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What we learnt during PC Connects London 2019's State of Play track

What we learnt during PC Connects London 2019's State of Play track

The first track at PC Connects London 2019 was State of Play which gave attendees a series of talks that discuss the current zeitgeist of the PC games industry.

We had speakers explaining the importance what developers need to do to secure funding - both from venture capitalists and crowdfunding - as well as what to look out for in publishing deals, how to build IP that lasts and what your business model should look like.

Videos of these talks will be available in the weeks following the conference, but here are the top things we learnt from this run of content on stage at PC Connects London 2019.

State of Play was sponsored by RuneScape firm Jagex, too, who were a PC Connects London 2019 Gold Partner alongside Xsolla. Dolby Digital is a Silver Partner. 

 


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  • 1 It's vitally important to keep hold of your IP

    It's vitally important to keep hold of your IP logo

    Our first talk from State of Play came from none other than literal games industry legend Sir Ian Livingstone CBE, with the veteran taking us through his career in the games industry to share what he has learnt.

    One of Livingstone's big learnings is the importance of IP - that developers shouldn't give up rights to their intellectual property, something that was based on his experience at Eidos and the Tomb Raider IP.

    "What started as a simple sketch of Lara Croft became a multi-million dollar franchise. Hang on to the IP if you can because you have no idea how much it could be worth. Not only do you get revenue from publishing the IP, you get incremental revenues from licensing, from merchandising. Lucozade even changed its brand to Larazade for three months - such is the power of Lara.

    "Of course, she didn't go unnoticed by Hollywood, too."

    Livingstone's partner in new VC firm Hiro Capital Luke Alvarez said that the UK games industry is vastly underrepresented on the global stage when it comes to early-stage venture capital, with many US saying there isn't enough of an entrepreneurial spirit in the UK and the US.

    "When you talk to big American VCs and you ask them why that's the case, often they'll say there aren't enough entrepreneurs and there isn't enough innovation from the UK and Europe in general - and that may or may not be true for general technology sectors, but in games and digital sports ecosystem, that's clearly not true. We have thousands of creative entrepreneurs in the space in the UK and Europe, but there isn't much venture capital."


  • 2 You need to get people to love your game on Kickstarter

    You need to get people to love your game on Kickstarter logo

    Once again, Ico Partners' Thomas Bidaux shared an update into the crowdfunding market, going in depth about how this business model had performed in 2018 across the Kickstarter and Fig platforms.

    Before getting into the numbers - which can be found here - Bidaux shared some general information about crowdfunding and what companies attempting this model have to do in order to get enough attention.

    "Crowdfunding isn't for people who like your project; it's about people who love your project," Bidaux said.

    "Love is essential. People who found your game kind of interesting are not going to back your project. That means that some projects are on the verge of being successful, but they're not strong enough in the emotions they create with their audience. It doesn't work for all budgets. The other principle is momentum; getting 20 per cent of your goal in the first 48 hours. That means that when you go to crowdfunding, it's about an existing audience who are interested in your project. That's how you succeed in crowdfunding."

    The other big change in video games crowdfunding is the need to be able to show off your project in a meaningful way. Gone are the halcyon days of 2012 when companies could head to Kickstarter with a concept; in 2019 you need to be able to show off a decent part of your game.

    "You need to show the game," Bidaux said. "My go-to example is John Romero [of Doom fame] who had lots of fans and games under his belt, went to Kickstarter for a first-person shooter and didn't show it. It didn't get funded. That's true for everybody. You need to show the game and it's even better if you have a demo for your game."


  • 3 Owning IP is important, but how you own it is more important

    Owning IP is important, but how you own it is more important logo

    As pointed out earlier by Sir Ian Livingstone CBE, owning your own intellectual property is vitally important as a developer - but the broader context of how you have this property is arguably more important.

    That's according to Purewal and Partners associate Peter Lewin, who said that companies can often use contracts to stop the developer doing, well, anything with the IP that doesn't involve them. The lawyer argues that giving away publishing rights on all platforms and territories really hamstrings a studio from doing much with an IP they do legally own.

