Segerstrale: Seeing ‘The Birth Of A New Generation of Core Titles’ On Mobile

As mobile gaming expands, the field is encompassing more genres than just casual games and strategy titles. One of the massively successful genres on the PC in recent years has been the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA, exemplified by Riot Games’ League of Legends, which has driven the company to over $1 billion in annual revenue from a free-to-play game. That’s something to attract the attention of any game company, and the obvious questions occur: Can you have a successful MOBA on mobile Can you turn a mobile MOBA into a successful eSport

Super Evil Megacorp is hoping they have the answer to both questions with their mobile MOBA Vainglory, which debuted six months ago on iOS – after appearing onstage with Apple’s introductions of the iPhone 6 models. This week, at Apple’s WWDC, Vainglory received a design award from Apple: In Apple’s words: “Vainglory is selected as an Apple Design Award winner because it delivers beautiful, high-fidelity graphics and animations, offers an incredibly polished and immersive experience, and enables a fast-paced, endless multiplayer experience on iOS that’s all about the highs, lows, excitement, anticipation, friendships, and competition.”

Super Evil’s COO, game industry veteran Kristian Segerstrale, spoke exclusively with [a]listdaily about receiving the award, Vainglory, and the possible future of eSports on mobile.

Congratulations on getting the WWDC design award. What does that mean to you and your team?

Thank you very much. Of course, we’re very, very excited by it. It’s been really wonderful to see Apple’s commitment to core games on their platform in general.

There’s been plenty of news coming out from the WWDC. What’s most important of these new announcements, both for Vainglory and for mobile gaming in general?

Overall, aside from lots of little interesting tidbits, I think the macro story of Apple being so supportive of games in general is a big deal. That’s a combination of the game companies being awarded design awards, the fact that Metal is going to be available on MacOS, which is a big deal, and the fact that iOS 9 increased developer tools. We’re particularly excited about ReplayKit as a way of players sharing videos with each other. All of those things, to us, really communicate at the highest level the commitment of Apple to become a better and better gaming platform. We certainly feel very happy that Apple is embracing games in such a strong way and doing it, frankly, in such a thoughtful way. The things they are creating and releasing really make a big difference to developers.

Vainglory has made considerable progress since you launched, both in terms of the game and the audience. What can you share with us about the progress of the game?

It’s had, in the past few months, some pretty incredible progress. Our core community continues to grow. In May we had more than 1.5 million Twitch views, which is three times the Twitch views that we had in February. We care about Twitch views a lot, because it shows not just whether people play the game, but whether we are succeeding in creating an entertainment experience which isn’t just a game, which is something that people play and watch and is a competitive scene. That’s been a wonderful testimony to that progress. Another thing that we’re very excited about is the average time spent per player has increased as well, despite the fact that the player base is growing. We’re now north of 80 minutes per player per day, which is pretty incredible in our view. It continues to show there is a growing community of players who consider touchscreens their primary devices, and play on touchscreens with the play patterns you’ve previously seen on PC and console.

Perhaps the most exciting evolution for us has been in the evolution of the competitive scene. Not just community organized tournaments, but ESL, the world’s largest independent eSports organization, started broadcasting the Vainglory cup series in Europe in mid-May, and those have been very successful. We just today announced the very first international invitational tournament, the Vainglory Worlds, which will take place in Seoul, Korea between the 11 and the 15 of July. That’s another very big deal for us. The competitive community has continued to exceed our expectations. We didn’t expect to have such a vibrant competitive scene around the game at this point.

What’s the potential for eSports for mobile games, and for Vainglory in particular?

We very much consider this to be early days, and we’re building Vainglory for years and years to come. We certainly never want to sound like we’re declaring that eSports for touchscreens is here. We continue to be so impressed by the growth of the organic competitive scene in the game, the fact that the community is self-organizing into teams. The fact that there are tournaments with such a large audience, both playing and watching the play on Twitch, is a big deal for us. That said, we’re still learning, and we expect that we’ll still learn through all these tournaments — this year is very much a learning year for us from an eSports perspective. The great thing about this community is they’ve been so incredibly helpful in evolving the competitive aspects of the game.

How important have influencers on YouTube and Twitch been to the growth of the Vainglory audience, and how have you helped that along?

