14 GDC 2016 | March 14-18, 2016 | Moscone Convention Center | San Francisco, California
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Please note: this information refers to GDC 2016, check back for updates.

Monday, March 14 & Tuesday, March 15 2016

Over the past few years, the free-to-play (F2P) model has revolutionized the games industry. The web and mobile games ecosystems are now utterly dominated by F2P games, and highly successful F2P games have begun to sprout up on Steam and on consoles as well.

Though F2P games are no longer a novelty, designers and business leaders alike are still grappling with the creative implications of a world in which gameplay and monetization are intimately intertwined, and in which games are supposed to never end. Are you struggling to design games that can stand up to the brutal competition in this space without compromising your principles? Do you despair at the mention of ever-climbing user acquisition costs? Then come to the Free to Play Summit, where leading professionals from the F2P world can offer stress relief and provide answers.

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F2P 101: Microtalks
Steve Meretzky (GSN)
Eric Todd (Playdom)
John Welch (Making Fun, Inc.)
Eyal Grundstein (GSN)
AJ Glasser (Facebook)
Bob Bates (Independent)
The Free-to-Play business model is many years old now, but there are still many people in the game industry who have not yet faced the unique issues and challenges that come with developing and releasing a free-to-play game. Are you someone who knows little to nothing about the free-to-play space, but feel like it's time to be able to join in when the conversation turns to ARPDAU and 7-day retention? This session is for you. In one hour, the basics of free-to-play will be covered, aimed for an audience that understands game development, but is completely new to the concepts of giving your game away for free, and then optionally monetizing a portion of the resulting player base. Topics to be covered include: understanding the funnel; acquiring users via paid advertising as well as organically; short- and long-term player retention; monetization best practices; and how to launch your game successfully.
How to Get Your F2P Game Greenlit In 2016
Demetri Detsaridis (Experiment 7)
In this hour-long talk and Q&A session, veteran game developer and consultant Demetri Detsaridis (who's spent the past year on both sides of the F2P greenlighting process) will discuss what it takes to get F2P games approved and funded and by studio management, publishers, and/or investors in today's environment. With examples drawn from the mobile, PC, and console spaces from the past year, we'll look at what's expected as part of an F2P game pitch, what needs to be part of a modern prototype, and how to craft a succinct and successful plan of action for this rapidly evolving market.
Social Impact: Leveraging Community for Monetization, UA and Design
Dmitri Williams (Ninja Metrics)
This session will recap the concept of the social impact of players on each other (Social Value), and then proceed to spell out which genres, mechanics and platforms are driving more or less of it. The data is presented in anonymized benchmarks from 500m+ players across all genres and platforms. Also benchmarked are acquisition sources, broken down by publisher. Attendees will see which channels and appeals bring in quality social players. The session is designed for Marketing and UA teams, community managers and designers.
Alphabear Postmortem
David Edery (Spry Fox)
Alphabear is an original word puzzle game by Spry Fox that was in development for a full year before it was released worldwide in July 2015 and continued to evolve dramatically. A year is an unusually long development time for a Spry Fox mobile title, particularly one that in theory should have been finished quickly because it was based on a game previously released. This lecture will share insights into the development and testing of Alphabear, why it took so long, what worked in the game and what didn't, and what was learned from the process.
King of Thieves: Designing a F2P Game That's Different
Eugene Yailenko (ZeptoLab)
In this talk, Eugene Yailenko, ZeptoLab's Senior Game Designer, will share his experience of designing "King of Thieves" - a game that has been downloaded more than 20 million times and is either loved or hated by players; there are not many opinions in between. The first part of the talk will describe the process of finding the key design pillars for the game during its first year of development. The second part will cover the challenges team faced during the soft-launch period, that took another year but allowed us to drastically improve retention and monetization.
DomiNations Year One: History Games As Live Service
Tim Train (Big Huge Games 2.0)
DomiNations launched on mobile on April 1st, 2015 to great fanfare, high reviews, and strong word-of-mouth from players, eventually becoming the top 3rd-party launch of the year. It seemed the mobile market was excited for a historical strategy game in the vein of Age of Empires and Civilization. Four months later the title had sunk far below the top-100 grossing and the studio contemplated a tightly constrained future for the game. The team had failed to launch with key drivers of retention and revenue, and spent most of 2015 scrambling to add those features. Brick-by-brick, and with the help of a great Asia launch, they managed to reverse the game's decline and ensure the future stability of the studio.


