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GDC Spotlight Interviews: Ukie, AdColony, Google Play, Tapjoy, Havok and Amazon

| March 2014

In This Issue:

  • Ukie - Jo Twist, CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment discusses the challenges facing the UK games industry, the organization's new mentoring programme, and their plans for GDC
  • AdColony - SVP Monetization & Business Development Tim Steudler talks to us about the changing face of video advertising on mobile and discusses the company's Platinum Sponsorship of GDC Mobile.
  • GooglePlay - Greg Hartrell, Lead Product Manager of Google Play chats about the remarkable growth of Google Play as a platform and how to connect with the company at GDC.
  • TapJoy- Christine Tao, SVP Developer Relations talks about the ways mobile advertisers can help ensure a positive user experience, and describes the new SDK the company will be launching at GDC.
  • Havok - Where does Havok fit for developers in this current transitional period? Andrew Bowell, Head of Product Management discusses the issues of the next gen and diverse hardware, before their appearance on the GDC Expo show floor.
  • Amazon - Hosting a developer day at GDC 2014, Amazon Apps & Games Head of Worldwide Evangelism and Marketing Rob Pulciani talks to us about Amazon's plans for the conference, and how the company's analytics and cloud technologies can help developers.

Unity Technologies


Jo Twist
Jo Twist

Jo Twist, CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment discusses the challenges facing the UK games industry, the organization's new mentoring programme, and their plans for GDC.

Q: What do you view as the key challenges that are facing the UK Games Industry right now?

Jo Twist: The biggest challenge for the UK industry right now is creating a level playing field for games business to thrive with the right business environment to compete on a global stage. We are constantly striving to help companies access global marketplaces, diversify their audiences and increase demand to secure the future of the industry. The main areas that developers often have issues with are core business skills like coping with red tape, legal issues, as well as how to access finance, cash flow and investment opportunities. Ukie helps business to identify different avenues for funding as well as lobbying policy makers to ensure the right help is in place for financing. We run drop-in sessions where devs can come and meet industry professionals for free advice and we run "how to" networking and knowledge sharing events all around the country which cover topics like discoverability, IP and copyright and funding. We work closely with government to ensure that the games industry is always on the front foot to make sure the regulatory environment is friction free so that developers are acting responsibly but are not hindered by legislation. We are always promoting the industry in a positive light with positive stories. When the tax production credits for games are introduced, the UK will be the best place in the world to make and sell games and will allow us to compete at the highest level with the best creative talent, with the likes of Canada and America.

Q: You just launched a Game Mentoring programme, too?

Twist: Ukie have partnered with Nesta to create the Video Game Mentoring Network to advise and nurture games businesses with an appetite for growth by connecting them who have been through the business mill. This is done by pairing up mentors and mentees from different games businesses and running one-to-one meetings, workshops, attending events designed to network with people who can grow your business and coaching sessions. We are calling for both businesses of all sizes who are looking to scale to apply to be mentored and for potential mentors to express interest in being involved in the scheme by contacting [email protected]

Q: What are UKIE's plans for GDC?

Jo Twist: We are the UKTI accredited trade partner for GDC, which means that we run the UK industry business area on the expo floor. We help SMEs access the show by processing Government Trade Access grants for up to 2000 to enable businesses to show their games and do the right business deals for them. The best thing for us is the collective community spirit that is so obvious between the companies on the stand. When you exhibit on the stand as part of the UK industry, you become part of a British collective, flying the flag for the UK and showing what a diverse and creative nation we are. All developers are welcome to come and hang out in the UK industry pavilion and meet all the other British developers as well as some of the Ukie team. We are also holding a VIP drinks reception at the British Consulate with the UKTI for companies to come together and network, but most importantly, to show that the UK is open for business. If you want to attend, just pop over to the stand and have a chat with one of our on-site staff.


Tim Steudler
Tim Steudler

SVP Monetization & Business Development Tim Steudler talks to us about the changing face of video advertising on mobile and discusses the company's Platinum Sponsorship of GDC Mobile.

Q: How have developers' perceptions of mobile video advertising changed over the years?

Tim Steudler: Mobile video has evolved a long way since it was first introduced to the ecosystem about 3-4 years ago. The AdColony platform was actually created by app developers out of the desire to perfect mobile video and solve for the very pain points that were deterring developers from taking advantage of the medium. Our team created a proprietary ad technology called Instant-Play to power mobile video ads with crisp HD picture and no annoying load times, and we've seen top developers across the ecosystem embrace video as a key monetization and advertising vehicle.

