Game UX Summit ’17 | Keynote | Kongregate’s Emily Greer on Breaking through Labels

(atmospheric electronic music) (applauding) – Hey all. Thank you so much for staying through the end of this day. Sorry, I’m hoping that it’s just being too close to that speaker. It’s been a long couple of days but really enjoyable for me, particularly a lot of things today. I’m, among other things, partially deaf, have epilepsy and have inner ear problems that make me sensitive
to camera motion, so hearing a lot of things
talked about today, like mono audio and
flashing lights, et cetera is personally meaningful to me because there are a lot of games that I feel like I can’t play, including a
lot of console games and I’m really excited that
people are thinking about it and talking about it. I’m not gonna talk about that. I’m not actually a UX person at all, so I don’t know about that. I’m gonna be talking a lot about a somewhat personally informed story, and something that’s
driven a lot out of my own personal feelings after
being a gamer since a child, and in the game industry for 10 years, and some words that have
bothered me for a while. My talk is Breaking Through Labels. As I mentioned, I’m the CEO
and co-founder of Congregate and since what we do influences a lot of what I’m going to talk
about, I’m just going to mention it briefly, Open Browser Portal, more than 100,000 games, a lot of social features including live chat and achievements and more than 30,000 developers have
put games on our site, from 13 year olds making their first game up through Super Cell and
Ubisoft and EA have all had games on our platform. Also influencing this talk is our mobile publishing business
and this is something that we started in 2013, working with small and medium sized
independent games studios, helping them bring their games to mobile, doing all sorts of things,
whatever the game needs. Usually marketing and analytics and benchmarking, but also UI UX consulting
and helping get the game featured and QA, et
cetera, it’s a lot of it. We’ve published more than 40 games on mobile in the last four years. The most famous are probably
Adventure Capitalist and Animation Throwdown, but overall it’s a lot of other titles encompassing a lot of genres and there’s well more than 100 million installs across our games. I’m one of the few female
CEOs in the gaming industry, so when a reporter is working on a article on women in games, they
very often contact me and have questions, and
this is one that I got a few years ago that
troubled me and puzzled me. “What impact have casual
games like the ones you have “on Kongregate had on
attracting new female gamers “to the mix?” I didn’t even know
really how to answer it, because there were so many
assumptions built into the question that I didn’t
think I agreed with. One, Kongregate is a
site for casual games. Two, women don’t play
games as much as men. And three, women aren’t attracted to games that aren’t casual. To dig into a little bit
more of these questions, I went to the casual games website, that’s Casual Games Association website, and looked for what does
the Casual Games Association tell me casual games are. ‘Cause it’s a very
amorphous question overall. This is Jessica Tams, she’s the founder. She says that casual
games are developed for the general public and families, fun and easy to learn
and play, non-violent, arcade style games, puzzles, word, board, card games, game show and trivia. Is Kongregate a site for casual games? These are the seven most
played games on Kongregate in the last month, and
let’s get through it. Bit Heroes, RPG dungeon
crawler, that’s a no. Animation Throwdown,
collectible card game, probably a no. Mutilate a Doll, I mean
Mutilation. (laughing) Swordfight, also I think
that’s gonna be a no. And then three games
that are Realm Grinder, Cosmo’s Quest and
Crusaders of the Lost Idol, that are all idol games. I don’t really know if they’re casual, I don’t think they’re core,
I think they’re gray area. But they’re clearly not obviously casual. And then if you look at our demographics, what are our demographics? Well, they look very much
like the classic core gamer stereotype, so
some of this data is from our own internal surveys. In a normal week, how many hours
do you spend playing games? A third of the site plays
games 20 hours or more, 85% male, 15% female, and the bottom data is from ComScore, where it indexes us on various measures versus other sites, and we
have a higher percentage of our audience playing and
spending on console games than places like Wikia
Games, IGN, Gamespot and Twitch. That’s pretty clearly the
stereotype core gamer audience. And yet, and this is
one of the reasons why I really hate the core casual terms, if you look on our site, top 10 most played games on the site, number eight is this game, Learn To Fly 2, which is a really cute pick up and play, penguin launch game, that
really anybody could like, and this is on a site that’s, the audience is dominated
by the core gamer audience. It’s all very muddy. But even more than it being muddy, what I really don’t like about the terms core and casual is that
as soon as you describe something as core, you’re
automatically saying everything else is
peripheral and that devalues the experiences of a lot of other people, particularly females and older adults. Another problem is you look
at the definition of casual and one of the things it calls out is not regular, permanent, a person
who does something irregularly. My friend Lida is a classic
stereotype casual gamer. She basically only plays
solitaire on her iPhone, and she and I were talking about games, ’cause I’m in games,
and she mentioned that she’d been looking at her solitaire stats, and was shocked at how