Vitally important. We have not been spending any money on any kind of media or user acquisition that mobile games usually do. What we instead do is try and spend as much time helping key influencers in the community build their audience. Finding ways to promote them inside the game itself, finding ways to make sure that we can do whatever we can to give them ways to reward their viewers. Really working with that community to help make the product better as well as help them grow their audience. We think this has been critical to the growth of the player base and the very committed community.

The community seems like it’s been helping you with every aspect of the game, from the development to the marketing?

That’s absolutely right. What’s been so interesting for us has been that the previous generation of games, the casual and midcore games, the mantra was if you’re not in the top 50 grossing within a couple of weeks of launch you probably should pack up your things when it comes to that game and ook at what other games you should be making. We found that a game like Vainglory is so community driven you simply cannot acquire an engaged community overnight, you simply have to nurture it. There’s much more similarity to PC games and the growth of popular PC franchises, whether you think of a DotA2 or a League of Legends, than it resembles the growth curve of mobile titles. That is a really interesting, profound evolution that we think is going on in the touchscreen games market overall. We’re perhaps seeing the birth of a new generation of core titles which will look much more like PC in how they evolve over time.

For Oculus, 2016 Is A Game Changer

Even though the Electronic Entertainment Expo hasn’t begun yet, that hasn’t stopped the Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus from getting the train out of the station early.

The company provided an early glimpse of what it’ll be bringing to the video game event this week with a live stream earlier this morning, providing a look at the consumer edition of the upcoming headset, which is due for release in early 2016. Although a price point still wasn’t given, Oculus did provide a clearer picture on what it intends to do in terms of games and control options.

Here’s a small recap of what took place during the live stream:

A Partnership With Microsoft

Part of today’s presentation brought out Microsoft’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer, who explained that the gaming juggernaut has teamed up with Oculus to provide not only hardware, but streaming capability. The Oculus headset will come packed in with an Xbox One wireless controller and adapter, and will have compatibility with Windows 10. Furthermore, users will be able to stream Xbox One games to the device, in a theater-like setting where it appears that the user is sitting in a game room. “There is going to be a lot more to come,” said Spencer, indicating that more details could be revealed this Monday during the company’s pre-show press conference.

So what does this mean With Sony launching its own virtual reality gear, Project Morpheus, next year, Microsoft clearly wants to get on board with VR in its own way – but stopping just short of making its own headset. The Oculus Rift is an ideal partner, and, in turn, provides even more gaming opportunities for the device, in spite of the fact that it’s in a theater setting instead of full-on 3D experiences.

What this could also tie in, though, is compatibility with the Xbox One. Spencer mentioned nothing about the console, but the Rift seems like an ideal device to work with the system, although the Windows 10 operating system would need to be uploaded first, it seems. We’re likely to get a bigger picture from this partnership when Microsoft unveils its showcase next week.

Bring On the Games

Oculus explained just how serious it is when it comes to providing unique game experiences on its Rift device. It’s planning to invest $10 million in independent development, opening the door to teams eager to develop for the device; and many teams have stepped forward with new projects, including Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games. It’s come through with a harrowing third-person survival adventure called Edge of Nowhere, with the trailer featured below.


Other games that were featured during the showcase include CCP’s space adventure Eve Valkyrie and Gunfire Games’ adventure Chronos. These games, along with others, should be on full display at the Oculus booth at E3 next week.

So what does this mean Even though it still has yet to sign on other partners, Oculus has a healthy slate of companies on board to bring unique experiences to the Rift. These include Harmonix (the developers of the forthcoming Rock Band 4) and Square Enix (publishers of Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider games). More announcements could be made by next week, to further entice users into snagging a Rift for themselves.

A New Way To Play

 Along with the included Xbox One controller, the Oculus Rift will also have a secondary control option that will virtually put a user’s hands into an experience. Oculus’ Palmer Luckey presented the Touch controllers today, a pair of comfortable units that wrap around the hands and enable users to pick up objects and move around with ease, using analog sticks and buttons embedded into the circular pads.

These promise to be a fulfilling experience in conjunction with the Rift, while also providing comfort, since the Touch controllers are lightweight and easy to use. There’s no word yet on cost, but it sounds like consumers would be smart to pick them up to get the ultimate involvement from the Rift.

What does this mean It indicates that Oculus is very serious about making game experiences more involving with the Rift, and the Touch controllers are an excellent way to create such a feeling, even with their somewhat gimmicky design. Lucky attendees of next week’s E3 show will be able to try it out for themselves.

