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MoMo London – 19th March – Tablets Come of Age


A year ago, more or less, our event on tablets looked forward to emerging trends and exciting possibilities. Here we are a year later, and with many thanks to our kind sponsors Barnes and Noble we get the opportunity to look back on what was thought to be coming then and see what's coming next. Not only that, but there will be a NOOK developer workshop in the late afternoon, before the evening event - see below for details.


It's a timely moment to look at the market given Wednesday's much heralded "expected announcement" and the recent triumph of Morris Lessmore at the Oscars. With 73 million tablet devices sold in 2011, this means that tablets accounted for around 25% of mobile PC shipments last year. Although this was still still dominated by iPad a lot of the excitement and commentary seem to be around the Kindle and the Nook - combining as they do a content ecosystem with the delivery of that content.

So our focus for the evening will be to ask what kinds of content are especially suitable for the tablet format - are we really seeing a significant emergence of tablet only content?  For a start the tablet offers the opportunity for multi-person interaction in a way that a mobile phone doesn't.  What are the other distinguishing properties? With all kinds of applications and all kinds of interaction possibilities, what is the right mix for any particular content type? What kinds of skills are needed for content creation?

And talking of content creation, last year we talked about using the tablet as a platform for content creation in its own right - where has that story got to today? It's said that there's a female skew in tablet app purchase and in follow-on sales - is this right, what are the demographics?

The ever important question, of course, is who is making money out of this and who will make money going forward? App creators have been known to express some scepticism about how satisfactory the returns are. Is this like mobile phone apps with only very small numbers of developers making a viable return? Check out the NOOK Developer Workshop announcement below for some apparently quite compelling figures. But let's find out, in short, how much money is there to be made?

To help us make sense of all this, Marek Pawlowski will chair the panel. Marek is extremely well known for the highly regarded and thought provoking MEX mobile user experience series of conferences and his mobile industry consultancy.

Joining Marek on the panel will be:

Claudia Romanini - Director Developer Relations, Barnes and Noble
Ben Scott Robinson - Creative Director, We Love Mobile
Other panellists to be confirmed shortly

NOOK Developer Workshop

Developers, remember, Barnes and Noble would like to tell you about developing for the Nook platform at the workshop that will precede the evening event.  Here's what they say about it:

Join NOOK Developer for a workshop on NOOK Apps.  We will deep dive into all the technical aspects to help you distribute your apps on NOOK tablets and cover the entire development process -- from app creation to app submission.  Learn how to quickly monetize your business in a storefront where, in the US, top-selling apps gross more than $100,000 in the first 30 days of sale.

AGENDA

Nook Developer Workshop

4.00 pm Nook Developer Workshop Arrival / Registration
4.30 pm Workshop Starts
5.30 pm Workshop Breaks for Tea / Coffee

Tablets Come of Age

6.00 pm Panel Session Guests Arrival / Registration
6.30 pm Session Starts
8.00 pm Networking
9.30 pm Close

VENUE

As usual the venue is CBI Conference Centre at Centre Point. Please use the entrance at street level. Nearest tube is Tottenham Court Road on the Central Line and Northern Line.

The event is free to attend, RSVP is required for both the workshop and the evening event separately at http://momolondon-2012-03-19-mw.eventbrite.com

MoMo London – 13th Feb. Round Up – Data Driven Mobile Apps

Many thanks once again to MoMoLo volunteer Valentina Ciolino @MissFog for her write up of last Monday's event. Thanks also to @GemmaPhelan for her video (below) and to @Thayer (for all her help and the photo below).

Check out the additional posts by Simon Judge and Adam Cohen-Rose.

We're extremely grateful to Kasabi http://www.kasabi.com for sponsoring this event!



Iconfess I did not know what to expect to hear from the panel lastMonday, since the topic of the event was a little confusing to me:what’s the story with “data-driven mobile apps”? Well, I cansay I learnt something.

#momolo data driven apps panel chilling before the gig by Thayer18, on Flickr
Onthe stage, to share their knowledge with me and the rest of theaudience, we had (L to R in the above Photo): Matt Biddulphas panel moderator, Ian Holt,to bring the data provider point of view, HannaDonovan,  LeghDodds from Kasabi and JeniTennison, as unofficial voice of the government.

Heresome of the interesting issues that they discussed.

Adefinition of “Data-Driven App”

Everypanelist had his/her own definition for a data-driven app, which isfunny you think about it, but makes sense as well. Hanna was the moreexcited about these kind of apps as “they give keys to theuniverse”, making things easy and helping to sort the confusion ofhaving no information about a topic, or too much information. Soundstoo much like the definition of just a good interface? Yes, saidLeigh, and since every application makes use of data in one way oranother, he noted, the archetypical data-driven app “must providean insight on data”, that is helping the users to understand moreabout the data themselves. Matt also pointed out that “proper”data-driven apps get better the more data they receive. Especiallyfor user-generated data, they can drive the addition of new features.

Theproblem of “API-vomit”

Theinteresting term was coined by Hanna and immediately adopted by boththe panel and the audience. What is it about? Well, developersproducing data-driven apps tend to put a huge amount of data on theirapplications, without first thinking of use-cases and thus making theinterface confusing and difficult to understand. An app where dataisn’t presented in a consumable way suffers from the “API –vomit” problem. The panel agreed that developers need to work withUI and UX designers, and sometimes with marketing people too, tofigure out what’s the right approach to filter the information.Companies who provide APIs to developers could help them by givingfeedback and working together to identify the use cases.

APIas censorship tool?

Sometimesthe data providers themselves try to define the use cases and, tomake their API easier to use – and to help developers - restricttheir data to those cases. A wise voice from the audience pointed outthat the governments especially shouldn’t have to assume what datare-use is needed, to avoid the risk of their API becoming a tool forcensorship. The API-vomit must remain a developer/designers problem,and there should be a trend to open as much data as possible.