much she was playing, especially ’cause she
doesn’t really think about herself as a gamer, but
she was playing a lot. I asked her to screenshot her stats, and she sent them to me. And because I’m friends
with geeks and she’s a Chemistry PhD she
sent me a very elaborate analysis of her stats and
breakdown of what she liked. In the previous six months,
since she’d had that particular phone, she’d
played more than 300 hours of solitaire, so averaging about 15 hours a week, and she specifically
liked the hardest games, and she tracked her win rate over time and one of the things she
was trying to optimize was her win rate and a
particular game, Spiderette, where she’d moved it from 28% to 34%. She’s seeking out difficulty, she’s playing the same
game over and over again, and she’s doing it 15 hours a week. How does that match that
casual stereotype or the core meaning, oh God, I said it. (laughing) Core meaning
of the word casual. Here’s another woman whose experience varies with what the casual stereotype is. This is my grandmother, who was a nice, upper middle class woman from Waco, Texas who probably never touched
a computer in her life, and died 25 years ago. She loved bridge and mahjong
and was in clubs to play them, played them multiple hours a week. She was very competitive about
it and very skilled at it. So much so that my family’s first signal that she was going
senile, was my Mom saw her misplay a bridge strike,
and my Mom was like, what’s wrong, you would
never ever do this, and it was a sign, of
unfortunately things to come. In the casual stereotyping,
bridge and mahjong are casual games, but if
you think about gameplay, that doesn’t make sense at all. It’s co-op, high skill, PvP multiplayer. How does that fit in
with a casual stereotype? And I don’t think that the core pleasures that my
grandmother took in playing bridge is really different from somebody playing League of Legends today. It’s achievement, it’s
skill, it’s social connection and competitive drive, all
those things were there, and I think it’s fundamentally the same. Games are one of the
longest lasting and most universal aspects of culture. Every ancient culture had some examples of games created, board games, et cetera, mostly played by elites. The earliest examples go back 5,000 years. Games spread from culture to culture as fast or faster than
other types of knowledge. For example, playing cards
were invented in China in the 9th century, got to Egypt by around 1100, where they took on the four suit, 52 card form that we know. Got to Europe around 1300 where they were just an elite entertainment, but then got more and more popular after the
printing press was invented. In the 19th century, card
games and board games became the leisure time activity
for the leisure class, and as the century progressed, that was more and more people. If you’ve ever read a Jane Austin novel, they’re constantly playing cards. Every evening, they’re
pulling out the card table and so many social things,
so many elements are about people playing games in those novels. Because games are spreading
from community and community, they were inherently
social, you had to play them with other people. It meant that every time
a game was introduced, somebody was there to teach you the rules, and it had social endorsement
and social pressure. Like this is an okay thing for me to do, this is something that everybody does. And that’s very important, because when video games first arrive, they didn’t spread like that. The first games were coming in arcades, or they were on screens, on PC screens and you had to huddle around the screens and they were more likely to be a much
more individual pursuit. To play them, you had to go to an arcade, or you had to buy special
equipment or a PC, and so they tend to be bought
by the novelty-seeking, the early adopters, the adventurous and they tended to be more young men. Early on, the game
industry was marketing and trying to appeal to families,
but quickly realized that the money was coming
from young men, and so they sort of doubled down
on the tastes of young men. First person shooters became very popular, graphics improved and so
things like gore got more realistic and female
breasts got less realistic. (laughing) And then, what happened is that, especially with the Playstation 2 coming out and getting so
broad in terms of adoption, partly thanks to the presence of the DVD player, it became
a really ubiquitous thing in that younger generation,
especially among males, and games started spreading
the same way that they had before, person to person,
with social endorsement, with somebody coaching you and helping you through
and that helped pull in people who probly mostly
males, but some females, who might not have gone out and discovered games on their own and it
became, at least in that generation, much more
of a mass phenomenon. But just because the main game industry wasn’t focusing on them, doesn’t mean that women and older people
were not playing games. Microsoft bundled solitaire
with Windows in the early 1990s, and I can
tell you as somebody who worked in the 1990s,
you couldn’t walk into an accounting department
without somebody very quickly hiding that they were playing
solitaire on their screen. (laughing) The browser portals like
Yahoo and MSN, et cetera, they started putting up
games on their portals, and they put all kinds of games up. But what they found was that
what was getting played a lot were the card and board
games and that their audience was mostly female and
older male which is really not what they expected. It wasn’t monetized very well, but it was huge amounts of traffic. PopCap in a little after 2000, released Bejeweled, and
