Comment & Opinion

5 things we learned at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2017

The key trends discussed at Europe's biggest mobile business event

5 things we learned at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2017

Pocket Gamer Connects London 2017 may now be over, but that doesn’t mean valuable lessons learned at the event will be forgotten anytime soon.

The event, which took place alongside the brand new VR Connects and attracted a record 1,800+ crowd over the two days, welcomed people from all corners of the mobile, VR and AR games and entertainment industries.

Across the two days, there were 135 sessions hosted by 220 speakers offering their insights into new trends and how they are finding success.

Here we’ve rounded up our key takeaways from the conference, from discussions on new business models to the effects of Brexit on the UK games industry and how indies plan to tackle new challenges in 2017.

Click on the link below for all the details.

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  • 1 Uncertainty to remain over Brexit, but investment is still forthcoming

    Uncertainty to remain over Brexit, but investment is still forthcoming logo

    The issue of Brexit continues to be a hot topic in the UK as the exact terms of a potential new deal with the European Union remain uncertain.

    What we do know now however is that the UK is leaning toward more of a Hard Brexit, bringing it out of the Single Market entirely.

    Challenges ahead

    With the issue of Brexit such a key point of debate, UKIE CEO Jo Twist led a panel of experts during PGC London 2017 to discuss what Brexit means for developers in the country.

    Joining her was Space Ape COO Simon Had, Curve Digital Publishing Director Simon Byron, Scary Puppies CEO Gary Bracey and Sheridans Partner Alex Chapman.

    "The government should be encouraging more investment into the creative industry," said Bracey, pointing to the Video Games Tax Relief as a good start that needs to be built on.

    Exactly how much access the UK will have to development talent in Europe remains to be seen, but Byron warned that developers must remember not to ignore overseas job-seekers.

    This was a point echoed largely by Revolution Software CEO Charles Cecil in his own talk on the state of the UK games industry, in which he expressed the importance of European talent and UK tax breaks that have helped spur on the industry’s growth over the years.

    Another potential issue with limited access is the difficulty UK developers already have getting into countries like China, with Hade expressing concerns if EU states followed a somewhat similar model, it could make the UK a less desirable country to launch in.

    Overseas investment

    Of course, while there is uncertainty and lots of important questions remain, there are some positives.

    Angry Birds developer Rovio announced its keynote at PGC London 2017 that it will be opening a new London studio, headed by Mark Sorrell.

    The publisher remains undeterred by the prospect of Brexit, and has identified the UK, and London specifically, as a huge talent hub.

    Sorrell said that the company employs 10% of Finland’s total games industry and London opens it up to a whole new host of talent in a tech hotspot that has a population greater than all of Finland.

    It seems that the real impact on the UK games industry won’t be known for certain until negotiations begin by March 2017 (as expected) and the UK formally exits the EU on the planned date of 2019.

  • 2 Opportunities persist for indie game developers though 2017

    Opportunities persist for indie game developers though 2017 logo

    Indie game developers always face similar challenges of discoverability and finding innovative ways to get their games to market.

    And 2017 will be no different as discoverability becomes ever more difficult on mobile app stores and UA costs continue to rise upwards.

    But there’s plenty of life in the indie journey yet, as a panel led by Oscar Clark proved.

    Panelists included Alex Moyet, Director of AMCADE, Josh Nilson, CEO of East Side Games, Michael Peiffert, Producer of Mi-Clos Studios and James Hursthouse, former CEO of Roadhouse Interactive.

    Developers touched upon key things indies should keep in mind, such as managing finances carefully, even during the good times.

    Peiffert meanwhile suggested that, at least during the early days at Mi-Clos, paid UA didn’t work and that reaching out to press and heading to events proved more fruitful.

    Hursthouse, whose studio Roadhouse Interactive has now closed down, claimed in many ways there has actually never been a better time to start a studio, given the access to customer opinion on social media and easily available tools.

    Indie survival

    Kemojo Studios Creative Director Sean Megaw also spoke about the challenges facing developers in his own talk on surviving as an indie.

    He suggested scheduling ahead and planning costs, and warned against borrowing money from banks as they are tough to negotiate with.

    As for working with publishers, Megaw warned indies that they often never pay on time, so developers should leave at least a six-month runway to get the pay check to ensure they don’t close down before then.