A Virtual Future, Laid Out

There are still many questions revolving around the Oculus Rift, mainly with the price point. The team is staying quite mum when it comes to announcing just what consumers will be paying to get their own Rift, Touch controllers and games. However, we should know more in the next few months.

There is a good possibility that Oculus may be waiting for Sony to make its next move with the Project Morpheus. The publisher already confirmed that it’s devoting a good chunk of time to talking about the device during its own E3 press conference on Monday night, although it’s not quite known if it’ll announce a price point just yet.

With that, Oculus is gearing up to make the device more accessible, with a number of exclusive games, a partnership with Microsoft that is likely to pay off in the long run (especially if it can pull off Xbox One compatibility), and a marketing angle that’s likely to catch consumers by surprise – provided, again, that the price point is just right.

We’ll know more in a few months, but one thing’s clear – virtual reality is ready to come back to retail. Now it’s just a matter of how it approaches.

Adam Riggs-Zeigen On RockMyRun Heading To the Apple Watch

With the Apple Watch now out for over a month, users are slowly but surely adapting to the company’s debut wearable tech, and trying out a number of apps in the process.

Many of these include health-related applications, and RockMyRun is one of the companies involved in this field. The company has released an updated application for Apple Watch that provides users with music selections that sync up with body actions, whether it’s walking, running or even skipping. It also intends to add even more data through its signature myBeat Heart feature, once it becomes available publicly for app developers.

We recently sat down with RockMyRun’s CEO and co-founder Adam Riggs-Zeigen about what kind of work goes into the development of such an app, as well as how it managed to capture the right marketing angle for the Apple Watch, especially so close to its launch.

[a]listdaily: First off, what would you say is the greatest challenge in developing an application for a new device?

Adam: We were of course thrilled to have a chance to visit Apple’s Headquarters to test the RockMyRun app on Apple Watches, however, I’d say the biggest challenge was more about the amount of data available to developers and the transparency during the development process as to what would maybe “normally” be available. It was surprisingly limited. For example, we aren’t able to access the continuous heart rate data from the watch.  While we were able to create a work around, it added a bit of time on to our development process and isn’t the most efficient way to offer the feature of music playing with the beat of your heart — a major differentiator for us.  We have strong hope that Apple continues to expand what is available for developers to use to create the ultimate experience for the user.

[a]listdaily: Tell us about the development of RockMyRun. How hard was it to put together an application that syncs up a person’s motions with music selections?

Adam: Using biometric feedback like steps and heart rate to personalize the music experience is core to the Rock My World mission. We have spent hundreds of hours researching, working with runners, walkers and mathematicians to create an experience we believe to be magical and effective. Music that reacts to you to give you what you need while still maintaining integrity in its sound is not an easy thing to do. We have some IP around the process and continue to refine our algorithms and features to improve how we’re delivering this unique offering. Furthermore, we have a library of content that is created in an almost scientific manner and is actually proven to deliver an increase in intrinsic motivation during running (up to 35 percent). More details on the findings can be found here.

[a]listdaily: What would you say was the biggest hardship in putting the app together?

Adam: Testing, testing, testing! RockMyRun is an app that over a million people use everyday in order to better enjoy exercise. As a result, it needs to both get them to a great experience quickly and be there for them in home stretch of their half-marathon. You can’t have a glitch when someone is relying on you!

Additionally, RockMyRun is not a one-dimensional app.  Our content and our technology are layered together in a very specific fashion to drive motivation and performance. As a result, we have a better service for fitness and exercise than say streaming services like Pandora, Spotify or someone’s personally created playlist — we were able to scientifically prove that in a study with the University of California, San Diego. The trick for us is presenting a fairly complex system in an easily digestible format that gets people in — because for us, hearing and experiencing it is truly believing.

[a]listdaily: How do you feel about the state of marketing for the Apple Watch right now? Do you think it’s rife with possibilities for your app? Are there any genuine obstacles to overcome?

Adam: We strongly believe that data from your body should be used to curate your experience. We’re experts at curating motivational content/music in the fitness tech space. We see a ton of opportunity with Apple Watch, however, the adoption and ongoing user loyalty rate of the product has yet to be proven. Making wearables a habitual, continuous part of people’s lives is core to our master vision. This is something we’re closely monitoring to see if Apple (as a historical catalyst for behavior change) can impact. It has yet to be accomplished by any leader in this space, so we are waiting and watching, as are many others.

