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Posts Tagged ‘Games’

Developers are dissatisfied with app marketing and advertising

July 1st, 2013 No comments
MobileBeat 2013
July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CA
Tickets On Sale Now

More than 70 percent of developers are dissatisfied with their current options for app marketing and advertising.

That’s the results of a survey by Papaya Mobile, which offers the AppFlood service for promoting mobile games and apps. The survey shows that the majority of developers don’t have a clear idea of the benefits of mobile marketing channels. In particular, they don’t trust ad network providers.

Papaya Mobile, based in Beijing, surveyed more than 1,000 developers of all sizes to get perspective on the state of mobile app promotion and monetization. The company found that this kind of issue is one place where the mobile experience, which is the theme for our upcoming MobileBeat 2013 conference, could definitely improve.

The survey found that cost wasn’t the most important factor in choosing a mobile ad partner. Cost ranked third, chosen by 37 percent of the respondents. The most important factor for half the developers was whether they could trust the ad partner to deliver effective results at a reasonable price. They have so many options that they’re confused about which approach is the best.

About 48 percent of developers felt that the cost of user acquisition was too expensive. Developers with 15 employees or less expressed the most dissatisfaction, with 53 percent saying user acquisition was too expensive, while only 33 percent of large developers (with 50 or more staff) saying that.

About 71 percent of all respondents said that ad networks exaggerated their eCPM (effective Cost Per Thousand impressions) claims. Overall, medium-sized developers were the most dissatisfied with the eCPM claims of ad networks, with 80 percent or more citing they felt that eCPM figures were exaggerated. About 70 percent of small developers and 60 percent of large developers shared that view.

The marketing budget for 78 percent of developers is $5,000 or less. About 12 percent have a budget of $5,000 to $10,000, and only 10 percent of developers can spend more than $10,000 to support an app launch.

Most developers said they are happier with a “do it yourself” approach to their app marketing, with 73 percent preferring to purchase and book their own media for campaigns rather than hand it over to a specialist media planning agency.

When asked how they decided which ad network or marketing service to use, 26 percent of smaller developers, 19 percent of medium developers, and 12 percent of large developers all responded that “they took a chance” when making their decision.

Si Shen, the chief executive of Papaya Mobile, said, “Developers instinctively gravitate towards big name ad networks and service providers in the belief that they can ‘trust’ these brands to offer an effective app marketing service. However, the fact that the vast majority of developers – especially smaller ones – are also unhappy with the results achieved relative to the cost suggests a gulf in expectations between themselves and the ad network providers.”

“To properly earn the trust of today’s cost-conscious developers, for whom meaningful results and a positive return on investment on their marketing investment are a priority, ad providers must be prepared to be more transparent with their app marketing offerings – especially around campaign planning, reporting, and measurement,” Shen added.

Papaya Mobile was founded in 2008.

Appflood survey results.
Papaya Mobile

Appflood survey results.


Filed under: Dev, Games, Mobile
    


Tags: , , , ,

Developers are dissatisfied with app marketing and advertising

July 1st, 2013 No comments
MobileBeat 2013
July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CA
Tickets On Sale Now

More than 70 percent of developers are dissatisfied with their current options for app marketing and advertising.

That’s the results of a survey by Papaya Mobile, which offers the AppFlood service for promoting mobile games and apps. The survey shows that the majority of developers don’t have a clear idea of the benefits of mobile marketing channels. In particular, they don’t trust ad network providers.

Papaya Mobile, based in Beijing, surveyed more than 1,000 developers of all sizes to get perspective on the state of mobile app promotion and monetization. The company found that this kind of issue is one place where the mobile experience, which is the theme for our upcoming MobileBeat 2013 conference, could definitely improve.

The survey found that cost wasn’t the most important factor in choosing a mobile ad partner. Cost ranked third, chosen by 37 percent of the respondents. The most important factor for half the developers was whether they could trust the ad partner to deliver effective results at a reasonable price. They have so many options that they’re confused about which approach is the best.

About 48 percent of developers felt that the cost of user acquisition was too expensive. Developers with 15 employees or less expressed the most dissatisfaction, with 53 percent saying user acquisition was too expensive, while only 33 percent of large developers (with 50 or more staff) saying that.

About 71 percent of all respondents said that ad networks exaggerated their eCPM (effective Cost Per Thousand impressions) claims. Overall, medium-sized developers were the most dissatisfied with the eCPM claims of ad networks, with 80 percent or more citing they felt that eCPM figures were exaggerated. About 70 percent of small developers and 60 percent of large developers shared that view.

The marketing budget for 78 percent of developers is $5,000 or less. About 12 percent have a budget of $5,000 to $10,000, and only 10 percent of developers can spend more than $10,000 to support an app launch.

