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Live Blogging the Mobile Game Conference: Day One Pt. 2

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1:20 – Trip Hawkins is just taking the stage right now. Starting off by asking how we make mobile phones a first-rate platform instead of a second rate TV or Nintendo DS.

Transition into talking about the DS. Nintendo could have just put Mario on the device and called it a day, but that would have been a second-rate Mario game. They didn’t do that and DS is number one.

1:23 – So how do we make mobile a first rate platform? It’s all about innovation and execution. Talking about the history of Digital Chocolate, now reaching two full years of experience; “trying to find out which way is up.”

1:25 – DC has 10,000,000 games sold and are without question the number one developer of original IPs (something which most others aren’t even attempting). They’ve moved from 1% to 11% market share – partially by convincing carriers to give deck space to unproven brands.

1:28 – Trip wants DC to be one of the leaders of pure-play mobile companies: i.e. all money that they make goes back into the mobile ecosystem, not other mediums that are competing for the attention of consumers. Now he’s showing average review scores – he’s really trying to push DC as tops in quality (top 3: DC, then Jamdat, then Gameloft).

1:31 – Now he’s showing “Pepsi Challenge” results, where an independent study shows that gamers are far more willing to play DC games, than similar versions from competitors. However, DC has had to fight a lot harder to get on carrier decks, because their competitors are licensing brands. Trips saying that you can’t have high game quality if you’re spending your resources on buying a license instead of making a good game.

1:34 – Bad games like these are only going to drive customers away (he mentions data on the recent World Cup, where the majority of people surveyed would not use mobile services for the next World Cup because it was so terrible this time). Trip wants the industry to improve their execution.

1:36 – DC doesn’t think that the mobile gamer demographic is a “one-size fits all” market. You have to develop games that cater to individual tastes.

1:38 – He’s now calling out those who hate on the mobile gaming industry (read: QuicklyBored), calling attention to growth in Europe and Asia as indicators of how the North American market will be in the next few years. He also mentions how people were also skeptical of SMS and ringtones as well.

1:40 – The mobile market is a casual market, only 5% is hardcore and everybody has a mobile phone. Even the hardcore gamers with mobile phones want casual games on their handsets because they know they can’t get the same experience as on consoles and pcs.

1:42 – Trip’s now talking about the internet. The internet has free trials and viral marketing; the mobile industry doesn’t really have either of those right now and Trip wants them.

1:43 – So what is mobile good for then? Social applications!!! Dominated by voice, but also messaging; it’s all about developing a social identity. He’s now basically making this huge metaphor about how mobile connectivity makes the world a smaller place and connects you to the people you want to, all the time. Trip calls the mobile phone the social computer (good name).

1:45 – Trip wants to help people create these “virtual villages” of all their personal connections – basically engaged user communities. That’s where DC comes in: social communities, messaging and personalization. He’s using a DC property, Mobile League Sports Net, as an example. For the youth and singles market (SMS, MySpace) they have The Hook Up: AvaFlirting. In this game, you build an avatar to communicate with others, but these avatars have their own little lives like Tamagotchis (they can go on dates and such).

1:50 – He’s now using Starbucks and McDonalds as an example of how this personalization works. In McDonalds, you go in, get your food, get out. Starbucks’ emphasis on personalization created an atmosphere where people were willing to stay and have a high consumer loyalty.

Question Time:

If you’re so focused on social computers and building communities, what do you need to do to keep people?

Give them something, like the avatars in The Hook Up, where they’re gonna find something new and want to check back all the time, but only in small increments. An addiction in small doses: hence the name Digital Chocolate.

Why can’t products like MLSN and The Hook Up work as a website? What does them being mobile games add?

Ubiquity and constant connection. Everyone has watched sports in the past few years, but few participate in Internet fantasy leagues. But everyone has a phone on them, so it’s right there for you – you don’t have to go to it. Also, people are busy and have other things to do, so the ability to check in on it whenever you get the time from wherever you are is great.

What can publishers do to promote interoperability across carriers?

We’re too early for that yet. Publishers need to grow their own communities and make them successful first, then worry about that later.

How do we become successful without paying 50% of our revenue for licensed games?
Have something worth playing, first. Word of mouth is also important – EA built their own brands for the first 15 years on quality and word of mouth. Also, as I mentioned before, free trials and viral marketing can make a big difference.

This article was written by QuicklyBored contributors. 

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