On November 27, 2012, I attended NYCGaming’s Demo Night held at Microsoft. There were six game presenters and one presenting tips on in-game monetization. Joshua DeBonis presented Meriwether, Scott Rapp presented Instreamia, Greg Irwin presented BigTwist, Eric Schwertzel presented Deckdaq, John Nguyen presented Super Bunny Breakout, Ien Cheng presented Grasshopper and Glen Straub of Millennial Media gave tips on in-game monetization.
John Nguyen and Mark Nelson presented Super Bunny Breakout, a game published by Atari, inspired by Atari’s own “Breakout,” this is with bunnies and a superhero at that. Nguyen explained that Super Bunny Breakout is different than the original Breakout in that it is a character-driven game. “It’s an arcade game with characters on a mobile device,” he said. The space in which the game is played is a physics-based world. The paddle (or platform) moves up and down and left and right with ease. “You can actually catch the ball again,” Nguyen said. “You can shoot it back out too. It’s different from other Breakout games. We’ve thought hard about separating ourselves from the mold.” Each character in the game has different special powers. The levels also have bosses and level ups for the characters, but Super Bunny Breakout manages to keep in touch with the original.
Greg Irwin presented BigTwist, a slideshow presentation application. It is a video game engine-based presentation app, which focuses on “engaging and interactive presentations and brochures,” Irwin said. The app uses Unity for frontend, SmartFoxServer for middleware to connect audiences together and Enterprise-class backend. In the app, there are widgets to help the user develop a richer and more visually striking presentation. “This way,” Irwin said, “the presenter can engage with the audience more efficiently.” The slides are created in 3D space, which are “powerful for presentations.”
Josh DeBonis showed Meriwether, which is currently in development and is looking for funding through their Kickstarter campaign. Meriwether is an RPG based on the Lewis and Clark expedition. “We tried to be stick as closely as possible to the historical events,” DeBonis said. He explained the “Facet System” within the game, where in conversations with NPCs, Lewis has “three facets of his personality available, which the user chooses from in the conversation. The options you select all correspond to in-game scenarios.” He also detailed the environment and the user’s impact on the surroundings. “Animals can see and hear you, so if you are hunting for your party, sneak around to not startle them.” A major part of the game is to provide food for the party and maintain good relationships between the members. Levels are procedurally generated, except for levels where set events are to take place. When questioned on what his target audience is, DeBonis admitted that he was focused on gamers in high school or college who are more prone to historical simulators. “This is a fairly linear game,” he said. “Instead of choosing what to do, we gave the option of gamers choosing how to do it. We wanted to truly represent the expedition and present a fun game, but focus on historical accuracy.”
At this point, Glen Straub of Millennial Media gave tips on how to grow your business with in-game mobile advertising. “Millennial Media is the second largest mobile ad platform,” Straub said. “We’re fully independent and we have our technology embedded in over 30,000 apps. We’re focusing on games because they are the most vertical and mobile gamers will become the majority.” When thinking about monetization, Strab had this to say: “Think about monetization strategy while building your game! There are paid downloads vs. in-app purchases vs. mobile ads. Paid downloads are guaranteed money. You monetize frontend, get a loyal base, but it’s hard to scale. Users have high expectations and if you release a bad patch, you’re going to have unhappy customers. In-app purchases are just in-game enhancements like weapons, levels, hints, and so on, and you’re going to get a very small amount of money. Mobile ads, there’s plug-n-play ads. Try all three out and break out marketing towards them. Always have a plan and develop quality content where advertisers will want to place ads.”
Eric Schwertzel presented Deckdaq, the “first platform that is built around the experience of collecting and trading branded virtual items.” Schwertzel explained that he is bringing the “physical to the digital.” The cards are in 2D, that is, they have a front scan and a back scan, but Schwertzel plans to bring in a 3D feature in the near future. Deckdaq is working with Garfield, AC Milan and Elvis. “We’re focused on creating content for brands that have more than four million fans on Facebook,” Schwertzel said. The Facebook app consists of an Album, Storefront, Badges (for achievements), Inventory (for card storage), Marketplace (a pseudo-eBay market to trade or sell cards), and an Arcarde (to earn coins).
Scott Rapp quickly demoed Instreamia, an app that teaches the user foreign languages through YouTube videos. There are currently five languages that the user can choose from: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Japanese. There are exams that are given to the user ranging from choosing the right word to filling in the blanks in real-time grammar exercises. “It makes translations less boring,” Rapp said. “It’s a video game translation.” When asked if developers actually translate the videos to create the exams, Rapp said, “It’s a little bit of everything, people help us with lyrics, but you can find lyrics every easily through Google.”
Ien Cheng showcased Grasshopper, currently in Alpha mode. “This isn’t a game,” Cheng said. Grasshopper is actually a barstool-high multi-touch interactive table that up to 16 players can play games on. “This is the future of games,” he said. “It started from face to face gaming, to screen to face, and now face to screen to screen to face. Well, now, it’s going back to face to face, but the screen as the mediator.” Cheng’s plan is to take all of the social norms in gaming and add it to a “Meta game approach: games, software platform, hardware platform and spare” and add it to a community to create new experiences and relationships.