Most developers said they are happier with a “do it yourself” approach to their app marketing, with 73 percent preferring to purchase and book their own media for campaigns rather than hand it over to a specialist media planning agency.

When asked how they decided which ad network or marketing service to use, 26 percent of smaller developers, 19 percent of medium developers, and 12 percent of large developers all responded that “they took a chance” when making their decision.

Si Shen, the chief executive of Papaya Mobile, said, “Developers instinctively gravitate towards big name ad networks and service providers in the belief that they can ‘trust’ these brands to offer an effective app marketing service. However, the fact that the vast majority of developers – especially smaller ones – are also unhappy with the results achieved relative to the cost suggests a gulf in expectations between themselves and the ad network providers.”

“To properly earn the trust of today’s cost-conscious developers, for whom meaningful results and a positive return on investment on their marketing investment are a priority, ad providers must be prepared to be more transparent with their app marketing offerings – especially around campaign planning, reporting, and measurement,” Shen added.

Papaya Mobile was founded in 2008.

Appflood survey results.
Papaya Mobile

Appflood survey results.


Filed under: Dev, Games, Mobile
    


Tags: , , , ,

Report: Zynga to hire Microsoft’s game chief as CEO

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft’s game business, is expected to leave the company and become the CEO of social gaming giant Zynga, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

If that happens, it would be a major change for the game industry, as Mattrick is widely considered to be one of the most experienced and best executives in the video game business.

It might also set back Microsoft’s plans to launch its Xbox One game console, and possibly frustrate Electronic Arts’ search for a new chief executive. Microsoft and Zynga declined to comment to the Journal, and we’ve pinged them for a comment. The report cited multiple anonymous sources that the announced could be made as early as today, after the markets close.

Mattrick would likely be one of the only executives with enough credibility to convince Pincus to give up the reins at Zynga, the social game company that he founded in 2007. Zynga saw a meteoric rise as gaming took off on Facebook and it went public in 2011. But as the company grew to more than 3,000 people, it lost its mojo. Competition on Facebook rose and Zynga failed to execute on the transition to mobile games, where other companies have the advantage. The stock has been under pressure for more than a year, particularly since John Schappert, the No. 2 executive at Zynga and a former Electronic Arts veteran, resigned from the company.

Mattrick spent many years as a top executive at EA and ran its worldwide game studios until he made the jump to Microsoft in 2007. There, he helped spearhead the launch of the Kinect motion-sensing system and helped turn around Microsoft’s business in gaming, making it consistently profitable. For the past couple of years, Microsoft has had the most momentum in the console game business and it recently announced the details on the Xbox One, a next-generaiton game console that will launch in November. In that respect, the timing of the announcement will be tough for Microsoft, if it is correct.

Mattrick had been considered a frontrunner to be the next CEO of EA, whose previous boss, John Riccitiello, resigned earlier this year. Both EA and Zynga are in need of a seasoned hand as the gaming markets evolve and competitive landscape changes. Zynga recently shut down a bunch of games and laid off more than 500 employees. EA is trying to hold costs down, even as it staffs up for next-generation games on the new consoles.

Zynga’s board could hire Mattrick only with the consent of Pincus, who still controls more than half of the company’s voting stock. We’ve heard that Mattrick, a Canadian native, has a new home in the Bay Area and that he has long wanted to return  to the region.

Mattrick’s most recent strategy, as revealed in the unveiling of the Xbox One, got kudos in general. But gamers reacted negatively to policies relating to consumer rights. Specifically, they hated that Microsoft planned to curtail the sale and usage of used games, didn’t have a clear position on privacy related to the new Kinect camera in the system, and would require an online check-in for the box every 24 hours. Microsoft had to backpedal on those policies. While those foibles were widely criticized, it’s not likely that those matters alone would for Mattrick to seek a new job.

 

 

 


Filed under: Games

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
    


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Report: Zynga to hire Microsoft’s game chief as CEO

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft’s game business, is expected to leave the company and become the CEO of social gaming giant Zynga, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

If that happens, it would be a major change for the game industry, as Mattrick is widely considered to be one of the most experienced and best executives in the video game business.

It might also set back Microsoft’s plans to launch its Xbox One game console, and possibly frustrate Electronic Arts’ search for a new chief executive. Microsoft and Zynga declined to comment to the Journal, and we’ve pinged them for a comment. The report cited multiple anonymous sources that the announced could be made as early as today, after the markets close.