Not only do we provide a higher quality experience for users, but we are also able to deliver more meaningful incremental revenue compared to a developer's overall revenues. We know that even top grossing developers are fortunate if they're able to successfully monetize more than 10% of their total users via in-app purchases, and the right ad strategy can unlock even greater revenue potential.

We work closely with game developers big and small to consult them on the most beneficial, high-impact video integrations for their apps. The best integrations take a productized approach to implementing non-IAP revenue. Creatively weaving advertising monetization hooks into the experience, similar to how you would design your game mechanics and merchandising around in-app purchases, is key. Developers who focus on fun first ultimately monetize the best.

Q: What do you see as the approaching trends in mobile games and advertising/ monetization?

Steudler: AdColony is fortunate to be situated right where the heat is. Mobile video represents the fastest growing advertising segment in mobile, with spending up 166% in 2013. We're able to translate this huge advertiser interest in mobile video to our partners -- AdColony publisher earnings increased more than 300% in 2013 versus 2012. The ad dollars are shifting to video, and as brands flock to the most effective medium where people are spending the bulk of their time (mobile), the publishers who embrace quality mobile video stand to benefit the most. We're eager to help developers benefit from these trends. We're seeing more and more publishers employ a diversified monetization strategy that encompasses both IAP and advertising. This is where a tactful, focused approach to advertising becomes so important.

Q: As a Platinum Sponsor of GDC Mobile, what excites you about the event?

Steudler: This must be about my 11th GDC or so, and I couldn't be more excited. I came to AdColony from the console gaming world, most recently with Activision Blizzard, and to see the energy and experimentation in the mobile gaming space is really great. The conference has transformed from being dominated by traditional PC and console gaming in years past to focusing on mobile and social, which are absolutely the most dominant topics in the room now.

I think I'm most excited about seeing the next up-and-coming AAA potential titles that will crop up from the independent studios. I love having the opportunity to hear from the indies and learn from industry experts from across the ecosystem and around the world.

The AdColony monetization and user acquisition teams will be setting up shop on Monday and Tuesday at the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit where we are sponsoring, and we'll definitely be spending time with the Independent Games Summit too. I have the entire AdColony team attending to meet with existing partners and new potential partners in a more intimate face-to-face setting. If you want to meet up, ping us at [email protected]. And we'll be sure to see you out at the parties, just look for the sea of AdColony rocketship T-shirts.

Google Play

Greg Hartrell
Greg Hartrell

Greg Hartrell, Lead Product Manager of Google Play chats about the remarkable growth of Google Play as a platform and how to connect with the company at GDC.

Q: Some recent research claims that revenues for game creators on Google Play is growing twice as fast as that on iOS

Greg Hartrell:Google Play Games is growing with tremendous speed, and we've been working hard over the last year to develop tools to game developers to help them build amazing game experiences. It's a cross-platform game service and SDK on Android, iOS and the web that enables a rich set of in-game user experiences for cross screen gaming. By building off of what Google is good at--mobile and cloud services--these game services help power great gaming experiences for users so developers can focus on what they're good at: creating compelling experiences for users. Developer who are taking advantage of these tools are seeing tremendous results and engaging with users in much more meaningful ways.

Q: How is developing games for the Asian market different from developing for the North American market?

Hartrell: Analytics are an important part of crafting a successful game and enjoyable user experience. Whether analytics are used to help dissect where players are dropping off or getting stuck in a game or used to analyze how in-app purchases can be tweaked to be more attractive to players, tools like these are important to create successful entertainment businesses.

Q: What future trends do you see on the horizon in the mobile game space?

Hartrell: Today, everyone is a gamer--and mobile is a huge opportunity for gamers. Take Android: three in every four users are playing games; with billions of activated Android devices, it has grown rapidly as a mobile gaming platform, allowing game developers to reach an unprecedented audience of players.

As we look at future trends, the mobile gaming ecosystem will continue its amazing growth, and it will do so across multiple screens. Most of use 2, if not 3, computing devices throughout our day- phone, tablet, laptop and more--and Google cares deeply about building seamless experiences across these devices. As Google continues helping game developers take their games to the next level, providing services that work across different platforms--like Google Play Games, which works for Android, iOS and the web--is going to be increasingly important.

Q: What are Google's plans for GDC?

Hartrell: Google helps game developers take their games to the next level by giving them a platform with hundreds of millions of users, and giving them flexible monetization tools. At GDC, we'll be hosting a Developer Day on Tuesday, March 18, where we'll be talking with game developers to help them get the most with Google, including how to reach and engage with hundreds of millions of users on Google Play, build Games that scale in the cloud, grow in-game advertising businesses with AdMob, track revenue with Google Analytics as well as explore new gaming frontiers, like Glass.

