GamesBeat

See what four experts have to say about the top gaming trends of 2014

Left to right: Robert Stevenson, Albert Penello, Nate Mitchell, Jami Laes, and Dean Takahashi

Above: Left to right: Robert Stevenson, Albert Penello, Nate Mitchell, Jami Laes, and Dean Takahashi

Image Credit: David Dennis

Gaming goes well beyond the consoles. For 2014, you can expect to see innovations in cloud gaming, virtual reality, and mobile devices. To help sort it out, we caught up with four industry leaders at the 2014 International CES tech trade show in Las Vegas for a panel on five trends that are driving gaming.

Gaming is already huge, and it is getting bigger with mobile gaming primed to lead the whole industry. By 2017, some analysts are predicting that mobile gaming will generate more than $100 billion in revenues.

Our panelists included Nate Mitchell, vice president of product at Oculus VR, the virtual reality goggles company; Albert Penello, director of product planning for the Xbox at Microsoft; Robert Stevenson, chief business officer at Sony’s Gaikai cloud streaming division; and Jami Laes, executive vice president of Angry Birds publisher Rovio Entertainment.

We asked them to make predictions about the future. But we also grilled them on what challenges they have to overcome in order to make their visions come true.

Here’s an edited transcript of our session.

Jami Laes, executive vice president at Rovio

Above: Jami Laes, executive vice president at Rovio

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: What are five ideas driving the future of gaming?

Laes: Most of them are going to be the same things that have already driven the future of gaming, the same dynamics if you will. One of them has always been fidelity of immersion. Another one is the convenience of use, ubiquity. The third one is social connection through games. The fourth one is the content itself, what kind of genres and experiences you can have that provide better ways of doing older genres or experiences or types of games. How does it speak to different player types and user behavioral types who look for different things in games? The fifth one is the X factor. Something that’s so unique in a game product that lets it stand out, that becomes a trend itself, like a new genre or category of games.

Mitchell: At Oculus we believe VR is one of the leading trends in games. We’re talking about immersion being key — not just fidelity, but allowing players to experience games in entirely new ways. Social is another really big one. We’ve seen the explosion in mobile. A lot of that is driven by human social behavior — playing games with your friends, enjoying experiences more on the go.

Cloud, I would say, is a big one. I worked at Gaikai before the acquisition with Robert, so I’m a big believer in the cloud. There are some exciting things happening there that Gaikai helped pioneer. As cloud gaming continues to take off, we’ll see more of that. I’m excited to see it on the consoles. The user experience is at the crux of fun gaming, and the cloud opens up a lot of new possibilities for ease of play and convenience.

Penello: You’re going to see a lot of similarities. Certainly content is king. Having great game content is going to be just as important in the future as it always has been. For Xbox, we just launched the Xbox One. We talked a lot about our vision prior to that. First and foremost, the definition of gamers is different than it used to be. It’s not a segment. It’s not just sitting in the living room like it used to be. Gamers come in all shapes and sizes, all ages. They play all genres. They’re going to play games on a variety of devices. From a console perspective, the idea of a console as a single-purpose device is in the past. The future is a multi-tasking customer, and a device that does more than just gaming in the home. That’s something we embraced with Xbox One.

Sony announces PlayStation Now service.

Above: Sony announces the PlayStation Now service.

Image Credit: PS4.sx

Stevenson: We’re bullish, obviously, on cloud and what that can mean to people. That affects all different genres and platforms. Instant access and the possibility of ubiquity and standardization down the road, these things are all very powerful. But it’s going to come back to things like the X factor, things like content. These features and functionalities that cloud can promise will impact the gameplay experience down the road. That’s what’s going to drive the future. Whether you’re playing a streaming experience on a VR headset, or one console or the other console, the fact that this technology does exist and continues the gameplay experience is what’s going to have an impact.

Laes: When you say that content is king, it’s often also said that delivery is King Kong. One of the things we’ve seen, especially in online and mobile games, is that now discovery is King Kong. Looking at what’s been happening in Asia, for example, with the platforms and social networking services like Kakao, Line, and WeChat, or what Facebook has done for mobile and social gaming, it’s all around trying to solve the discovery issue. When you have a billion apps and a billion people, how do you find the right app for the right people in the right time and place? Discovery is the big trend that we’ll be driving. There are different ways to solve that on different platforms, but it’s something that is affecting all of our platforms.