Mattrick would likely be one of the only executives with enough credibility to convince Pincus to give up the reins at Zynga, the social game company that he founded in 2007. Zynga saw a meteoric rise as gaming took off on Facebook and it went public in 2011. But as the company grew to more than 3,000 people, it lost its mojo. Competition on Facebook rose and Zynga failed to execute on the transition to mobile games, where other companies have the advantage. The stock has been under pressure for more than a year, particularly since John Schappert, the No. 2 executive at Zynga and a former Electronic Arts veteran, resigned from the company.

Mattrick spent many years as a top executive at EA and ran its worldwide game studios until he made the jump to Microsoft in 2007. There, he helped spearhead the launch of the Kinect motion-sensing system and helped turn around Microsoft’s business in gaming, making it consistently profitable. For the past couple of years, Microsoft has had the most momentum in the console game business and it recently announced the details on the Xbox One, a next-generaiton game console that will launch in November. In that respect, the timing of the announcement will be tough for Microsoft, if it is correct.

Mattrick had been considered a frontrunner to be the next CEO of EA, whose previous boss, John Riccitiello, resigned earlier this year. Both EA and Zynga are in need of a seasoned hand as the gaming markets evolve and competitive landscape changes. Zynga recently shut down a bunch of games and laid off more than 500 employees. EA is trying to hold costs down, even as it staffs up for next-generation games on the new consoles.

Zynga’s board could hire Mattrick only with the consent of Pincus, who still controls more than half of the company’s voting stock. We’ve heard that Mattrick, a Canadian native, has a new home in the Bay Area and that he has long wanted to return  to the region.

Mattrick’s most recent strategy, as revealed in the unveiling of the Xbox One, got kudos in general. But gamers reacted negatively to policies relating to consumer rights. Specifically, they hated that Microsoft planned to curtail the sale and usage of used games, didn’t have a clear position on privacy related to the new Kinect camera in the system, and would require an online check-in for the box every 24 hours. Microsoft had to backpedal on those policies. While those foibles were widely criticized, it’s not likely that those matters alone would for Mattrick to seek a new job.

 

 

 


Filed under: Games

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
    


Tags: ,
Tags: ,

Report: Zynga to hire Microsoft’s game chief Don Mattrick as CEO

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft’s game business, is expected to leave the company and become the CEO of social gaming giant Zynga, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

If that happens, it would be a major change for the game industry, as Mattrick is widely considered to be one of the most experienced and best executives in the video game business.

Mattrick’s expected departure might also set back Microsoft’s plans to launch its Xbox One game console and possibly frustrate Electronic Arts’ search for a new chief executive. Microsoft and Zynga declined to comment to the Journal, and we’ve asked both for a comment. The report cited multiple anonymous sources that the announcement could be made as early as today, after the markets close. Zynga’s stock price is up 9.5 percent to $3.05 a share, which is good for recent trading but is far below the $10 a share initial public offering price. Microsoft’s stock dipped slightly, down 0.2 percent.

Mattrick would likely be one of the only industry executives with enough credibility to convince Pincus to give up the reins at Zynga, the social game company that he founded in 2007. Zynga saw a meteoric rise as gaming took off on Facebook, and it went public in 2011. But as the company grew to more than 3,000 people, it lost its mojo. Competition on Facebook rose, and Zynga failed to execute on the transition to mobile games, where other companies such as King and Supercell have the advantage. The stock has been under pressure for more than a year, particularly since John Schappert, the No. 2 executive at Zynga and a former Electronic Arts veteran, resigned from the company.

Mattrick spent many years as a top executive at EA and ran its worldwide game studios until he made the jump to Microsoft in 2007. There, he helped spearhead the launch of the Kinect motion-sensing system and helped turn around Microsoft’s business in gaming, making it consistently profitable. For the past couple of years, Microsoft has had the most momentum in the console game business and it recently announced the details on the Xbox One, a next-generation game console that will launch in November. In that respect, the timing of the announcement will be tough for Microsoft, if it is correct.

Mattrick had been considered a frontrunner to be the next CEO of EA, whose previous boss, John Riccitiello, resigned earlier this year. Both EA and Zynga are in need of a seasoned hand as the gaming markets evolve and competitive landscape changes. Zynga recently shut down a bunch of games and laid off more than 500 employees. EA is trying to hold costs down, even as it staffs up for next-generation games on the new consoles.

Zynga’s board could hire Mattrick only with the consent of Pincus, who still controls more than half of the company’s voting stock. We’ve heard that Mattrick, a Canadian native, has a new home in the Bay Area and that he has long wanted to return  to the region.