Steve Meretzky
GSN Games
It's hard to have a serious conversation about gaming without mention of Steve. It's also hard to have a humorous conversation about gaming without mention of him. Steve's contributions to the industry began in 1981 at the legendary adventure game company Infocom, where his titles included Planetfall, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (in collaboration with Douglas Adams), Leather Goddesses of Phobos and Zork Zero. Steve is currently vice president of creative for GSN Games, the cross-platform games division of GSN (Game Show Network). Prior to joining GSN Games, Steve was vice president of game design for Playdom, a division of Disney Interactive. Previously, Steve co-founded Boffo Games and held senior creative posts at Blue Fang, Floodgate Entertainment and WorldWinner.com, GSN's cash tournaments site. Over his prolific career, Steve also consulted with teams at Activision, Blizzard, EA, Harmonix and Hasbro, to name a few. A former board member of the IGDA, Steve organizes the Free to Play Summit at the GDC, as well as the annual Game Designers Workshop. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science in construction project management from MIT, but otherwise assures us that he did not waste his four years there.
Frank Cartwright
Reloaded Games Inc.
As COO of Reloaded Games Inc., Frank Cartwright brings over a decade of experience in online, social, mobile, and free-to-play gaming in both the core and casual categories. Most recently, he served as SVP of Product and Platform Development at K2 Network Inc. (Gamerfirst), where he oversaw the product development of the free-to-play publishing portal GamersFirst.com, as well as the publishing platform Gamersfirst LIVE!. Prior to K2, he served as vice president of Online Entertainment at the GameShowNetwork (GSN), where he oversaw the product development, technology implementation, and administration of GSN.com, the network's emerging casual games site. Prior to GSN, he served as vice president of product development and engineering at Global Gaming League (GGL), a worldwide leader in organized, competitive online and live video game tournaments and events (V-Sports). Prior to GGL, he served as vice president of production for SkillJam Technologies, where he played an instrumental role in the company's growth and globalization efforts, handling all technical development and production. Frank began his career in gaming in 1995 at Dreamers Guild, as lead software engineer on Turner Interactive's Dinotopia PC game. From there he joined Disney Internet Group (DIG), creating dozens of Java, Flash, and Shockwave online games and building Disney's online, multiplayer gaming platform. Frank has a BS degree in Business Management.
David Edery
Spry Fox
David Edery is the CEO of Spry Fox, the studio behind titles such as Triple Town, Steambirds, Realm of the Mad God and Road Not Taken. Previously, David was worldwide games portfolio manager for Microsoft's Xbox LIVE service, where he was responsible for content strategy and selecting the games that would be accepted for distribution by the LIVE service. David co-authored, "Changing the Game: How Video Games are Transforming the Future of Business" a book that explores the ways that games can be leveraged by businesses for serious purposes.
John Welch
Making Fun
John Welch is a veteran leader of the online games industry and one of the early pioneers of digital distribution of entertainment. He is president and CEO of Making Fun, Inc., a game developer and publisher he founded in 2009 to create mobile and social titles for digital platforms. Making Fun's top titles include Mage & Minions, Dominion Online, Hidden Express and BloodRealm. These titles are produced with a combination of San Francisco and Argentina-based internal talent and partnerships with passionate game studios around the world.

Prior to forming Making Fun, John was co-founder and CEO of PlayFirst, the casual games publisher famous for the best-selling "Diner Dash" brand that has touched hundreds of millions of consumers. John was responsible for the vision, financing, strategic direction and operations of the company for its first five years, as well as the production of the first Diner Dash title. PlayFirst was an innovator in bringing the full-service publishing model to casual online and downloadable games.

Prior to forming PlayFirst, he spent nearly five years building Shockwave.com into one of the Internet's top game portals as the company's vice president of games and product. He was a key member of the Dreamcast Network leadership team at SEGA from 1998 to 1999. Previously, John spent several years running a small consultancy he co-founded. He began his career at Andersen Consulting.

In addition to his operating role, John is a board member of Secret Builders, a creative online virtual world and network of mobile games heavily endorsed by parents and teachers.

John has served in leadership roles with the International Game Developers Association, and he is a regular advisor and faculty member of the annual Game Developers' Conference. John is an active member and officer of the Golden Gate chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO). He holds degrees in mathematics and computer science from MIT and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.