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LAS VEGAS — Key points from the histories of mobile gaming can teach us about new frontiers like virtual reality, augmented reality, wearables, and more.
Kristian Segerstrale, the chief operating officer of Super Evil Megacorp (the developers of the touchscreen multiplayer arena battler Vainglory), looks at the lessons that the game industry has taught him in his career and how they might help us navigate through new innovations in his 2015 DICE Summit talk today.
Prior to heading up Vainglory developer Super Evil Megacorp, Segerstrale helped build Glu Mobile, Playfish, and most recently, Supercell, developers of the widely successful mobile game Clash of Clans.
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Segerstrale’s time at Glu Mobile had him making games for feature phones, which he says was an interesting time for mobile. The business was hard as these devices had no set standards, and the distribution channels were not developed yet. Making sure a game would work across thousands of devices and multiple distribution channels was very challenging, he recalls.
“If you survived it, you could survive anything,” says Segerstrale.
He notes that industry members that survived the feature phone years are now running gaming’s largest companies, like Supercell.
New things take time, Segerstrale stresses. Despite early successes, mobile gaming took much longer than many thought to become mainstream. He recalls his days at Glu Mobile, following the success of some of its games, saying in 2004 that the industry would see the first billion dollar mobile game. It took 10 years. Candy Crush Saga, Puzzle & Dragons, and Clash of Clans were widely successful in 2014, each earning more than $1 billion.
“Compund immaturity in a market slows it down dramatically, says Segerstrale. “If you have a set of technologies or a distribution model that is immature, that means that things can take a very long time to evolve.”
Supercell pioneered midcore gaming on touch. Segerstrale got in early there, and while he takes no credit for their eventual successes with mobile hit Clash of Clans, he credits the company’s initial decision to always stay small as one of the keys to their successes. This taught him the importance of talent density.
“You could argue that a 100-person company is the new 10,000 [-person] company in games,” he says “With the publishing leverage going away [in digital games], the 100 person company can arguably create a better gaming company.”
With his current company, Super Evil Megacorp (a collection of industry veterans from companies such as Blizzard, Rio, and Insominac, among others), Segerstrale says they’re still watching mobile gaming change. Their goal is to usher in true core gaming on touch devices, starting with their MOBA, Vainglory. He says that they’ve learned that gamers are ready for touch gaming, citing an average play session time of 75 minutes for Vainglory. They’ve also seen 250,000 individual viewers on streams of the game.
“It will take years to make it big, but we’re excited about our starts.”
Segerstrale says that all of these lessons are applicable with the emerging innovations in gaming. For example, while VR and AR are hot now, it could take the 10 years it took for mobile to reach maturity. He feels that those that cut their teeth in making these technologies work will be set for the future.
But Segerstrale notes that established methods and history aren’t everything. Be patient and flexible, he advises.
“If I had listened to people standing on stages like this, I would have never set up any of the companies I’ve set up,” he says. “It’s the most amazing time in the industry ever.”
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