Mattrick’s most recent strategy, as revealed in the unveiling of the Xbox One, got mixed reviews. Gamers reacted negatively to policies relating to consumer rights. Specifically, they hated that Microsoft planned to curtail the sale and use of used games, didn’t have a clear position on privacy related to the new Kinect camera in the system, and would require an online check-in for the box every 24 hours. Sony also undercut Microsoft by pricing the rival PlayStation 4 (also coming this fall) at $399, while Microsoft pegged its initial price at $499.

Microsoft had to backpedal on the consumer rights policies, but it hasn’t changed its price yet. While those foibles were widely criticized, it’s not likely that those matters alone would cause Mattrick to seek a new job, at least in my opinion.


Filed under: Games

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
Tags: , , , , , ,

How Sony applied the lessons of the past in designing the PlayStation 4

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Sony’s PlayStation 4 was designed with considerable input from game developers. And it was made to simplify process of designing high-quality games, according to PS 4 architect Mark Cerny. In a speech at the Gamelab game conference in Barcelona, Spain, Cerny said that Sony went out of its way in this generation to win over influential game developers as it pitched them their ultimate game machine.

PS 4 at E3
Dean Takahashi

PS 4 at E3

Sony designed the PlayStation 3 in secrecy without much game developer input. It wound up with a complex and costly machine that proved difficult for developers to master, and Sony paid for that in the last generation. Now it learned from those mistakes and has applied the lessons to the design of the PS 4, Cerny said.

The PS 3 delivered supercomputing power on a chip, but developers didn’t know how to handle the eight subprocessors on them. And Sony didn’t help matters because it didn’t build tools to help them take advantage of them in a timely manner. The result was a weak game line-up at the launch of the PS 3. That caused a leadership change at Sony, all the way to the top. Now former PlayStation chief Kaz Hirai is chief executive of all of Sony. Andrew House, former third-party developer head, runs the PlayStation business. Cerny’s benefactor Shu Yoshida is head of game studios, and Cerny leaned heavily on developer feedback to design the PS 4.

In the past, Sony’s internal developers seized the chance to get early access to prototype hardware as a way to get an advantage on other developers. But this time, third-party developers were viewed as an essential part of the ecosystem.

“We figured out that third parties were essential for the platform’s success,” Cerny said.

That may seem obvious now. But under Ken Kutaragi, the father of the PlayStation, Sony operated in a much different way. Kutaragi was a lot like Apple’s Steve Jobs, focusing on his own intuition rather than developer feedback.

This time, without Kutaragi at the helm, Sony invited collaboration. Cerny sent out a questionnaire asking what developers wanted  from more than 30 game development studios. He studied the options and discovered that developers favored x86 architecture, the Intel-based designs that have been at the heart of the PC for more than three decades.

By switching to PC-based designs, Sony made it a lot easier for developers to create game prototypes and move forward with the creation of launch titles. By contrast, it took six months to a year to get working prototypes with the PS 3 at the outset.

PS 4
Leonard Lee

PS 4

And this time, Sony created all of the tools needed for the PS 4 game development much earlier in the process than it did for the PS 3. In fact, since the technology was based on the PC, many of those tools already existed. For Sony, the dark years of 2005 to 2007, when Sony lost its top position in games, were a “unifying experience,” Cerny said.

“Anyone who lived through those times understands the need for international communication,” Cerny said. “The value of frank and open conversation, the importance of software tools, and the vital role of third parties.”

Sony kept in mind the need to keep costs lower this time around. This time, the PS 4 will cost $399 at launch, compared to the $599 PS 3.

Sony also invested heavily in the graphics part of the main processor, which had both a central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) on one chip. It customized the graphics so that developers could tap the graphics processors to do non-graphics tasks. Over time, this part of the machine will allow developers to make their games more sophisticated over time. In other words, the developers have a chance to create games quickly and then master the art of making even better games for the machine over time, Cerny said.

Cerny said Sony’s strategy to win over elite game developers was to talk on their level with an extraordinary amount of detail. That’s why he toured the globe to brief game developers on the details, bringing as many as 500 Powerpoint slides with him. He talked to big game studios for eight hours at a time.

Cerny said, “To have sustained conversations with these busy people means you have to be as fluent in the technology as they are.”

They didn’t always like his answers. Once, he flew thousands of miles, only to get booed on stage. At one meeting, one developer told Sony officials that, if the PlayStation 4 didn’t have eight gigabytes of main memory, then “Sony was dead.”

Sony pleased developers by focusing on a unified memory system, with one set of memory for developers to address, rather than two. And it went with a simpler data flow, rather than a faster, more complex solution.

“It’s eye-opening. That is the sort of passion that lets us know if we are on the wrong track and need to come up with a new direction,”  he said. “The payoff is huge for this kind of approach.”

