Friday, September 16, 2011

MobileMonday Part II: Mobile Games

Following up on my last MobileMonday post, let’s get to the heart of what this night was all about – mobile games. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s even slightly interested in the mobile industry, but leveraging geo-location into mobile games was a huge topic at the event. Not one of the game developers who presented dared not to mention that their game had the capability. In my humble opinion, the best mobile gaming takeaways of the night are below.

Sell to the fantasy – Design to the behavior.

The best point that I thought was made the whole night about location-based gaming was from Greg Trefry from Gigantic Mechanic. The reality of location-based gaming is that it’s not active. Developers create these apps with the mindset that people will go all over the city and do different things to play games with their friends. But people don’t deviate from where they go very often. Will they explore new places? Maybe, but most people want to go to their local bagel shop and order their usual coffee, from their regular barista. Touché, Greg.

Cater to the single player experience.

Eric Asmussen from 82 Apps just wants to play good old fashioned games – on his iPad. Let’s be honest, that’s the best platform for many games, especially the kind Eric likes to play – board games. Only Eric wasn’t content playing Catania and Risk on his iPad, he wanted to have more fun. So he came up with New World Colony. Eric learned quickly though, that game development takes time and while he may like playing best on his iPad, he needed to expand to the iPhone market to reach more potential users. Eric’s best advice, in my opinion, was to cater to the single player experience – especially in the early stages. Sure, it’s great if you can hop online when you want to play and battle against someone across the country or the world. But if there are only a handful of people using the app in the early stages, there’s a smaller likelihood that you’ll have someone to battle. Online matches are practically useless for smaller games, and there needs to be an option to take turns, like with the popular Scrabble-like app, Words with Friends.

You need ads, but keep them relevant.

Video gaming is an addiction. Matt Snyder from MediaMob shared an interesting stat that almost makes me want to put down my iPhone. Almost. The typical smartphone user spends 15 hours per month playing games. Most of us (92 percent) play once a week, but many play every day (45 percent). Angry Birds has replaced Starbucks as the most overused mobile analogy, Matt says, qualifying the influence that mobile games have on the industry.

Matt talked about mobile advertising challenges and what makes a better experience for gamers. There’s growing pressure to release free games, but often times these are hampered down with ads that ruin the experience. This is easily avoided by keeping the ads relevant, something I’ve been talking about for a while with clients, and Matt reaffirmed. Catering to relevancy will result in huge rewards. Matt says that mobile ads should offer real world returns – discounts for products and services a mobile gamer would care about. Better yet, he states, offer value to the user for the game they’re playing; allow gamers to unlock levels/points in the game for watching a sponsor’s video.

My pick of the night.

There were some great games and apps at MobileMonday, and I learned a lot about the mobile gaming space – from development and HTML 5 to additional insights in mobile advertising. My favorite of the night, though, was from the TapLab. Dave Bisceglia shared a new game I’m way too tempted to download – TapCity. I’m a self-proclaimed FourSquare addict. I’ve been fighting with a colleague for months now to earn the mayorship of our office here at PAN – I’m so close that I’ve debated coming to work on a Saturday. But that’s not TapCity. To me, TapCity is a hybrid of war and Monopoly for FourSquare. It’s not just for social media addicts like me, it’s for gamers. Sure, you check-in. You check-in the most and you’re the mayor. And if you’re the mayor, you can collect revenue from anyone else who checks in, so you’re earning real value, well as real as fake money can be. But here’s the catch, the location-based differentiator, if you will. Don’t feel like coming in on a Saturday – you can forcibly become the mayor. Launch attacks on properties, and if you’re already the mayor, be sure to set up precautions and protect your property from the city dwellers trying to get a slice of your property’s pie. Watch out, Boston, because I’m coming after your venues, one tap at a time.

The Mobile Games event was a great way to kick off Future M week, and you can bet you’ll find me at future MobileMonday events. Matt Snyder at MediaMob said it best, gaming is an addiction. Mobile technology is changing the way we game, and where we do it. What mobile gaming apps are you addicted to?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Media Maven Meets Mobile Monday

Geek. Nerd. Dork. Tech-obsessed – that’s what my brother’s MIT friends called me when I showed up late to watch Monday night’s Patriots game. Yes, you can re-read that sentence. A group of MITstudents was standing there calling me a geek. They couldn’t believe I missed most of opening game to go to a MobileMonday event. I didn’t want to miss the game (though I did make it back to see Wes Welker run a 99.5-yard touchdown so I could win my PAN Fantasy match-up.) I tried to tell them how cool it was to hear about HTML 5, some innovative new apps, and best practices and challenges for mobile game development. They looked at me blankly. So I’m hoping I’ll have a different reaction here on prSPEAK, and maybe some fellow “geeks” will think the Mobile Games event, presented by Mobile Monday Boston, was as cool as I did. If so, drop a line in the comments and let me know I’m not alone. There’s a little too much for one blog post, so check back later this week for the second half of my MobileMonday recap.

The new

Whether you’re upset that the Boston Globe is asking readers to pay for online content or not, you have to be impressed with the new mobile design on the My only complaint is that I really do love native apps. I have the app and I love it, and it sits in a group of apps with all my other favorite news sites and blogs. However, I think I’ll find myself giving a shot on my iPhone. Here are the highlights, as I learned from Jeff Moriarty from the Boston Globe at Mobile Monday:

  • Responsive design – Content is sized to any device
  • Touch feature – touch, pinch and scroll your news
  • Bookmark stories you want to read later
  • Device driven formats – Whether you’re reading on a Kindle, BlackBerry, iPad and so on, the content will be optimized to your screen.
  • Same storage space as native apps
  • Gaming component for crossword puzzles – I like to call this old school meets new school. Crossword puzzles – really?


One of the reasons I went to MobileMonday was because I wanted to learn more about this technology, and, more importantly, about the impact it will have on software development, particularly for mobile developers. I’ve been seeing a lot about it, but I wanted the quick-and-dirty from people who know what they’re talking about. The guys who spoke at Mobile Monday had a lot to say, because they’re in the thick of it. The biggest challenge, as Jamie Caralis from MocoSpace shared, is device fragmentation. There is a wide variety of screen resolutions and bandwidth power across devices, and HTML 5 is still an emerging standard. Still, I was impressed by the HTML 5 capabilities Jamie talked about. Here are a few his highlights:

  • Ubiquitous across operating systems
  • Open standards – web and game developers share a common language
  • Open distribution system – not locked in by restrictive policies.

A few other presenters, Trevor Sayre and his brother “Z” from Gradient Studios, closed out their presentation with some final thoughts on HTML 5. HTML 5 is not just HTML; it’s open web technology and integrated media content. Get on board, because you’ll reach a wider audience – everyone has a browser, not everyone has the right app store.

As I said, I still prefer native apps, but I suspect HTML 5 is a huge game-changer for mobile developers and we’ll likely see a lot of companies leveraging this tech to reach a wider audience, as Z and Trevor pointed out.

More to come on MobileMonday later this week, as I share the insights I learned about the mobile gaming industry.

This post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications.