Videogame makers seek footing on shifting landscape

Videogame makers from around the globe are gathering here to seek paths to fortune and glory on a landscape upset by social networks, smartphones, tablet computers, and the Internet "cloud."

More than 18,000 industry insiders are expected to attend the weeklong Game Developers Conference that kicks off Monday in downtown San Francisco.

The event has grown into the world's largest confab of videogame professionals since it started in 1988 with about two dozen computer game loving software developers meeting in a living room.

Major themes at GDC will include adapting to the booming popularity of "social games" at online communities such as Facebook and casual play on smartphones or tablet computers.

"In past years developers treated social games like second-class citizens to consoles," said Scott Steinberg, lead videogame analyst at TechSavvy Global.

"Now, they are facing the reality that this is where the future might lie."

Revenue from social games is likely to exceed a billion dollars this year, according to industry tracker eMarketer.

Facebook stands to benefit nicely from the trend, since about half of its more than 500 million members play games and the social network takes a 30 percent cut of revenue from game transactions.

Internet game playground Hi5 will introduce at GDC a SocioPay platform designed to ramp-up the amount of money developers pump from their creations.

SocioPay will complement a recently-launched Hi5 SocioPath portal that enables game applications to break free of Facebook while letting players stay connected to friends at the social network.

"Think of these as services that give social games the monetization platform and social network features they get from Facebook, but they don't need Facebook to do it," Hi5 president Alex St. John told AFP.

"Social gaming is going to continue to grow dramatically, and one of the ways is it is going to escape from the confines of Facebook," he added.

SocioPay times offers of virtual goods to when people are likely to accept and shows video ads to penurious players.

Fewer than two percent of social game players pay anything, according to industry statistics.

"The system intelligently separates people who will pay and who won't, then monetizes non-payers with ads," said St. John, whose background includes founding game website Wild Tangent and working on Microsoft's Xbox videogame console.

"Not only does it double your money, players like it better."

Hi5 shares in revenues from games it publishes.

Startup Blue Noodle at GDC will unveil Clickstrip technology that pays players in-game currency for clicking on-screen bars to watch 30-second video ads.

"Brands are really interested right now in the social space," said Blue Noodle chief executive Lesley Mansford. "Social networking social gaming is huge."

Habbo Hotel owned by Finland-based Sulake Corp. boasts being the biggest social game community for teenagers, with 16 million young people using the website monthly.

Habbo sells virtual components for people to create online games. It is free to join and play.

For example, someone will buy a virtual soccer field, goals, and ball, then invite friends to take part in matches for free.

A hot game involves creating faux hospitals where friends represented by animated characters play at being doctors, nurses or patients, according to Habbo executive vice president Teemu Huuhtanen.

A version of Habbo tailored for tablet computers is poised for release later this year when a second-generation iPad and devices running on Google's "Honeycomb" software take hold in the market.

"Social games are going to go to tablets," Huuhtanen said. "I don't think a lot of people understand how fast the world is going toward tablets and mobile."

Topics at GDC will include crafting games to be played on mobile gadgets and in Internet browser windows, as well as titles hosted as services online.

Developers will also explore the promise of 3D games and titles for play using motion-sensing controls for Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) videogame consoles.

Kinect for Xbox 360 and Move for PS3 have been hits since their releases late last year in a sign there is still money to be made with blockbuster console titles.

"The game industry continues to be an area of turbulence because everyone is trying to figure out where the future lies," Steinberg said.

"You continue to see studios close, publishing giants re-invent themselves, and the developer community realize the power it has to sell directly to shoppers."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Ashdown Group: C# Developer

    £30000 - £36000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# Developer A highly s...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Test Engineer

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading software...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...