He said that the PS 4′s hard drive enables “living software,” where players can return to a game world and find that it has new features. That came about because of developer feedback. Cerny said that he hopes that the policies of engaging with game developers around the world will live onward. Cerny didn’t say it, but there certainly seems like there is a lot of learning from what Microsoft accomplished with Xbox Live, which has been continuously updated every year to offer new services to gamers and game developers.

“We never would have understood where game makers are taking their titles in the next decade,” he said.

Here’s our other stories on Cerny’s speech:

Why Sony went with PC chips for the PS 4
Mistakes of the PS 3
How Sony entrusted the PS 4′s design to an American consultantAnd here’s a video of the talk.


Filed under: Games

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
Tags: , , ,

How Sony applied the lessons of the past in designing the PlayStation 4

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Sony’s PlayStation 4 was designed with considerable input from game developers. And it was made to simplify process of designing high-quality games, according to PS 4 architect Mark Cerny. In a speech at the Gamelab game conference in Barcelona, Spain, Cerny said that Sony went out of its way in this generation to win over influential game developers as it pitched them their ultimate game machine.

PS 4 at E3
Dean Takahashi

PS 4 at E3

Sony designed the PlayStation 3 in secrecy without much game developer input. It wound up with a complex and costly machine that proved difficult for developers to master, and Sony paid for that in the last generation. Now it learned from those mistakes and has applied the lessons to the design of the PS 4, Cerny said.

The PS 3 delivered supercomputing power on a chip, but developers didn’t know how to handle the eight subprocessors on them. And Sony didn’t help matters because it didn’t build tools to help them take advantage of them in a timely manner. The result was a weak game line-up at the launch of the PS 3. That caused a leadership change at Sony, all the way to the top. Now former PlayStation chief Kaz Hirai is chief executive of all of Sony. Andrew House, former third-party developer head, runs the PlayStation business. Cerny’s benefactor Shu Yoshida is head of game studios, and Cerny leaned heavily on developer feedback to design the PS 4.

In the past, Sony’s internal developers seized the chance to get early access to prototype hardware as a way to get an advantage on other developers. But this time, third-party developers were viewed as an essential part of the ecosystem.

“We figured out that third parties were essential for the platform’s success,” Cerny said.

That may seem obvious now. But under Ken Kutaragi, the father of the PlayStation, Sony operated in a much different way. Kutaragi was a lot like Apple’s Steve Jobs, focusing on his own intuition rather than developer feedback.

This time, without Kutaragi at the helm, Sony invited collaboration. Cerny sent out a questionnaire asking what developers wanted  from more than 30 game development studios. He studied the options and discovered that developers favored x86 architecture, the Intel-based designs that have been at the heart of the PC for more than three decades.

By switching to PC-based designs, Sony made it a lot easier for developers to create game prototypes and move forward with the creation of launch titles. By contrast, it took six months to a year to get working prototypes with the PS 3 at the outset.

PS 4
Leonard Lee

PS 4

And this time, Sony created all of the tools needed for the PS 4 game development much earlier in the process than it did for the PS 3. In fact, since the technology was based on the PC, many of those tools already existed. For Sony, the dark years of 2005 to 2007, when Sony lost its top position in games, were a “unifying experience,” Cerny said.

“Anyone who lived through those times understands the need for international communication,” Cerny said. “The value of frank and open conversation, the importance of software tools, and the vital role of third parties.”

Sony kept in mind the need to keep costs lower this time around. This time, the PS 4 will cost $399 at launch, compared to the $599 PS 3.

Sony also invested heavily in the graphics part of the main processor, which had both a central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) on one chip. It customized the graphics so that developers could tap the graphics processors to do non-graphics tasks. Over time, this part of the machine will allow developers to make their games more sophisticated over time. In other words, the developers have a chance to create games quickly and then master the art of making even better games for the machine over time, Cerny said.

Cerny said Sony’s strategy to win over elite game developers was to talk on their level with an extraordinary amount of detail. That’s why he toured the globe to brief game developers on the details, bringing as many as 500 Powerpoint slides with him. He talked to big game studios for eight hours at a time.

Cerny said, “To have sustained conversations with these busy people means you have to be as fluent in the technology as they are.”

They didn’t always like his answers. Once, he flew thousands of miles, only to get booed on stage. At one meeting, one developer told Sony officials that, if the PlayStation 4 didn’t have eight gigabytes of main memory, then “Sony was dead.”

Sony pleased developers by focusing on a unified memory system, with one set of memory for developers to address, rather than two. And it went with a simpler data flow, rather than a faster, more complex solution.

“It’s eye-opening. That is the sort of passion that lets us know if we are on the wrong track and need to come up with a new direction,”  he said. “The payoff is huge for this kind of approach.”