Stevenson: I would agree with that. Again, being bullish on cloud, I think that helps. When you have instant access to a game — you can start it instantly, check it out, try it briefly, and then convert to a download or a full streamed experience or a subscription experience — that ability to instantly try something helps with discovery. Obviously, there are merchandising challenges and searchability challenges when you have large game catalogs potentially out there, but instant access is always going to help.

Nvidia Tegra K1

Above: Nvidia Tegra K1.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: On Sunday night, Nvidia showed off the new Tegra K1 chip. It’s a mobile chip for mobile devices, and it can run Unreal Engine 4 games, which are basically very high-end PC or console games now. It seems like mobile, as far as technology goes, is closing the gap with PCs and consoles on the ability to immerse people in an experience. Jami, you came from a company that made Angry Birds, though, a game that drew two billion downloads, and it doesn’t need or depend on this kind of technology. How do you look at the advance of mobile technology, given what you do?

Laes: The latest game that we launched, on Dec. 11, was a full 3D game, our first ever full 3D Angry Birds experience on mobile. That’s where we’re going. At least part of our portfolio will be higher-fidelity 3D experiences. But the interesting thing about fidelity, especially in mobile networks, is that once fidelity increases, the ease of use — from a delivery point of view, at least — gets worse. When screen sizes increase, the quality per pixel goes down as well.

The Tegra K1 is a great advancement in the sense that you can run very high-quality games on mobile handsets, but mobile networks in some regions are incapable of delivering that experience, at least very quickly. It goes against the grain of delivering a ubiquitous, convenient experience for players. But mobile has been developing quite rapidly toward higher fidelity. That’s what people want most of the time, even on smaller screens. We see — and I’m sure other developers and people here in the room do as well — that production costs are rising and production quality is getting a lot higher on mobile. It’s been happening for some time already. It’s getting closer and closer, in all aspects, toward PC and console games.

Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype.

Above: Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: Nate, having Unreal Engine 4 in mobile is probably a good thing for what you guys have as your vision. But what are some technologies you need to see companies develop above and beyond what Oculus does, in order for you to succeed? What else has to happen?

Mitchell: VR input is probably one of the toughest challenges out there. If you look at the industry, especially Kickstarter, in the last year, there’s been a ton of virtual reality startups, and a huge number of those revolve around input — the Sixense STEM, Tactical Haptics, a huge amount of technology in the VR space centered on input. I don’t know how many people in the room have tried the Oculus Rift, but a mouse and a keyboard are not the ideal inputs for VR. That’s something we’re exploring quite a bit at Oculus. A lot of people are trying to tackle it.

We’re going to see a lot of exciting developments happen over the course of the next year or two, as we have more breakthroughs in that space. Display technology needs to come along a bit further. There are only so many companies making high-end panels, and those panels aren’t truly designed for virtual reality. If we can get more display manufacturers excited about virtual reality and the possibilities for high-end, high-fidelity VR, there’s a lot more we can do to make VR immersive and more fun.

GamesBeat: With VR, one question is, do you really need 360 degrees? A lot of the TVs being shown here are curved. They’re 4K, so you can get closer to them without seeing pixels now. If you have a very curved screen in front of your face, that seems pretty immersive.

Mitchell: Yeah. But it’s a different experience from what we’re trying to go for. We want to deliver on the dream of VR, which is about mimicking reality as much as we possibly can, creating a synthetic reality where you feel a sense of presence, the way we all feel in this room. I can turn and say, “Hey, how are you,” and I feel like I’m talking to another person. To do that, you need super low-latency tracking. You need higher resolution. You need 360 degrees. You need VR input. We’ll get there. We won’t have all the pieces in place today, but for the consumer V1 of the Oculus Rift, we think we’ll deliver something compelling. It’ll open up more possibilities for developers.

