Game Connection has become part of the ecosystem of games, allowing game professionals to network and ply their craft. It’s also put more focus on marketing with their Game Connection Marketing Awards. With the industry increasingly comprised of smaller companies, indies are becoming a very important part of the industry. We got a chance to ask some questions of Pierre Carde, head of Game Connection, about his event and how indies are doing of late.

What do you think was the biggest takeaway people got from this year’s Game Connection?

Game Connection is nothing but an ecosystem, which reflects the industry’s market trends. Selected Projects in San Francisco for example showed how mobile games are still the most targeted and developed ones; we started to see Ouya, Game Stick, and other emerging platforms between the lines of our attending companies’ profiles as well, and we confirmed that from a marketing point of view, the main interest for brands is now to provide the audience with constant updates and content. Corporations shifted from being acquisition-focused to put an extra effort on retention. If you walked through Game Connection America’s show floor, that’s the air you’d breathe.

Where do you see indie development at right now and where do you think the biggest opportunities are?

Indies have on their side the fact that thanks to self-publishing and crowd-founding, the chance to see their ideas come to life have multiplied exponentially. They don’t need a big publishing house to approve and finance their project. If they are smart enough they can all manage internally, which means that they will also have fewer constraints.

On the other hand this means harsher competition, with a lot more players fighting for the dream. Seeing that everybody wants to be THE ONE, the next massive phenomenon, the emerging IPs shall be very unique. I think this is the reason why we have so many amazing games today.

How has the discoverability issue evolved over the past few years and how big a hurdle is it?

Yes, that’s the other side of the coin: with all those games seeing the light of the day, the regular gamer is constantly distracted by new entries. Indies often don’t have enough money for a strong advertising campaign and they need to exert more effort to convince media of a game’s potential. This means that if you can’t reach out correctly, the risk is that your work will never be rewarded as it deserves. Of course word of mouth still exists, but it’s incredibly time and energy consuming (attending conferences, asking POS to showcase your product on the storefront, taking part of festivals, etc).

The truth and somehow shocking news for an indie is that now, once the game is done, you’re hardly half way to success. The rest are all business/marketing/networking issues. It may be an obstacle, since indies are not used to those disciplines, but it is also an incredible opportunity. In my opinion, being somehow forced to pursue said opportunities will lead indies to become not only excellent developers, but also stronger businessmen with a higher chance of obtaining a very good ROI from their products in a shorter period of time.

There’s been something of a contraction in the social game sphere – where are the opportunities these days?

It seems like the free-to-play model is the easiest answer to that question. Even if we need to be real careful about it, Zynga somehow pioneered F2P and this didn’t stop the company from cutting a lot of its main titles to face its own crisis. I think opportunities are where there is no loss of focus; games should still be player-centered because if players don’t like your game, there’s no way you’ll ever get any financial benefit from it. It is fine to put profit on the balance, but this should not be your priority during development or you’ll easily end up with bad gameplay or a gameplay that will eventually lose its appeal, as it happened to Draw Something.

How has Kickstarter impacted the indie scene?

Tremendously. That is why the issue is now to understand whether or not it is good that all companies, including blockbuster ones, shall have the right to raise money from Kickstarter. The logical answer is yes, seen that the very principle of Kickstarter is it being an open source platform, but it would be a pity if one day we will find ourselves admitting that yes, celebrities finally steal the spotlight from independent projects.

What have you got in store for Game Connection Asia?

Game Connection Asia will be as usual the fastest way to meet most of the key players from major publishing, developing, and outsourcing companies in the world, all in one place, without wasting any time wandering around a show floor. Held at the Longemont Hotel in Shanghai May 28-29, our B2B convention will welcome anyone willing to boost their business with 2 full days of intensive meetings and networking. All the companies involved in Mobile, Social, Online, and PC gaming, will be there: Google, ChangYou, Giant Interactive, Tencent, Xpec, Digital Capital, NetDragon, Nexon, Square Enix, Virtuos, Game Insight, and many more.

Game Connection will also host some full day sessions called Master Classes. This professional training program is taught by recognized industry leading experts and will cover Visual Arts and Business topics. A few examples are “Advanced Material Techniques for Real Time FX” taught by Keith Guerrette, Lead VFX Artist at Naughty Dog, “Lighting and color in a CG world” with Mael François, former Lighting Technical Director at Pixar. And as we talked about monetization and indies before, I’d like to highlight the two Master Classes held by Mark Gerban and Victor Bacre “European and American Online Payment Management” and “Preparing your company to enter the Games Industry Europe and America”. There something for every taste if you take a look to our website here so come join us!

Pierre, thanks.