He said that the PS 4′s hard drive enables “living software,” where players can return to a game world and find that it has new features. That came about because of developer feedback. Cerny said that he hopes that the policies of engaging with game developers around the world will live onward. Cerny didn’t say it, but there certainly seems like there is a lot of learning from what Microsoft accomplished with Xbox Live, which has been continuously updated every year to offer new services to gamers and game developers.

“We never would have understood where game makers are taking their titles in the next decade,” he said.

Here’s our other stories on Cerny’s speech:

Why Sony went with PC chips for the PS 4
Mistakes of the PS 3
How Sony entrusted the PS 4′s design to an American consultantAnd here’s a video of the talk.


Filed under: Games

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
    


Tags: , , ,

Social casino games have a new Caesar — and it’s not Zynga

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment has toppled Zynga as the No. 1 publisher of social casino games, according to a report by research firm Eilers Research.

That shows that the social casino game market, which is now worth $1.2 billion worldwide, is becoming a lot more competitive thanks to growth in demand, increased startup activity, and a series of high-profile acquisitions.

Caesar’s is one of the world’s largest legal gambling companies. It acquired Israel’s Playtika in 2011 and picked up popular social games such as Slotomania. Now, that title as well as Slotomania Adventures, Bingo Blitz (acquired with the purchase of Buffalo Studios), and Caesar’s Casino have pushed Caesar’s to the No. 1 position with 18.6 percent of the overall market in the second quarter, Eilers Research said.

By comparison, Zynga has 15 percent of the market. Zynga previously dominated the market with Zynga Poker. It has expanded to titles Zynga Slingo, Zynga Slots, and Zynga Bingo, and it recently acquired Spooky Cool Labs as part of an expansion in the space.

Eilers said that IGT, the big slot machine company, has moved into the No. 3 position with 14 percent of the market thanks to its $500 million acquisition of Double Down Interactive. WMS is in the No. 4 spot.

Overall, social casino game revenues on Facebook were down 2 percent from the previous quarter to $309 million. Zynga lost market share in the quarter due to double-digit percentage declines in users for Zynga Poker on both Facebook and mobile platforms. Big Fish Games’ Big Fish Casino is the largest standalone social casino app on mobile with an estimated $14.5 million in quarterly revenues, mostly from iOS.

The overall market is expected to grow 67 percent this year to $2 billion by the end of the 2013, Eilers said.

The social casino game market.
Eilers Research

The social casino game market.


Filed under: Business, Games, Mobile, Social

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mark Cerny frankly recounts Sony’s mistakes with the PlayStation 3

June 30th, 2013 No comments

Mark Cerny, architect of Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 gaming console, made some interesting and frank observations about the mistakes that Sony made with the launch of the PlayStation 3.

In a speech at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona, Cerny acknowledged Sony’s mistakes with the PS3, and he said that these experiences explain why Sony is taking a more collaborative and simpler technology approach with the design of the PlayStation 4. Here’s part one of our coverage of Cerny’s talk.

PS3 game design times
Sony

PS3 game engine design times stretched out.

Sony’s PS3 foibles are well-known in the video game industry, and they explain why the company fell behind both Microsoft and Nintendo during the last generation, after dominating the preceding era with the PlayStation 2. Sony representatives have rarely discussed the criticism and details behind those mistakes. While Cerny led the design of the PS4, which comes out this fall, he is a consultant at Cerny Games and isn’t a full-time Sony lifer. That might explain why he was more frank in describing the PS3′s problems and how they contributed to an improved design for the PS4.

Cerny can talk about these issues because they happened a while ago, and, for the most part, they weren’t his fault. Consequently, people can lay the responsibility for the success of the PlayStation business and the weaknesses of the PS3 squarely at the feet of Ken Kutaragi, the father of the PlayStation business at Sony.

The PS3 project started auspiciously enough in 2001 when, at the peak of Sony’s success with the PlayStation 2, Kutaragi announced that Sony, Toshiba, and IBM would collaborate on the Cell microprocessor that would become the heart of what would become the PlayStation 3. Hundreds of engineers designed the chip over several years, and it represented a radical departure from typical single-graphics-chip, single-processor blueprints. The Cell had eight cores, dubbed Special Processing Elements (SPEs). It was powerful but complex.

Shuhei Yoshida, then head of Sony’s game studios in the U.S., received approval to embed a team of game programmers — including Cerny — inside the PS3 hardware team to explore game creation. Cerny became a member of a team dubbed ICE, which stood for the Initiative for a Common Engine, whose job was to envision the titles of the next generation. Yoshida’s idea was to get games in development as much as a year earlier in order to be ready for the launch. It was a good thought, but, in reality, it wasn’t early enough.

