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Here are five things we learnt during PC Connects London 2019's The PC Revolution track

Here are five things we learnt during PC Connects London 2019's The PC Revolution track

The second day of PC Connects London 2019 featured The PC Revolution track, looking at the emerging tech, trends and markets that are going to define the next few years of the PC games market.

We had research firm Newzoo offering us its data and trend-driven vision of the future, Network-N discussing the future of marketing games, what cloud technology will allow developers and publishers to build and how to manage toxicity in online communities.

That was before our panellists discussed the Chinese games market and what consumers in this part of the world are interested in (hint - it's not just free-to-play MMOs, though they are still the biggest names in town). 

Videos from the show will be going live in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for those. 

Here are some of the highlights from this run of talks.


Click here to view the list »
  • 1 'Netflix-for-games' will mean consumer cash goes further, but we need to talk about input methods

    'Netflix-for-games' will mean consumer cash goes further, but we need to talk about input methods logo

    Subscription services are going to make games more accessible by doing away with the sizeable investment in hardware that's required right now.

    Newzoo analyst Jelle Kooistra said that there's a sizeable audience of gamers who will buy hardware, but then buy very few games. The amount of money spent here would go much further a subscription service model.

    "If you look at a casual gamer, someone who owns an Xbox, bought one game and plays it once in a while, that's quite a significant investment," he said.

    "If you had a subscription of $10 a month, you can easily pay that for a very long time and not have to invest in hardware from the get go. This is a very large group of gamers - the people who just play FIFA, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty. It's also the reason why a lot of these very big companies are active in this space."

    The move to a market with less distinct platforms does mean that whatever hardware consumers are playing games on will need to support a broader variety of input mechanisms.

    "In the next couple of the years we'll see more cross-input," Kooistra explained.

    "We've seen Microsoft enable Xbox compatibility with keyboards and mice, meaning you can just play against other PC gamers. We've already emerged the boundaries between console gamers and PC gamers. Not only that, but there's cross-platform play - finally on PS4 now as well - so if you have the same input you can play in the same matches as well.

    "Finally, comes screen. Microsoft's promise is to have the Netflix of games so consumers can play anywhere. There'll be people that want to play Forza on their tablet before they go to bed or play on their commute. This will be the next major way that PC games will give the power to consumers and make new opportunities happen."


  • 2 Two per cent of users are behind 90 per cent of bad headlines for companies

    Two per cent of users are behind 90 per cent of bad headlines for companies logo

    A very small portion of gamers give communities a bad rap.

    Speaking at PC Connects London 2019, Simon Usiskin of machine learning and natural language startup SpiritAI said that having spoken to a number of community managers, it is less than two per cent of an audience - in general - that contribute to the bulk of negative headlines.

    "It's not necessarily my role to scaremonger or use fear as a way to drive change, but we all must accept and be aware of the dark side of the Internet," he said.

    "Any quick search results in a sea of articles and upsetting news stories. The nature of the activity that we are seeing is changing almost daily. The reality is that online communities are continually being infiltrated by trolls, abusive content and spam. For most gamers, they were, however, positive. They're friendly and respectful and the community managers that we talk to generally acknowledge that it's about one to one-and-a-half per cent of any given community that actually contributes to 90 per cent of the headlines. But the trouble they cause and the knock-on effects they can have on the game can have a much larger impact."

    Usiskin argues that the current keyword-based method of moderating communities isn't enough and having a machine that could process what is being said and the context of a conversation is infinitely more useful.

    "Current technology rarely looks at the entire conversation, the history of the conversation, the context of chat or people's emotions and reactions," he said.

    "My belief is that we need a highly sophisticated combination of AI, machine learning and natural language processing, working together to deal with these issues. We need technology that doesn't just look at the individual situations and flag instances of problems; we need to see the context, the whole story and the history. We need solutions that can look at people's reactions and - sometimes - non-reactions to work out what's going on."


  • 3 Cloud tech will let developers build destinations not theme parks

    Cloud tech will let developers build destinations not theme parks logo

    Cloud tech is going to help build more games like Eve Online, which feature persistence and emergent gameplay.

    That's according to the boss of London-based cloud games start up Hadean Michael Gunadi, who says that the sort of technology his firm is working on in the Aether Engine, will create experiences that have players more emotionally invested and create truly memorable moments.

    "Why do people love Eve Online and why has it survived for almost 20 years now?" the CEO asked.

