This years’ MOGA summit felt more intimate and personal than past conferences I’ve attended, which is a good thing. Panel Q&A sessions had more in common with a round table discussion than the rigid format it usually follows. As more than half the attendees were comprised of indie developers both local and abroad, the talks between industry moguls and garage studios proved to be some of the most interesting discussions of the summit.
The standard faire of monetization, user acquisition, which platform to develop for and how to get a featured spot on it were all thoroughly covered as major ongoing questions needing to be revisited periodically. But somewhere in the building there must have been a door left ajar, because a refreshing draft of new thinking breezed through the auditorium panel after panel. Insights on the benefit of promoting your game early, even during its development through alternative approaches like blogging, podcasts and viral campaigns. The importance of utilizing the safety net of a limited regional launch was brought up several times, particularly using Canada to test the waters before deciding if your product is ready for a full-on North American release.
Team members from local New York studio Muse Games spoke candidly about experiencing the duality of success and failure for their flagship title Creavures based on the country and platform they chose to target. They also described the pitfalls of porting a PC title over to iOS in the Unity engine; a cautionary and comical anecdote to fellow developers not to take the deployment window in Unity as an easy button for getting your game to all platforms.
But there was one forward thinking concept that resonated with me above the rest; panelists urged developers to adopt the spirit of innovation we are witnessing in the medium right now. They were in unanimous agreement that following your own creative compass as a developer rather than pandering to the current trends in the space is the key to future success in this business. Citing the tumultuous state of the industry, starting development on a project based off what is popular today is almost guaranteed to have shifted onto something entirely different by the time you reach a point where you’re game is ready to release. This notion not only laid to rest the belief that in order to make something successful it has to be some contrived genetic copy of a hit formula, but that creating something unique can yield sustainable profits and offer the chance to discover the next big thing.
The event was well organized and operated in a manner I found more conducive to how game developers behave as a whole. As always some regurgitated best-practices inevitably emerged as they do at these things, but overall I came away from the summit feeling highly inspired and hopeful that the industry has begun to turn a corner where developers’ values can better co-exist with their requirements to function as a profitable business.