GDC 2017 Day 1: Mobile game insights from EA, Epic Games, Playdots, Pocket Gems, Ubisoft and more

GDC 2017 has officially begun and, like every year, this one is set to be packed with more information than any attendee can hope to experience on their own. That’s why all week long we’ll be bringing you daily highlights from the show until it comes to a close. We’ll share the latest insights in mobile game development, design, growth strategy and ad tech innovations.

With the expo floor yet to open, day one of GDC played host to an array of sessions. There were tracks for VR/AR, monetization, artificial intelligence, production and, of course, mobile games. Here’s some of the top news from the day:

  • 2k Games, Bungie, EA and Ubisoft explained how to get better quality feedback from user testing. Fair, unbiased critiques are essential to identifying and fixing flaws in a game. But not all feedback is created equal. When selecting a testing audience, make sure they’re qualified to speak to and understand the topic you’re testing. For instance, if you’re developing a sports game designed for fans of the genre, the insights you’d get from someone who falls into this group would probably be much more valuable than a non-fan.
    • It’s also important to be open to negative feedback. Designing a game is a very personal process and being able to take an objective view on criticism will let you determine whether a tester’s comments arose from a real design flaw or a lack of understanding. An honest appraisal here will ultimately result in a better, more engaging game.
  • GDC2017-Vungle3Pocket Gems discussed what it takes to maintain a successful mobile game business. Developing a continual line of hits isn’t based on luck, but rather relies on ensuring your company evolves and scales appropriately. This means following three key elements:
    1. Recognize that when attempts to change company processes fail, it’s because the revisions proposed are too shallow.
    2. The success of a change depends on making it deeply rooted in everyone associated with the company, both internal and external.
    3. Be conservative in how you manage your business, e.g. allocate enough time for a change to occur, build games that will generate enough funds for future projects and expansion, etc.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of limited-time content when trying to boost mobile game retention and re-engagement. N3twork shared their own performance data to show how offering a consistent stream of new game content can not only keep users playing, but also drive in-app purchases. Limited-time content, like a quest for exclusive in-game items or bonus currency, is a key part of this formula. But it requires effective implementation, this means proper marketing of the content in the game so players know it exist, and also keeping the content itself fresh.
  • GDC2017-Vungle2Rewarded mobile video ads can improve user engagement, but their effectiveness depends on how well they’re implemented. Tamalaki Publishing suggested showing rewarded in-app video ads not just when something bad happens to a player, like when they lose a level, but flipping the script and putting them at points of accomplishment. For example, when a player beats a level, give them the option to watch a rewarded video ad to double their points.
  • Playdots shared how minimal mobile game user interfaces can create powerful, engaging play experiences. The company has always maintained a design philosophy that focuses on getting users to understand their games through less text and more intuitive action. To accommodate the wide assortment of places and situations mobile games are played, it’s essential to make titles immediately understandable upon first sight. They’ve incorporated this principle into their latest title, Dots & Co.
  • How valuable is a feature spot in a mobile app store? Iron Horse Games revealed the typical number of organic impressions mobile publishers can expect from having their apps spotlighted in an app store. A great feature position, meaning the app appears at the top of the game page, can net up to 100 million impressions. A title highlighted under a specific game genre page can generate up to 50 million impressions. Finally, not being featured at all will often result in little to no organic impressions.

Stay tuned all week for more GDC 2017 coverage. Read what happened day two here.

And if want to improve your mobile ad revenue, be sure to sign up for early access to the new Vungle SDK v5. You’ll get the chance to try out our new placements feature along with more than 10 new Dynamic Templates and more.

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Vungle's marketing team members have experience in gaming monetization, performance marketing, brand advertising, mobile analytics, app development and SaaS. We're former attorneys, journalists, research analysts, financial advisors and product managers. We are committed to producing content that helps brands and publishers across all verticals and industries grow their mobile businesses.

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