Casual Connect USA: Indian developers and studios share their learnings, business deals and more…

Indian-delegation
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The recently concluded Casual Connect USA 2015 saw a huge turnout of big and small developers from around the world and one of the highlights of the event was the keynote from Micheal Eisner and newer technologies and marketing strategies that are currently practiced by top companies being shared that will help the smaller players in the industry. The Indian delegation which visited Casual Connect USA was also one of the many which benefitted from the learnings through sessions and interactions with various international developers and they are back with more food for thought and a better outlook towards the gaming market and were kind enough to share a few insights exclusively with TheGraphicSlate.com.

Karan Khairajani – All in a Days Play

Casual Connect was a fantastic learning experience. I managed to meet a lot of people from different parts of the gaming industry and get their different views and feedback on our games. This has helped us come back and reiterate on some of our titles.

The visits to Google and Zynga were great and I thank Shruti Verma and NASSCOM for that. There were 8 Zynga employees sitting with us and answering our queries. It helped me learn the best practices for soft-launch and things we should be observing during such a soft-launch. We also got feedback for our games from very experienced people at Zynga, which was very helpful as well. At Google, we learned about the best practices for launching an app on Android TV.

Generally the feedback was positive, especially for Word Bridge, which we will be releasing in a month or so. Besides that, people really enjoyed our short-session Arcade titles.

We received positive responses from a couple of publishers for two of our arcade titles. We will see what it leads to in the near future. Meeting with our ad-network partners, Heyzap was insightful as well.

In general, hanging out with the Indian delegates was a great experience. I managed to learn a lot from them and made many new friends in the industry. There is some amazing talent in India and there are going to be some great titles coming from our country soon.

Asura

Zainuddin Fahad – Ogre Head Studio

It was overall an amazing experience. I got to meet amazing developers, gamers and business people alike who visited our table to play our upcoming game Asura and also got to make some new business contacts.

The feedback was very positive overall. People thought Asura had some very polished controls and they loved the visual style that we are going for. However, the audience seemed skeptical about the rogue-like death where in once you are dead you need to start all over again mechanic. But once they played the game, they started getting the hang of it!

As Casual Connect is a B2B convention. Most of the guys we met were from the business end of the spectrum in the games industry. We were expecting a lot of consumers to check out our games but that did not happen. The event was crowded with Ads/Monetisation folks, which really didn’t help us at all because our game was for the PC platform. As we, Ogre Head Studio also help others develop their games by providing development services, we got to make some new contacts who we hope will turn into our clients soon.

San Francisco was a really cool city with amazing weather. Although, I had gone alone and was most of the time busy with clients and showcasing my game; we got to check out the Golden Gate Bridge, which was an awesome experience. People have recommended places like Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town which I will definitely check out next time I visit the city!

Abhineet Prasad and Siddharth Sivaraman – Dastan Games

The Casual Connect conference at San Francisco came at a very crucial time for us at Dastan Games. While the appreciation received at the event boosted our morale and provided much needed validation for our game, the exposure to the quality and polish of some other games (Furdemption and Hue to name a few) helped us benchmark a standard for ours.

A table at the event gave us the opportunity to observe a large number of people experience our game first hand whilst bringing much needed visibility to The Light Inside Us. The feedback received over the duration of the conference and beyond pointed out some genuine faults that had gone unnoticed and the opinions shared provided us with a lot of opportunities to tweak how we should take the game forward. This being our first such event, we did feel a bit under prepared as we couldn’t arrange for a screen to show a video of our game or for promotional material to give away but I hope our excitement and enthusiasm made up for it to some extent.

Though we couldn’t attend any of the sessions at the conference itself, our visits at Google, Zynga, Chartboost and Spinta Labs were extremely insightful. At Google we learnt about their future plans especially around the Google Play Store and Android TV from the Google Play team itself. The developer evangelist at Chartboost spoke to us about their efforts to promote best game design practices amongst indie developers as part of their Chartboost University program and advised developers to try out three to four ad network providers for optimal rates.