Datagathering via mobile apps, what level of communication with users?

Developersof data-driven apps often ask their users to agree to share someuseful information (from the location to the address book, from theFacebook status to their mobile pictures gallery). Users are warnedabout the request on a “cold and scary” installation interfaceand sometimes abort the download in fear of scam and privacyviolations. The panel found that devs don’t have ways to explaindirectly to the users the reasons for requiring access to data, howthey will use them and when. The actual rate of this mistrust feelingis still to be measured, but good practice for operators would be toprovide space (few lines? links?) in the download screens fordevelopers to explain why they require access and what they will dowith the information.

Opendata and common licenses

So,assuming that you get your data from your users, crowd sourcing a lotof information, you will probably mix them with data from the publicsources available: governments and public entities, privatecompanies, etc. Some content is open, such as the NHSdictionary of medicine and devices, or most timetables for travelservices, but sometimes data are under license, creating a bit of aproblem for developers that have to use the most restrictive licenseto the whole data. Leigh noted that the creativecommon license is not legally recognized in most countries yet,same for open data commons,and the attribution stacking problem is not easily to solve. A goodpoint is that for public data, Jeni noticed, is that you can tracktheir origin and provide it through API too, meaning that ifsomething goes wrong, you can check where and when it went wrong.

Finally ...

... an interesting thought for developer of every kind of apps : when youstart a project, don’t forget to ask yourself what’sthe best problem that you can have;imagine the best scenario for your product and try to anticipateproblems and evolutions, it will be an useful exercise.

Theexample we learnt from the world of data-driven apps is thefollowing: Last.fm, starting as small tool to share music tastes, wasall about indie music and a selection of good content for“music-nerds”. After joining the Xbox platform it went big andthen bigger and became a window for the most popular of pop music,leaving the niche audience of its beginning a little disappointed.Too bad (?).




Thanks Valentina - and to close, that video from Gemma:



MoMo London – Call for Presenters – Demo Night Returns!


Mobile Monday London in partnership with ICT KTN (http://ictktn.org.uk) is pleased to announce the triumphant return of Demo Night! It will be on 2nd April and hosted by Mobile 360 Live (http://www.mobile360live.com)

We are looking for the best and brightest examples of of mobile concepts, products and services to present to an even-bigger-than-usual audience. 

You don't have to have a live product, you don't have to be a start-up and you don't have to be based in London to apply!

There are no prizes but previous entrants have subsequently gone on to do great things ... win fabulous prizes and more ... at last April's Demo Night, for example, we featured:
  • Stuart with Mindings which went on to be a winner at the  Cambridge Wireless Discovering Start-Ups 2011 competition, and is now about to launch,
  • Terence with QRPedia, has been chosen as one of the four most innovative mobile companies in the UK of 2011 in the SmartUK Awards to compete in the finals at MWC Barcelona, 
  • Richard with Parcel Genie which won 2nd Prize at the Vodafone Clicks 2011 Finals,  
  • Swiftkey has been nominated for a GSMA Global Mobile Award in the “Most Innovative Mobile App”  category also at this year’s Mobile World Congress. 
... not that we are claiming credit for their work, of course - and nor can we guarantee every entrant fame and instant riches, sadly.

Each demo will be 3 minutes long, followed by 2 minutes of questions from the room. We are ruthless about the timings. 

Please express your interest in presenting/demoing by filling in this form: http://j.mp/momolo-demo-night-2012-04-02. Entry will remain open until March 16th and we will let know those chosen to demo early the following week. 

As usual attendance at the Mobile Monday London demo night is free - registration details below.
___

Demo Night is hosted by Mobile 360 Live - London's new event for mobile tech. All flavours of mobile developer can learn the latest innovations and trends in the modern world of Mobile. 

Top industry experts will offer deep technical and business insights into how to build for success. An energy packed 2 days with hands-on workshops focused on iOS, Mobile Web and Android development and over 30 sessions running across 5 tracks; iOS, Mobile Web, Android, Mobile Business and Platforms.

2nd & 3rd April Victoria Park Plaza – London. For more info: http://www.mobile360live.com 

To register for Mobile 360 Live using the special MoMoLo discount code - use code MOMOLO12A at http://www.amiando.com/momolo.html

Free registration to attend demo night and not to attend Mobile 360 Live, nor to apply to present or demo, on EventBrite

MoMo London 28th Jan. Event Round Up – Mobile Games – Part 2

In the second part of the round-up from our event of 28th Jan on Mobile Games, Steve Devo, @sdevo, offers his view of the proceedings.

Steve's been attending Mobile Monday London events since the beginning (November 2005), so we were particularly touched by him tweeting:

Valuable insights from the  panel last night, good to hear what does not work as well as what does. this is momolo at its best.


What follows are Steve's views, put more expansively than 140 characters allowed.

Once again, many thanks to our event partners, ICTKTN.

There is a thriving and vibrant mobile gaming industry in the UK,  and it is starting to have effects beyond gaming with the so called "gamification" and "socialisation" (you are allowed to smile or groan at this point) of applications starting to become more mainstream.  So let's take a look at the gaming market and some of the more prevalent aspects.

I have written this after attending a Mobile Monday London conference this week and combining that with my own experiences of talking with the mobile community here in the UK.

There are three parts: commercial, technical and buzzword (the third is,  you guessed it,  about those two concoctions mentioned above.)

Commercial Aspects

Freemium model has taken hold and is now the main driver of revenue.

Freemium is where a game or app is provided free to try,  and if you like it you pay (in app charging) to have access to the rest of the game,  or to buy upgrades in the game such as better weapons, extra levels, better cars etc.