they were able to prove that that same audience was willing to play a new genre if they could try it and if the price was reasonable,
and that sparked a short term revolution
in casual games on the try and buy. On sites like Big Fish
and a bunch of others, you played all sorts
of games and genres and there’s a lot more
exploration and a little bit of a renaissance there. By 2007, really every
demographic was playing games, older, younger, male, female. But it was really, really segregated, so young men and some others
but mostly young men were playing on Steam
and Xbox and Playstation. Blizzard and anybody else who thought hey, I’m gonna put a black
background on my logo. (laughing) And then, everybody else were mostly
playing browser games on Big Fish and MSN and
Yahoo and they all had white backgrounds and bright
blue purpley color schemes. But the thing is is that even
though everybody was playing and everybody was on
these big browser sites, it was a relatively silent phenomenon. It’s mostly isolated and individual, you weren’t talking to your
friends and family about it, it was just sort of almost a secret shame, you didn’t identify as gamers. It doesn’t mean that there
wasn’t social activity, especially PoGo is a
fascinating case study, if you ever want to
think about communities. You’re mostly talking with strangers, not friends and family. So it was all this very
hidden phenomenon and nobody on this right side
identified as a gamer. Social games, when they
came out, starting late, sometime in 2007, really
upended that paradigm, because you didn’t go search out games. They were coming to you in something that you were doing every day, and then also, they were coming with both social endorsement, ’cause
they were coming from a friend, and social pressure, like
my crops are gonna die if you don’t help me, so it changed the dynamics of
how games were being played. It made something that had been hidden, really visible and it made it possible for something to be a totally
mass market phenomenon again. Another thing that was very
important along this time was the rise of Free to Play. There’s a lot of people, a lot of gamers, and particularly a lot of
casual gamers like Lida. I still fall into these traps. A lot of people like Lida who
want to play the same game over and over again, and the industry had historically struggled with
people who want to keep playing the same game,
because at best you get that money once, and so you’d rather focus on people who are
gonna buy multiple games. With free to play, that totally changes. You really want the
person who wants to play your game forever, because as
long as they keep investing and they keep playing, you
can keep releasing content and have something to sell. And so, finally, the business model and the customer play pattern are matched and revenue is suddenly
uncapped and people are making way more money than they used to. Mobile has taken this even farther and there area a lot of interesting
dynamics about mobile. Social gamers and console
gamers are suddenly playing on the same devices, selecting games from the same app stores, and the creation of unified charts, and unified app stores
eliminates a lot of the barriers around self
sorting and expectations that we’ve had previously. It’s also the most ubiquitous
platform we’ve ever had and it’s also so well
designed for quick downtime, so that everybody, your random spare time, it’s ideal for that. This unified app store unified charts, has led to a lot of interesting dynamics. Example of that is Hearthstone and Kim Kardashian Hollywood came out within about six weeks of each other in 2014 and received a very
similar amount of press. Hearthstone, great game from Blizzard, it always would have
gotten a very large amount of press and attention. Kim Kardashian, if that
game had reached that same level of success just
on Big Fish, just on Yahoo, I don’t think there
would have been anybody talking about it in the industry. It would have been this
sort of silent hidden thing, and that matters. It also goes the other
direction in terms of consumers. Because everything’s together, people are stumbling onto games in
genres that might never have been targeted to
them, or they might never have thought, this is a game for me. My friend Megan is a
great example of this. She was playing Candy Crush on her phone, and played various other card
and other familiar games, and she got bored and decided
to play Clash of Clans because it was next on the list. That’s on the top grossing
list, so she’s like oh, okay, it’s next,
it’s the next best one. I think she’d also seen a commercial, but it was pretty random
how she stumbled into it. Six months later, she was an
elder of a competitive clan and I caught her sneaking away to the bathroom in a
restaurant because there was a clan war going on, and
she needed to get a raid in. (laughing) She had never thought,
I want to be in a guild, I want to play a strategy
game, but she loved it once she stumbled into it. I think that’s wonderful. In some ways we’re
starting, I think on mobile particularly we’re starting to transcend a lot of these labels
we’ve used in the past. Core and casual, but I still
really want to talk about it, because I think that we
still use them a lot, and they interfere with our ability to make good decisions about
what games that we make, how we market them, and
our business models. We’ve been throwing various
band-aids at the problem, people talk about midcore
a lot, but midcore, when you get down to
defining it is usually just a core game with better tutorial
on an accessible platform. That’s a little bit
better, than broadens it, but I think it’s under-appreciating the universality and
the pleasure of games. How would I define it, if
I’m creating this world space about how we talk about