Avegant Glyph

Above: Avegant’s Glyph virtual display.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: Avegant has its Glyph system, which shines light directly on your eyeballs, so you’re looking at a couple of lenses. The eye-tracking technology from Tobii is also interesting, where you use your eyes to control a first-person shooter game.

Mitchell: One of the neat things about this CES especially, and the past year we’ve seen with the new consoles and the explosion in mobile, we like to say that it’s a great time to be a gamer. The possibilities in gaming now feel endless. We have things like the cloud opening up new opportunities. The new consoles bringing entirely new experiences. VR is opening new doors. That’s an entirely new canvas. There’s so much that can be done on mobile. It’s not even about fidelity. It’s just about empowering developers and opening up new opportunities for them. As a gamer, there’s a lot to be excited about in 2014.

GamesBeat: Switching to cloud a little, it’s interesting to see a bit of a difference between Sony and Microsoft on working with the cloud. We have cloud game distribution. We also have game streaming. Then we have cloud processing, which Microsoft has talked about a lot, where you’re actually using servers in the cloud to do processing for a game, like the artificial intelligence in Forza Motorsport 5 for the Xbox One. I wonder if you could talk about some of these differences as far as vision for the cloud, and what this means about the technology required for it.

Stevenson: Following Nate’s comment, a rising tide lifts all boats. Whether it’s offloading the full game, streaming it, or just offloading part of the game’s processing, all of this stuff allows for great game experience. From our point of view, on the cloud streaming side, we see a lot of capability on the back end, a lot of things we can do.

The stuff we’ve discussed so far, streaming PlayStation games out into the context of PlayStation devices, there’s a lot of possibility there, but imagine the PlayStation 4 is a fixed piece of hardware. Imagine the back end is a data center. You can scale those servers and upgrade them. You could potentially have multiple servers. The developer could potentially select a more powerful experience. They could say, “Hey, I want 10 CPUs and 12 GPUs on this game.” There’s a lot of capability down the road, both in a cloud processing context and in a cloud streaming context.

In terms of limitations, we’re always battling against bandwidth and latency. We see those moving in a positive direction. If you’ve seen the announcements about 4K video streaming, yesterday Samsung and LG announced 4K streaming solutions for movies. All of these things consume bandwidth. As we move forward, the way I say it in the office is that there are little trucks from Comcast and Cox and Charter and Google Fiber running around the country right now, installing better and better connections to end users to solve these things.

Penello: Whenever we try and talk about something that hasn’t been executed yet, customers try and put it into certain pockets. They try to think about it like a cloud streaming service or cloud processing. The reality is that almost every device you own today is connected. We’ve been running a cloud service in Xbox Live for 12 years, 13 years now.

We talk a lot about the cloud in terms of cloud processing. We’re experimenting with that. We’ve talked about cloud streaming. What we have to do is observe how bandwidth and latency are different, and how the different developers are able to implement it. What types of devices are customers on? It’s going to be a continuum of experiences for gamers, not different segments.

Creators will come up with interesting uses based on the device they’re on, the bandwidth available to them. But strategically, we look at it in a similar way. It’s a canvas that we’re going to paint a wide variety of experiences on. We’re executing that in slightly different ways, but we’re all heading toward the same goal.

Shawn Dubravac of CEA

Above: Shawn DuBravac from the CEA.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: The cloud also seems very useful in a mobile context. Shawn DuBravac, the chief economist for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), was saying yesterday that there’s a common architecture emerging for a lot of digital toys and things like that, where you have a small device that doesn’t have much processing power, and it links over to a smartphone that has more processing power, and the smartphone is connected to the cloud, which can tap even more. With this kind of architecture, you can make a very limited device much more powerful without consuming all of the battery power in that device. Those of you who are interested in the mobile side must be interested in that kind of architecture.

Laes: Of course. Our mobile games, and especially mobile social games, are multiplayer games. They’re cloud connected. We have a backend server system that takes care of a lot of processing and gameplay logic. That’s been the case for a long time already in mobile, for games that need that connection. It’s not a new thing, per se.