If you can't make any of the Google Developer Day sessions, don't worry; all the talks will be livestreamed on YouTube. You can also meet the Play, AdMob, Analytics, and Cloud teams at the Google Education Center in the Moscone Center's South Hall (booth 218) from March 19-21.


Christine Tao
Christine Tao

Christine Tao, SVP Developer Relations talks about the ways mobile advertisers can help ensure a positive user experience, and describes the new SDK the company will be launching at GDC.

Q: What would you say to a game developer who is exploring including in-game advertising to monetize?

Christine Tao: Developers are typically wary of advertising because they want to maintain a good user experience. That's the main driving factor between integrating ads from Tapjoy vs. typical banner ads. We give the user something for engaging with the ad, whether that's additional content, currency within the app, or the ability to further their game experience. It is not interruptive to the app, in fact it enhances the app experience. We integrate natively within the application - typically through their storefront or at the point where users access additional content or currency. The users also opt into this experience because they are looking for ways to deepen their experience within the application.

A cool example is when we initially launched with one of our large developer partners. They knew they had a big revenue opportunity with us, but they also wanted to work with us because their users had been asking for a way to get more content within the app by engaging with advertisements. So its a solution that their users were asking for. We're continuing to deepen the experience in more ways, and in fact, we recently released a more customized look and feel to the Tapjoy offerwall where we include icons and assets from the game, so the experience looks even more native and in line with the in-app store.

Q: What do you see as the approaching trends in mobile games and advertising/monetization?

Tao: There are lot of new types of trendy ad units that are designed for the mobile devices we all play games on, but the real trend we see for app developers is the need to give consumers choice in when and how to engage with ads. That is a critical thing that the industry has overlooked while rushing to monetize mobile users, and in some cases has ruined the app experience. With our partners, we see time and time again that empowering the user for when and how to engage with ads is the most effective way to drive engagement and make money.

Q: What are Tapjoy's plans for GDC?

Tao: GDC 2014 is a big one for Tapjoy. We are launching a new comprehensive suite of monetization and distribution services, all packed into one single SDK. It is an end-to-end solution that will drastically improve the way developers are able to monetize the 98% of users that don't participate in IAP. You can learn all about it , as well as what else is new with Tapjoy, by coming by our booth (#1424). Or email us at [email protected]


Andrew Bowell
Andrew Bowell

Where does Havok fit for developers in this current transitional period? Andrew Bowell, Head of Product Management discusses the issues of the next gen and diverse hardware, before their appearance on the GDC Expo show floor.

Q: We're still in the transitional period between last-gen and "next-gen." What does Havok offer developers looking to the future?

Andrew Bowell: Each new console cycle provides an opportunity for developers to take a fresh look at their technology stack and assess how they plan to make games for the next-generation. Havok invests heavily in R&D to ensure that our next-generation-ready products are taking advantage of every edge each new platform offers. If the platform a developer is targeting offers more compute, more connectivity, more immersion or more interaction, Havok's technology can help developers realize new game features and hone new game experiences for the player.

Q: Of course, video game development is no longer just about consoles. How can--and does--Havok fit for developers working in the now very broad range of hardware on offer?

Bowell: Havok's technology can fit in a number of different ways. At a core level Havok's technology is built from the ground up to be cross-platform. This means that developers can code once and typically run on many varying platforms. Additionally, where a platform offers a unique feature or differing architecture they are able to rely on Havok being optimized for that platform and fully leveraged the platform's architecture. As Havok provides some of the core building blocks for games with products such as Havok Physics and Havok AI, we place a lot of emphasis on designing powerful extensible APIs and toolkits that, along with source, provide developers the flexibility to use them in many different game genres. Havok's technology is optimized for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, Windows 7, Windows 8, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Android, iOS, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, Apple Mac OS and Linux.

Q: What are you looking forward to at GDC?

Bowell: We are thrilled to be back on the show floor this year, front and center. We'll be showcasing how some of the top studios have utilized Havok technology to deliver immersive features to games like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Skylanders: Swapforce, Dead Rising 3 among others. We'll also be showcasing the latest features for our free end-to-end mobile game engine, Project Anarchy. GDC is an amazing opportunity to connect with our customers new and old. We always like to reserve space to bring customers through the latest technology roadmap and provide a preview of what we have got in store for 2014. To schedule a one-on-one meeting with Havok, please visit


Rob Pulciani
Rob Pulciani

Hosting a developer day at GDC 2014, Amazon Apps & Games Head of Worldwide Evangelism and Marketing Rob Pulciani talks to us about Amazon's plans for the conference, and how the company's analytics and cloud technologies can help developers

Q: Amazon is hosting a Developer Day at GDC. A lot of game developers probably don't think "Amazon" when they think game development: how are you changing that?