It should be noted that when freemium is added after a game has been built it nearly always leads to a poor user experience,  therefore "in app upgrading" must be built into the design.

Lots of games cross sell/advertise the publisher's other games,  and analytics is starting to be used to maximise these opportunities.  We are starting to see that games will send back usage and activity data to the server to drive this analysis, indeed this is critical to success.

Traditional app developers should consider a more explicit freemium model in their big tools, the ability to buy access to advanced functions as and when I as a user need them would make the management of license fees far more acceptable, especially in the mid market.  This also support the gamification of apps - more of which below.

Discoverability is a big issue,  because there are 380k and 500k apps in the android and apple app stores,  and they are averaging 100 new games per day.  You can pay to be in the Apple preferred top 25 lists or selected lists - however this is very expensive and if the game is not a natural hit it will die quickly. Obviously cost of getting those people back is much higher again, so make sure game is ready before you attempt this type of marketing.

Conversely it is wise to get the game out early and see what the user reaction and usage patterns are.  This is aided with freemium as you can add new sections and better replacements later (if the app is able to load modules) or use the upgrade functions of the platforms to send new better versions to the users.

Yoshi Monsters spent 10 of their £11M funding getting the game of the ground,  that's not good enough and way beyond the budgets of most game publishers so the Games industry investors are now looking to see that a publisher has not just build and creative skills,  but also analytical marketing skills.

Acquisition of these analysis skills is a problem for a lot of these smaller companies, but it is one of the ways that some small publishers are rising above the crowd and solving the discoverability problem. 

A further use of the analytics is to alter the game design as well as the price of the premium parts,  thus parts of the game move in and out of the premium sections, and the costs change in response to usage, including the equivalent of abandoned carts within the game.  Clever stuff,  you might say this is taking scrum/agile methods into the post launch period,  and that is what is so smart. You could say this is games companies version of "live life in beta".

The inability to get your game noticed without being clever and/or having some decent wads of cash meant that out of the 248 mobile game startups in England last year (most in London) 135 died within the year.  This is about double* the usual attrition rate. (* having trouble confirming this statement though, so grab some salt)

Copycat games are a problem because a successful game will get copied ad infinitum.

There is still money to be made from Java games,  but this is only in the growth markets rather than the Western markets where smartphones are dominating.

Revenues

But what is the income split for a game? Well typically  it looks like this:

  • 20% advertising- other people advertising within your game/site
  • 20% is from the game - purchase of the game, remember you give a lot of this revenue away to the store owner, hence this may be lower than you think.
  • 60% is digital goods - upgrades and additions -  e.g. in a zoo game you might buy extra ground, a cafe, more exotic animals etc.

You'll notice there is no product placement revenue in that list,  this has not worked on the console gaming world because the amount of effort required to manage the relationships / partnerships is too great for the small amount of income it generates.  Also gamers are quite a harsh audience and decry any placement that are too obvious or get in the way. It is expected that these issues will not change with a switch to a mobile platform.

Formats, technology and the like

Smartphones are mostly for casual games,  that is games that are just for fun,  there are very few successful mainstream games on these devices.

The tablets however are for more "serious" or hardcore games and the new ranges of tablets have the processing power (processor and graphics engines) to properly take on hardcore games. BUT there is a real challenge in moving a game from a console/PC to a touchscreen and that's because of the controls.  

There is a triangle of controllers: buttons/joystick for consoles/PC, movement for consoles (Wii, etc) and touch.

Moving a game between these controller types without this change being built in from the start has not been successful yet.  Also games scaled up from a phone to a tablet tend to have the controls in the wrong place and too far apart,  needs to be thought through.

TV's & Multi-device: As yet the game companies do not see a great deal of use for a game that spans several devices _and_ a TV.  I think this is missing a trick, playing a board game like monopoly, scrabble, etc,  or other turn based games could benefit from a large shared screen,  and then local hand held screens.  On the negative side a lot of casual gaming is played at the same time as watching TV.
For software vendors it would be good if these guys could consider dual screen/device working for some tools.  e.g. being able to use a subset of RSA or Doors etc on a tablet when working away from the desk, or even in presentations, meeting  makes a lot of sense to me.  Multi-person edit sessions that go beyond screen sharing makes sense too,  life is more about collaboration these days,  yet we are more likely to be in physically separate spaces.

HTML5 is not ready for gaming (yet).  Games need fast reactions to complex series of inputs. HTML5 does not cut the mustard.  And then there is the old saw of fragmentation.  HTML5 supposedly will fix this by having the browser act as middleware between the HTML5 and the device.  However this is dependent on the browsers acting consistently and they never do.

For an iOS game you're likely to produce 4 different versions, and for an Android about 6 perhaps as many as 10 in some markets.  Compared to the bad old days of Java when 800 to 2000 versions (skus) was not uncommon - this is vastly improved.

Tools: So how does one build apps for multiple platforms, remembering that Android is Java and iOS is objective C?

Well the answer is either two build efforts or the use of some clever strategy.  Some folks simply use C++ for the core elements of the game (physics engine etc) and then can port this to the devices quite easily.  The libraries that deal with device specific elements (camera, input, accelerometer and other gadgets) are written per platform.

There are some tools for writing once and building to multiple targets such as unity and marmalade and IBM's newly bought Worklight.

It seems that opinion is split on these tools.  Generally if you are stressing the device with a lot of work then you need to hone the code by hand,  if you're more  a turns-based casual game (eg Sudoku) then these tools are ok. But be careful. Here be demons.

Artificial Intelligence: A lot of platform games compete with the quality of the AI that controls the game.  This is becoming true with mobile games,  and the AIs are starting to fit into the constraints of the mobile.

