It was time to dig out the passports this month, as we headed out to Casual Connect 2016 for the first international trip of the year. Casual Connect is a series of conferences held all over the globe, with a focus on creative and business trends in the gaming sector. There's a huge mobile development presence at the shows and so they provide a great opportunity to meet, network and engage with the industry's finest. With this in mind, we headed out to Amsterdam for this year's European event.
Competitive gaming was big on the agenda at this year's show and the basis of a number of talks and panels. The rise of E-Sports has taken many by surprise, turning professional gamers and streamers into celebrities, filling stadiums and making games content second only to music in terms of Youtube views. With this comes the possibility for games to evolve into a fully-fledged spectator sport and talks from Peter Warman (Newzoo) and Mohamed Fadl (Wargaming) explored this in more depth. The speakers looked at some of the business opportunities that are sprouting from the E-Sports sector and outlined a potential future where it can shape the gaming industry and break into mainstream media. Later in the conference, Koh Kim (Mobcrush) explained how due to advances in tech and connectivity, the mobile sector is now a viable place for E-Sports titles to flourish and can prove the catalyst for taking competitive gaming further into the mainstream.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INDIES
The indie scene is often considered to be the creative force that drives the wider gaming industry and it was well represented at Casual Connect. The Developer Showcase booth seemed bigger than ever this year with so many awesome games to play. It's so important for indie devs to get this kind of exposure for their work and network with the type of professionals that could help their titles thrive, plus the Indie Prize ceremony acknowledged the cream of the current indie crop in development. Stormbringer's PixelStrike 3D looked in particular to be a promising and quirky mobile take on the mobile FPS, a genre that has so far struggled to find its feet on the smaller screens. Elsewhere, Sixminute's FRZ looks to have reimagined the chaotic, top-down style of Micro Machines into a modern free-to-play racer, while Patrick Ellis's Seashine makes a cute protagonist from one of nature's least photogenic species, the anglerfish.
Money makes the world go round in game development and there were a number of talks at this years show about the financial side of the industry. Alongside the growth in F2P gaming, the scope of publishing deals is also changing as new revenue models and agreements come into play, whilst some studios back out of dealing with publishers altogether and look to secure Venture Capital or strategic investment instead. We got chance to attend a panel called 'Peak VC Games Investment?' with David Lau-Kee (London Venture Partners), Drew Boortz (Nexon America) and Shum Singh (Agnitio Capital) moderated by Mark Stevens (Fenwick & West). There were some really interesting insights into whether Venture Capital or strategic investment is best and in what situations. There was a lot of focus on the story of Supercell and how well VC worked for them but also how rare it is to see many deals go as well as that . There are numerous considerations a studio has to take when looking to fund their project and Gamefounders' Kadri Ugand looked at some of the considerations developers should take when working with both publishers and investors. Elsewhere, Tom Van Dam of Netease outlined some of the key strengths investors were looking for when considering whether or not to fund a project.
All in all, Casual Connect 2016 was a fantastic conference and we're looking forward to next year's event which takes place this time in Berlin, a city which much like our own Dundee has become a games industry hotspot. Companies like Tencent, Wooga and Gamevil are really bringing the games sector forward in Berlin, so we're sure Casual Connect 2017 will be one to watch. Bring it on!