the next Rocket League are much higher than creating a breakout VR title with the current install base and volume of VR games flooding the market. It does look like VR will be a viable market sooner rather than later so a smart strategy may be to make small bets in the space to be ready when the consumers are there.
Another piece of advice I would give studios is to be smart about what business models, modes, funding models, etc. make sense for different situations. The games industry is getting more and more diverse and there are more and more ways to connect with consumers and offer content. That said, the hottest trend may not make sense for your game or platform. For example, a lot of publishers are approaching us to help them with the “e-sports aspect” of their games. E-sports isn’t just a mode you tack on the game once its finished because the game has multiplayer. E-sports requires a deep integration with a game’s overall mechanics and needs to be thought about and built in from the ground up.
JD: Survive by any means. The next year is going to be tough for independent developer, much like it was been for the last year. My advice is to win this war through attrition, out survive the developer next to you. I don’t think we are in a spot where smaller developers need to start re-inventing the wheel, it’s just too dangerous as I am seeing developers going bankrupt every week. The independent community will once again rise to be the innovators we’ve always been, especially in VR and AR, but for the next year, until a stable revenue environment exists, there aren’t many safe havens for independent developers at the moment.
At Hibernum, being a large independent developer, we have the luxury of taking some risks. However, our primary strategy is understanding where we can compete, where we cannot, and where can we innovate. That’s my advice to all independent developers. Stop trying to compete against the Goliaths and find pockets where there is little competition. Or if you have the breathing room, invest into content, platforms, and technologies that have yet to emerge (VR, AR, etc.).
Predicting the future is extremely difficult, a lot of people try and don’t succeed. What makes you think you’re right?
PW: My strategy when trying to predict the future is to start with the variables that are unlikely to change. This makes predictions a year or two out fairly well informed within a framework of known variables. For instance, EEDAR and many other analysts were bearish on the PC VR market for the past several years. These predictions were anchored by knowledge about the number of GPUs in the consumer market that were even going to be able to play the Oculus and HTC. It was very clear to the informed analyst who wasn’t using this market data when making high predictions for the VR market in 2016.
Obviously, it gets more difficult to predict the future the farther out you go. I chuckle when I see companies put a dollar figure to markets in 2020. What would the estimate of the mobile gaming market have been for 2010 in 2006, two years before the iPhone. Needless to say, not even in the right stratosphere. However, I do think general predictions can be made about the future five years out by once again thinking about the variables that are unlikely to change. Although technology evolves rapidly, human biology and psychology evolves much more slowly. This can be used to help predict the future.
For example, while this may be the last console generation if you think of the console as the box that plays the games, the console game experience isn’t going anywhere. Sitting down and enjoying multiple hours of interactive entertainment on a large screen fits too well with human perception and psychological needs to change that drastically from its current form. And it’s hard to imagine this type of content delivery shifting to F2P. So right there, I’m predicting that AAA gaming and premium games will be just as big of a segment in games as they are now.
JD: I try inspire rather than predict, I try to guide my audience to the right answer that is for them. I lay out the facts, my expertise on the subject, and let my audience determine how to interpret what I’ve presented and apply it to their own business. In my previous response, I recommended that independent developers survive by any means. That could mean going back to work-for-hire, or could mean going lean for a while, or someone may interpret that if everyone laid low, it’s their opportunity to make a big splash and go big on a game and expect little competition.
That being said, as much as we poke fun at analysts for their predictions, we play a vital role in our industry. Now being in a position where I am entirely focused on game development, I have come to appreciate much more for what I’ve done at EEDAR and what Patrick does now. Right or wrong, they keep us informed and spark discussions that hopefully leads to the right decisions we make in terms of product creation.
Jesse – you recently moved from Tilting Point to Hibernum to help manager their product pipeline. Can you tell us a bit more about it and what you’ll be looking for at Game Connection?
JD: Game Connection Paris should be a staple conference for any publisher or developer to attend. Now that I have switched from publisher to developer, I am still planning and booking the same meetings, except now I am on the other side of the table. Instead of trying to find developers like Hibernum to work with, I am trying to find publishers like Tilting Point to partner with. I feel fortunate to be entering these meetings having been on the other side of the table. I know that perspective will be a benefit to Hibernum. I also feel fortunate to be representing a studio of Hibernum’s caliber, with an enviable track record for delivering high quality games for some of the biggest publishers in gaming. Needless to say, I look forward to the negotiation process.
Patrick – EEDAR is a very respected organisation but smaller studios might get the impression that your services are for larger studios (in terms of price and range). Can you tell us how smaller studios can benefit from your services?
PW: You’re correct that EEDAR’s primary business is working with larger studios, especially with our enterprise BI tools such as Gamepulse. However, we are always providing free data and reports through our website, conference talks, and blog posts. These accessible reports are typically as high in quality as our premium reports just less customized to specific research questions. We release these products as much to drive thought leadership and assist smaller studios as we do for marketing purposes. In addition, I’m always happy to connect with indie developers at shows like Game Connection and let them pick my brain during a formal or informal meeting. Connecting with independent developers and sharing our different perspectives and knowledge of various data is one of the most important ways to learn about the industry.