    "IP ownership is often seen as the Holy Grail in game deals; you get ownership over the IP, you're set, right?" Lewin asked. "The one thing I always stress here is the importance of looking at IP ownership in the context of the much broader deal because there are a few different ways that IP ownership can be negated or impinged by other things that are set out in the contract.

    "The first is exclusive publishing rights. Don't get me wrong, rights are always granted exclusively to publishers; that's just the way it is. But let's take a situation where a developer has given away exclusive publishing rights to all platforms, all around the world, covers all kinds of exploitation and maybe covers the current game and future games or sequels. That's not uncommon. But it does mean that yes the developer owns the IP, but they can't really do anything with it because they've already given away rights to this publisher. That's fine, if the relationship goes well with the publisher and you want to work with them on game two - that's great. But what if the relationship hasn't worked out? Then the developer owns the IP but they're in a tough position because they can't really do anything with it because they've already given exclusive rights to another party. That leaves the developer in a pretty sticky situation because they have to try and come up with reasons to claw back these righst they've given away which isn't going to be easy and it's certainly not going to be free."


  • 4 What needs to be baked into your IP from day for it to be a success

    What needs to be baked into your IP from day for it to be a success logo

    Freelance strategist Christian Fonnesbech - who works as Nordisk Film Games' head of IP development - took to the stage at PC Connects London 2019's State of Play to discuss how to build an IP that lasts.

    He shared what needs to be baked in and considered right from the very start in order to build a successful IP; both on the business side of things and the creative aspects of the puzzle, too.

    "Passion is the No.1 killer of game developers so make sure that you have balance - that there is business as well as creativity at founder level," he said.

    "If it's just creativity you're in trouble; if you're all business you may make it but you probably won't."

    Fonnesbech also said that IP needs to be original as well as sincere.

    "The next thing you need is sinecrity of the craftsmanship. You do need something that is inherently true and original. I'm in no way saying that you can live without that; all great IPs come from an honest creative process. When it gets a little bit dangerous is when that's the only thing that you have at your company.

    "The next thing you need is at least one memorable character. I'm sure there are IP out there that aren't based on characters, but most of them are centered on characters; these are what we remember, what we invest our emotions in and they are really what brands are all about.

    "That's really central because if you go ten years down the line and you have a successful game and you decide: 'Now I want to make an IP because I have a billion users, but I made it about triangles and squares' - I'm sorry, but you can't progress at that point. Get those characters at the start. Have the discusion about whether your character is cool enough to be on a T-shirt because one day that's going to be really important."

    It's not just character and a eye for business that's vital for creating IP; Fonnesbech went on to say that the world the IP is set in is equally important.

    "You need a world that is built to last," he explained. "Worlds need to travel between media. We know that from Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and so on. Many stories need to be able to happen in that world. You need more games in that world or more books, TV series or whatever."


  • 5 Games are a mix of art and science - but you can't forget the art side

    Games are a mix of art and science - but you can't forget the art side logo

    Finishing up the State of Play sessions was track sponsor Jagex, who sent SVP of game development Nick Beliaeff to discuss business models, The online game and MMO vet ended on a prescient point; that games right now are equal parts art and science, and that it's important to not forget the art aspect.

    This followed a talk discussing how developers and publishers should work with their audience, with Beliaeff saying that analytics, player and business intelligence as well as customer satisfaction levels - all of which involve boiling down player interaction and happiness to statistics.

    "Games is always this mix of art and science," he said.

    "There's a trend right now, with the advent of mobile and the thousands of analytics companies that are like: 'Science, science, science' but you have to remember the art side. What we're doing is entertainment. People are paying you to have fun. They're paying you for escapism, they're paying you for some kind of fantasy or wish fulfilment. Make them happy. Fun is how you make that work. It's about being scientifically creative and having a good mix of art and science. That is the best way to serve your players."

    The top bod also said it's important for the development team to play the game with the community to know what they are feeling and thinking, as well as how they engage with it themselves.


Editor - PC Games Insider

Alex Calvin launched PCGamesInsider.biz in August 2017 and has been its editor since. Prior to this, he was deputy editor at UK based games trade paper MCV and content editor for marketing and events for London Games Festival 2017. His work has also appeared in Eurogamer, The Observer, Kotaku UK, Esquire UK and Develop.

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