players and how they fit, ’cause you always want
to categorize things. I would probably start with one category, which is novelty seekers. These are people who are always looking for new twists in genre, theme, gameplay. And I think it’s also
important to talk about business model, because
you always want to have the business model aligned
with the player interests, and the player needs or
else you get a different kind of mismatch. For these, I think shorter
games, up front purchase is the right mix, and the
novelty-seekers these days are mostly served by indie
games on Steam and console and I think serve pretty well. A really important
category is what I’d call one game hobbyists, so these are people who will
dedicate themselves for years to one game as long as the
content keeps expanding and the game keeps evolving. Somebody yesterday was
talking about playing Ultima Online for 12 years. Bless you, that’s a great example. For this, a business
model is really important, I referred to this earlier. For somebody who’s playing the same game for a long time, either free to play or paid and DLC is the best
business model because you want the developer to have incentives
to keep working on the game, keep the servers
up, keep improving it and that’s only possible
if repeat purchases are somehow enabled. This has become more and more the driver of our industry, so almost
every top game you think of is really serving one game hobbyists. And casual is not a dirty word. I think there is something
that I would call a true casual, which are people who will play games
occasionally, not regularly. And for them, familiarity and nostalgia are key lures. One thing to keep in mind though is that what’s familiar and what’s nostalgic is totally different now
than it was 20, 30 years ago. The generation that is
coming up now grew up with video games and grew up with Pokemon, so it’s not card and
board games, it’s Pokemon. That is a huge nostalgia
that pulls you into something you wouldn’t
have otherwise played. For this group, I think
ad-supported free to play is probably the best model. You don’t want to put
up a lot of barriers, because they’re not
going to jump over them. You do want to have it
be possible for them to spend but probably they’re not gonna spend a whole lot, ’cause
they’re not so committed to the game like a hobbyist. Ad support helps align
and support the game with a lot of these players. And these are mostly
served by free mobile games and a little bit free browser games but mostly mobile games these days. And then there’s an uber category which is game omnivores, which
are people who are both novelty seekers and one-game hobbyists, and include probably almost
everybody in this room. (laughing) We’re very important in the game industry, in terms of employee numbers, and we’re very important in terms of revenue and energy contributed
to the game industry overall but as the total number of
people, this is relatively small ’cause it just takes a
lot of time to be both. Any framework is limited and
there’s all sorts of nuances. Here are some other categories of people, subtleties that I think exist,
so, casual novelty seekers. I think Kongregate has a lot of these, people who cycle through short
games on a frequent basis. Ketchapp probably serves them pretty well, but flash games overall
probably have served them. Casual hobbyists, so
these are people who only play one game but play it irregularly, and I think they come in a
lot of different stripes. A businessman who plays
Angry Birds on a plane when he doesn’t have a connection. Or somebody who just plays FIFA or Madden and plays it a little bit
during whatever the season is and then doesn’t play for a while. An interesting category
is the genre obsessive, so somebody who isn’t
really a novelty seeker, ’cause they only want to
play one type of game, but they’ll play all of those. So, somebody who plays all
racing games or shooters. I sat next to a woman on a plane once who played, in an hour and a half, five different Match Threes,
all in different languages. I think she was Chinese, and
she played one in Portuguese, she played one in
German, and these are not Match Threes that I’ve ever seen. She just would hit her life
max and then cycle through and keep playing to the next one. Different customers have
different roles in the industry. Novelty seekers drive
early adoption and buzz. Hobbyists drive retention and revenue, and pulling in true casual is necessary for something to become
a really mass phenomenon. I just made up a totally
fake chart here, (laughing) which is how I think these categories have contributed to the
industry revenue over time, not as a total, but as a percentage. I think novelty seekers,
the total amount of revenue coming from
this group has certainly increased over time, but as a percentage it’s become less important, because they were totally crucial when one time purchased games was
the only source of revenue. As free to play and DLC have risen, one game hobbyists have become
more and more important. I think true casual as
mobile and the advertising markets improve have gradually
become more important, but they’re still a relatively
small part of the industry. True confession. Obviously I really hate the term core. I still use it, sometimes daily. Part of this is just the
habit of the industry, and it’s just a quick
shorthand to talk to people, but a lot of it is because even though it’s a bad way to talk about gameplay, it’s a realistic way to
talk about gamer identity. Just looking at people who
play a fair amount of games, I mapped out three basic identities. One is the hardcore gamer, and for these people,
games are a primary hobby, source of identity and often