Siri has sparked a lot of interest because it is not just a voice recognition AI,  it has a personality all of its own and that is what intrigues gamers.  Expect to see this kind of system in use in games quite soon.  
I suspect that we will start to see eye tracking soon,  then you can sneak things onto the screen whilst the user's gaze is elsewhere,  that kind of input into the AI will make a big difference.

Sadly you'll have not noticed the BlackBerry or Nokia/Windows phones in anything above.  these are just not working for games.  Yes a _lot_ of kiddies have BlackBerrys leading to these devices being the biggest seller last year,  however they are not set-up for gaming,  and a lot of the devices go to corps where games would be frowned upon or banned.

Nokia/Windows are just not a big enough market to justify the costs of entry, and the way things are going this is likely to remain the case for some time to come.

Some horrible buzz words that are emerging.

Gamification: (I did warn you) this is the use of game type techniques in apps to gain traction and maintain interest.  A Lot of apps,  and by that I mean the vast majority of apps have a short usage life on a device.  People download,  have a short flirtation with the app, and then it just kinda lurks on your screen unloved and unused.  there are figures for this and they are scary.

According to a Harris online survey on behalf of mobile ad provider Pontiflex, only 3 percent of apps downloaded through incentivised install campaigns are used frequently, and only 62% of downloaders use an app more than once.  Given this challenge and the popularity of games what can a game teach us to make an app more likely to be used.

Well initially people used "badges and leader boards" like Foursquare did,  and this can help but is a little cheesy to say the least.

What games do to increase usage is, I think, the following: -

  • They take you through a period of learning,  where you are introduced to more and more parts of the interface and the application.  This prevents the user being overwhelmed. 
  • Then they discover what you want to do,  and adjust accordingly,  and with the freemium model this means targeting the best upgrades / extensions at you.  
  • Then they let you explore and move around the game as you like.
Seems to me that this is the way to go with other types of apps,  understand the user's journey from wide eyed innocent through knowledgeable user to comfortable expert.  Forget the cheese.

Next up games use incentives that appeal to the user at a quite simple level,  often involving completing something and feeling good about it.  We can see that web sites are using short, chunked up, incentives to get folks to fill in their profile data,  for example Linked-in and Yahoo! properties do this, encouraging you to get 100% on your profile,  but not all at once,  they will ask you for more as you progress through your journey with them,  and will reward you with encouragement and kind words,  and, yes, sometimes a little competition, especially for men.

Socialification (it's worse then gamification,  and that's saying something) simply put, this is the use of social networks and interactions into an app.  

Games are starting to use presence in an asynchronous way,  that is knowing about other players without necessarily playing against them.  This provides a sense of belonging and with care can become an incentive to return to the game.

Multiplayer is not social networking,  get over it.  OK?  

Thanks again, Steve, for this really interesting piece!

MoMo London 28th Jan. Event Round Up – Mobile Games – Part 1

Not just one round-up but two this time! We're very fortunate to have two complementary views of last Monday's event.

The first is from volunteer Valentina Ciolino that's @MissFog. Thanks for this most comprehensive-write up, Valentina - what's the story with the hats? Indeed!

With many thanks, once again, to our event partners, ICTKTN.



Oscar Clark
Having worked invideo games and mobile, I could not miss the first London MobileMonday of 2012. “Mobile Games” was the hot topic of the night,discussed by a great panel of professionals and chaired by OscarClark of Papaya Mobile. Notthat one would want to miss any of these industry gatherings, but,for me, it was also the first time on the volunteer side. In fact,they even gave me the chance to blog about the event, so here I am.

While on the tube to goto the event, I was thinking about the topic. I personally feel thatvideo games and mobile industry are converging towards somethingdifferent, and mobile games development is driving the innovation.The new mobile and tablet platform allowed games to change, thanksmainly to three new features: touch screens, connectivity andportability. All the portable game consoles we used before the riseof the app stores lacked at least one of the three, not to speakabout the powerful graphic of the new mobile screens. We now havetap/swipe/multitouch games, games paid by ads, a new type of socialgames, 5 minutes games (to repeat every hour). Before the eventstarted, I wondered what other changes the panelists would forecastfor 2012. The answer at the end of this post!

But back to the evening:Oscar, who was one of the two people in the room wearing a hat(pictured), made a good job moderating the debate and bringing on thetable some alternative points of view of his own.

Credit is due to Oscar and to Mobile Monday London for bringing four panelists withdifferent background and experience, always a good way to guaranteea nice and lively discussion.

Here their names and titles: IanBaverstock (Tenshi Ventures), StruanRobertson (Product Director, NaturalMotion Games), GarethEdmonson (CEO, Thumbstar Games), GeorginaMackenzie (CEO at Toytek). They are famous enough for me not tospeak about them, but you can always click on the links to know more.

The icebreaker questionregarded the current situation of the mobile games industry and itslatest evolutions. Some 2011 changes in the market were felt as veryimportant: first of all the rise of the Android platform and market,which grew and gained strength in terms of monetization. Android canbe seen as a difficult market as it’s full of freemiumproducts and shows high piracy and discoverability problems, but itoffers many opportunities in terms of potential innovation. Thehardware presents high fragmentation but the majority of the Androiddevices are powerful enough – in memory & chips - to allow forcreativity. And the fragmentation can be addressed; in fact, Garethmentioned that there are 6 versions of Android OS but 4 of Apple iOS.On the bad side, the gap it’s probably widening as Struan noted,and this could higher the entry barrier for developers. Moreover,even if sales on Android are big, the Apple App store is morepredictable, continued Struan, and many developers spend much moneyon it.

Another 2011 hit was thetablet market, with the iPad leading the way. It is a “spectacularplatform” as Ian said and features atype of games different from mobile, 3D games with great graphicand new additions to the user interface. It is also easier, Iannoticed, to get visibility on a smaller market such as the iPad AppStore than on the larger ones, which is definitely an importantadvantage for games developers.

