conference


Is there a season for conferences? If so, it feels like it’s upon us.

GDC and SXSW went well. Here are some links to coverage of my talk at GDC and my panel at SXSW.

GDC
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    SXSW
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    Random local press
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    Next up for me is ICE 08 in Toronto.

    I’m on a panel there called “Worlds @ Play” moderated by Lucie Lalumière (VP Interactive, Earth Rangers) in discussion with Leigh Alexander (Editor, Worlds in Motion / Staff, Gamasutra.com), Matt Daly (Cofounder, Metaversatility.com) and Barbara Lippe (Art Director & VP International Relations, Avaloop). I’m only in Toronto from Wednesday afternoon to Friday afternoon, but if you want to grab coffee at the conference, let me know!

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    A few hundred people watched my Red Bull-fueled version of this presentation on Monday, February 18th at GDC. The narration included in this slidecast was done this weekend and is not nearly as energetic.

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    I’ve been a bit remiss in putting general news stuff out there, so let me catch up in a quick and timely manner:

    1) I’ll be at GDC next week, Sunday the 17th to Friday the 22nd. I’m giving a talk called “The Power of Free-To-Play” (GDC chose the Anthony Robbins-esque title) at the Worlds in Motion Summit on Monday at 2pm. I’m up for coffee with any interested parties, so email me if you’re one of them.

    2) I’ll be at SXSW in Austin, March 8-11. Michael Smith (CEO of Mind Candy) was kind enough to invite me to be on a panel called Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues, along with Nabeel Hyatt (Conduit Labs), Jeremy Liew (Lightspeed Venture Partners) and Joe Hyrkin (Gaia Online).

    3) Lastly, I left Relic in early January after three great years with the company. Since then, I’ve been doing some design & production work on a variety of exciting free to play projects. So for the time being, you could call me a hired gun.

    I hope to see some familiar faces at GDC and SXSW. Take care!

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    I spent a couple hours today pretending I had infinite time and money to attend free to play-relevant conferences the world over. The result is this list of the top 10 conferences for those who want a crash course on F2P development and a slew of contacts in the sector.

    Over the last year, there’s been a deluge of new virtual worlds conferences, but not all are created equal. So in addition to sorting on quality, I decided to sort for those that were at least partially geared toward English speakers.

    Some of the following conferences occurred in the past, but have been included in the hopes that they become annual affairs.

    1) Virtual Goods Summit
    June 22, 2007 – Palo Alto, California

    The Virtual Goods Summit is a one day conference focused on the emerging market opportunity for virtual goods and economies. Once restricted to the world of online gaming, virtual goods and currencies are beginning to influence the development of social networks, community sites, and many other new and exciting markets.

    The Virtual Goods Summit was a one day affair at the Annenberg Auditorium featuring a series of one hour panel discussions and presentations. Notable speakers included the CEO’s of Gaia Online, Three Rings, Kongregate, GoPets and K2 as well as the Director of Business Development at Nexon. The topics discussed included virtual goods as the next big business model, industry success stories and the forces driving user adoption.

    Check out F2P.biz’s summary of the Virtual Goods Summit.

    2) Virtual Worlds Forum
    October 23 – 27, 2007 – London, England

    Our pan-European virtual worlds confex connected brands, major corporations, digital and virtual worlds agencies, media and entertainment players and games companies, technology suppliers, analysts and commentators, lawyers, regulators and venture capitalists and all those harnessing the power of virtual worlds to engage with clients, suppliers or customers.

    The Virtual Worlds Forum lasted two days and was by no means focused just on games. The keynotes and panel discussions we’re about many things including brand recognition, corporate opportunity and revenue possibilities. Panelists included Paul Hemp- Senior Editor, Harvard Business Review; Ginsu Yoon- SVP International, Linden Lab and Thomas Bidaux- Director of Product Development, NCSoft Europe.

    Check out Wonderland’s summary of the Virtual Worlds Forum.

    3) Virtual Worlds Conference
    April 3-4 2008 – New York; Autumn 2008 – West Coast

    Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo helps businesses harness the power of virtual worlds to engage with their customers, partners and employees. The event follows our sold out Virtual Worlds Spring New York conference.

    Speakers from this year’s conference included Paul Yanover, VP and Managing Director at Disney and Anthony Zuicker- creator of CSI. The event featured hundreds of speakers overall and some major corporate support. This year six streams will be available with an emphasis on the financial and operational aspects of virtual worlds. Where as some of the conferences on this list are art or design orientated the Virtual World Conference seems to be strait business.

    4) Game Developers Conference
    February 18 – 22 2008 – San Fransisco, California

    If you are going to attend one industry event in 2008, this is the one. The core objective of this year’s conference is to promote Learning, Networking, and Inspiration. The GDC team has been working hard to create the most exciting and compelling conference yet. Most notably, we have adjusted the timing for the call for papers forward to ensure that we’re presenting you with the most up-to-date topics facing game developers today. You won’t be disappointed.

    The GDC isn’t exclusively interesting to free to play followers but in the wake of E3’s fall from grace this is the game industry’s flagship event.

    Also at GDC is the Worlds in Motion Summit debuting this year, an event focused on virtual worlds. FreeToPlay.biz was asked to speak at the Worlds in Motion Summit and as a result, Adrian Crook will be presenting a primer on the F2P revenue model at the event. Also giving talks are Raph Koster, Nabeel Hyatt, Eric Bethke, Min Kim, Chris Romero and others – making this a great conference for the F2P sector.