    "The basis of that is that it's sort of a theme park or playground with a much looser structure and a lot more emergent qualities where you'll drop in new toys every now and again and just see what their players do with them. CCP's entire game is designed around an emergent experience and if you think emergence creates these truly memorable moments, which is some of the most valuable currency in our profession. As a player, if you know your actions have real consequences, you become much more emotionally invested. Instead of playing a game, you feel like you're living inside an immersive world.

    "That's what cloud gaming can deliver on a much more powerful scale. It doesn't necessarily have to be tied to streaming as we know it - that's more of a format play. But there's a broader conversation about what cloud gaming can offer."


  • 4 Being a known name isn't enough on Steam anymore

    Being a known name isn't enough on Steam anymore logo

    We all know that it's hard to be noticed on Steam now, but even Valve's own titles are struggling.

    During his talk about the future of marketing, Network-N boss James Binns pointed that while three of the games with highest concurrent users on Steam are Valve-developed titles, it looks like the newly-launched Artifact isn't doing so well despite there being a huge number of reasons for the game to succeed.

    "Three of the most-played games on Steam are first-party, made by Valve," the media vet explained.

    "But, first-party isn't enough. Let's look at Artifact. That launched at the end of 2018, reached 65,000 concurrent users in its first hours on shelves and now is around 2,500 players. All the power of the Dota 2 brand, loads of Steam promotion, in a popular genre like CCG and it's not enough to make Artifact a success. It's a good game, too. It has slightly rapacious billing, but it's actually a pretty strong title."


  • 5 Chinese gamers don't just like free-to-play MMOs

    Chinese gamers don't just like free-to-play MMOs logo

    Stereotypically, gamers from China enjoyed free-to-play MMO titles but that certainly isn't true today.

    That's according to the panellists we gathered to discuss the Chinese market and the opportunity therein at the end of The PC Revolution track.

    "In the past, there was an idea of China only playing free-to-play MMOs on PC, and that stems from back when Chinese consumers didn't have so much spending power," Jagex head of business development Cassia Curran said.

    "There was a lot of piracy so the only way for developers to generate better revenues in China was to have always-online games which were impossible to pirate. Free-to-play was originally in China. But you're seeing, now, all different types of genres and premium games, doing well in China. The market is really becoming more mature."

    Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad added: "In terms on billion-dollar games, MMOs are the mainstays that you certainly see. Over the past few years, you've seen new genres come to the market like battle royale. PUBG, for example, sold 15m copies in China alone, which is a huge feat considering it's a paid game. Overwatch is another game that's popular. NetEase distributed it as a premium $30 game in China and it's sold through about six million units. Yes, people play MMOs and MOBAs and those games get to the top of the charts and they're always there, but there really is a wide range of games and genres that are and can be popular. It's a $15bn market - there's plenty of room to find consumers who are interested in your game."

    Jim Ying, managing director of investment bank CVCapital's Digital Entertainment's business sees this as being partly down to Steam coming to the region.

    "With the entry of Steam and as consumer taste evolved, they had access to some of the paid games that came through Steam," he said.

    "Many of these are high-quality games, so naturally the Chinese audience is going to enjoy them. As copyright control has evolved in China, so people are more willing to pay for titles, they're willing to pay for some of these paid games, as well."

    The greater willingness to spend money on premium games is, in part, a sign of status.

    "Consumer tastes are changing, they're probably more mature, they have more income to spend. Previously they were resorting to piracy as they didn't have money, in some cases," Curran explained.

    "Now there's a greater ability and willingness to spend. There is more interest in quality. A lot of the premium games, especially from the West, are notably high quality. Chinese gamers tend to be quite obsessed with status. Being really into high-quality premium games is almost like a sign of status - that they can afford these games."

    Not only that, disposable income has increased, too. Ahmad says that the Chinese audience has always enjoyed premium games; it just didn't want to pay for them.

    "Back in 2002 and 2003, 50 per cent of Chinese gamers did play premium titles," he said.

    "But it was all piracy and there was no publishing scene. What changed is that disposable income has increased. The quality of games is much higher as well. The types of games available now are much harder to pirate, so if you want to play Overwatch, for example, you need to be online. You can't really play that by pirating it. The reason that a platform like Steam has become so big is that it has local support from Perfect World, so Dota 2 came to China. That had a lot of people getting a Steam account. Initially, that was all they were using it for that. When all these hardcore games came to the platform, people wanted to try them out. Now there are more games localised with Simplified Chinese, about 2,000 on Steam, there's local payment offered, there's regional pricing. There's also been a cultural shift where people do want to have that official version of the game. It's true of the broader entertainment industry - people want to pay for films and TV shows as opposed to pirating them."


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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