The Copy Cats
The third, less positivetrend of 2011 was the increase of the number of “copycat” gameson the market. Apparently, some big and medium companies (in order toavoid the risks of innovation, and the costs of experimenting withnew channels, noted Georgina), prefer to reproduce famous existinggames, replicating the gameplay. One of the possible solutions tothis problem is to use the cloud to make social-mobile games for alarge market, which is something that big publishers are alreadybetting on. “Social mobile is going to explode”, said Gareth,“thanks to the cloud”.

Socification of games wasthe topic of one of the question from the public (by @torgo)which started a nice debate on if social games today are “reallysocial” or not. People playing asynchronously on the sameserver brings a lot of revenues, said Oscar, and developers spend alot of time to get people to complete quests, but it can’t becompared with the experience of multiplayer games. On a slightlydifferent note, Ian noted that only few games, and mainly onconsoles, are well-tailored for the multiplayer mode. The verdict onsocificiation was, in the end, that it’s not bad as long as it addsto the game experience and don’t steal the fun out of the gameplayto increase sales or get new users.

The main discussionsrevolved around few topics: business models (freemium vs premium,ads), platforms and markets (emerging markets, operators, WindowsPhone) and, of course, customers. I am really happy to report on thislast theme because I think the panelists just put in words mythought: there are many kinds of gamers, gamers change all the time.As Georgina mentioned, the advergamingplayers, for example, “don’t consider themselves gamers at all”,but enjoy the experience anyway. Similarly, the console gamers maynot be scared to move to TV games as long as the controllers stay thesame, since, as Ian stated “console games are basically TV games”.When touchscreen emerged, the lack of buttons was seen as a problemfor gameplay, but now there’s a large audience who won’t playwith controller as they are too different and require a differentapproach. There are some psychological differences too, added Oscar,and different inputs works better for different games – and gamers.

Same story for businessmodels: free games with ads appeal to some gamers, free games within-app purchases appeal to others. The freemium model has beenaffected by a bad reputation as the UK industry is still not fullyconvinced it works, but maybe the developers just have to startadjusting the learning curve for their games to make them sell more.The “user training” tricks proved to be very effective for allthe applications that use game mechanisms to engage consumers (theso-called gamification of apps). Struan made the example of LinkedInapps where daily simple notifications ask you to recommend yourcolleagues, add a picture or complete your profile, thus explaininghow to use the app itself. Other tricks used on gamified apps are thepublic leader boards and the awarding of badges. Oscar quoted a veryeffective explanation for gamification, which is how you get peopleto go back to the app, versus game design, which is the way youcreate fun. Not necessarily marketing people can make good design oreven level design, and not all mobile developers know how to learnfrom games.

One of my favouritequestions of the night was the following one: Is this a good momentto be a game development company? There are many opportunities,especially on mobile and tablets, but also a lot of competition. Thebarrier to enter the market is low, but the effort requested to makegood games has increased. There are new ways to work across formats(web, mobile, consoles, etc), and this is driving a change in contentand gameplay, but also new ways to market products, which is anopportunity that requires new people with marketing knowledge. Itwould have been good to ask to some of the experts at TIGA,who were between the audience, what’s their take on it, if it’strue, as Georgina reported, that of 147 development companies set inUK between 2008 and 2010, 131 shut down before the end of thatperiod. How many of them were mobile developers, I wonder? And what’sthe number of start-ups which develop games but have other digitalproducts too (apps, or websites, or design, for example)?

The panel discussed a lotof other topics, and answered some 999 questions from the passionateaudience, but I thought I’d better condense their words into a listof 8 kick-ass suggestions for UK mobile game developers:
  1. Research about your target market and decide the business model before stating to design your game: if you go web, you can have a “try before you buy” approach and make the first level teasing like a movie trailer or, if you are opting for the freemium approach, the gameplay must be compelling enough to make your audience play often and pay for in-app. That’s what Natural Motion did before releasing “My Horse”, and that’s a point on which all the panelists agree, the marketing must be integrated with the game design.

  2. Choose your coding language and engines with care: Objective C can limit your chance to port the game to other platforms in the future, warned Georgina, who suggested C++ for the core features of any game so they can be transferred, but only if you’re using the same core mechanics. The rest of the code could then be more quickly ported from one program to others. When someone from the audience asked if the panel would suggest developing games separately for each platform, the answer was unanimous: you can develop you own engines, but don’t underestimate the value of cross-platform engines such as Unity, Marmalade and so on.

  3. Don’t limit your business to only one market; try to plan your production so to include porting the game to other platforms and stores. Having one product on one app store is not going to be enough for funders to notice you, as Ian hinted, and, as in Struan’s experience, being an established developer on one app store also helps to get more users thanks to “internal” cross-promotion. As Gareth said “there’s an opportunity in throwing at different channels out of the app stores” such as operator’s markets, if you have good content, or, better, a network of content. But there’s a catch: be specific about the channel you address: don’t go for the common lower denominator, try to exploit all the hardware features.

  4. Make a clever use of analytics: pass the knowledge from the commercial to the production team and back, change your product price and game design according to the feedback from your customers. Never before the game industry has had such an amount of data, comments and feedback from the users, let all the people in your company understand the information you get.

  5. Have a roadmap for main changes, but be able to respond to the market. In the console world sales data were locked due to licensing and access issues, and both prices, design and were basically fixed. Now, instead, you can change your game’s design depending on the rise or fall in sales, so have an expert to look at your data and let your product evolve with them.