a sense of superiority. These are people who might
talk about filthy casuals, semi-jokingly, not totally jokingly. (laughing) Besides playing games, also watch a lot of Twitch and other things and just overall, this is your community, and your identity. They’re most likely to be omnivores and novelty seekers
and they’re more likely to be younger and male, and they mostly play on PC and console. Gamer, this is sort of an in between. This is games are hobby,
but less source of identity, due to various factors,
maybe types of games played, the fact that they are
a one game hobbyist, or skill level or something else. They’re more likely to be a hobbyist, but still possibly a
novelty seeker, and I think especially now that we have
generations aging through games, they’re more likely to be older. Because I know a lot of
people who played games really obsessively when they were younger, but now have family and jobs and it’s a smaller part of their life. I think they’re gonna
play on what’s convenient and what’s familiar, so more on console, more on mobile. These are all stereotypes,
I’m making things up, but I still that they’re valid. And then there’s an important category of I play games, but I’m not a gamer. They may play a lot, but
they don’t connect to gamer stereotypes and have no idea that Twitch and esports exist and just feel pretty separated
from that culture. More likely to be a hobbyist,
possible a true casual, more likely to be older or female, and they mostly play
on mobile and browser. Identity is really
powerful and none of us are immune to it. Whether it’s the hardcore gamer talking about a filthy casual, or a I play games or non-gamer snorting at nerds in a basement, we all use identity to help ourselves connect to other people,
to connect to tribes, and often feel a sense
that I’m a little bit better than someone. Those are all things
that are very addictive and powerful. Celia mentioned that I gave a shorter version of this
talk a couple years ago, and after I gave it, a
young woman came up to me to talk about it, and she was very upset at a lot of things that I said, and was very upset that I was talking about other experiences being just as valid and as important as her hardcore identity. That was a really difficult
conversation because I don’t think she’s less,
I think she’s amazing. I just think that other
things are amazing too and that it’s equal, but I was really pushing buttons and shaking her and I’m probably doing that
to somebody in this room, too. Sorry. (laughing) Identity creation is self reinforcing, so you kind of start with a self identity and your own self identity feeds
into cultural expectations and cultural expectations feed into the choices that we
make as game developers, and then the choices that we make about which platform we’re
gonna put something on, which reinforces self-sorting. And then, people get into those games and there’s individual game culture which helps shape self identity, and then you go in a circle,
in a circle, in a circle. I mentioned that game
developers make a lot of choices that affect this circle and we send signals, we send a lot of signals. Sometimes it’s I like big guns means core gamer and difficulty, this is really difficult. This is core gamer. Or it could be a cuddly puppy and a dorky gardener. All of these are signals that say, this is for
you, this is not for you. But our assumptions
probably aren’t as good as we think they are. Mechs and post-apocalyptic
landscapes and space are very common tropes of the hardcore gaming identity
and used very frequently. Many very successful games in this genre. But, our experience on mobile has been that these are maybe not as good choices, and maybe not as popular as
we really think they are. On mobile, because we’re
attracting our audience mostly via advertising, we
get some interesting data. Mobile CPIs and CPI stands
for Cost Per Install, are a good way to show
revealed preferences as opposed to express preferences. If I show you a mech and you
say, oh hey that’s badass, that’s a cool game, I’d like to play it, you might well say that,
but when you see the ad that’s showing it, you
might not click on it. And in that situation,
there’s a difference between your expressed preference
and your revealed preference. On mobile, on ads, CPIs are driven by how
many people click through on an ad, and then how
many people convert from the landing page, so
the wider your funnel, the less you have to pay for an impression in order to bring an install in. The lower the cost per
install, the better, the higher, that means not
very many people are clicking, or not many people are converting or both. And what we found is
that many of the tropes of core games are not preferred. Here’s a range of across 40 games of the CPIs we’ve tended to see, and at the very low end it’s games like Adventure Capitalist, or Tinker Island that have generally bright, bold themes, very fun themes, humorous
themes or nostalgic or vacation oriented. The very, very high end is anything with robots, space, post-apocalyptic, dark. All of these things drive CPIs up. And that’s not just when we advertise to a broad population, though
it’s especially true then. Even when we’re using Facebook targeting to only target people who are
in a particular demographic and like collectible card
games or like something else, that angle and that CPI still appears. But it’s not all core tropes. Fantasy themes in general
tend to have lower CPIs. I have a general theory
that games for most people are escapes, and themes on games should be places that you want to be, places that you’d like to go on vacation. Fantasy is often very beautiful, post-apocalyptic landscapes often are not, and so that affects their
overall attractiveness and CPIs. But it’s not just core tropes
