Who will be the Google of discovery? VentureBeat tackled that tantalizing question at our DiscoveryBeat 2010 event in San Francisco on Monday. More than 200 attendees listened to talks on how to get apps noticed. We had the full ecosystem of discovery there, from successful app developers to PR folks to social game platform makers.
Above, Sebastien DeHalleux, co-founder of Electronics Arts’ Playfish social game division, kicked off the day with a fireside chat. He was interviewed by Matthew Bellows, founder of Yesware and a former wireless games journalist. DeHalleux said that EA’s sports games on the console and on Facebook would be integrated in the future, so that you can earn cross-platform achievements. That’s a way to get users to discover games across media.
[Photos by Samanta Strauss, Dean Takahashi and Matthew Linley]
VentureBeat editor-in-chief Matt Marshall noted that the intersection of mobile, social, and gaming is one of the hottest entrepreneurial segments today. He pointed to DeNA’s $400 million acquisition of iPhone game publisher Ngmoco as a reason why this sector, and discovery, will continue to be hot.
The companies represented above are competing hard for mobile monetization. From left to right: Aunkur Arya, director of mobile partnerships for Google; Sunil Verma, co-founder of Mobclix; Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry; Lee Linden, co-founder of Tapjoy; and Matt Marshall of VentureBeat.
I (that’s me on the left) interviewed Julian Farrior (center), CEO of Backflip Studios, and Dave Castelnuovo, head of Bolt Creative about case studies in discovery. Farrior said that cross-promotion across free and paid games has helped his company generate more than 45 million iPhone downloads in the past year and a half. He also said that his free ad-supported games on Android have taken off, generating 5.5 million downloads in a short time. Now Farrior can launch new games, cross promote them, and see the numbers take off.
Castelnuovo passed along a few tips that helped Bolt Creative’s Pocket God game catch on and sell more than 3 million copies on the iPhone. He said that he updated the game more than 35 times to keep it at the top of users’ minds. That led them to keep coming back to the game and share it with friends. He changed the look of icons once games were updated, so that users could see something was different about the game when they looked at the decks of their phones. Castlenuovo also encouraged fans to create YouTube videos to stoke the community around the game.
The view of the stage from the side.
Kiran Modak showed off Unsocial’s debut app, which helps you find like-minded people at events such as DiscoveryBeat. You can easily check the agenda, view the speakers and find out other things about your event.
We really liked our logo for DiscoveryBeat; it riffed on the theme of undiscovered worlds.
The Mission Bay conference center at UCSF had a big roomy auditorium for us. It’s been the site of many a tech conference.
The crowd networked outside. But volunteer Bree Cotten (far left) was a blur because she was always trying to snag wayward speakers and bring them to the stage.
Virality on Viagra was an aptly named panel for how to turn your app into an infectious disease. The leaders of the social game platforms spoke on this panel about how to make the same kind of virality that (once) existed on Facebook happen on both the iPhone and Android platforms. Speakers from left to right are Immad Akhund, co-founder of Heyzap; Kabir Kasargod, product manager at Qualcomm for the Vive social networking service; Si Shen, chief executive of Beijing’s PapayaMobile; Jason Citron, CEO of Aurora Feint; and moderator Charles Hudson, who hosts the popular Virtual Goods Summit and Social Gaming Summit.
Lunch is for networking.
VentureBeat’s Anthony Ha (left) talks with Vijay Chattha, head of VSC Consulting and AppLaunchPR. Chattha talked on stage about how to target non-traditional media, and more social media leaders, when launching your apps.
The Ice Cream Man showed up to give free ice cream to our attendees. He came inside and asked some questions too. The Ice Cream Man’s goal is to give away 500,000 ice cream bars in seven years. He’s in his sixth year and is above 300,000. We were glad to help him out.
Bill Mark (left), vice president of information computing sciences at SRI, did a fireside chat with me about how artificial intelligence can be applied to discovery. Already, Apple is using the fruits of SRI’s research into AI. Apple bought Siri, which spun out of SRI, for an estimated $180 million in the spring. Siri is a virtual assistant app on the iPhone that understands natural language commands. Mark said there is a lot more than that coming in the near future, and it will make AI’s relevance to discovery become more clear. He said you can imagine how AI could build a model of a book — what it’s about, what emotions it stirs, what themes it evokes — and build a model of a person and then determine if they are a good match. He said this technology would likely work much better than current recommendations.
Anthony Ha of VentureBeat moderated a panel on indie discovery stories. They all said that you have to be very clever thinking about your business model, how much money you can make with a given number of users, and how much marketing you can afford to do. Ha said that he also learned that “people f****** love Angry Birds,” the bird-slingshot game from Rovio. Speakers from left to right include Ha; Patrick Mork, chief marketing officer of Rovio; Justin Maples, CEO of Broken Thumb Apps; Doyon Kim, head of business development for YD Online; and Chris Williams, director of mobile for PlayFirst.
I got a chance to interview Brian Reynolds (left), chief game designer at Zynga. He said that Zynga’s game design process — create a prototype fast and run with it — is actually very similar to what gaming legend Sid Meier taught him to do in designing PC games in the early 1990s. Zynga has been criticized heavily for copying other games. But Reynolds’ FrontierVille is an original game that has more than 33 million users. He worked on it for eight months with something like 20 people. That’s a long time for a social game. But it has paid off with more engagement among users.
The App Kingmakers panel closed the day with thoughts about how reviews, recommendations, and search could help stoke interest in apps. From left to right are Chris DeVore, chairman of MobileMeme; Laura Fitton, founder of Oneforty; Alan Warms, CEO of Appolicious; Ben Keighran, CEO of Chomp; and moderator Yukari Iwatani Kane, staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal.
Holger Luedorf, vice president of mobile partnerships for FourSquare, said that his company moved fast into the virgin territory of location check-ins to grab the best spot in the location gaming business.
We had a good crowd stick around for the final reception, where Alcatel-Lucent and Adobe gave away free iPads and other prizes.
Redge Snodgrass (right) of Alcatel-Lucent gave away an iPad at the closing reception. The two folks next to him, Patrizia Favero and Basil Farano, traveled from Toronto, Canada, for the conference. Their company Fresh Concepts is working on an iPhone app.