Streaming doesn’t happen that much. That usually happens at the start of a game, where we leverage asset servers to refresh the game, but we don’t do that much on the fly on mobile. If you’re not on a Wi-Fi connection, that can be choppy. But cloud processing — taking some of the stuff that you can interchangeably do between the client and the backend server — that’s not something we’ve done on mobile. We’ve separated out the things that happen on the backend and things that happen on the client side.

It’s interesting that you mention things like Bluetooth connectivity with physical toys. That’s a very interesting future trend. It’s not only happening with mobile but also consoles and other home devices. Networking technologies like Bluetooth and using your smartphone or smart service as a control mechanism can enable a lot of cool stuff.

There’s an even more low-fidelity version of this that we’ve done on mobile, which is what we did with Hasbro on the Telepods, first in Angry Birds Star Wars 2 and now in Angry Birds Go. You can scan a micro QR code into your tablet or smartphone, and then you’re able to take that character into the digital side of the game. We bridge the physical and digital worlds together on mobile, in a different way from what Disney does with Infinity or what Activision does with Skylanders. The physical-digital integration, whether it’s through Bluetooth or toys or other devices, a lot of cool things are going to be happening.

The same things are happening on the gadget side of things. I have a smartwatch on my wrist. A lot of things can be done over that kind of proximity network, doing the computing on your device rather than in the cloud.

Oculus VR

Above: Oculus VR’s latest Rift unit has a sharper picture and no motion sickness.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: Nate, how do you guys get virtual reality to work on mobile?

Mitchell: For mobile VR, we’re already pretty much there today. We’re at the beginning of mobile VR. We have demos of the Oculus Rift plugging into the display connector on a phone, and you can do a fully immersive VR experience. It’s on the lower end. We’re not talking about Unreal Engine 4, at least not on phones today. But you can have a pretty compelling VR experience.

There’s a demo in the Oculus community called VR Cinema. We have an Android version of that. You can run it on an Android phone, plug in the Rift, and be in a VR movie theater watching a 3D movie. That sort of experience is doable today on mobile technology, even with VR. It is the upper echelon of the hardware that’s out there, but give what we’re talking about with hardware moving so fast on mobile, the doors are going to continue to open up.

We’ve collaborated a lot with Epic Games in the past. The Unreal Engine was demoed on the Tegra K1 device shown two days ago by Nvidia. We’re really excited to try that out and see what’s possible. There are going to be really high-fidelity experiences you can have in VR on mobile in a very short amount of time.

GamesBeat: You guys have this challenge, Nate, getting virtual-reality content.

Mitchell: We’ve focused a lot on content. It goes back to one of our original points, that content is king. You can build the best VR hardware in the world, just as Microsoft and Sony can build the best consoles in the world. It doesn’t matter if great content creators don’t show up to build experiences people want to play. Valve does have an interesting challenge ahead of them with SteamOS. Bringing all of that content to SteamOS is going to be hard. But I’m excited to see what they come up with.

For us, it’s about the community. We’ve seen an incredible amount of support from our community. We launched Oculus on Kickstarter. That’s carried forward through the DNA of the company. To build a frictionless developer platform, Microsoft and Sony have certainly mastered it. Apple has done a phenomenal job. We want to do the same, where anyone in this room that’s interested in VR games can jump in and try to build something, whether using Unity or Unreal. That opens a lot of doors. With a frictionless dev platform, publishing support, you can do a lot.

We’re hopeful to see a lot of VR content coming out in the next year, especially made-for-VR content, which is the most exciting. Things designed from the ground up for virtual reality, that’s where we’ll see the truly inspiring experiences that should define the next generation.

Xbox One is nearly keeping pace with PlayStation 4

Above: Xbox One is nearly keeping pace with PlayStation 4.

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: Albert, what do you have to strengthen your ecosystem, but keep your users from defecting to other ecosystems as well? New ones are emerging every day.

Penello: The funny thing is, I don’t see it as a zero-sum game. Game consoles have a long, rich history. I’m proud to have worked on three boxes. I’m proud of the box that we’ve launched. But every generation we have to earn it back again. It’s tougher this generation than it ever has been. A lot of interesting technologies are out there. Gamers’ tastes are changing. They’re playing on more devices. I think there’s room for all these ideas to succeed.