    Many of the challenges facing indies are the same as they’ve always been, but by keeping an eye on the future and being conscious of tackling discoverability issues will help devs find success.

  • 3 Subscriptions offer a new business model for mobile games

    Subscriptions offer a new business model for mobile games logo

    With free-to-play now so ubiquitous, it's easy to assume that this will be the dominant model for mobile games for many years to come.

    And of course, there's a good chance that it will be. But that hasn't stopped some looking to an alternative revenue stream and increasingly, Pocket Gamer Connects London revealed, that alternative is a subscription model.

    Hatch VP, Content and Commercial Partnerships Vesa Jutila took the stage at the Monetise, Retain Acquire track to highlight that that all of the five top grossing, non-gaming apps are currently subscription-based.

    "I think that's quite telling," he said. "That's the norm today."

    That's something his firm, a Rovio spin-off, is attempting to tap into within the gaming space with its upcoming, Spotify-esque mobile game streaming service.

    Growing opportunity

    Elsewhere, Animoca Brands CEO Robby Yung told that there is a growing opportunity for subscriptions in mobile games - particularly in the children's category.

    “If you track the grossing charts in the kids' category for the last 12 months, you'll notice that at the beginning of 2016 there were about five or seven subscription apps in the top 30, and now it's 80% of the top 30."

    Obviously, the kids' category is a slightly different beast due to the understandable wariness of parents around freemium apps.

    However, if any of this spending behaviour proves transferable to other gaming categories, we could see a huge shift in mobile gaming.

  • 4 Virtual reality unlikely to become mainstream this year

    Virtual reality unlikely to become mainstream this year logo

    Virtual reality hardware finally reached Western consumers in 2016 with Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive all making it to market.

    But with sales slow to steady and not setting the world alight, VR’s big moment in the sun hasn’t quite come yet.

    As Dream Reality Interactive CEO Dave Ranyard said during his talk at PGC London, “there are no winners yet”, and VR still offers a high level of entry for consumers. There’s also a lack of standard feature sets between the different hardware platforms, he noted.

    Having formed his own VR company he believes virtual reality will become mainstream but is unsure exactly when that will be. He is more certain however that in 2017 investors and the market will become more realistic about setting expectations.

    He did identify a bright light however, and predicts Candy Crush maker King will lead the way on VR games on mobile with launches around 2018 to 2019 as the market becomes more mainstream.

    "I think this year the question will change from 'when' to 'how',” he said.

    Just another VR fad?

    Not everyone is so optimistic about VR’s mass-market potential. Speaking to, Koolhaus CEO Wolfgang Hamann said he has little hope for this happening.

    He said sales projections from analysts have been less than expected and he “really can’t see this changing”.

    “On the VR side of things I think that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said.

    He added: “I think there’s definitely a place for VR with regards to training, military, marketing, those kind of things, there’s definitely room for it. But as far as a mass media technology and hardware, I can’t see that happening myself.

    “Who knows, but so far it doesn’t look like it’s going to be hitting that mass anytime soon.”

  • 5 Global publishing isn’t getting any easier

    Global publishing isn’t getting any easier logo

    Publishing your game to audiences around the world is an exciting prospect but one that takes a lot of hard work.

    Catering for different cultures in different countries is a difficult task and one that isn’t getting any easier in 2017.

    Korea Investment Partners Executive Director Sang-Ho Park said there is simply “no room for small developers” in South Korea, stating that the majority of the top grossing games in the country come from just a handful of publishers.

    He did suggest however that developers try entering South Korea with any strategy, action or eSports titles as these genres aren’t currently oversaturated.

    He still warned however that developers shouldn’t “have too much expectation” when releasing a game in the country, and that devs should self-publish where possible as publishers may cancel a game soon after release if it doesn’t perform out the gate.

    Opportunities in Japan?

    Japan meanwhile offers a market with the highest rate of mobile gaming penetration in the world, with over 80% of phone owners playing games.

    But despite the promise of millions of players and one of the highest ARPDAUs in the world, the games market remains largely local, with 81 of the top 100 games in the grossing charts developed in Japan itself.

    6waves CEO Arthur Chow notes that other origin countries include the UK, US, Russia, South Korea, Finland and Sweden, so it’s not impossible to break through, but is certainly tough for outsiders.

    To improve your chances of success, Chow recommended localising text in the right context, localising graphics and using pre-registration to attract “super loyal” users.