In the summer of 2003, Cerny went to Japan to study the Cell. He had expected “something from a James Bond movie” but found that a small number of people was driving the project. The Cell design was already done.

Cerny looked at the documentation behind Kutaragi’s design. He saw that the chip was powerful but only if you could really master the SPEs.

Sony focus
Sony

Sony focused too much on hardware, not software.

“The [SPEs] had huge potential, but huge effort was required to program them,” he said.

You had to take an operation and break it down into subroutines and then dispatch each to a subprocessor. Once you learned how to do that, it was like solving a very complex puzzle. Cerny admired the technology but didn’t realize it would lead to a console that would be too expensive.

“I stayed focused on how to best use the chip that had already been designed,” Cerny said.

Cerny said it was exciting to work on the new hardware but scary because it was hard to figure out how to make the most basic tasks work. For Sony’s first-party team of internal game developers, the early insight was a huge advantage. Thinking only about their own interests, the Sony dev teams thought about how they would have a “tremendous lead over third parties” who would not learn about how to program the machine until much later. They didn’t understand at this time that this would become the console’s main weakness.

“We were thinking about our own game titles for SCEA [Sony Computer Entertainment America] in the U.S., not the platform at all,” he said.

By early 2005, the focus shifted to creating launch titles for the PS3, which had a holiday 2006 launch. But game makers found very little support. Sony’s engineers had not yet created a quality debugger for the SPEs. A low-level graphics driver (code that helps titles talk to the hardware) did not exist and neither did a graphics chip debugger or performance tools. The first-party game developers were having a hard time, and the third-party teams were even worse off. But Sony eventually realized that third parties were essential to the success of its system.

Cerny figured out that it took six months for teams to create an engine that would enable the prototypes that were a necessary part of finishing games. That compared to three-to-six months for the PS2 and one-to-two months for the original PlayStation. The new technology delivered gorgeous final releases, but the complexity had gone up an order of magnitude.

The result, Cerny admitted, was a “weak launch lineup.”

PlayStation 4
Leonard Lee

PlayStation 4

He said, “Anyone who lived through those times understands the need for international communication, the value of frank and open conversations, software tools, and the role of third parties.”

Cerny didn’t disclose everything that went wrong with the PlayStation 3. One of the biggest crises came as the team tried to figure out how to program the Sony-designed graphics chip. The complicated hardware didn’t take into account a revolution that had happened in PC gaming, where graphics chip maker Nvidia had pioneered a new technique dubbed “programmable shading.” With it, developers could run a graphics program on every single pixel of a game scene, allowing for much greater complexity in 3D images.

Sony scrapped its in-house graphics chip and, at the last minute, signed a deal with Nvidia to provide its RSX custom graphics chip for the PS3. Cerny glossed over the big change in plans, but he acknowledged that the team had to “scrap” a lot of work. This, along with the decision to include a Blu-ray media player in the PS3 led to a considerable delay in the launch of the console. Overall, the cost of the Cell and the accompanying technology forced Sony to price the initial machine at $599. It launched in 2006, a full year after Microsoft’s Xbox 360 debuted.

At first, Sony’s game lineup was weak. Microsoft closed the gap in both technology and game quality, but Nintendo surprised both with the launch of the motion-sensing Wii game console. In 2010, Microsoft made a comeback with the launch of its Kinect motion sensor, and Sony lagged behind. It went from complete dominance with the PS2 to third place with the PS3.

Did Sony learn from its PS3 failures? We’ll find out this fall.

Here’s Cerny’s full talk.


Filed under: Business, Games

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How Sony entrusted the design of the PlayStation 4 to an American consultant

June 29th, 2013 No comments

In the creation of the PlayStation 4, Sony took the unprecedented step of entrusting its crown jewel to a game developer who was a consultant, not a full-time employee of the company.

Mark Cerny was a seasoned game developer with decades of experience producing blockbuster Sony games such as the Crash Bandicoot series, Spyro the Dragon, and Jak & Daxter. But in all of his time working closely with the Japanese company, he was never an employee. Since 1998, Cerny has worked on his own as a consultant at Cerny Games, according to a speech he gave at the Gamelab 2013 conference in Barcelona, Spain. The speech offered unique insight into the design of the PS 4, Sony’s next-generation game console that debuts this fall.

