What we learned at White Nights Prague 2017

Reflecting on the Czech conference

What we learned at White Nights Prague 2017

On February 13th and 14th 2017, the games industry from the Czech Republic and beyond gathered for White Nights Prague.

This was the first White Nights event of the year, with organiser and casual game developer Nevosoft also set to host conferences in St. Petersburg and Moscow in June and October respectively.

PocketGamer.biz was also in attendance, conducting interviews, listening intently to talks and moderating Fireside Chats with Nikola Cavic of Nordeus and Chet Faliszek of Valve.

And so, here are our four biggest lessons learned from White Nights Prague.

Click through below to see the list.

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  • 1 Former market leaders finding their place in the new world

    Former market leaders finding their place in the new world logo

    Sometimes, the mobile games market can feel like a case of here today, gone tomorrow.

    Such is its rapid nature, developers can go from leading the pack to being forgotten in just a few short years.

    Two companies who it could be argued are at risk of following this path are Gumi and ZeptoLab.

    For Gumi, after enjoying a great period of growth on the back of global RPG hit Brave Frontier, the shutting down of its studios in Canada, Sweden, Germany, Austin and Hong Kong was a pivotal moment.

    The times they are a-changin'

    ZeptoLab, meanwhile, has never experienced anything like the same level of boom and bust, as it remains a modestly-sized outfit based out of Moscow with one additional office in Barcelona.

    What it has been in danger of losing, however, is momentum. Cut the Rope had its day a long time ago, and its position as one of mobile gaming's most recognisable brands has faded somewhat.

    Representatives of Gumi and ZeptoLab were both present at the event (and interviews will be live on PocketGamer.biz soon).

    Both made it clear that relying on prior success in simply not an option, and both have their own strategies.

    For Gumi, this is to focus heavily on mobile games for its native Japan while also investing heavily in VR. Meanwhile, ZeptoLab is looking for midcore games to publish while developing more titles featuring the much-loved Om Nom character.

    It's hard to say whether or not this will work for either, but it's telling to see even companies who have tasted massive mobile success now having to adapt and invest in new areas.

  • 2 Breaking free from midcore

    Breaking free from midcore logo

    Everyone in mobile seems to be pursuing midcore right now, and it's easy to see why.

    After all, the theory behind these games is that they can balance a broad appeal with more complex mechanics that make for better engagement and monetisation.

    This is by no means easy to achieve, however, and it was interesting at White Nights Prague to see some interesting work being done on either end of the casual-hardcore spectrum, as the middle becomes increasingly populated.

    Away from the crowd

    Israeli studio TabTale is broadening the strategy that saw it generate more than 1 billion downloads across its kids' games - namely, heavy cross-promotion across a big portfolio - with what it's calling 'Super Casual Games'.

    These will be single-mechanic, one-thumb games designed to play in incredibly short bursts. Some are being developed in-house, while TabTale is also looking to work with external developers.

    On the other end of the spectrum, Czech mobile shooter specialist Madfinger showed PocketGamer.biz some gameplay for Shadowgun Legends - a highly ambitious, persistent world online shooter with shades of Destiny.

    Risk and ambition

    It's frankly a miracle that this runs on mobile, and getting it to do so has been a huge technical undertaking to which Madfinger has committed lots of time and money.

    CEO Marek Rabas fully acknowledges that this is a major risk.

    But for consumers, it's good to see that mobile is continuing to play host to such diverse experiences.

  • 3 Developers losing interest in mobile VR

    Developers losing interest in mobile VR logo

    On-stage during his cosy 'Fireside Chat' at White Nights Prague, Valve Game Writer Chet Faliszek offered to bet $1,000 that, at least in the short-term, the biggest virtual reality market will not be mobile.

    And from speaking to people around the conference, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone to take him up on his wager.

    This is primarily based on the gulf in experience between the two.

    Lacking an edge

    “As soon as I saw [mobile VR], it was not impressive,” Gumi's Head of Global Business Development Masaru Ohnogi tells PocketGamer.biz.

    “When I saw Oculus, I was like 'oh my god!' Such difference, impressions-wise… At the moment, our main focus is the high-end - Oculus and Vive.”

    Does mobile VR hardware need to improve in order to offer a better experience, or are developers simply not getting the best out of it?

    Whatever the answer, mobile VR appears a platform rather short on evangelists right now.

  • 4 Publishers seeking untapped European talent

    Publishers seeking untapped European talent logo

    White Nights Prague played host to a number of mobile game publishers looking to sign up new developers.

    Nothing new about this, of course.

    But two things were surprising: both the number of companies searching for new talent to publish, and the strategy of those doing so.

    More gatekeepers?

    The aforementioned moves into publishing from ZeptoLab and TabTale are a great sign of the times for how mainstream mobile publishing now is as a concept.

    Moreover, those out to seek new developers hadn't chosen this conference at random.

    Rather, the attempt was to unearth new, untapped European talent - of which publishers seem convinced there is no shortage.

    The only concern with this publisher-heavy landscape is that publisher backing is increasingly becoming a prerequisite (but not a guarantee) for indie success.

Features Editor

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