that can cause problems. Strong signals in any direction can increase CPIs, so if something is too casual, CPIs go up. Pocket Plants is a game
that we signed thinking it would have a relatively broad appeal, bright colors, low CPI. It’s actually just as high as
fantasy games, maybe higher and we think it’s because
it just signaled too hard this is casual, this is maybe kids’ stuff, and it wasn’t appealing to as many people. We had an interesting experiment, unintentional test. We released two games in 2016, both from two different
ex-Lionhead studios that both got Editor’s
Choice hero featuring. One was Battlehand from
Another Place Productions, which is a turn-based deconstructed CCG, would probly be the way to describe it. And then the other from 22
Cans, led by Peter Molyneux is the game The Trail, which is kind of a walking simulator, (chuckling) and a trading game, it’s
a little hard to explain. You’d think, they both have
really beautiful graphics, really I think appealing graphics. They got the same full endorsement from Apple
and the same features, so you’d think they’d
get relatively similar numbers of installs. Nope. Trail got three times the installs that Battlehand did. And I think a lot of that is because all along the spectrum, whatever
your identity as a gamer, people looked at The Trail and said, a wilderness adventure, that’s for me. But Battlehand, just as beautiful, but it’s calling a lot
of core game tropes. In the fantasy, you see
an elf, you see a wizard. It’s beautiful rendered, but it’s saying, this is a certain type
of game, and I think a lot of people looked at it and said, that’s not for me. But you could say that it’s
just collectible card games, core genre, people are never going to want to play that. But we’ve had good luck
actually taking the genre of collectible card games and
making it more accessible. And in a way, that’s
sort of data controlled. We’ve been working with one
game, Synapse Studios in Chicago on a series of three
collectible card games over the last three years. Or I guess four years. It started in 2013, the
first game we ever launched on mobile was Tyrant
Unleashed, which was a collectible card game in
a post-apocalyptic setting with lots of mechs and decay and volcanoes and all of that. And the game did really well,
it’s got great retention and monetization and high LTVs, but we struggled marketing
it because the CPIs were really high. This was our first this is hard moment and CPIs tended to be
around seven dollars. Working with Synapse,
we talked about okay, how can we make this game more marketable and more accessible. They did a re-skin and
reworked the game somewhat, but the core engine was similar in 2015 and really Spellstone
which takes a lot of really charming and ’80s
inspired cartoon art in a fantasy setting. We had two goals, improve the CPIs and improve the retention,
and especially the Teen 1 retention and we were able to do both so that was good, we were happy about that. But around the same time,
we started talking with Fox about potentially making
a card game with them, with their big IPs,
Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Futurama, American Dad, a
lot of really popular things. For this we were like okay, we can make a card game accessible, and this is really important. We brought in another
team to work with them, but still it’s fundamentally
the same card game engine as Tyrant. But we spent a lot of time
bringing in these characters, bringing in the narrative, and it’s been a really great success. The retention on the game
is higher than either Tyrant or Spellstone, and the CPIs are much, much lower, down
into the casual level. Two dollars at significant sale. You can make a collectible
card game accessible, and we haven’t lost anybody. Synapse Games always have this one guild called Dire Tide, which is
always in the top three, and they followed game to game to game, and they play Animation
Throwdown just as avidly as they played Tyrant. A more famous example on
the very similar pattern of taking a game that
has what you would think would be maybe inaccessible gameplay is Niantic taking their location based AR game
Ingress and turning it into Pokemon Go. It’s fundamentally the same game, bringing in Pokemon, lovely
nostalgic charming lore, and it takes a really unfamiliar gameplay and made it not just
broadly accessible, but a mass phenomenon across the world that’s still in, years later, or I guess a year later,
I’m losing track of time, being played avidly. I think Nintendo overall
when we talk about in Kongregate, we like to make our games as broadly accessible as possible. Nintendo is kind of an icon for us. At the speakers dinner on Tuesday night, someone was talking about how in Japan the gameplay patterns are
a little bit different, that they’re more family oriented, everybody playing around a screen, versus a more individual
experience that we generally have in the West. That makes sense to me,
especially in the way Nintendo has behaved
and they’ve been kind of console generation and
game after game really committed to having
their games be accessible and popular, and I don’t
know anybody who would call themselves a hardcore
gamer who isn’t also a hardcore Nintendo fanboy or fangirl, but almost everybody, especially who grew up with Nintendo is like yes, I want to play Mario Party, I want to do this, it
feels really accessible. We look at them as an inspiration. But you don’t have to
make a game for everybody and I don’t think that’s right. My mother uses a phrase a lot in Spanish that’s (speaking Spanish) which means for the tastes,
they made the colors, and there are 100,000 tastes in the world, and there should be 100,000