I’m excited to see the Steam Machines. I don’t really think about them in the same category as a gaming device. No offense meant to what they’re doing, but it’s still more like a PC than a plug-and-play gaming device.

The content point is right, though. There is still a finite number, in any creative industry, of people who can create awe-inspiring content, whether it’s movies or TV or games. We’re all competing for the attention of those people. We’re competing for them on consoles just as much as we’re competing with cloud technology or VR. You have to have a great installed base. You have to have a great ecosystem. We have to embrace the changes in what they want to do. I feel good about the product we build being built for the future and embracing new models. But I don’t think, again, that this is a zero-sum game. I’m going to play everything and experience all of this stuff. It’s a great time to be a gamer.

Sony CES

Above: Sony’s CES booth.

Image Credit: Photo by Tom Cheredar/VentureBeat

Stevenson: Yeah. It’s tailor-made for cloud, I think. I would agree that this isn’t a zero-sum game. There are going to be many devices out there and people are going to choose to game in different ways. That’s totally cool.

We do think that cloud can move across a lot of this. The ubiquity argument behind cloud is that you’re able to play in one place, then play in another place, and have a seamless interaction with your game throughout the day. I get up in the morning, go to breakfast, and play a high-fidelity experience on my tablet. On the way to work, I play on my smartphone. On my lunch break I can play again through a web browser. Coming home at night, I turn on the console and play a super-high-fidelity experience, and it’s all the same game. It’s a continuous interaction throughout the day. … It is step by step, though. It takes time. Netflix didn’t get to be ubiquitous overnight. These are three- or five- or seven-year sorts of timelines.

Question: Does Oculus see the Microsoft experiments with the IllumiRoom as competition?

Mitchell: I haven’t tried IllumiRoom, and I’m always hesitant to comment on things I haven’t tried myself. My gut instinct is that it’s a different experience. It’s about expanding the experience from the screen into the room and integrating it into reality a bit more. I don’t think we see them as competitors, but I’d have to try it to give you my reading.

The Illumiroom projects images from the game screen across an entire wall.

Above: The Illumiroom projects images from the game screen across an entire wall.

Image Credit: Microsoft Research

GamesBeat: The IllumiRoom is a projector that projects things around the TV. You extend the feeling of what’s going on. You could have snow falling inside your room if you had snow falling inside the game. But it requires a pretty good projector, which isn’t cheap. There’s a company called Keecker here that’s built a little traveling robot with a projector built into it, and the firm is going to sell that device for $4,000 or $5,000. It’s a bit out of the realm of what people pay for a game console. Albert, do you have any thoughts as well?

Penello: This is one of my favorite topics because it comes up at technology panels all the time. I love Microsoft Research, that they play around with stuff like that. People have seen the videos. But it’s not anything that we have plans to make into a product. It’s hard to say that it’s any kind of competitor to something that these guys are showing here.

Question: Have there been any cloud business models around working with carriers and operators to provide a joint service?

Stevenson: In the cloud context, you’re trying to reach the cloud streaming customer, and they come in all different forms. There could be people connected through a set-top box, or a mobile device, and obviously talking to an operator and working closely with them is a potential business model — getting access to their customers and providing a streaming solution to them. It’s on the horizon. You can expect to see that down the road.

Laes: As far as the Angry Birds business model, the original Angry Birds was a $0.99 download on iOS. Once Angry Birds launched on Android, we decided to go to free to play. We hadn’t supported it before because at that time, free to play didn’t exist yet. But it wasn’t a viable business model to have a paid game on Android go big. So, we decided to go free, and that was the right decision at that time. We wouldn’t be at two billion downloads without it.

But it’s not about giving the game away for free and making all our money from consumer products or licensing or all kinds of other business. Those are very important parts of the entertainment franchises that we’re building, but we want to make profitable and successful games. We definitely don’t consider them advertisements for consumer products. I’ve worked 14 years in games, and that’s what we do. We have 300 people trying to build the best games in the world.

GamesBeat: What’s the technology hurdle or the challenge that stands in the way of your vision for where gaming is going to go?

