Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Takeaways from the Interplay Social Gaming Conference

Since I didn't take notes, here are some of the things still rattling around my brain days later:

Channels Panel: Zynga and SGN suggested that they might be working on linking their networks. The basic idea is that they would sell clicks to companies wanting to get their properties in front of the gaming audience and the network that served the game link that was clicked through would get the credit. I know both these companies have greater ambitions than to be ad, *cough*, I mean, game networks, and this detente suggests that they may be differentiating toward different aspects of social gaming. Or not. :)

Platforms Panel: Jessica Alter of Bebo indicated that AOL Instant Messenger would be integrated directly into the Bebo platform. The AOL-Bebo acquisition just closed, but Jessica indicated that this was an immediate priority for the AOL-Bebo team. Despite my general bearishness on real-time games in the near future, I think Bebo may soon offer the best opportunity for real-time games. One immediate beneficiary should by the team leading the QQ Games US division, who already have a close relationship with AOL and would benefit immensely from the social network traffic (that is if people can get over having to download the QQ client).

VC Panel: Jeremy Liew, Lightspeed Venture Partners believes that there is an opportunity for a social games publisher to emerge much in the way that EA did back at the birth of computer games. His thesis rests on the presupposition that a publisher can create/acquire a succession of hit games. It's a risky proposition (especially for a VC) considering that so far, no publisher has seen more than 1-2 hit games in their portfolio, despite hundreds of games being launched on Facebook. Meanwhile, Naval Ravikant, Hitforge felt that Facebook was no place for venture-backed companies, since the revenue wasn't there yet, but it was great for lifestyle businesses. Accel's Ping Li is looking at gaming infrastructure plays, which strikes me as the typical venture approach, i.e. avoiding content risk and focusing on platform plays.

Advertising Panel: Sadly, I missed most of it due to , but there was an indication that branded virtual items were already becoming a big source of revenue.

Virtual Economy Panel: I heard the moderator was amazing, some guy name Bret. Extremely handsome and wow, was he funny. Okay, it was me, I was the moderator. The panel agreed that if you don't THROUGHLY think through your economy before you launch your game, you will be screwed. Siqi Chen, CEO of Serious Business indicated that he believes the slowing growth of Friends For Sale is due to inflation - simply put, it's becoming too expensive for newer players to buy anyone. I think it's a very reasonable assumption, and shows how important economy is to the overall health of a game. Fraud was also a huge issue for all the panelists, Siqi revealed that 3 of his 12 employees did nothing but handle fraud issues. That's 25% of the headcount for all you kids out there making your business plans.

Siqi also made the claim that just being on a panel with him would get us laid. I'm not going to say whether it's true or not, you'll have to judge by the title of this Facebook group.

Developer Analytics and Playfish both offered excellent presentations which I will link to once they get them posted. And I'll possibly comment on them.