112 Indies and “How do you monetize?”

Yesterday I returned from Casual Connect in Amsterdam and as todays going out options are rather “meh”, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my Casual Connect review going – so get some popcorn and enjoy!

Day One – “Arrival and Pocketgamer meet and greet!”

As our game “The Inner World” won the “Best Game in Show”-Award in 2013 at Casual Connect in Kyiv, we had the honor to attend this Casual Connect in Amsterdam for free, so we booked a flight and off we went. From Stuttgart it is just an one hour flight, so nothing to be afraid of there. Once we arrived in Amsterdam it was time for lunch. And boy did we get the best fries in town!

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Fries… Awesome Fries!

In the evening we got to the welcome party hosted by Pocketgamer.co.uk, which was pretty awesome! We had some drinks and had time to meet all the attending developer friends.

Day Two -“Nope our game has no PVP, sorry for that!”

At the second day I first recognized how awesome the indie prize would be this time. Back in Kyiv we barely were like 40 Indie game creators, with more casual and (sorry for that) some very boring titles. This time they were great indie games everywhere! About 112 to be as precisely as I can. I was amazed. And that’s when I thought: “Boy this could seriously be an incredibly awesome possibility to gather more than a hundred indies and let them show the game to the gamers that want to play our games!”. But boy was I wrong. I mean, of course it’s still called Casual Connect – right? So mainly we had people at our booth that asked me “I love your game – it looks gorgeous!” “Oh tanks a lot man!” “But hey, how is your PVP going? And how do you monetize?” “Ehrm … we sell it for … like … money? And nope, no PVP.” (We definitely should do that one day, a PVP-Point and Click). It’s like to totally different worlds colliding. People would always start a conversation like “Oh I love your game” or “I played it a lot” and then go on trying to make business with you and your game. “We can help you monetize it even better!”. One even suggested we should sell the hints that you can get through our help system for ingame currency. Nope, we won’t.
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Indies – everywhere!

After a whole day of talking to business suits and people that simply love our game, I didn’t know what was still to come. Okay – I am going to write about it, no matter what. We were at the office opening party of a company named paymentwall inc. Sounds fair and thanks for the free drinks! “Let there be money” is their company slogan. Okay, I can deal with that. But tiger babys? In a little cage with loud music and a lot of people around them? Seriously? Sorry – but I can’t imagine how someone actually agreed to that idea.

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not cool.

So after that shock (and after mooching of beer’n’food) we went to the first official party sponsored by distimo and newzoo. Again, fun, chatting with developers, seeing old friends and making new friends. I love it. I also could forget about the baby tigers, but still I was glad to hear the rumor that someone called the police at the other party and they got in trouble to not having a license for … having baby tigers at a party. At least someone had the guts to do this. Dear people at paymentwall, don’t get me wrong – it was cool to invite people in your new office. It was also pretty cool to give them free beer’n’burgers and I am not being ungrateful here. But baby tigers at a party with hundreds of people and music?

Day Three – “I love your game and why do you look like you’re in terrible pain?”

Like professionals we where partying till 3 am but standing at our booth at 10am lookin’ nice and awesome. New people came to have a look at our game and I had some time to have a closer look at the other games. This is why I loved CC in Amsterdam – I could chat with the developers of “Journey Down” for example, talk about their development aproach, talk about ours, and just have a good time with people that do the same thing i love. Making games. And when you meet someone that says “Hi I am from Bombay … What YOU worked on The Inner World? I played and loved it!”, then your heart just goes boom boom before melting into a big pile of love. Dude, thanks! A guy with a a cardboard box on it’s head? No problem! Game developers crazyness was over 9000%.

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Where’s the cardboard box guy?

Besides of the big indie showcase there also were a lot of talks at CC. But only 2 of them were interesting enough for me to actually consider watching them. With so many indies attending, the talks that could matter to indie game developers where too less I think. I would have loved to hear more about the postmortems of other studios than just on the last day. But hey – this way I could keep on chatting with developers myself and showing our game to people. After a whole day standing and talking I was so looking forward to the after party. As I knew it was a CC party, I expected crazyness. So at the entrance there was a guy in a weird looking elvis suit with lots of plastic gold chains around his neck acting like a host. But gold painted midgets? Dude – I don’t know what to say about that. I felt like being inside the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

Day Four – “Awesome Winners and someone playing The Inner World for about 3 hours straight”

So again – in bed at 2am and back at the booth at 10am. Looking okay and awesome again but with terrible pain in the feet after 2 days of walking around Amsterdam if not standing at the booth. The last days of such conferences always are the hardest ones. You can’t stand anymore, you look like shit, but you still want to keep smiling while showing someone your game. But still – I was lucky! A girl I got to know through a old friend came by and started playing The Inner World on our iPad while I could watch her play, get some work done or talk to others about our game. And that’s what I love about conferences. Watching people play that thing you were working on for 3 years. The moments when you know the player is going to see a funny animation or to get a funny joke and you watch his or her reaction in the face. Sometimes they look like “Meh” but other times they start to broadly grin – again my heart became a pool of sweet … flan. While I was observing her playing the whole first two chapters of our game in one playthrough the winners of the indie prize where anounced. And boy am I glad that Mimimi Productions with their game “The Last Tinker” won the “Best Game in Show”-Award. Besides of being an awesome team, they simply are making a pretty awesome game. So they totally deserved it!
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Mooched from “The Last Tinker”

After the ceremony the whole indie crowd got more relaxed. You saw developers playing together other peoples games, it just felt like the tensed atmosphere of people being uncertain if they would get a prize or not, had to go away. And it got even better when we got free beers and pizza. Yeap there was free pizza. And you can imagine how the attendees reacted to that. It was like throwing some little pieces of raw meat into a pool full of sharks. I never saw so much grown man run after pizza like that. Insane. But – every cool trip has to come to an end. So it was time for us to leave amsterdam behind us at 8pm.

Conclusion – “Casual Connect – What could get better?”

Would I recommend fellow indie developers to attend to Casual Connect? Yeap I would! Are there things to improve? Yeap – of course!
  • First of all, please no more partys with baby tigers or golden painted midgets. Seriously, don’t do that again.
  • More sessions about indie devs would be awesome – why not a whole indie track for 3 days? There where hundreds of stories to be told!
  • Keep on with the indie showcase! But don’t make it bigger. Make it more public instead!
  • WiFi is awesome – but next time, have a better backbone. Your poor routers crashed all the time.
Dear Casual Connect – Team: I sincerely thank you for your awesome efforts to make it possible for such a big indie developer scene to meet and greet and also meet some important people. Maybe it is time to move the focus way more on indie games instead of only casual f2p titles. This would avoid the “How do you monetize” and “How is PVP in your adventure game” crap!
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bling – f2p bling!
Asposian Greetings and thanks for the bling,
Alexander
Alex