[a]listdaily: What has been early response to your application thus far? Are there any tweaks you’re looking to make to the app after it’s been released?

Adam: We have over 1 million users, consistent 4.5 star ratings and have scientifically verified that RockMyRun can boost motivation by 35 percent during exercise.  To boot, we have proven that people are willing to pay for the full experience and suite of advanced technology. These are huge milestones and validation for our service. At this point, we’re still waiting to see how the Apple Watch platform helps us continue to expand our mission of helping people achieve their goals. We currently have a plan in place to improve a few bugs on the watch app, but we’re waiting to receive more feedback from our users and the industry as a whole before we implement any additional major updates to the watch app. Once we see how people use the app and how much data Apple is willing to share with developers from the watch, we’ll make that call. Time will tell.

More details on RockMyRun’s application can be found here.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo To Step Down, Jack Dorsey Takes Over In The Interim

by Sahil Patel

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is stepping down on July 1. Co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey will take over in the interim as the company searches for a new permanent replacement.

The news was shared by Costolo via his Twitter account (naturally). In a release, Twitter said Costolo won’t be completely leaving the company, as he will continue to serve on its board of directors.


Read more…

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

Publishers Are Paying Increasing Attention To eSports

Over the years, the field of eSports – competition amongst gamers on a grander scale – has grown exponentially. Major companies have begun to take notice of this, with all sorts of big names, including Coke and other advertisers, {link no longer active}  getting involved. Even (a)listdaily has been getting more and more into eSports coverage, with our own John Gaudiosi covering it on a regular basis.

Tournaments like this also draw big-time money, like Activision with Call of Duty {link no longer active} and Valve with its yearly DOTA 2-driven International event {link no longer active}. But now, it looks like more publishers are getting involved, finally realizing the value of eSports.

Digiday recently posted a story discussing ESPN’s further involvement with eSports, following its successful broadcast of the Heroes of the Dorm tournament a few weeks back. The channel’s publication, ESPN The Magazine, recently devoted an issue to eSports, featuring profiles of popular YouTube star PewDiePie and League of Legends player Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. (Traditional athletes also talk about their gaming preferences, including NBA superstar Kevin Durant.)

“eSports is way past cult status at this point – if it’s not already the dominant cultural force of the moment, it’s pretty close to it,” said ESPN The Magazine senior editor Megan Greenwell.

Sports outlets have been skeptical of these competitions in the past, with ESPN’s president John Skipper simply noting that “it’s not a sport.” But the numbers don’t lie. The League of Legends Season 3 World Championship managed to draw over 32 million people online back in 2013 – a number that easily eclipses the 18.8 million that tuned in to game two of this year’s NBA Finals. And streaming channel Twitch has benefitted greatly from such tournaments, with a subscriber count of over 100 million people monthly – and climbing.

It’s just a matter of covering eSports the right way – something The Daily Dot learned when it shifted in that direction back in late 2013. “When you’re covering eSports, the core thing you have to think about is who are you writing for,” said Kevin Morris, reporter for the site. “If you’re a mainstream publication, you need to make stories accessible, but making them accessible also means watering them down, which alienates the hardcore audience.”

ESPN had dabbled in eSports before, with broadcasts from Valve’s International tournaments, but its approach left a few viewers dumbfounded, as they weren’t used to what eSports had to offer. “Just like there’s still a bias in society towards gamers as basement-dwelling nerds, there’s still a bias with ESPN’s audience against competitive gaming,” said Morris. “But it’s a silly argument because ESPN also broadcasts spelling bees and poker.”

The Daily Dot is one of the sites truly devoted to full eSports coverage, with nearly 30-50 stories weekly that cover everything from game highlights to player trades. This manages to bring the site’s viewership to 1.5-2.5 million unique page views on a monthly basis.

It recently launched Leaderboard, a new eSports discussion show that works in a similar vibe to ESPN’s SportsCenter, where Rooster Teeth talent, like Meg Turney, discuss eSports events in a very casual setting – which audiences can easily get into. The latest episode is available below.


Users Are Spending More Time With The Same Number Of Apps

App stores are seeing more and more added on a weekly basis, whether they’re games, health oriented or in another given field. That said, their usage in general may not have risen that much, but the time spent with them certainly has.

That’s according to a new report from Nielsen, according to Mediapost. The report shows that the number of apps has increased quite a bit over the last year, but general usage has remained pretty steady, from the findings in the chart below.