Rob Pulciani: It all starts with the products and services we're creating. We've got an end to end platform that supports game developers as they build games, engage customers, and then optimize and monetize their games. We hear from developers all the time that they wish they had more time to focus on the "fun stuff" story creation, character development, game design. Our services help developers do just that. For example, we recently launched AppStream which allows developers to deliver high-end PC style gaming visuals on almost any device by shifting much of the gaming computation to the cloud. This has allowed developers like CCP games (makers of Eve Online) to eliminate multi-gigabyte downloads and get users into their game faster, and on more devices. It's more than just game streaming though; we provide a broad range of services for developers to run on. We provide services from Amazon Elastic Beanstalk that helped with the deployment of a PS4 launch title; to Amazon Elastic MapReduce which is used as the analytics engine behind Angry Birds. There's DynamoDB which provides the NoSQL database behind Halfbrick studios (makers of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride) so they can get single digit millisecond latency to game information. Amazon Simple Notification Service helps Plumbee games engage with their customers though cross-platform push notifications. Plus we're helping developers test in-app experiences via A/B Testing and understand more about their app performance with Analytics. All of these services allow developers to create better experiences within their games, allowing for more creativity, and improved monetization. They're all available cross platform with Amazon doing most of the heavy-lifting so game developers don't have to spend a ton of time creating the backend infrastructure. We want to get the word out to the developer community and that's why we're here at GDC, so we can tell game developers about these services and help them continue to build great games.

Q: Talks include one on game analytics. How can Amazon technology facilitate that, and why do analytics help developers?

Pulciani: The app business is a dynamic business with great new games coming out all the time but it's not just about building great apps. There is a ton of competition, discoverability is an issue and it's hard to know what you can do to improve your odds of success. So like any other business, it's important to understand how customers are engaging with your app what's working or not working. With apps, it can also be data overload there is so much possible data and it's often difficult to know what data point is essential. So at Amazon, we're trying to simplify it. Our Analytics service is free and cross platform across Amazon, iOS, and Android and helps developers focus on the data that matters. Our reports detail information on active devices so devs can understand stickiness of their apps, session info - how long customers are playing a game, retention, and revenues. And it's all presented in a simple dashboard. Some organizations, like Supercell (makers of Hay Day and Clash of Clans) also use services like Amazon Kinesis to analyze every action a player takes in game, so they can make the most engaging experience possible for their players. To learn more, check out our free Analytics tool, or come to the Amazon Dev Day sessions on Tuesday starting at 10am.

Q: Amazon is heavily invested in cloud technologies, something that's still new for game development. You'll be discussing that too at the developer days, but what do you see as the future of the tech for game developers?

Pulciani: First class gaming has already arrived on mobile devices and with more services moving to the cloud, we will have more gaming by more people in more locations. The scalability of cloud computing is enabling developers to focus more on game design and less on infrastructure. We're always amazed at the many ways that game developers are using our services to make really incredible apps and gaming experiences. We see companies like Nintendo using EC2 to power their Miiverse computational needs while NaughtyDog (makers of the Uncharted games) uses CloudFront to deliver their in-game content, and updates, to users around the world.

We continue to talk to game developers and are working to give them the services they are asking for. We launched the G2 instance last year which gives developers access to NVIDIA Cuda GPUs so they can do amazing things with high powered graphics capabilities. We built SNS mobile push to help our developers have one easy way to send push messages to their apps, regardless of platform. Right now, we're excited to see how people will start using AppStream. We've already seen developers doing some really innovative stuff that when they're freed from the constraints of any one specific device. As a platform company it's a rewarding feeling when you see someone make an amazing game and know that Amazon technology is helping make that happen.

The gaming industry has changed so much over the years, and the changes are coming more quickly. The cloud is enabling more game developers get to market faster, gain users more quickly, and do it all while avoiding any upfront infrastructure costs or capacity planning.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that I shouldn't spend so much time playing "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on my Atari 2600. Now she's obsessed with Candy Crush and Words with Friends. The devices and games are changing but so are the players and the business models. It's an incredible time in the world of gaming and we can't wait to help the next generation of game developers change the world the way the people who wrote games for the 2600 did for me 30 years ago. There are so many great technologies that can help game developers develop, engage, and monetize their games to create the best customer experiences; we're excited to be able to show developers how they can use the technologies I've talked about here, and many more from Amazon, at our Developer Day on Tuesday.




Connecting the Global Game Development Community