  6. Beware! When porting your product to the iPad, remember that it is used in a much different way and for longer game sessions compared with mobiles. Ian was the first to point that out: people use their mobiles to play on the go, shorter and simpler games, but if they can choose, they opt for the iPad as console and buy optimised games. Porting from iPhone to the iOS tablet is one of the simplest ways to differentiate, he said, and Georgina added that her company produces games with high quality graphic exactly for that reason. That applies to all the platforms.

  7. Don’t save on Q&A, or better, set a budget for proper testing. Ian pointed clearly out that many mobile developers unfortunately have no idea how much important that is for every release. I would add: test features that will make your product stand out from the crowd - original soundtrack, great graphic, vibration effects, multiplayer etc. Don’t be scared to be original and innovative, as long as your products are technically impeccable and fun.

  8. Apply for grants and funding. Abertay University, TIGA and ICT KTN periodically offer the chance to get some money for your ideas and support the applicants during the process with mentoring sessions. Someone from the audience even said he had won one of the challenges and got a fair amount for a mobile game! You’ve just missed the deadline for the contest to produce a game integrated with the SDK and marketed through the networks of Antix Labs and Turbulenz, so try not to miss the next one.
And here we are with thepanel’s trends for the future of mobile games. First of all:social-mobile is going to explode, according to Gareth, thanks to thecloud, and big publisher are going to put big money on innovation andgame content for the genre. But there are some cool features that candrive innovations, such as voice controls, added Struan, or AugmentedReality, said Georgina. Oscar bets on location games, if they movetheir focus from tech to the experience. What did Ian forecast for2012? The boom of more expensive and higher quality mobile games.It’s time, I say.

Finally, I’d like to goback to the initial note about the chairman who was wearing a hat andadd that the other person wearing one at the event was the hosthimself, Jo Rabin. May I assume there’s a fashion trend? Youropinion on this important theme will be very welcome.


That is probably the first time I have been accused of being at the forefront of a fashion trend :-) - Jo

MoMo London – 13th Feb – Data Driven Mobile Apps

Using public and other data in mobile applications seems like a natural fit for lots of applications. And there's more and more of it, especially since Tim Berners-Lee pushed for open data with his crowd rousing chant, "raw data now" at TED 2009 - making developers and data providers aware of demand.

But what's it all about? There's open data, commercial data, raw data, linked data, data marketplaces, data apps and data journalism... to name a few! Join us for a session with some of the top data professionals in the world today for a discussion on what it's all about and why app developers and data providers alike should take notice.

We're delighted to be supported by Kasabi for this event and will be looking at both the benefits of and possibilities for new data driven mobile applications. What does data bring to mobile apps and what do mobile apps bring to data? How are data driven apps bringing about social change? What are the UX challenges in dealing with data, and how can you tell stories and represent it via design?

Our panel will be led by Matt Biddulph, who founded Dopplr, and most recently was the Head of Data Strategy for Location and Commerce Applications at Nokia.

Joining Matt will be:

Leigh Dodds, CTO of Kasabi
Ian Holt, Developer Programme Manager at the Ordnance Survey

We'll be announcing the other panel members shortly.

AGENDA
6.00 pm Doors open
6.30 pm Welcome and introduction
6.35 pm Panel session
8.00 pm Drinks and networking
9.30 pm Doors close

As usual the venue is CBI Conference Centre at Centre Point. Please use the entrance at street level. Nearest tubes are Tottenham Court Road on the Central Line and Northern Line.

The event is free to attend, RSVP is required at http://momolondon-2012-02-13-mw.eventbrite.com


Kasabi is an online marketplace that brings developers and data publishers together to enable new business models for consumers and producers of data at all scales.

Kasabi's unique approach is to link individual data records together enabling layered views of information about specific topics to be easily created. We provide consistent developer APIs that work across all types of data within the marketplace and a simple subscription approach that removes the frustration of working with different licensing and pricing regimes. Data publishers can license and brand data through the marketplace to reach a global community of developers and learn more about the value of their data through Kasabi's analytics services. All data is hosted on Kasabi's secure and reliable data platform.

MoMo London – Jan. 30th – Mobile Gamification



ICT KTN Logo
Mobile games is arguably the most significant contributor to mobile content revenues - so there's plenty to learn from that sector if you're not in it - and plenty to think about from others' experience if you are.
In our first session of 2012 (our 69th ever), on Monday 30th January, in partnership with ICT KTN (http://ictktn.org.uk), we'll take a look at the successes of 2011 and the current trends into 2012. 
If you create mobile games, or think you want to, you'll have observed the remarkable shift from Premium to Freemium, but what are the elements of a successful Freemium model? In terms of distribution, the introduction of mobile social games the effectiveness of appstores to help find your content is called into question more than ever. Do your games have incremental "Plush Toy" revenue opportunities?
For non games developers, if "gamification is the name of the game" what does that mean, more exactly? Which of the successful games based formulae can be applied outside the games sector? If social is so important an aspect in games, how does that work for non games products? Can the addictive element that makes people want to play games be introduced outside the game environment? Games also lead in exploiting new types of hardware and interaction possibilities, what can other sectors learn from this? 
Our panel for the evening's discussion will be led by the extraordinary and irrepressible Oscar Clark of Papaya Mobile. Oscar's a long standing member of the Mobile Monday London community and brings years of experience (literally!) in the Games and Mobile Sectors.  
We will be announcing the panel that will join Oscar shortly.
As usual the venue is CBI Conference Centre at Centre Point. Please use the entrance at street level. Nearest tubes are Tottenham Court Road on the Central Line and Northern Line.
The event is free to attend, please RSVP at http://momolondon-2012-01-30.eventbrite.com, RSVP is required.
Once again we're delighted to be partnering with ICT KTN on this event. 
AGENDA
6.00 pm Doors open
6.30 pm Welcome and introduction
6.35 pm Panel session
8.00 pm Drinks and networking 
9.30 pm Doors close

MoMo London – 28th November – Post Event Report

In its second event of November, MobileMonday London focussed on growth opportunities and support for SMEs and Start-Ups. The formal part of the meeting was followed by networking for VCs, angel investors, accelerators and companies looking for support.