tastes in games in the world. It is absolutely fine and
great to make mech games or super casual games or, God, I hate it, I still use it. (laughing) Or whatever theme that you can think of, that’s totally fine, we
should make all those games. What we should do, though,
is be thoughtful about it and not be trapped by
the expectations and the stereotypes we’ve always had. Gameplay and business
choices should consider player play-types, so the novelty seekers, the one game hobbyist,
what kind of audience are you attracting, what kind
of business model makes sense. Theme and style choices
shape your audience more than genre. I fundamentally think that any genre can appeal to any audience
if you theme it right. And don’t assume because
something is a common trope or stereotype that it’s right. I think that is the main
thing that I want you to take away from this talk. Finally, I’d love to have all of you help me, stop saying core and casual. I’d love to have you guys stop
using it as much as you can. The great news is that we
have an industry that’s truly a mass industry. Everybody plays video games, almost everybody plays video games, just the way almost everybody watches TV or goes to films, goes to the movies or listens to music. But you never talk about
a core moviegoer or a core music listener. There are genres and genres
have demographic tilts, and there’s casual and
enthusiast fans within any of those genres,
but no one of those has this sense of truth that
they are the one true music or the one true movie genre. Studio execs may chase
young males in the summer with action movies, but they know that they’re not gonna be
successful unless females and older males are going to go to them too. I think we should stop
bucketing our industry into just two categories,
and frankly condescending to one of those categories, ’cause games are more than
that, gamers are more than that and the game industry can be, too. Thank you. (applauding) Happy to take questions,
so if anybody has any. I’d like to shout out to the
woman who asked a question at the last talk that was
totally setting up my talk. (laughing) – [Male Audience Member]
I get to be first. I’m Cam from Riot Games. My question is how did
you come up with these new segments of players
and how did you inform that segmentation, really. – I made it up when I was
writing this talk originally. I mean it’s basically but, I’ve been sort of obsessed
with games as hobbies for a long time and especially explaining free to play, ’cause
there’s a lot of judgment around free to play, and people spending any
significant amount of money in games and when Kongregate
first started having free to play games and
people were spending a significant amount
of money, I got really, my initial reaction was discomfort of somebody spent $1,000,
somebody spent $5,000? And then I took a step
back and thought about my main hobby, which is figure skating, and thought about how much
I spend on that per year, and was like oh yeah, and that feels totally right and
rational and normal to me. I basically started doing
talks about free to play on how they’re hobbies and
that made me think about hobbyists versus novelty seekers in the industry and how
it’s shaped over the years. That was the core is
something that I’d been thinking about for a while, and casual is a real thing, it’s just, I think, from my
perspective, defined wrong, and that’s how I came up with it. – [Male Audience Member] Cool. Yeah thanks, ’cause it
really resonates with me. I would much rather we not talk about that within my company as well. – [Emily] Okay, thanks. (laughing) – [Male Audience Member] Hi,
thanks so much for your talk. I used to play a lot of
Kongregate games and flash games when I was a kid. I think I was an omnivore, ’cause I did play lots of console
games, but I also really loved flash games, I played the penguin game, so much fun, very cute. You talked a lot about older people or people in
their 20s playing games, but what about younger people, I know i was quite young
playing flash games. I have a sister who’s about eight who is playing a lot of mobile games, do you know any particular, how do they interact with games and is it different from the way that older people interact with games? – I don’t think it’s
different, actually there was a story that I meant to tell earlier that I forgot to tell, which is going to arcades with my
brother when we were young, and he would go and play all the games and I parked myself on
Ms. Pacman and would just play Ms. Pacman like
endlessly, to the point where when I was eight, I
actually set the high score on the Ms. Pacman in
the arcade and this is an arcade that’s right outside
the University of Texas main entrance, so it
was not a trivial thing. I’d been playing so
long, I really needed to use the restroom, and the
moment of my great victory, I accidentally peed my
pants, so it’s this like, (laughing) tremendous memory of both total exaltation and total
shame all mixed into one. I was a hobbyist. I would latch onto a single game and I would just play it for months. Ms. Pacman in arcades,
Lode Runner I played, played so much Lode Runner. My brother was omnivore
slash novelty seeker, I think more true novelty seeker. He always wanted the newest game, and I don’t think he ever set a high score in that arcade, ’cause he
was playing all the different ones and, but I also always felt like
he was more the real gamer, because he was the one who
was reading the magazines and knew what was coming
out and telling me what I should play, but part of this talk is me saying no actually how I play games is okay, and it was there really and our habits were really
there from the start. I also think it shows up
in other media consumption. I’m much more likely to re-read books and re-watch TV shows and