Laes: For us, the biggest challenge is that we want to build bigger games that have higher fidelity but represent a bigger download. On mobile networks it takes time and it’s not a convenient experience to get that download right away. We want to build games that require connectivity as you continue to play the game, to have that backend connection and cloud processing and so on available. It’s about the mobile connection, when people are on the subway or in an elevator or something like that and want to continue to have a seamless experience. Before we get to a point where the cloud is always available, always reachable with high bandwidth, that puts a limit on the kind of gaming experiences we can build on mobile. There’s enough pixels, enough power, enough fidelity to build great games on mobile, with great UI and great controls and so on. But building that long-lasting, server-backed experience right now is pretty difficult on mobile.

Mitchell: I talked about our challenges before. There are so many, when it comes to delivering the Holodeck. VR input is a key one. Display technology is a key one. Content is key. Coupled with content, for us, going back to the ecosystem challenge. All of my fellow panelists up here have great user bases to interact with. With Oculus, we’re starting with an installed base of zero.

We have 50,000 developers working with Oculus Rift dev kits, but until there’s an audience to monetize against, it’s hard for a developer like a Rovio to take a bet on it, because the economics of it just don’t work. Getting developers excited about the possibilities, inspiring consumers, and really delivering on the Holodeck — and that’s what we want to do with the Oculus Rift — really, execution is the only thing that stands in our way.

Penello: For us, it’s around natural user interaction. As Nate pointed out earlier, when they’re dealing with vision, there are a lot of scenarios as far as how people interact with that and what sort of challenges they face. For us, we’ve been working with Kinect for many years. Things like voice and gesture, making it just work, the customer expectation now is that they’re going to be able to interact naturally with their devices. That creates a much higher bar for getting it right.

My proudest moment is when I’m upstairs and I hear my wife say, “Xbox, on.” That means that it works. Her tolerance for technology failure is very low. The fact that she’s embraced it in our living room and using it tells me that we’re doing good work. But we have to deliver that on a global basis, in different languages, different accents. Making our console global and natural with language and gesture is one of the things we’re working hardest on right now.

Stevenson: From the cloud streaming context, again, latency and bandwidth are always a concern. It’s the last mile to the consumer, and also the last 10 feet in the house, with Wi-Fi challenges. These things are all solvable. They’re advancing in the right direction. With Wi-Fi, getting quality service of standards in play, improving routers, lots of different things are helping solve these problems. Over time, we believe these trends are moving in the right direction.

I will say that scaling the cloud, particularly in the streaming business, where you’re reliant on higher-end processing and data storage, it’s more challenging. We’re dealing with rendering and running games. Scaling that business, scaling the data center, requires careful business planning and also looking for those technology advantages. How can we do this cheaper? How can we do this more efficiently? How can we virtualize? How can we do things in a way that make the ecosystem more economical? All these trends are moving in the right direction, for sure, almost faster than we can keep up.

Xbox Live user interface

Above: Xbox Live user interface.

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: Robert, do you think you have more challenges than someone like Netflix, which sometimes consumes half of the Internet’s bandwidth streaming movies out? If you guys ever got really big, streaming games in a brute-force manner is not going to be a scalable enterprise.

Stevenson: Yeah, there are many challenges facing us as far as scale. The difference between Netflix and our cloud context is that Netflix has time to set up a file and stream a file. We don’t have that luxury. It has to be a realtime response. We have to take it and process it and turn it around in milliseconds. We don’t have time to compress and make the most efficient use of the output. We can’t be as efficient in terms of bandwidth utilization.

Sometimes you unwrap a challenge and solve one thing, and something new comes up. As the local processing power and screen fidelity of devices, particularly mobile devices, gets better, your needs for what you want to bring downstream get higher. Again, the trends are moving in the right direction. Consumers have shown an appetite for streaming movies and music in abundance. If you look at the graphs, consumption is off the chart. We just have to solve the technology and get it done right.

GamesBeat: Albert, it seems like your challenge is to find a killer app for Kinect as well. You have the advantage of having it in the box now, but it also makes your box more expensive. People want to know what Kinect is going to deliver for them.