The fact that Cerny was a consultant seems like, at least on the surface, a tremendous risk for Sony, given the secrecy involved in designing a project like the PS 4, which represents the future of the whole company. But it’s no surprise, once you learn more of the details. In fact, getting Cerny to design the PS 4 — a move that Cerny attributed to Shuhei Yoshida, head of worldwide game studios at Sony — could turn out to be one of the best decisions Sony has made in a long time. Cerny is an accomplished game developer, having made

cerny kkCerny was the youngest employee at Atari when he joined at age 17. He has been making games for 31 years and worked on 30 games during that time. Most of the titles he worked on were first-party games, and many of them pushed the edge of what was technologically possible at the time.  He worked at Atari, Sega, and Crystal Dynamics. But his ascendancy really began when he became an executive and then head of Universal Interactive Studios in 1994. He began producing games for the brand-new Sony PlayStation and worked with fledgling studios Naughty Dog on Crash Bandicoot and Insomniac Games on Spyro the Dragon.

In 1998, Cerny left Universal to start Cerny Games and he continued to produce games as an outside consultant. Sony bought Naughty Dog and Cerny continued to work with the developers who were part of the PlayStation universe. Cerny was always technical and he had experience writing real-time game engines, which enable games to run on console hardware. He was also fluent in Japanese, which enabled him to communicate with hardware engineers and software creators in Japan or the U.S.

Ken Kutaragi, the Japanese father of the PlayStation, was commander-in-chief of Sony’s game business. Under Kutaragi, Cerny worked closely with Andrew House, a Brit who headed third-party developer relations for the PlayStation, and Yoshida, who ran Sony’s game development in the U.S. and later around the globe. Yoshida asked Cerny to help lead a team dubbed ICE, whose job was to create code for the upcoming PlayStation 3 game console.

During the summer of 2003, Cerny went to meet the PS 3 hardware engineering team. They gave him a test, asking him to program something for their Cell processor, which was still in development. He was able to figure out how to make programs run on the Cell, and so they accepted him on the team.

Later on, many other developers complained that the Cell was too complicated. Cerny didn’t have the power to change that chip, but he took the lesson to heart. In early 2005, Sony was just starting to tell third-party game developers how to make games for the PS 3, but there were no tools available for software programmers to create those games at the time. Sony hadn’t made them yet. I recall running into Cerny at the E3 video game trade show in June 2005. He was having a heated discussion with Jim Kahle, an IBM fellow and architect of the Cell processor. I can imagine what they were talking about.

PS 4
Leonard Lee

PS 4

“I just stayed focused on how to best use the chip that had already been designed,” Cerny said. It was exciting because everything was so new, but it was scary because it was so hard to do even basic tasks via programming.

After the PlayStation 3 had a difficult birth and went out at too high a price at $599 in 2006, Kutaragi’s fortunes tumbled within the company. He was forced into retirement after three decades in 2008. At that time, Cerny gave him the game industry’s top honor, a Hall of Fame award from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, at annual DICE Summit industry event. For the first time, there was a void within Sony. Kutaragi was no longer there to lead the design of the next game console.

Cerny said he “knew it was a bit audacious” but approached Yoshida about filling the role anyway. Yoshida thought it was a great idea for Cerny to become the architect of the PlayStation 4, even though he wasn’t an employee. After all, Cerny could talk the same language as hardware engineers, but also carry with him the concerns of game developers. With Yoshida’s help, Cerny got the job. Other Sony executives, including Masa Chatani, then chief operating officer, agreed that Cerny was the right person for the job.

After all, he could speak fluent Japanese. He didn’t mind traveling. He had been an executive producer of blockbuster games. He had programmed game engines. And he had long worked with Japanese game companies for a long time.

Knack“I had the expertise the make a bigger contribution,” Cerny said.

Cerny said that his role as a consultant was ideal, even though he wouldn’t have the same absolute powers that Kutaragi had.

“As a consultant, I did not manage employees,” he said. “I was not responsible for budgets. I didn’t give presentations to other Sony groups. I didn’t track progress on milestones. I didn’t negotiate contracts.”

In other words, he could focus on doing the work, communicating with groups inside and outside of Sony. It was like being the director on a game, rather than a manager (responsible for employees) or a producer (in charge of the budget).

“The director’s role is to shape the shared vision and communicate it,” he said. “I’m free to think about where we need to be in five years.”

If the PS 4 is a success, Cerny will get the credit. If it isn’t, well, he’s just a consultant. He is creating his own PS 4 game, a title dubbed Knack, which takes advantage of the graphics power of the machine. At the moment, with Sony enjoying a lot of accolades for the PS 4 and its plans to launch the machine later this year, Cerny is looking like the next Ken Kutaragi.


Filed under: Games

GamesBeat 2013GamesBeat 2013 is our fifth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. You'll get 360-degree perspectives from top gaming executives, developers, and analysts on what’s to come in the industry. Our theme this year is “The Battle Royal.” Check out full event details here, and grab your early-bird tickets here!
    
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