re-watch movies than my brother. I can’t really explain it, but it’s true. – [Male Audience Member] Thank you. – I do think that overall
novelty seeking is a younger person’s behavior
though, just ’cause you have more time. As you have more stuff
going on in your life, it becomes harder and harder, even if you are a novelty
seeker, to express that. – [Male Audience Member]
Thank you very much. – [Female Audience Member] Hi, thank you for your presentation. I actually have a question that, I’m actually a lead designer, a lead US designer from How-Hat Games in Vancouver, it’s a mobile games company. Basically, I’m just a developer, right. I want to ask some tips. I know it’s a big question or a big scope, so I’d like to ask one or two tips from your point of view, as a platform, after so many games being published on your platform, how to think about
improving the quality for the games you are developing? I’m sure it’s also related
to your interests because CPI can be a really good indicator to measure the platform
quality, but after that players download the game,
they probably still need (mumbling) the quality to make sure they’re not being lied or something, so I’d like to hear some opinion from you. – I think art and theme is not the core thing and
not the most important thing for making a game great. Systems and UX and metagame
are what make games great. A game can be so ugly, and be still absolutely amazing. You should see what Adventure
Capitalist looked like when it was first uploaded to Kongregate. It’s the most hideous
thing you’ve ever seen, but I couldn’t stop playing
it, and I would look up through the office and see
it on absolutely everybody’s screen and I was like, this is a great opportunity. This is a game where they
found the core of fun and that’s to me the hardest thing to do. And then okay, let’s now go work on the UI and the theme and the art, and let’s make this
something that everybody can play and everybody can figure out. This is not to say that
art and theme and UI aren’t important,
they’re hugely important, they’re massively important, but they are to me step two. ‘Cause you can have great
systems, terrible art and have a fun, great
game, but you can’t have great art, and no systems
and have it be fun. When I see a studio
that is tons of artists and no designers, that
makes me nervous, so I guess that would be my advice. – [Female Audience Member] I see. Sorry, just back to your answer. I guess, in order to create
a cohesive experience for players, maybe like
them actually try to sell the games on the platform, from your point of view, maybe they can concentrate on the fun, the gameplay, the system, rather than if they have a good art or not. – Yeah, and one of the
things I’m proud about on Kongregate is how many ugly games are really successful. (laughing) Some of that I think is art, like Kongregate’s heritage
in flash games ’cause there’s a lot of ugly flash games, but, I think that something about the systems and it’s all
sort of user generated, what bubbles up to the
top, helps the focus be on the systems. I see as a platform, our role is to help figure out, help show people what’s fun based on what other people have found fun, which often is ugly games, and our role as a publisher is taking games that are maybe ugly but fun and helping teams put that final polish on and bring everything
together so that it can be really broadly successful, and that’s something
we’ve done quite a bit. I said Ad Cap was ugly
in its first iteration, Realm Grinder, it’s hilarious how terrible its look was, but we managed to get it up to a level that Apple was willing to feature it. – [Female Audience Member] I see. Do you have any report or research you can share with developers? – We have a blog and we release articles weekly
and we use a lot of data. If you go to [email protected] or follow KongregateDevs on Twitter, there is just tons and
tons of information. Overall as a platform, our mission is to help independent developers succeed, and we think one important part of that is sharing what we’ve learned including sharing much more data
than I think is typical. – [Female Audience
Member] Okay, sounds good. Thank you. – [Male Audience Member] Hi, Emily. I was intrigued by your slide where you had a really fantastic
opportunity to compare two products that got great
shelf space in the App store. You said that Trail got
about 3X the installs. But I couldn’t help wonder
if a portion of that install base came from the curiosity Molyneux factor in that. Was there any attempt or
idea to de-factor that maybe? – I think the Peter
Molyneux is a much bigger, it’s possible it was an element, I don’t think it was 3X and we’ve consistently, even
past that featuring, it gets just a lot of organic installs. The other thing is press strives a fair amount of attention
in the paid game world, but in mobile, we’ve
never found that it had any significant impact at all. I think people on mobile,
they’re not looking to review sites to tell them what to buy, ’cause there’s, you’re just gonna install
it, and if you don’t like it you’re gonna throw it out, you look at the app store,
so app store placement has. I don’t think we’ve ever
had a PR campaign that we could see any measurable
difference in the number of installs, but
app store featuring is just ginormous. I think that’s it. Okay, thanks everybody. (applauding) (atmospheric electronic music)

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  1. cabbage

    ooo nice, I was so upset for not going, but it's all online!!

  2. Woodworking Fangirl

    Everyone loves Emily, but how did she manage to look like a younger version of herself?

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