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Five things we learned at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2020

The top trends and interesting insights we picked up from the conference
Five things we learned at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2020
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Our seventh (!) Pocket Gamer Connects London has come to a close, and the 2020 edition may well have been our best one yet.

With hundreds of speakers talking across a huge range of topics in lecture-style sessions, fireside chats, and always-popular panels, there was plenty to take in no matter what section of the industry you're interest in.

The team at also took a huge role this year - staff writer Matthew Forde hosted the Show me the Money track on day two, contributing editor Jon Jordan held down the fort at Blockchain LIVE!, while our editor Ric Cowley hosted a fireside chat, a hypercasual panel, and two tracks, all on day one.

Sharing and learning

But we weren't just out there hosting. With what few spare moments we had, we were in the crowds with you, learning from all the fabulous speakers who took the time to share their expertise with us.

It's likely you'll have seen some of the things we wrote from the event already - and if you haven't, be sure to check them out.

But we wanted to take some time to reflect on the two jam-packed days and think carefully about a few things that we took away from the show which we think our readers should be considering in the coming months.

So please, join us as we look back on PGC London 2020 with what we think are the five most important things we learned at the event.

Hypercasual games are massive, but no one's quite sure what they really are

Hypercasual games are massive, but no one's quite sure what they really are

Hypercasual games have proven to be an unstoppable force in mobile games in recent years, and with more and more developers and publishers turning their attention to the genre, they won't be going away any time soon.

But what exactly is a hypercasual game? That's apparently still up for debate.

Kwalee head of publishing Simon Prytherch gave three distinct pillars for what a hypercasual game is, with the key focus being that it has "mass appeal" - they're games that everyone can pick up and understand what's expected of them within three seconds.

And Rollic creative director Inci Alper's talk on how to create the right art for a hypercasual game showed that the games need incredibly simple visuals, which really isn't as easy as it may first appear.

For ByteDance senior director of overseas business Tom van Dam, a hypercasual game "can be monetised entirely by ads", which definitely makes sense - just look at how many of these games have exclusively ad-based monetisation.

But Neon Play CEO Oli Christie, any hypercasual game without IAP is basically dead in the water at this point - so clearly monetisation isn't the key differentiator.

And when it comes to the future of the genre, the topic of adding more gameplay features to a hypercasual game has proved controversial, with many in the "What's Next For Hypercasual and Social Games?" panel arguing that titles like Archero, while advertised as hypercasual games, don't really deserve the label.

The genre is still technically in its infancy, so we'll likely see change slowly creep in over the years. But for now, developers who are seeing success are likely to keep doing what they do best - small, one-feature games with a low UA cost.

Black Desert Mobile has already made its mark on the platform

Black Desert Mobile has already made its mark on the platform

Since shifting across to mobile in December 2019, the Black Desert franchise has continued to prove its popularity and strength of the IP.

Four million players pre-registered ahead of the actual launch, setting the game off to start on the right foot but the numbers revealed during a showcase at PGC London 2020 surpassed what many were expected.

20 million installs in less than three months alongside the new revenue figure of $1.5 billion as a series whole, cemented a very successful launch of Black Desert on mobile.


More so, Pearl Abyss US CEO Jeonghee Jin confirmed that the game is now "one of the most popular MMORPGs in the Asian market," solidifying its dominance and putting the title in pole position for whatever 2020 has to offer.

Further plans were confirmed for four other projects that are in the pipeline at the firm but for the time being, it will be interesting to see how the Black Desert Mobile progresses throughout the year.

Ads are becoming easier to optimise - now we need better creative

Ads are becoming easier to optimise - now we need better creative

User acquisition is always going to be a hot topic in mobile games - after all, if people aren't playing your game, then you're not going to be making any money.

But it is, in some ways, becoming easier. Ads, for example, are now so heavily optimised that service providers like Playable Platform are turning to AI to help make their playable ads near-perfect without having to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on human beings doing the work.

And while many an ads person joked at the conference that such easy optimisation means you can fire half of your ads team, it does also mean that even smaller developers will be able to get in on the action and not be jostled out at every turn by bigger advertisers.

Even the ads themselves are becoming more relevant - Ogury, for example, is working hard to bring premium brands to game ads, not just other games. And Adverty wants to make ads less intrusive by placing them directly in the game world.

So what's next? The word on everyone's lips is "creative". We can optimise ads until the cows come home, but if developers want people to be interacting with them in the first place, they need to be putting more effort into the creative side of their adverts to really grab user's attention.

Even in 2020, the games industry still has a diversity problem

Even in 2020, the games industry still has a diversity problem

The importance of diversity in the games industry was something that was touched upon at a number of panels and sessions across the two days, with many calling upon developers, publishers and those at the top of the hierarchy to do more.

Co-founder and chief design officer Tara Mustapha from Glow Up Games in particular hit on the topic hard with her damning statement that despite her 15-year experience in the industry she has never had a manager that was female.

This was a focus of Mustapha's 'It’s Dangerous to #Indiedev Alone' talk that put a big emphasis on mentors and why there is a need for people from all different backgrounds and genders.

Leading from the front, Glow Up Games showcased numerous female employees that help make up the studio before picking out specific mentors that helped her progress to the role she is in today.

Meanwhile, Unicorn Pirates CEO Nikolina Zidar noted that "having more diverse teams is more profitable", thanks to the fact that they create games with a broader appeal and for a diverse audience that is desperate to be catered to.

But even with people actively working to make games a more diverse industry, there's still so much to be done. Now it's up to the bigger studios to start making an effort.

Developers need to start pulling their weight on environmental issues

Developers need to start pulling their weight on environmental issues

One of the most fascinating talks at PGC London 2020 came from Sam Barratt, chief of education and youth at UN Environment, on the topic of what developers can do to help tackle envrionmental issues the world is facing today.

By his own admission, the UN doesn't really think about video games that much, but he's been working hard to change that and get the games industry involved so that they can make a wider impact on the climate conversation.

Because, let's face it, things are pretty bleak right now. Barratt stated that we need to plant a trillion new trees to help fight climate change - that's a truly staggering number no matter how you look at it.

But mobile games are uniquely placed to help. They reach a huge number of people, especially in China and Southeast Asia, and even just the way they're designed can help people think about the future of the planet.

Some ideas sound a little fanciful - Barratt is currently working with Bandai Namco to get Pac-Man to wear green, which sounded like a joke at first until we realised how serious he was being - but basic things like offering incentives for players using eco-modes on their devices can help to make a difference if enough developers adopt them.

Something needs to be done, and if enough developers start making even small changes to help the environment at a company level, then we might give our planet some breathing room to fight back against climate change. It all starts with us.