Things move so fast in the games industry that I always like to say that a typical year in the games world should be counted like we do cat or dog years. This past week counts as another remarkable time in the world of games, social media and tech – and that’s saying a lot since every week in this ever-evolving industry is jam-packed with news and happenings.
As for myself, I spent this week at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) Europe and at the Gamescon trade fair event – both taking place in Cologne, Germany this past week. Founded as a Roman colony by Emperor Augustus’ granddaughter, Agrippina the Elder, the city of Cologne sits on the majestic Rhine River and is probably best known for the gigantic gothic cathedral that dominates the city skyline. When the GDC and Gamescon come to town, Cologne is transformed into a fabulous mix of old world charm and new world technology.
GDC Europe always attracts the best and brightest from around Europe and around the world, while Gamescon attracts tens of thousands of video game aficionados from all over who want to get the scoop on the latest and greatest games that are on the horizon.
Like most game-related conferences, people at GDC Europe work hard and play hard – and major business deals are being made by the minute. Every conference is like a big, happy reunion – but there is always the under-current of all that is in play in the fast-paced and increasingly competitive business of games. In addition to the fun panel that I moderated, there were a lot of amazing highlights at GDC Europe this year:
- Popcap’s Jason Kapalka gave a great postmortem on how they leveraged Bejeweled Blitz as a social game and across multiple platforms. He shared a lot of insight and perspective into the thinking behind launching Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. Never one to mince words, Jason drew some attention when he commented that social games have been “a bit evil” because so many of them are just set up to trick players to post spam to their friends. Where’s the true gameplay in that? It’s worth noting that Bejeweled Blitz is one of the few top games on Facebook that did not suffer a nose-dive after Facebook disabled a lot of its passive notification features a few months back, much to Popcap’s credit.
- Google’s Developer Advocate, Mark DeLoura delivered a much-anticipated talk on Games on the Chrome Web Store, which will allow developers to potentially access the 70 million users of Chrome. The equally anticipated app store is set to launch in October 2010. Bucking the trend of other app store and games platforms, who shall remain nameless, Google plans to only take a 5% processing fee – as reported here on Gamezebo a few days back. As someone who has seen content creators get the short end of the stick one too many times in my career, this is music to my ears. I am looking forward to launching my own apps in the Chrome Web Store myself.
- No time at GDC Europe would be complete without attending at least one of the nightly parties happening at Cologne’s famous Haxenhaus. The name “Haxenhaus” literally translates to “House of Knuckles” and for good reason: Haxenhaus’ roots go back to the 13th century. It is a traditional German beer hall establishment that serves “knuckles of all kinds” (like pig or lamb) and also the largest variety of home-made sausages that most of us have ever seen. The knuckles are a-plenty and sausages are ordered by the meter. Of course, no heaving plate of pigs’ knuckles or sausage would be complete without an ample supply of Kölsch, the locally-brewed beer of Cologne. It’s a fun time to convene at this old beer hall that sits alongside the beautiful Rhine River. I have several potentially incriminating photos of industry execs enjoying their Kölsch and knuckles at the Haxenhaus (you know who you are!) but decorum prevents me from posting! What happens at the Haxenhaus, stays at the Haxenhaus.
Of course, GDC Europe and Gamescon weren’t the only big events happening in games and social media last week. Other highlights include:
- Facebook announcing that it is launching a new location check-in feature, Places, which allows users to see where their friends are, discover new places and also “check-in” with their own location. According to TechCrunch, Facebook will be partnering with existing location-based applications Gowalla and Foursquare, but I have to wonder whether Facebook will eclipse all the others – or maybe it will acquire one or both of those companies some day. Stranger things have been known to happen. The recent announcements around Facebook Places were quickly followed-up by criticisms by privacy advocates, who say this system may be easily abused. The concerns of privacy advocates were probably heightened this week after Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt commented that if people are concerned about erasing their online histories, their best bet might be to change their own names. I wonder if Schmidt expected the kind of reaction he got to that probably off-the-cuff statement.
- Finally, in the high-stakes arena occupied by social gaming mega-giant Zynga — there was also really big news. Was it that they launched their Texas poker game internationally? Maybe. Or that they’ve acquired yet another small gaming company? Hardly. The really BIG news is explosive – literally: To celebrate the Mafia Wars: Las Vegas, rap artist Snoop Dogg blew up a four ton armored truck in the Vegas desert (video, audio NSFW). So Snoop put an end to the week that really was a blast in games, fo shizzle.
You might think this was an extraordinary series of events. To me, it’s just another week in games.
Games industry exec Margaret Wallace highlights some of the events and happenings that took place last week in the ever-changing games, social networking and tech scenes.
MargaretWallace is the CEO of Playmatics (www.playmatics.com), a company dedicated to bringing rich games and applications to the Internet, in social media networks, and on a variety of connected gaming platforms. Prior to forming Playmatics,Margaretwas CEO of Rebel Monkey, a venture-backed company focused on creating a free-to-play game world and community platform utilizing virtual goods and microtransactions. Before Rebel Monkey, she was a founding member and CEO of Skunk Studios in San Francisco, CA, one of the first-ever casual game companies and portals.Margarethas also worked with A&E Television Networks, Shockwave, PF.Magic, Mattel and Mindscape and with numerous brands, licensed products, gaming portals and original IP.