John Spindler, CEO of Capital Enterprise set the scene with his presentation below, before chairing a panel discussion on what the opportunities he described would mean to SMEs and Start-Ups.

The panel was:

  • James Mawson, Founder and Editor, Global Corporate Venturing,
  • Ben Whitaker, CEO, Masabi,
  • Anthony Clarke, Chair of the British Business Angel Association (BBAA),
  • Frederic Lardieg from Vodafone Ventures,
  • Jamie Finn from Telefonica Digital.

What do you expect or would you like to see the Chancellor include in the next day’s Budget to encourage SMEs?

Anthony expected the government to match existing Angel syndicates on new investment, though this was limited to poorer boroughs, and would like to see mentors get tax breaks for working with SMEs. James F would like to see the first round of investment funded by government to “seed” SMEs, allowing investors to concentrate on growth. Ben agreed he would like to see the government taking the risk in the earlier stage, so that banks were not the only or main source of initial investment. James M wanted to see easier access for SMEs to programmes for growth investment, and Frederic also wanted to see easier access to seed fund grants, with VC funds focusing on core investment, and Anthony noted that the Federation of Small Businesses statistics showed support for SMEs was much smaller than those for big business. Audience suggestions included tax reductions for start-ups, additional corporation tax reductions for SMEs, incentives for the hiring of the first few employees within a business, and a reduced threshold for business rates for small business making the transition from home-based to business premises.

How did the panel rate the attractiveness of the mobile market in the UK currently?

James F thought the UK market had a lot of scope, especially for an HTML ecosystem which was virtually empty at the moment. James M thought that the UK and Europe may currently have less of an innovation ecosystem than in the US. Ben agreed that although there was lots of talk there was less actually happening, his opinion was that companies needed to bring solid plans and prototypes to the table for entrepreneurs and investors rather than just ideas, a lot of mobile ideas were also more likely to appeal to angels rather than VCs. Anthony noted VC investors were looking for scalable mobile businesses, in the order of 20 times return rather that the 2-3 times return more common in purely mobile app ventures. Frederic however did think the UK was an attractive market especially in the mobile space and had seen significant returns from companies in this area.<

What advice did the panel have for application developers seeking investment?

Ben emphasised picking the right investor for your specific business which may not necessarily be a VC but instead EIS or grants, also look realistically at the returns, for example based on number of products and whether there was ongoing service attached to the service. Frederic agreed that a scalable business was essential for VCs so there might be opportunities in developing a platform around a product, or adding data collection as a service. Anthony noted that angel investors were looking for an order of 10 times growth over 5-7 years, he noted that in 2010 750million Euros were invested in seed investment, but SMEs needed a convincing bus plan. James F has personally invested in core apps businesses and could see potential in this area. Ben also noted that generally focusing and maturing in a core business was important, so peripheral activities should be de-emphasised, and the pitch should concentrate on return value rather than being overly technical. James M thought that corporate funding sometimes offered more opportunities than VCs especially at the seed stage, as corporates could benefit from the ideas and R&D initiatives, not just the direct financial returns.

An audience member questioned whether it was more important to get the volume of users or the product business model secured first? The panel thought there were possibilities in both approaches, and also noted the US model for big investors need a business model plan which showed the longer term returns and service opportunities – a lot of the US investors were now looking for investment opportunities in the UK and Europe, which was positive as statistics showed the US has invested around 5 times as much as the whole of Europe in this space.

Only 2% of SMEs applying for VC funding get it, what’s going wrong?

Frederic thought the reason was often that applications were not for scalable businesses (even if they were successfully running in other ways), however he noted that VCs cumulatively have invested more than 2% overall. Anthony pointed out that getting past the gatekeeper was often the initial issue, as companies chose the wrong investment types for the wrong targets, either too much or too little, or for lifestyle businesses not suitable for equity finance. Ben noted the common 3 step plan to IPO model touted in Silicon Valley was not always suitable for different types of businesses, so different approaches based on longer term growth may be more appropriate, it was important to match the investment with your particular business. Finally John noted the business plan should be based on evidence of a business model based on real research and demos.

What are most common mistakes made by Start-Ups looking for investment?

Frederic thought getting together a full management team including technical and business experts was important (there are events where these matches could be made if you didn’t already have the full team). James F emphasised focusing on a key area especially for limited sized teams, Ben agreed with concentrating your pitch on core products and services and also noted the need for complementary team members, as well as being concise in your pitch. Anthony thought there were lots of common mistakes, such as not showing a personal commitment to the business (e.g. personal investment of money or time), asking for product development investment rather than doing the front-end work to have a working prototype developed and some sales committed before asking for investment, and realistic valuations of the business.

The issue of trust and openness was also brought up, Frederic also thought that investors wanted a trusted environment so be as open as possible, and James M agreed but noted entrepreneurs needed to be able to balance trust with managing threats. The panel generally agreed noting that asking for NDAs was not considered beneficial, being completely open was also useful to getting your product known within the investment community.

The panel considered some questions from the audience: What was the best order for investment criteria? A business plan, getting the users and then planning for growth was one approach. How do you balance the optimistic returns required by investors with realistic valuations? This could be achieved by basing projections on realistic costs and the likelihood of growth, but ultimately solving real business needs may produce ambitious numbers. Was it a good idea to file patentable innovations before being too open? Being able to show patents applied for could be useful it would feed into market validation, but ultimately real users were more important. Was “sweat equity” also important to demonstrate for Start-Ups? It was important to demonstrate this commitment in addition to or instead of financial commitment depending on your circumstances.