As you can see, between Q4 2012 and Q4 2014, the general usage remains pretty steady, with users utilizing an average of 26.7 apps per month. This is an interesting statistic with the app count being in the “millions,” with new ones “being rolled out every day.”

The numbers show similarity to that of television. Even with more channels introduced in the spectrum, the average television household only watches so much of this programming. Mediapost’s report notes that “despite the exponential growth of media options, people still gravitate to a relatively finite array of options.”

CBS research chief Dave Poltract explained this through a principle of human cognition, known as the “magical number seven, plus or minus three,” which states that with an unlimited number of options, people tend to choose favorites, to the count of seven (plus or minus three).

Despite the fact that the usage is about the same despite the increase in available apps, there is one area where growth is noted — and that’s the time spent with apps.

The amount of time spent with them has reached 37 hours and 28 minutes in the third quarter of 2014 — a 24 percent increase from the previous year, and a 63 percent increase from the same time period in 2012.

“While there appears to be a consumer threshold to the total number of apps people are willing and/or able to actively use during the month, the time they spend engaging on those apps has increased,” said the Nielsen report. “In fact, the monthly time spent per person has increased from 23 hours and two minutes in fourth-quarter 2012 to 37 hours and 28 minutes in fourth-quarter 2014 — a 63 percent rise in two years! So the reward for being one of the chosen apps is heavy engagement by the user.”

Media Kitchen president Barry Lowenthal added, “The real battle is going to be share of icons on screens.” He indicated that even with the large count of apps available, getting customers to download, install and place them on their mobile screen — in a position where they’ll be consistently used — will determine their overall popularity. (Obviously, popular apps like the Facebook Messenger and Netflix are likely to take prominence, even though Nielsen didn’t go into specific apps.)

We talked previously about how overall app usage increased in 2014 by 76 percent, and these numbers indicate that they’ll continue to rise, based on the time spent with them. It’s just a matter of which apps get the most attention now — and that’s what companies will be shooting for.

Mobile Game Highlights: ‘Geometry Wars 3’, ‘Kung Fury’

Welcome back to another round of Mobile Game Highlights. There are plenty of great offerings this week, so let’s get started!

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (Activision, $4.99, available for iOS {link no longer active})

After making its return to game consoles last year, the twin-stick shooter Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions has now come to the App Store, marking the first time that the series has gone mobile since the original Geometry Wars Touch debuted years ago. This is a much more sophisticated sequel, with various stage types, power-ups, and gameplay tactics to master as players shoot for their highest score possible. Plus, online connectivity guarantees plenty of competitive leaderboard action — and that more than makes up for the affordable $5 price.

Kung Fury: Street Rage (Hello There Holding, free-to-play, available for iOS and Android {links no longer active})

Considering that the KickStarter based film Kung Fury has become a YouTube phenomenon (14 million views and counting), it should be no surprise that consumers also have a Kung Fury-based game where they can enable revenge on Kung Hitler and his army of vile Nazis. This side-scrolling beat-em-up features a simple control scheme, but also introduces a fun combo system, where skilled players can build up points chaining together powerful hits — thus creating a score that they can post to Facebook, so others may be challenged. The only thing missing from this game is a dose of David Hasselhoff’s “True Survivor,” which can be found below.


Blades of Brim (Sybo, free-to-play, available for iOS {link no longer active})

The latest endless runner mobile release from the creators of Subway Surfers has arrived, and it’s a heroic quest that shouldn’t be missed. In Blades of Brim, players take on an army of underline goons, utilizing a number of characters, weapons and techniques in order to send the enemy army packing! Featuring outstanding visuals, fun gameplay and reasonable in-app transactions (mainly for coins and a Start Pack), Blades of Brim is an easy recommendation — and Apple seems to think so as well, since it’s this week’s Editor’s Choice.

Hitman: Sniper (Square Enix, $4.99, available for iOS {link no longer active})

While gamers wait patiently to see if a new Hitman game is announced for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One during E3 next week, Hitman: Sniper provides a suitable — albeit violent — way to pass the time. In the game, players portray the legendary Agent 47 as he takes out a series of targets in a stage, utilizing a specialized sniper rifle. The better shots he takes, the closer he gets to successfully completing each mission. Featuring a number of available weapons and scenarios, Sniper will put players’ shooting skills to the test.

