Mar 22, 2019

Flowhaven's Adventure at GDC: What we Learned

This week Flowhaven attended the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where executives and thought leaders from across the world of gaming discussed the future of one of the world’s fastest growing industries. According to the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group, U.S. video game industry sales topped $43.4 billion in 2018. With that in mind, we attended the conference to co-mingle with old and new friends and to get a leg up on the next hot properties and opportunities for expansion in the consumer product marketplace.

The overall tone of the event was promising, with attendees expressing excitement about the high-quality visuals and complex storylines that are pushing the industry forward. Some of the most brilliant minds in gaming came together to share their thoughts on the impact of these advancements and their effects on the technological and commercial future of the, still, relatively young industry. By the end of the five-day conference, it became clear that the gaming community will continue to be disruptive, with a more significant interest in shortening development periods, streaming solutions and fostering fandoms.

To quote Kalle Törmä, our chief executive officer and founder, “In gaming, it has become harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. Today, if you want to succeed in a big way, you need to have witty and unique gameplay, beautiful visuals, memorable storylines and characters that resonate with your target audience. In other words, you need to build worlds that, from a business perspective, can be scaled to other mediums and nurtured to keep the audience engaged for years to come.”

And there is no question the gaming industry has committed to that, considering the technological and communal improvements realized since the GDC was first organized more than 30 years ago. However, it is worth noting that the industry, which has developed a culture around long lines on game release days and identities formed around consoles, has suddenly become infatuated with cloud-based solutions.

Here are our big takeaways from the world's largest professional game industry event:


Cloud-ed Vision

Following the examples set by Netflix for film and Spotify for music, Google introduced its Stadia cloud gaming service at GDC, in an effort to revolutionize the way that people access games.

Marketed as a “platform for everyone," Stadia is a blended data cloud that aims to allow users to play any game on any device including TVs, laptops, phones, and tablets. Traditionally, games have been platform specific and have required fixed consoles, with notable waiting periods for a title became available for a new system.

A centralized cloud-based option may prove positive for the brand licensing community. It would allow for greater exposure for gaming IP, with consumers, who might not have had the means to purchase gaming equipment, now able to access titles. The service will also allow users to share clips straight to Youtube, making entry into a fandom a one-click process.

Stadia will launch in 2019 in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada.


Retro & Indie Games

If you haven’t noticed, nostalgia is in. Millennials and Gen-Zers, in particular, are longing for the familiarity of brands that remind them of their childhoods and evoke feelings of safety, comfort, and happiness.

Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment hosted a special Retro Play exhibit, complete with classic games from Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64! Other providers offered new takes on classic titles including cooking-game interpretations and VR experiences.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool in brand licensing because it is supported by established brand equity. The most successful nostalgic brand licensing campaigns use emotional storytelling to make consumers feel joy around their memories while looking forward to the future. Those who own gaming IP can use the same tactics to bring their classic titles to the platforms and mediums that their now adult consumers are most interested in. At the same time, licensees looking for brand partners may enjoy the security of pairing with a group that has an established fan base.

GDC also hosted the 21st annual Independent Game Developers Conference, the longest running festival, summit and showcase of independent games. Leading minds in independent gaming discussed building games around humor, offering demonstrations through messaging and video and the need to support creators from underrepresented communities.

Each year the summit awards a roster of prizes in categories ranging from Best Student Game to the Nuovo Award, which honors games that make judges reconsider games as a medium. Many winners have gone on to create critical and cultural hits including “Minecraft,” “Night in the Woods” and “Castle Crashers.” Independent games allow licensees to get their products in front of dedicated, niche audiences who may have greater emotional ties to the brand.

Flowhaven supports partners taking on untested IP with powerful sales report management tools that lower the risks of revenue loss and build custom reports and dashboards to monitor the financial metrics and progress.

Visual Enhancements and Fashion

GDC was abuzz with excitement over the visual enhancements being made within the industry. The low-res, 2D visuals of yesterday have been replaced with hyper-realistic renderings of characters and locations, making it possible to tell more complex and sensory-inducing stories.

Classic IP that has been updated with visual enhancements creates a market for goods with the latest graphics. Apparel, novelty, and collectibles that feature the new renderings may be exciting to the update-obsessed customer base.

That said, it’s only fair that we mention that Flowhaven makes speedy design revisions and collaboration easier than ever. Our dynamic software makes it possible to get new designs to market faster and keep tabs on the product pipeline every step of the way.

Surprisingly, fashion also took center stage at GDC, with Kitfox community developer Victoria Tran hosting a seminar titled “Why Fashion in (Most) Games Sucks, and Why You Should Care. ” The developer suggested that creators may be missing an opportunity for fans to express themselves and to create more diverse environments. New in-game apparel may present unique opportunities to licensing professionals in the costume and apparel space. Moreover, if popular characters have greater signature clothing options, more expansive lines can be created around each look, with product lines built around the idea each garment aims to channel.

So, if you find yourself having a passion for in-game fashion, remember that Flowhaven makes it possible to automate content sharing fully. With that feature, new information about outfit updates and potential customers can be shared with expediency.

Flowhaven attended GDC because it is uniquely qualified to help brand and IP owners find business opportunities in the areas mentioned above, and many others. Built on Salesforce, the #1 customer relationship management (CRM) platform, Flowhaven enables licensors and agents to manage the wide range of activities required to run a successful licensing journey with B2B partners including agreement management, digital content distribution, design collaboration and approvals, and sales reporting and validation.

If you find yourself wanting to learn more about gaming, please join us for “IP Power Play: Emerging Trends in Gaming", on April 3 in Los Angeles. The executive insights series event will feature discussions with Mat Piscatella, executive director, games, NPD; Kalle Torma, chief executive officer, Flowhaven; and more as they discuss their insights on the industry.

Disclaimer: Any companies, brands, or intellectual properties presented in this article are mentioned based on their relevance to the topic and do not have any business relation or connection with Flowhaven.

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