John asked the panel to sum up their advice to companies looking for growth investment. James M emphasised that in addition to VC funding, entrepreneurs needed to consider all investment opportunities in the wider world including Angels, corporate and individuals. Ben noted Masabi was actively seeking entrepreneur talent and technology so talk to them! Anthony summed up his advice as stay positive as there was money available, do the research and find out which areas are popular with investors. Frederic rallied the audience to keep doing what they were doing and encouraged them to speak to Vodafone Ventures who were always happy to help innovators. James F agreed that the entrepreneurs who succeed where the ones who kept trying!

With the session over, Jo Rabin thanked the panel, the chair, the MoMoLo volunteer team and the event sponsors ICT KTN.

MoMo London – Nov 28th – Sunshine for Start-Ups and SMEs?

As winter settles upon us, it looks as though the are some positive signs of a change in climate for SMEs and Start-Ups. If you're an SME, a Start-Up, or thinking that you should be, this is a must-attend event in which we'll survey what's coming up in 2012 and a great opportunity for investors, companies and the support network to meet and mingle.

MobileMonday London and our lovely friends over at ICT KTN

 are co-promoting this event in which John Spindler CEO of Capital Enterprise will introduce us to those trends and lead a panel discussion what what it means to SMEs and Start-Ups.  

Among the topics we'll be covering: 

  • The government funded "Coaching for High Growth SMEs
  • A preview of the changes to Enterprise Investment Scheme rules that are intended to stimulate investment (these will be announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on the 29th Nov)

  • Arrival of US Investors in the UK with different investment criteria than our native community of investors

  • The Goldman Sachs and UCL supported "10,000 Small Businesses" accelerator programme as well as the launch of several other new acceleration programmes and accompanying seed funds

Our panel, led by John,  will represent the various parties involved (we'll be announcing the speakers shortly), and will feature Ben Whitaker CEO of Mobile poster child, Masabi, who just announced a further funding round of USD 4M who will tell us the process of attracting investment and other aspects of their journey.

We're inviting a range of angel investors, VCs and accelerators to attend and contribute from the floor as well as meet and do business in the networking session that follows.

It does seem as though this is a most exciting time for businesses - let's set the scene for a really positive 2012!

Agenda:

6.00 pm Doors open

6.30 pm Welcome and introductions

6.35 pm Panel session

8.00 pm Drinks and networking 

9.30 pm Doors close

As usual the venue is CBI Conference Centre at Centre Point. Please use the entrance at street level. Nearest tubes are Tottenham Court Road (Central Line only – Northern Line exit is closed at the moment) and Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly Lines).

The event is free to attend, please RSVP at – http://momolo-2011-11-28.eventbrite.com RSVP is required. Please note that we're using Evenbrite now, and not our site at momolo.org, which is entering well-deserved retirement.

MoMo London – Nov. 7th – Celebrate Our 6th Anniversary

Wiping a small tear from my eye as I write this, I'm thinking back to the first event we held at the Vodafone offices in The Strand on the 7th Nov 2005 and the 70-odd (really) events we have held since. The mobile industry has come an awfully long way since then - so it seems appropriate for us to look back over that period, and to look forward to what's coming next.

Helping us do so, and trying not to overdo the A A Milne references, but not really succeeding:

Martyn Warwick (aka Christopher Robin) from TelecomTV (who just celebrated 10 years) will chair the panel, which will consist of long time friends of MoMoLo from Pooh Corner, Mike Short (Telefonica and current IET President), David Wood (Accenture and of Symbian and Psion fame), Russell Buckley (Eagle Eye Solutions, aka the AdMob man) and Mark Curtis (Fjord, themselves 10, the man who made Mobile Social work in the form of Flirtomatic).

Between them they'll have plenty to say about what's been happening in the Hundred Acre Wood over the last six years, and while leaning on the rail of the bridge will offer opinions on which of the upcoming Poohsticks will emerge first. We may have a little competition for who is Tigger and who is Eeyore ... I'm expecting plenty of lively input from you, the audience!

TelecomTV are planning to bring a film crew to record the event for posterity and may very well be seeking the opinions of attendees during the networking reception that as usual follows the panel.

As usual the venue is CBI Conference Centre at Centre Point. Please use the entrance at street level. Nearest tubes are Tottenham Court Road (Central Line only – Northern Line exit is closed at the moment) and Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly Lines).

The event is free to attend, please RSVP – RSVP is required

Agenda:

6.00 pm Doors open

6.30 pm Welcome and introductions

6.35 pm Panel session

8.00 pm Drinks and networking courtesy of our lovely sponsors (see below)

9.30 pm - Doors close

Sponsors:

Hailo

Hailo the Black Cab app, is a London technology startup backed by a founder of Skype (Atomico Ventures) and Wellington Partners. Use Hailo to hail a black cab wherever you are with two taps on your smartphone and pay cash or card with no charges above the meter.

Over the past 9 months, they've raised $3M and built up a fleet of nearly 2,000 registered drivers who are now ready to start picking you up. Hailo is offering exclusive beta invites to Mobile Monday members - sign up now.

The team includes a founder of eCourier, Jay Bregman, and three London licensed taxi drivers. They are launching in London in November and in other major cities around the world in 2012. They work together at an uber-cool office on a boat moored on the Thames - and are hiring aggressively so please check out their job vacancies.

UCL Advances

Many thanks to UCL Advances for their support. Make sure to check out their 10,000 Small Businesses programme, "A New Training and Growth Programme for London’s Most Promising Small Businesses".

There's one more introductory session on the 2nd Nov at The Trampery. Online applications will be open till 12th December.

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