Learnings

At Zynga we got the opportunity to meet with a lot of game designers and product managers who talked about their favourite Zynga value and how it benefited them. We were curious about how a huge creative organisation like Zynga makes its employees feel like an owner and where its game ideas originate from. The practice of soft launching your game and using analytics to perfect the main launch was reinforced upon us as the product managers spoke about the extensive use of analytics in Zynga’s own games. After a more formal session, the party allowed us to interact with a lot of Zynga employees, where again we got valuable feedback for our game and which eventually lead us to joining a San Francisco local game dev meet up.

This was extremely exciting as we were fortunate enough to be at San Francisco when this meet up (very similar to our Bangalore chapter) was being organised. We got the chance to meet a lot of local game developers working in and around the city at various companies and understand the game dev scene straight from the horse’s mouth. The meet up ultimately concluded in a gaming bar – where we went on a booze and multiplayer games binge session – playing games such as Towerfall Ascension with some of the best gamers/developers in the world.

Apart from the conference visits we did a few touristy things such as walk around and check out the street performers at Fisherman’s Wharf, indulge in the sundaes and chocolates at Ghirardelli, soak in the culture in the South Bay area around Palo Alto and Menlo Park and kayak on a lake in Mountain View.

Google

Following are some of the major takeaways that we got from our visit:

While the idea of our game was found to be unique and the art style universally loved by all, we realised that our game required a lot of polish in all fronts when compared to the other games that were being displayed.

Chloi Rad from PocketGamer wrote a beautiful review of our game and it was touching to see how well she understood the game and our thought process while developing it after having played the game only once.

Aaron Davies, Head of Developer Relations from Oculus also appreciated our game and was happy to give us a Samsung Gear VR headset development kit when we expressed our interest in the Virtual Reality space.

Michael Biddle from Amazon and Ravi Belal from Samsung also showed interest in our game and asked us to send them our game when it’s close to release.

A few publishers also took keen interest in our game and we are now deliberating over which route to take as our game nears completion.

The idea of Free to play monetisation model as the current reigning trend as opposed to premium model was talked about everywhere. We are now considering a free to play part for our game.

Laxmi Khanolkar – Apar Games

It was really great showcasing Scribbled Arena to the fantastic audience. Some of the meetings arranged by NASSCOM were quite fruitful.

Since I was at the indie prize table managing the demo, I couldn’t get to attend any of the sessions but I will surely catch a lot of them specially the indie and magnetization track on casual connect video channel once they are live.

The reactions here we got were plenty as some of them really loved the art style which they thought was very unique. People wanted to download the game immediately and play with their family members even children. We explored different opportunities to get our games discovered by the right audience as well as expanding the distribution.

Days there were a little hectic wherein I had to manage the show whole day and then talk to the team in India at night…then crash……phew. I didn’t even get time to catch up with friends there. Anyway, this wasn’t my first time in San Francisco so can’t complain.

Zynga

Deepak Ail – Roosh Interactive

Our whole purpose of attending Casual Connect was to explore opportunities with publishers. But unfortunately, inspite of having a booth the walk-ins were mostly developers and monetization/user acquisition guys. But we had already scheduled meetings with publishers before the travel and that helped us in terms of connecting with the right audience. My recommendation to NASSCOM would be to help us set-up meetings with publishers in advance.

Unfortunately we had a booth to manage hence couldn’t attend the sessions. But some of the one-to-sessions organised by NASSCOM were very helpful. This included the session with US Samsung Team and investor meetings.

Everyone loved our games and they were surprised looking at the quality. The big story for us was that we announced our publishing deal with Chillingo, where they will be publishing our multiplayer Sniper Deathmatch game globally.

We still are under discussion with some of the publishers that we met. Apart from this the Casual Connect Award Night was also a thing to remember.

super-nano-jumpers

Himanshu Manwani – Xigma Games

Casual Connect for me overall was a great experience. It gave me a lot of insight and exposure of the industry at a global scale and provided the opportunity to connect and network with publishers, stores, press, ad networks, and lot of Indie Developers.

