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5 things we learned at Gamescom, GDC Europe and Respawn 2016

Three conferences, one week

5 things we learned at Gamescom, GDC Europe and Respawn 2016

Well, that was a busy week.

Kicking off with Respawn and GDC Europe on 15-16 August, Cologne's trio of conferences concluded with the enormous Gamescom, which invited both the industry and consumers to play for the rest of the week. was out in full force at the event, scurrying between talks and meetings, and generally soaking in the insight of the industry's best and brightest.

So what were our most interesting and illuminating moments across the three events, and what do they tell us about the industry at large? 

Click through below to find out.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 The East is coming

    The East is coming logo

    In many ways, Goodgame Studios is your typical European studio.

    Headquartered in Hamburg, it has a long history in browser game development. Its bread and butter is social strategy games such as Empire: Four Kingdoms and Legends of Honor, built very much in the Western tradition.

    So when even a studio like this is beginning to adopt Asian free-to-play design elements, it's a decent barometer of how much these mechanics are taking root in the Western mainstream.

    More to come

    The firm currently has two RPGs in development by a small sub-team at the studio. The first, Infernals, is currently in soft launch. The other is yet to be unannounced.

    Both include autoplay and gacha mechanics, and the latter was the subject of a talk at GDC Europe from Julian Tietz and Philipp Kluglein of the Goodgame Product Strategy department.

    "In Japan, it's expected that a game will use gacha... it's been on the market so long that it's accepted by the Japanese players," says Kluglein. But in the West, it's a trickier proposition.

    "If you want to monetise through gacha, your characters should be as central as possible... they should be animated and constantly seen," explains Tietz.

    “Have gacha as a persistent progress layer with meaningful decisions... there is a very strong necessity to have this when it comes to Western games.”


    For Tom van Dam, Head of Mobile Business Development at Chinese developer NetEase, these mechanics coming to the west is part of a positive and inevitable process.

    “I see those monetisation techniques as signs of a maturing market, because why they haven't been implemented before has a lot to do with players being very anti-free-to-play.”

    Speaking of which…

  • 2 Not everyone's on board with F2P yet

    Not everyone's on board with F2P yet logo

    It's easy to assume, with free-to-play now very much the dominant model on mobile and PC, that everyone has accepted it.

    Particularly those in the games industry, who stand to profit most from its spoils.

    But, as Matthew Laurence's talk at GDC Europe illuminated, there remains “a lot of internal resistance" to free-to-play from within the industry itself.

    "The war's over, it's been over for years,” he said. “It's the dominant model, [but] a lot of people are super un-pleased about that."

    The solution, he says, is to challenge the narrative that F2P is an “evil” model using simple logic.

    In this competitive market, being evil is not an option. It's business suicide.

  • 3 How to pitch

    How to pitch logo

    The assistance of a publisher or investor can be of great help to a mobile game developer of any size.

    What has to come first, however, is a great pitch. So, who better to defer to for advice on this matter than a man who's been in and around the games industry for 45 years?

    Enter Don Daglow, whose talk at Respawn drew upon his years of experience of pitching - from both sides of the desk - to provide some crucial dos and don'ts.

    Learn from experience

    “If you take nothing else away from this talk, know that when you first walk in with a publisher, investor, or member of the press, they are virtually always on your side,” he says.

    “They want you to be great, they're hoping you will be great.”

    As for more specific tips, he advises pitchers to address the elephant in the room that is revenue stream right from the off, so your audience is immediately put at ease and ready to listen.

    Managing not to run over your allotted time slot, being unapologetic even in the face of nervousness, and striking a healthy balance between defensive and pliant will also take you far.

  • 4 Keep the 1% happy

    Keep the 1% happy logo

    The minuscule percentage of free-to-play gamers that spend money on in-app purchases is well-documented.

    All one can do, we're told, is to bring in as many users as possible through various UA channels and hope that at least a handful of high-paying users stick around for a while.

    But Janeious, a new community-funded mobile studio based in Frankfurt, has become disillusioned with the current model.

    “The current monetisation and marketing strategies are fundamentally broken,” says Mark Peterson, Creative Director at Janeious.

    “Not even a percent of users make up more than half of all the revenue in your game... we need to figure it out.”

    Unicorn hunting

    Peterson goes on to describe the key conflict at the heart of all modern F2P game design, with developers “designing for the masses, praying for the unicorns.”

    “You have this weird experience that you want to appeal to everyone, but especially the high paying users,” he adds.

    Janeious, meanwhile, has already found its audience before even releasing a game.

    Founded by a top-level player who would regularly invest tens of thousands of dollars into games every month, and community-funded by a group of affluent, high paying users with similar needs, Peterson estimates that the game could be a financial success with only 100 players.

    Community first

    Simply, rather than hoping and praying that the high rollers come to play, Janeious is founded and built in these communities.

    Its Facebook page already has 4,000 likes, despite maintaining a low profile in mainstream circles.

    Janeious's debut game, Fusion Guards, is still in development, with plenty of input from its community of investors. The key to the firm's strategy is to maintain constant communication with their would-be players.

    The takeaway for other developers?

    “Find your community first, find out what their actual need is, then design the game around it,” advises Peterson.

  • 5 Indies are better and more creative than ever

    Indies are better and more creative than ever logo

    While this may seem like a cheap plug for our Big Indie Pitch, it's more than that.

    If anything, it's a warning to any indies out there thinking of entering in future that the standard seems to be getting higher and higher.

    Diverse selection

    It was my first time judging in a while, but the selection at our Big Indie Pitch in Cologne was undoubtedly the best I've seen yet.

    From interactive film format Ctrl Movie, to gurning selfie party game Mimics, it was a truly international showing, and one brimming with creativity.

    The winning games were Full of Stars by ATGames, CoreCraft by Retro Principles and STAY by Appnormals.

    More broadly, the fact that indies are getting better and better points to the maturing of mobile as a gaming platform.

    On a slightly less positive note, though, standing out in the crowd is now tougher than ever.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.