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Strong speaker line up at Social Gaming Summit on June 13th May 13, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in conferences, game design, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, social games, social gaming.
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Last week I mentioned that I’m speaking at Interplay Con on May 22nd.

Another great conference focused on social games is the Social Gaming Summit on June 13th, also in San Francisco. Lightspeed is the Platinum sponsor of this conference and we have been working closely with Charles Hudson and David Sachs to organize the event, invite speakers and so on. Here is the critical info:

What: Social Gaming Summit
Where: UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center, San Francisco, CA
When: Friday, June 13th 2008
Register Here: http://socialgamingsummit.eventbrite.com/

Charles, David and I have been discussing the agenda for the past month or so and have settled on the following five panel topics as areas where there are emerging best practices that are not widely understood.

Casual MMOs and Immersive Worlds.

Asynchronous Games on Social Networks

Building Communities and Social Interaction In and Around Games

What Makes Games Fun?

Monetization and Business Models for Social Games

User-Generated Games in Social Networks

The aim of the conference is to have practitioners talking to practitioners, sharing real life lessons learned. We’ve chosen speakers who have live experience with launched games. Speakers include:

Respected game designers and theorists including Amy Jo Kim, Ian Bogost and Nicole Lazarro,

Developers of social network games including the teams from Friends For Sale, Zombies, (fluff) Friends, SGN and Zynga,

CEOs from casual games companies like Addicting Games, Playfirst, Kongregate and Mochi Media,

Leaders of virtual worlds and MMOs like Sparkplay, Habbo Hotel, Acclaim and Puzzle Pirates and

CEOs of communities like Dogster, IMVU, Gaia, Go Pets Live, NeoPets and Stardoll.

It should be a great conference.

Readers can use the code “LSVP” at checkout to save 15%. That discount is good for general admission and student tickets.

We hope to see you there!

Returns – the scourge of e-commerce May 12, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in Ecommerce.
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The WSJ had an interesting article last week about how some consumer electronics companies were working to reduce return rates:

The U.S. electronics industry last year spent about $13.8 billion to re-box, restock and resell returned products, according to a study by technology consultant Accenture Ltd. Especially galling to manufacturers is that many returns are preventable: Only about 5% of returns were because a product was truly defective. Instead, most consumers give up on products for other reasons, such as the device being too confusing to use, the study found.

WSJ

Return rates are even higher in apparel and shoe retailing than in electronics; in some cases return rates are in the 20-30% range.

The good news is that companies are addressing returns in consumer friendly ways, rather than by trying to penalize consumers. One great example is Sony:

Sony Corp. has taken a different approach with some of its products that makes it harder for consumers to bring them back. The company in 2006 added an option allowing consumers to engrave their name or other message on a Vaio computer. It expanded the program to its digital cameras last year. Sony says the program was started to let customers personalize products, but a side benefit for Sony is that engraved products can be returned only because of defects or other reasons that are the company’s fault.

Return rates on engraved Sony Vaios are negligible, compared with about 5% for non-engraved PCs, the company says, saving more than $1 million so far. “I have a feeling that people are understanding the condition that you can’t return it,” Mr. Abary says. “But also once they have engraved it, they feel like it’s a part of them.”

I thought that this was a very clever approach.

Comparing SGN and Zynga game networks May 9, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in games, games 2.0, gaming, social games, social gaming.
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Bret Terrill has an interesting post using Compete stats to look at the effectiveness of the Zynga and SGN game networks in cross promoting traffic through their game bars that is worth a read.

Speaking at Interplay Conference about games and social networks on May 22nd May 8, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in conferences, games, games 2.0, gaming, social games, social gaming, social networks.
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Reader of this blog will know that I have a high degree of interest in Social Games. There are a couple of social gaming conferences coming up in the next couple of months.

The first is Interplay which is being held on May 22nd at the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco. It specifically is focused on games being played on social networks. Some of the topics that the conference plans to address include:

How will the companies in this space turn their momentum into sustainable business models?
How will the social network platforms react if and when they do?
The virtual economies represent large opportunities, but how does one exploit them, and what role can advertising play?

I’ll be speaking at the conference so hope to meet some readers there. Click here for a 25% discount to attend Interplay.

The second is the Social Gaming Summit which Lightspeed is sponsoring and that I am helping to organize with Charles Hudson and David Sachs. It isn’t until June 13th, so I’ll post more about that next week.

Dealing with in-game inflation May 7, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in business models, economics, game design, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg, virtual goods.
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Siqi Chen, CEO of Serious Business (publisher of the Friends for Sale game), pointed me to an excellent white paper on the money supply impacts on an online economy recently.

It notes that in most games, players control the rate at which new cash is introduced into the economy. To avoid hyper-inflation, it recommends four steps:

Consumables are important in creating new Cash – If large amounts of new cash can be created without consumables, then there is no economic brake on cash creation.

Players set the prices of Consumable – This is the other side of the coin, since only player set prices can legitimately respond to changes in the money supply. Attempting to do this programmatically in such a diverse economy as a typical MMO is to invite failure. National governments have not been able to do this.

Fixed drains need to be in place – This provides a mechanism to remove a Crafter who is economically irrational from the business game, as well as to provide equilibrium in prices and money supply. Thus a regular fixed cash fee for doing business is required, and set by the game.

Variable Drains via percentage commission of the sale need to be in place – This provides a damper that mitigates wild swings in the money supply. Fictionally Sales commissions provide this damper. The percentage is set by the game, on Facility Type basis.

People building social games should read the whole thing.

Increasing mobile web usage and increasing web page size are on a collision course May 5, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in Internet, mobile.
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iPhone users browse the web on their phones far more than the users of other phones. According to the NY Times, over Christmas 2007, Google got more traffic from iPhones than from any other type of phone, despite the iPhone’s small market share:

The data is striking because the iPhone, an Apple product, accounts for just 2 percent of smartphones worldwide, according to IDC, a market research firm. Phones powered by Symbian make up 63 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, while those powered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile have 11 percent and those running the BlackBerry system have 10 percent.

Info World notes:

The key to the iPhone’s success is the fact that it provides a unified, full browser experience, said Neil MacDonald, a Gartner analyst. By comparison, Windows Mobile is a fractured platform, with separate PDA and smartphone versions, as well as a version of the browser that doesn’t support full HTML.

But at the same time we have an increase in full web browsing on the phone, web pages are getting bigger. Much bigger. The average web page tripled in size since 2003. Why? WebsiteOptimization.com says:

Web 2.0 technologies such as Ajax certainly contribute to the increase in the number of objects per page, as well as the growth in JavaScript file size. Dynamically generated sites from content management systems are typically not as optimized as hand-tuned sites, and often carry over site-wide CSS, JavaScript, and page components to every page on a site.

As broadband becomes more widespread web designers have created more elaborate designs, assuming that a large proportion of their audience is on broadband, or ignoring dial-up users entirely.

Even iPhone users will acknowledge that visiting big web pages, especially those incorporating rich user interactions, can be a frustrating experience. Yet most pundits agree that web usage is only going to increase on mobile devices, despite the triple constraints of slower connections, slower processors and smaller form factors.

I’d be curious to hear what readers think will happen as these two trends collide.