    5) Indie MMO Game Developers Conference
    March 29 – 30, 2008 – Minniapolis, Minnesota

    IMGDC is a venue for Independent designers and developers to come together to share ideas and learn in all areas related to MMOGs. IMGDC 2.0 has positioned itself to be an even larger venue with three fantastic tracks covering design, development and business aspects of Indie MMOGs. The present is a time of MMOG giants, but the future lies in the hands of the passionate Indie developers. Do you have the passion?

    2008 will be the second year for the IMGDC featuring presentations from Richard Bartle author of Designing Virtual Worlds, Raph Koster and Gordon Walton who was previously VP/Exec Producer at Sony Online Entertainment, Maxis, Origin Systems and Kesmai Corporation.

    Check out Gamasutra’s summary of the Indie MMO Conference.

    6) South by South West Interactive
    March 7-11 2008 – Austin, Texas

    The SXSW Interactive Festival features five days of exciting panel content and amazing parties. Attracting digital creatives as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the event celebrates the best minds and the brightest personalities of emerging technology. Whether you are a hard-core geek, a dedicated content creator, a new media entrepreneur, or just someone who likes being around an extremely creative community, SXSW Interactive is for you!

    Though SXSW doesn’t provide a ton of events catering specifically to the free to play crowd, it is a phenomenal collection of creative people working in emergent digital entertainment fields. Couple this with the fact that the event is part of North America’s largest music festival and party and attendance seems like more than a good idea.

    Check out Throwspace’s summary of SXSW.

    7) Austin Game Developers Conference
    September 5-7 2007 – Austin, Texas

    The Austin Game Developers Conference attracts over 1,100 attendees and provides educational, networking, and business opportunities for game development professionals driving the $11 billion videogame industry. It is the a global forum where programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals and others involved in the development of interactive games gather to exchange ideas, network, and shape the future of the industry.

    Austin GDC has become synonymous with MMO design due primarily to the city’s deep MMO development scene. The conference features talks and panels focused on free to play, “Web 2.o,” MMO development and micro-transactional revenue models.

    8 ) Online Game Developers Conference
    May 13 -15 2008 – Seattle, Washington

    Building on the great success of the 2007 conference, OGDC 2008 will expand the plenary sessions from two to three days, and feature a wide range of keynotes, sessions, and panels, giving attendees new views of the online game universe—everything from an overview of the latest business, product, and legal developments to in-depth looks at scalability, player psychology, and in-game economic systems.

    This event features Erik Bethke, founder and CEO of GoPets; Alan Crosby director of global community relations at Sony Online and Steve Goldstein of Flagships Studios. 2007’s OGDC was a good start – hopefully 2008 is a big step forward.

    Check out MMORPG’s summary of the OGDC.

    9) Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2008
    April 6-10 2008 – Las Vegas

    Each year, Symposium/ITxpo: Emerging Trends is founded on a framework of six megatrends that Gartner sees as critical to how business and technology will evolve in the near and long term.

    A mere sampling of the trends and technologies we’ll focus on includes:

    • User Generated Content
    • Social Networking
    • Community Source
    • The Metaverse
    • Relationship Assets
    • Hyperconnected Enterprise
    • Collective Intelligence

    Gartner attracts a different crowd from the game-centric conferences listed here. Typically, Gartner attendees come from the IT or VC worlds. The value of Gartner attendance lies not in the curriculum, but in your fellow attendees.

    10) DigiWorld Summit
    November 14-15 2007 – Montpellier, France

    The 6th Video Game seminar as part of IDATE’s DigiWorld Summit 2007, is organised with financial support from the City of Montpellier. A host of opportunities have opened up over the past two years: the development of serious games, Massively Multiplayer Games and persistent universes, online capabilities incorporated as standard features in home consoles, the emergence and growth of mobile gaming, the development of online poker that’s been as swift as it has been surprising… All constituting innovative technologies and ways to play which, in this era of growing convergence, involve or induce an overhaul of business models.

    I’m sure I missed some relevant conferences, so if you can think of any leave a comment for our other readers.

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    Tech Digest has a writeup from a panel discussion at Virtual Worlds Forum Europe. In it, Jessica Mulligan, Executive Director of Player Relations at Cyber Sports, provides several interesting-but-unattributed stats and a couple quotes that support what F2P.biz is about.

    Stats

    • Just 10% crossover between online games and social spaces (e.g. World of Warcraft vs Second Life)
    • 60 million active players of virtual world games (people who are paying money on a monthly basis).
    • Virtual worlds generated $4.5 billion in revenues last year. WoW, Westward Journey and Runescape are in this group.
    • Social spaces (Habbo, Webkinz, Club Penguin, etc) generated $400M last year.
    • Asia accounts for 50% of all virtual world revenues.

    Quotes

    We’re going to see more games under that business model [f2p, vis] than under the premium model.

    In social spaces, web-based worlds are growing, while those that rely on you downloading a client are “stagnating”.

    Interesting stuff, but without any sources to back up the stats or quotes, it’s tough to view this as anything more than cheerleading for the sector. For instance, I believe browser-based is a smarter choice than downloadable client, but I’ve heard little evidence to support Jessica’s notion that downloadable client games are stagnating.

    Virtual Worlds Forum Europe is on now in London, England until tomorrow.

    Editors Note: Since this article was posted, Jessica has been kind enough to reply (in the comments of this post) with the source for her stats and observations. Thanks, Jessica!

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