You Must Build a Boat (Eightyeight Games, $2.99, available for iOS {link no longer active})

One of the most unique — and enjoyable — puzzle games to hit the mobile front yet, You Must Build a Boat is great fun for all ages. This sequel to the likable 10000000 gives players the opportunity to build a boat while traveling the world, and completing match-three puzzles in the hopes of continuing the journey and collecting new gear. Along the way, new recruits can join the sailing party, and dungeons can be rummaged for additional treasure. With a classy retro presentation and fun gameplay, this is one Boat that can hold its own.

Spotify Defends Ad-Supported Model With Fast-Growing Audience

Apple certainly made waves earlier this week when the company announced that it would be launching its own music streaming service, Apple Music, later this month. However, Spotify appears to be more than ready for the competition, based on its recent announcements.

According to VentureBeat, the company has revealed that it now has 20 million paying subscribers on its service, out of the total active user base of 75 million people. That means almost a third of those who use the service pay for it to some extent.

This is a huge increase over the numbers that were reported earlier in the year, with five million more paid subscribers and 15 million regular listeners. And it’s a huge jump from the ten million paid subscribers the service had last year.

The company has learned quite a bit from the streaming music business, including expanding to new channels, such as the PlayStation 4 game console. That, along with the fact that it has now paid more than $3 billion in royalties to artists and rights holders, indicates that it’s more than ready for whatever Apple Music intends to throw at it.

On top of that, it has some funding to back it up. It was reported (via the Wall Street Journal) that Spotify has acquired $526 million in funding, giving the company a total overall value of $8.53 billion, and doubling its overall funding since its creation (back in 2006) to over $1 billion. Companies taking part in the investment include Halcyon Asset Management, GSV Capital, Technology Crossover Ventures, Northzone, Goldman Sachs, and P. Schoenfeld Asset Management.

One thing worth noting with paid subscribers is that the number has risen quite a bit when it comes to measurement of the paid-to-unpaid ratio. In previous times, it sat firmly at 25 percent, but that number has now risen to 27 percent, indicating that there’s more interest in subscribing to its services (and thus eliminating ads in the process). Though it’s only a slight increase, it’s still an increase nevertheless.

Now it’s just a matter of time to see just how well the company fares against Apple’s service. It certainly seems more than ready for it.

Oculus VR Rebrands, Prepares For New Vision

Oculus VR is more than ready for next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. The forthcoming Oculus Rift headset is sure to take focus at a number of booths at the event, but that isn’t stopping the company from making its impact before the show even starts.

The company just launched a brand new website that features a new logo, removing the old “eye” logo that it was known for in favor of something a little more cryptic, as seen above. In addition, it has also kicked off a countdown clock, which is ticking away to a press reveal that is set to take place tomorrow in San Francisco.

The Oculus has gotten a fair share of attention since social site Facebook acquired the company (and the VR headset) for a whopping $2 billion. News on the headset was quiet for a while after that, until the company confirmed last month that it would finally make its way to retail in early 2016. Tomorrow’s press announcement should solidify launch details even further, and maybe even give consumers an idea of what to expect when it finally arrives.

The rebranding of the company isn’t too drastic – the word “Oculus” is still very evident with advertising, and a strange oval-shaped logo hanging above it indicates a design similar to that of the Rift’s viewer. And the timing is very good, especially considering that a lot of pre-E3 announcements are making the rounds, in-between new game reveals, trailers and other news. So Oculus is sure to fit right in with the hype, no matter what it intends to announce during tomorrow’s showcase.

There’s still some doubt in terms of how well-received the headset will be – and just what kind of pricing is being planned. Nevertheless, we’ll have a better idea in just a day’s time, and it’s sure to be virtually exciting for those who can’t wait to see it debut on the market –several years after the initial KickStarter campaign took place.

Mobile Gaming USA: ‘Marketing Has Become Art And Science’

The Mobile Gaming USA conference in San Francisco provides some key insights into the current and future state of the mobile game industry, as well as some prime networking opportunities for the attendees. Hosted by industry consultant Gordon Bellamy, the conference started off with SuperData senior analyst Stephanie Llamas providing a look at the mobile games business and where it’s headed. “My job to understand why we see different shifts and trends in the data,” noted Llamas. “Worldwide in 2015 we expect digital games to reach $63 billion across all segments. Mobile games will account for roughly 40 percent of the market by year’s end, which is roughly $25 billion.”