Penello: I don’t think of Kinect as an accessory to the Xbox One, the way it was with the 360. I think about it more as an integral part of the platform. With that, the things that we do around voice and identity. I’m sure you’ve played with it, where you can walk into a room and it recognizes you. That’s a pretty killer app. Or I can change channels and switch between applications with my voice. That’s a pretty killer app.

You talked about the cloud. We’re going to have a continuum of experiences. The system itself relies on Kinect. I think we differentiate there. We’re going to continue to build core-gaming-specific content. It’ll also be interesting to see what developers do when they can rely on it in every box. Kinect-enhanced games, like what Battlefield did with leaning, will be more the norm. From the system-level functions to enhancing core games, I think we’re in a good position.

Angry Birds Go!

Above: Angry Birds Go.

Image Credit: Rovio

GamesBeat: Jami, I think about how you keep a brand going in the mobile space as one of your challenges. Such a diversity of games have been rising to the top very quickly. You have Angry Birds getting close to two billion downloads, but now there’s Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga as well. It seems like the top ranks of the mobile gaming world are changing a lot, still. I don’t know how you deal with that.

Laes: Sure, the top-grossing ranks have changed throughout the last year. There was a big genre migration toward puzzle games and casino games on the U.S. iOS lists, as well as build and battle games, where Clash of Clans is the biggest example.

For Angry Birds or any of our games at Rovio, we’re not thinking about building something for a couple of hundred days. We’re building an entertainment company for hundreds of years. That’s our vision. That’s why we’re building new kinds of experiences. We’re starting with Angry Birds Go, going to a new gameplay pattern, a new genre, going fully 3D, using a new business model. That’s a good example of what’s going to be coming from Rovio in the future, under the Angry Birds brand and new brands as well. It’s going to be a more balanced diet — birds, pigs, and vegetables, if you will.

Of course, you always need to keep delivering great quality content. That’s what we’ve been doing this year. We’ve had almost two billion views of our Angry Birds Toons, which we launched last year in March. That’s another way to keep the brand going. You don’t only think of how many launches of new games you have, but how many different kinds of entertainment experiences you’re offering. There’s no silver bullet. You just have to work hard and make sure that you have great content that keeps people engaged and entertained.

Wow. Much respect. Confident leader.

Above: Wow. Much respect. Confident leader.

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

GamesBeat: Do we have any closing thoughts on our session here?

Laes: One of the key things to say is what Nate said first, that it’s a great time to be a gamer. It’s also a great time to be a developer. All these technologies and platforms and methods for distribution and discovery, the new audiences that developers and our games are finding — more and more people are getting into gaming.

Especially on mobile, which is close to my heart, we’re going to be seeing more and more clever mash-ups, where the game literacy bar is going to be raised, even for casual gamers. You’ll be able to combine elements from different genres and different types of games in a very casual way and create meaningful experiences that are going to be widely adopted by huge audiences. People are well educated in gaming already, both in the western world and particularly in Asia.

We’re going to see some great things, especially in mobile. Like we saw on CNN yesterday, four to seven percent of all technology spend is going to mobile and smartphone. That’s going to lead to a lot of spend on content and games for mobile as well.

Mitchell: Gamers should be excited for the year to come. Really, congratulations to Microsoft and Sony on launching the new consoles. It’s awesome to see those boxes get into living rooms and see players connecting in new ways. I agree that a killer app for Kinect, at least one of them, is the user recognition. It’s awesome.

Gamers are going to be excited about the new experiences that all the technology we’re talking about here will make possible, the opportunities it opens up for them, like virtual reality and cloud gaming. I’m excited to see what content creators do. That’s what we should all be excited for.

Penello: For us, we’re at the dawn of a new generation, having just launched the Xbox One. We learned so much through the years for 360 that we put into the development of Xbox One. The Xbox 360 still feels like a new product. When we shipped it in 2005, there were no tablets, no smartphones. Wireless Internet was barely in the home. There were no streaming video services. There was no HD video at all That was the world we lived in, in 2005. I can’t imagine what the world is going to look like 10 years from now.

Stevenson: It’s a great time to be in technology in general, in building these tools and using these tools and paving the road out to the future. I can’t wait to see what we’re going to be talking about next year.

 

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