What I Learned at the iGames Summit
I had a great time at the iGames Summit – thanks to all of you who showed up and shared your thoughts! I learned a ton from all of you who shared your ideas and wanted to summarize some of my key takeaways.
There is a huge opportunity for someone (probably Apple) to build a collaborative filtering solution that will help individuals find other games they might like based on the games they already have. As the number of games on the iPhone / iPod touch platform continues to grow, discovery is going to become more of an issue. There is only so much space for editorial promotion through the current App Store interface. My preference would be for something that is based more on the actual applications I’ve installed and less on what my friends / contacts / associates have installed. A hybrid would be very interesting, though.
If the web is trending toward free-to-play gaming, I think the iPod platform will continue to be about cheap-to-play gaming. With the upcoming release of the 3.0 OS for the iPhone / iPod Touch, microtransations will finally get their due on the platform. But unlike the web, I don’t think we’ll see a movement to totally free, microtransactions-based games (partly because Apple won’t allow it for the time being, partly because I think there are plenty of customers willing to pay to download games). Having a hybrid business model that includes a license plus microtransactions will continue to make the market for iPhone games unique and interesting relative to consoles, the web, and other platforms.
Facebook Connect is a big deal, but viral marketing will likely turn out differently – Facebook connect is going to be a big deal for iPhone games developers. Going into the event, I thought it would mostly be as a viral distribution channel. After seeing the demos and talking to folks, I think the near-term opportunity is more about having an easy authentication mechanism and a way to make existing titles multi-platform. At some point, I do think there will be a meaningful viral marketing element as part of it – that will happen when even more people have iPhones. Right now we have an installed base of around 30 million devices and about 175+ million people on Facebook.
The most striking thing to me as someone who works on the Facebook platform is how different viral marketing works on the iPhone. Viral marketing on the iPhone happens in the real world when one person shows another which games they have on their phone. Viral loops, invite copy, notifications, etc are not really part of the equation now and might not ever be as important on the iPhone as they are on social networks.