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NY Convergence ORIGINAL

Mobile Gaming: Birds, Thumbs and Guns — Addictive, Competitive, Cool #NYGC12

Josh Shabtai, LM/NL, presents his Lazer Tag gun with iPhone technology. (Photo Credit: Lauren Keyson)

By Lauren Keyson

Developers with amazing games and unique content came out in droves Friday for the Mobile Gaming Summit 2012 at the Jewish Heritage Museum in Battery Park City.   The games were diverse, spanning from the new Lazer Tag guns that use iPhone technology, to a pregnancy avoidance game where boys are constantly texted instructions on changing and feeding.

The most interesting presentations were about cross platform technologies — Marmalade, HTML5, Unity, and Corona. These showed the ease of getting new and unique games across many different platforms in front of millions of people. “So the fact that we got all these developers out here is really inspiring,” said conference host Brad Hargreaves, founder partner of General Assembly. “It shows that games are democratizing in that there is incredible opportunity for someone with a game idea or concept and development skills to build a game across platforms.”

Hargreave’s favorite game? EUNIZ Solice 3, a real time strategy game for more hardcore gamers. He’s hoping that one day it will go mobile. His colleague Joe Ziemer, TriplePoint, said that his favorite game is Magika, a satiric multiplayer game where users are wizards that develop custom spells.

There were also traditional games with mobile and digital twists like Hasbro’s Lazer Tag that partnered with LMN Studios to build a hybrid toy blaster/ios application. The partners built an impromptu mesh network between the guns so that when a user shoots, the iPhone sends a signal to the gun as an invisible beam. Josh Shabtai, the creative director for the toy, explained why he and his partners recreated laser tag. “There are millions and millions of kids parked on their couches. And frankly, growing up with those games, even though you’re not supposed to be playing them because you’re not old enough, alters your relationship to other media.

Speaker Kenny Rosenblatt, Arkadium, talked about some of his hit games. One was Dimensions, a mahjong style game, and Tap Tiles, a 3D puzzle matching game, both which can be found on mobile devices, social networks and the upcoming Windows8 operating system. “There’s a big change and shift going on in the industry where people are playing games on their mobile devices that are not the same games that have succeeded in in the past. So game developers who have made much bigger games now get their games onto mobile devices and still make money off of those implementations.”

Kick Starter was on the Getting Your Game Financed panel. Cindy Au said that it’s helpful for gamers to go to friends and family for money first. The takeaway was that they’re going to support you no matter.  “But it’s also understanding who your different audiences are — maybe there’s a storyline in your game that’s going to speak to a certain audience. You need to make sure they know about it, and if there’s something you’re doing that no one else is doing.”  She said that one of the very games is Zombies, a running game and audio adventure. It has already raised over $72,000 on Kickstarter.

Nihal Mehta, founding partner at ENIAC, a venture fund focused on mobile startups said that distribution is the biggest challenge in mobile. “I think a viral hook is the top thing that game and app developers need in order to get exposure and distribution out there. “I think it’s very competitive, but I also think it’s a lot cheaper to start a business and a lot easier to launch a game. There are tool kits out there you go out and build in HTML 5, ship something oversees and can get traction. One of his successful game companies is Thumb.IT, an instant opinion network where users can take pictures of their shoes and within a minute have hundreds of people giving thumbs up or thumbs down. “People are addicted to it,” he added. Another of his successful companies is JumpRampGames, scratch-off cards that are playable on your phone.

More funding advice came from VC Ken Hsieh, RRE Ventures, “It’s important to keep in mind that once we’ve invested in a game, it has to hit a lot of the points in terms of game mechanics, addictiveness, social competition and all the cool things that are necessary.  But sometimes it’s not sufficient to make a game, and so that last part challenges us. A lot of smart developers can have a handle on mechanics necessary to make a good game, build it out but not get any traction.  Unfortunately there’s a fair amount of luck involved with it.”

Hsieh plays Tiny Tower and Angry Birds. “I find myself losing a lot of time with those, so I commit myself not to play on mobile,” he said. “I have Turf because we love them and their company.  But in general, I use my phone to read.”