We received lot of positive feedback and suggestions. People seemed to enjoy the game and they really liked the tight control scheme and level design of our game Super Nano Jumpers. And I learnt how we can make user experience even better and monetise our games better.

This was the first time I was showcasing my game to so many people and it helped me a lot to understand how users interact with the game. And by looking at how other users played the game, it gave me insights on user behavior/experience and how I can improve it even further. Unfortunately this led to me being at the stall and not being able to attend any tracks during the event.

The visit to Google helped us understand some of the best practices and optimisation for their app store and introduced us to Android TV, which is an exciting new platform for us to look forward to.

Zynga shared some of their company values, and it helped us to understand their work culture and we demoed our games there and it was really interesting to hear feedback and suggestions from them.

We were able to connect and network with publishers, stores, press and with developers across the world which will help us a lot in our game dev venture, and the feedback and insights we received on our games will help us improve and make better games.

Indian-Delegate

Manas Gajare – Zabuza Labs

Casual Connect was pretty cool, I learned many things, met great people from the industry. The event overall could have been better though.  The major turn off was there was no particular booth/section for publishers, so it was difficult to find and meet publishers. I attended only one session, the opening keynote by Michael Eisner and he talked about importance of content.

At Google, we clarified some of our doubts, some technical – some general. We got first hand connect with the relevant people from Google, which is important. Also, we learned basics of Android TV, emphasis on analytics and many more things. At Zynga, we talked about Zynga culture, values & how they live their values.

Roby John – June Software

The June team travelled with our Game Designer (Shantesh) and Producer (Roby John). We had our Indie prize showcase app (Warrior Dash) and a Developer Showcase table. We had over 200 visitors on each day and had plenty of interactions with visitors at our booth. We got a lot of appreciation for our games in terms of design and technical capabilities (multiplayer, 60 fps) so it was a gratifying experience.

One of the big turn offs during the event was the large number of vendors selling you stuff (like people from marketing and user acquisition companies) versus real gaming companies, which kind of made the event a tad bit more commercial than a pure gaming one.

All the monetisation sessions really helped me, also on the business side fundraising tips for founders of game companies helped as well.

We demoed our games at Google and Zynga and there also we got lot of appreciation for our art style and the fact that we do real-time multiplayer games which is a technical challenge that even large companies have not been able to solve.

People loved our games and were surprised at the kind of quality games coming out from an Indian gaming studio. We felt a hint of pride when a lot of them said that they really did not expect the quality of Indian games to be so high, a lot of them also spoke about the large number of Indian gaming studios at the event and were surprised that the game development scene in India is so vibrant these days; kudos to NASSCOM and especially Shruti Verma for showcasing this and taking our efforts to a new level.

We were able to close terms for publishing deals for our games and to also establish a couple of important business relationships for our future games as a result of this event.

We (June Software) do have an international office in San Francisco so for us it was not a first time visiting San Francisco, meeting up with the rest of our team there and seeing what they are working on and catching up with what we are doing in the year ahead was what we spent the next two weeks or so in. And yes, we got back plenty of Apple Watches for our team here as that seems to be the next screen to support.

Asar

Asar Dhandala – Seven Summit Studios

Casual Connect was incredible! Through this trip, I came to better understand how to monetise a F2P game and this would eventually help us in framing Avion Flight Simulator series. Visiting Spinta Labs, Google, Zynga was inspiring. The exposure to something such as this is an important thing that many people never experience. That was one of the most important reasons for going on this trip – exposure. Zynga taught me to stay true to your company’s culture and vision, where as Google inspired you to go big.

They absolutely loved Avion Flight Simulator 2015, and were looking forward to have it on Amazon appstore, iOS and Windows platform. Picto was nominated for the Best Game Narrative, so that again was a big plus.

Learnt their way of doing things and ‘might’ apply it to our production cycles in the future. Would definitely help in making things efficient, friction less and faster.

Long live Casual Connect USA, I’ll end it here.

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