7 Things Mobile Game Devs Need to Know From E3 2015
June 26, 2015
This year, over 52,000 video game pros from 109 different countries descended on Los Angeles for what is arguably the biggest gaming trade show in the world: Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). For three days, 300 exhibitors showed off more than 1,600 products, while every major video game platform (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) plus a host of individual gaming publishers (Electronic Arts, Ubisoft) paraded blockbuster titles before audiences.With all the hoopla and focus on video games, it may have seemed like an indie mobile developer had nothing to see at glitzy E3, so I sifted through the noise to give you the most important mobile gaming takeaways from this year's event:
1. Streaming and sharing is big business
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Photo: Rob LeFebvre[/caption]One thing I learned at E3: Engaged gamers are happy gamers. According to conference organizers, there were over 6.3 million posts about the event on Twitter and 7.5 million likes on E3-related posts on Instagram. Twitch TV reported over 500,000 viewers watched its streaming press conferences at E3, while over one million E3-related videos appeared on YouTube. That's a whole lot of gamers ? and an indication that social platforms are a fantastic way for indie devs to tap into a massive (and engaged) gaming audience.
2. Virtual reality is here to stay ...
Last year, the Oculus Rift booth at E3 was a small, intimate affair with a handful of gamers anxious to immerse themselves in a 360-degree virtual reality experience. This year, Oculus presided over a massive booth with lines snaking out and around the surrounding areas. Microsoft also announced a partnership with Oculus, hoping to provide support to the millions of Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers. With this kind of ubiquity, Oculus Rift (as well as other VR competitors like Sony's Project Morpheus) is coming soon to a living room near you. Add Google's Cardboard mobile VR initiative, and you can see how important being ready to make VR-enabled games is going to be ... and soon.
3. ? And so is augmented reality
Microsoft also announced HoloLens, a new device that's been eight years in the making. It's almost the opposite of Oculus' VR rig ? instead of immersing yourself in a completely virtual environment to play video games, HoloLens will bring those video games to the outside world, projecting games like Minecraft onto your physical surroundings to let you play in your own environment.[caption id="attachment_9105" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
Image via research.microsoft.com[/caption]HoloLens is still in the early stages, but the glasses-based augmented reality has a ton of implications for game devs. Look to this early tech to take off and head to mobile before long: Imagine playing a geo-located game like Ingress when you can look up into the real world to find portals to hack. Brilliant.
4. Gamers are looking for diversity
E3 2015 was full of interesting and innovative games that might not at first blush seem in-line with what we expect from big business gaming. The overwhelmingly positive reactions to titles like Unravel(where you play as an adorable character made of yarn) and No Man's Sky (an indie darling that offers brightly colored space and planet exploration) show that players want to be surprised and intrigued. The takeaway: Don't just create games that follow the trends, be the trend with gaming properties that break the rules and invite your audience in.
5. It's the games, not the business model
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Image via Bethsoft.com[/caption]Players want to be wowed by your games, not your choice of monetization strategies. While profit is paramount, you're not going to do well if you don't pay attention to the actual game you?re creating. Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play mobile tower-building simulation game in Bethesda's hugely popular Fallout universe, was announced at E3 as a companion to the upcoming console and PC sequel, Fallout 4. The little iOS-only game isn't anything new, and its in-app purchase structure is simple, but it's gorgeous, well-implemented and fun to play. It shot to the top of the Top Grossing charts in the first day after release, pushing out King?s Candy Crush.
6. Success comes through pleasing your audience
When Microsoft's next-generation Xbox One was announced last year at E3, it hit all the wrong notes with the gaming faithful. The keynote focused too much on technical specs and live television capabilities, and not enough time on games. This year, Microsoft pivoted: Now you can play games from the previous generation console, the Xbox 360, on your new Xbox One. This is a feature that most people realize should have been in the box from the start, but by changing tack and giving gamers what they want ? a way to play their massive back-catalog of 360 games ? Microsoft showed that even big corporations can learn from their mistakes. So don't be afraid to pay attention to your own missteps and add features to your games that address what you're hearing from the majority of your players.
7. Mobile is important (Duh!)
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Photo: Rob LeFebvre[/caption]As I wandered around the various exposition areas of E3, I found more and more mobile games made by independent developers sitting in (and holding their own) with the big corporations. Small teams of developers were there to show off their games, like the 3Queens group, who developed a game parody of the Kardashian mobile game, Creeping with the Crudashians, in just under a year. An independent developer on the show floor touted his one-of-a-kind digital collectible card system based on Bitcoin, Deckbound, showing that there are indeed new innovations in a space that might seem over-crowded already.When you feel the weight of the massive gaming industry hovering over you, remember that there is plenty of space for innovation, engagement and fun. We shouldn't have to say it twice: Mobile gaming is huge, and it's here to stay.