Stephanie Llamas

Llamas pointed out that the rapid growth of the mobile gaming market is slowing down, at least in Western markets. “The growth rate is declining as the result of overall maturation in the market,” Llamas said, while pointing out “It’s not that mobile games aren’t thriving or healthy, it’s just becoming more saturated.” The growth rate SuperData projects for Western markets is 7 percent in the next year, and this will result in the shrinkage of Western market share for mobile games. Western markets will take a 34 percent share, down from 40 percent in 2013, according to Llamas.

The Asian market now accounts for more than half of the total worldwide market, and SuperData expects Asia to continue to grow its market share and revenue over time. “We don’t know when it will start to stagnate,” Llamas said.. SuperData predicts estimated growth for Asia’s mobile games market of 22 percent in 2016 , while Western markets will only grow 3 percent. “Asian markets will get about 10x the growth of Western markets,” Llamas pointed out. Still, that’s an overall number, and Asia is very fragmented across different countries and even within China, with over a hundred different Android app stores.

Crucially, how much mobile gamers are spending is very different in different countries. “Spending in Asia, on average, is higher than North America,” Llamas said. North American spending averages $31.78 versus $25.88 in Asia. Korea and Japan are the countries skewing that average higher. China averages $19.18, Korea $53.66, and Japan tops them all with $59.88 per mobile game spender. “Japan is roughly 50 percent of Asia’s mobile market, due to the high spending and conversion figures, Llamas pointed out. “Japan has less than a sixth of China’s active users, but are able to take advantage of that space. In China we don’t see as many spenders or as much spending.”

Andrew Sheppard, the COO of Japanese mobile game giant Gree International, spoke next on ‘Creating an International Games Business.’ He agreed with Llamas that the mobile game market is maturing, and said this “On a mature platform, where the installed base is fixed and you’re fighting for share, you don’t get by with building a clone,” Sheppard said. “All the companies that made themselves big in the early stages of free-to-play, those guys don’t have the muscles to build a game that actually stands up or stands out now.”

Andrew Sheppard

Sheppard went on to note that marketing costs now typically account for more of the costs of an F2P game than the development costs, something that’s not broadly understood in the industry. That leads to a very different idea of what games to move forward. “Throwing up a bunch of stuff and seeing what works, that’s kind of scary,” Sheppard said. That’s especially true when it takes from $5 million to $10 million to build a game, and from $5 million to $40 million a month to market a game, you don’t want to have a miss.

Sheppard noted that Gree is pleased to have a hired a new VP of marketing, Shawn Conly, who managed brands at EA. “I’ve been trying to move to a more product marketing approach,” noted Sheppard. He believes marketing is more important than ever. “All the top guys are running TV ads, it’s full integrated marketing,” Sheppard said. “Marketing has become art and science, just like development… I think there’s more innovation going on on the marketing side than there is on the development side.”

Sheppard was followed by the vice president and group general manager for EA Mobile, Bill Mooney, who sat down with VentureBeat writer Dean Takahashi to discuss EA’s take on mobile games and brands. “The market is mature, we’re at a point where acquisition is a major problem,” Mooney noted. He said that “table stakes is making a great game” these days, and that’s arguably harder with a branded IP. Still, if you do it right, “you capture an audience that loves something. I think we can capture casual as well as core gamers, ” Mooney said.

Mooney talked about how to select the right brand to build a live game service around, and longevity is important. “A single celebrity brand is very dependent on that celebrity having staying power for a year or two. Is it worth it in year two or three ” Mooney asked. “I think TV works very well because it maps well to the mobile experience. It maps to the shorter amount of time people play on mobile. Movies have done fine, but they haven’t had the staying power. EA owns sports and that has done really well. I personally am skeptical that second-tier brands will be worth it.”

Bill Mooney

Overall, Mooney sees that for branded IP in particular on mobile, “Fewer, bigger, better is the way you get into the top twenty” apps. He noted that it’s going to be tougher than ever to be in the top twenty unless you’re a major studio. EA Mobile’s hit game The Simpsons: Tapped Out is still going strong after years, and that’s because of the effort that both EA and The Simpsons team has put into it. An obsession with details, putting out regular new content, and working closely with the writers and creators at the TV show have helped create and maintain a huge audience for the game, with a couple of hundred million downloads so far.

There will be more insights coming from the conference today and tomorrow, as it continues to explore key topics for the mobile games industry.