Monday, June 16, 2008

My Coverage of Lobby of the Social Gaming Summit

Fortunately, quite a few people covered the sessions, because I spent most of my time in the lobby chatting with other attendees. So I'm going to give you my observations about the conference beyond the sessions. (I've also wrote up some nuggets from the panels that I'll be posting throughout the week so they don't drown in the mass of words of a long post).

Let's talk about those attendees. I noticed a lot of representatives from venture capital floating around, but before you get too excited, it was mostly junior associates sent by their partners to learn about the space. Social Gaming is on everybody's radar, but I suspect a lot of VCs are ready to jump in until they see a platform or infrastructure play. In fact, I know that's true since that what they told me. :)

Most social gaming companies that receive any attention (including from me) are content creators. In the VC world, content risk is a bad thing. Rightfully so, since content creators require hits to succeed. And making hits is really, really hard. I read somewhere recently that in the last few years, around 90 MMOs were produced but failed to launch. Other MMOs that did launch after years of development and millions of dollars spent failed to gain an audience and were shut down. That boils down to ~5 successes (in the US market) out of ~100 attempts. I'd probably be leery about investing in something that had a five percent success rate but required several million dollars and 3+ years to produce. But I digress (so frequently I must have ADD or Alzheimer's).

I spoke a lot of people from outside the gaming world who are looking at social games as the next big opportunity. As well as people from behemoth companies who just wanted to get away from the office for the day - I don't think they were kidding. I recognized a few people for the traditional games industry in the audience, but the crowd was still web-heavy.

Hopefully, somebody is putting together a social gaming track at the next GDC to reach out more to the traditional games industry. If somebody doing so, let me know, I'd like to help out.

In conversations, one of the biggest topics (and one I happen to be thinking a lot about it recently) is the gameification of the web. The basic idea is taking game mechanics and applying to other web properties to increase engagement. I'll be talking more about gameification soon.

Other topics: Twitter as a game. Fear of the traditional games industry entering the space with big budgets and better production values. Payment systems. Mobile as the ultimate gaming platform.

Overall, my impression is that VCs and traditional game developers are still cautious about social games, but more and more web guys are jumping in fast. All hail Ruby on Rails! ;)

Note: Warbook, Friends for Sale, and Packrat are all built on Ruby on Rails.