The 2009 Game Developers Conference kicks off with the GDC Mobile keynote address that will be delivered by Neil Young, the CEO and founder of ngmoco (with image gallery here). Young left his job at Electronic Arts to form ngmoco which is an iPhone game studio responsible for titles like Rolando, Topple, and Dropship. He'll be discussing how the iPhone changed the industry on par with the introduction of the NES, GameBoy, PSX, Xbox Live, and Wii.
Sorry for the late start, the 3G is a bit spotty in this conference hall.
Neil Young, CEO and Founder of ngmoco, is on stage and we've just covered the history of mobile games up to the iPhone.
He believes that all of the mobile games before the iPhone were lame. They were mostly ports. Original games were rare.
Neil on the iPhone: "This was becoming the most important device that I ever owned."
As a game machine, this device is so much better than anything that came before in the mobile space.
"It was better than the DS because it was connceted." It's always on, always with you, and connection aware.
ngmoco has just raised $10M more in a second round of financing to keep their company going strong. Apparently, they've been doing really well :)
The iPhone/iPod Touch has had a faster install base adoption than the DS or PSP. Right now, the iPhone has a base of 58% of PSP, 32% of DS.
There are some issues with the App Store, however: Clutter & Pricing Pressure.
"Apple have trained 30 million people to download and install applications wherever they are, directly and digitally."
"People are using the iPhone to play game. Don't let the haters tell you that it sucks relative to the DS and PSP. It's good."
The quality of iPhone games is eclipsing the quality of handheld games.
ngmoco is working on a game called 'Star Defense' with a company called Rough Cookie. It's a tower defense game.
Showing footage now.
"We need to learn from Nintendo."
DS vs. PSP: It looked like the PSP "had it in the bag." It had better specs and was easier to port to.
The DS won the race by focusing on features, not specs. It led with the dual-screen & touch.
If Nintendo made the iPhone, what would they focus on? If they did, "they would build games that could work only on the iPhone."
Nintendo would realize that the iPhone is "always on, always with you, and always connected to the network"
This is Neil Young, btw:
What's next for iPhone games: Social - feeds, party games, stats
Online multiplayer games
Showing the LiveFire demo from Apple's 3.0 presentation.
ngmoco isn't going to actually sell rocket launchers in-game. It was just a demonstration. whew!
"This isn't just a mobile gaming platform. This is a games platform."
"There's never been a better time to be an independent developer..." even with the economic climate.
Apple has provided you an easy way to enter iPhone development and get access to all of these developers.
How? Pay Apple $99.
Apple has provided the most robust and powerful development tools, according to Neil Young (not the musician).
This is good and there are a lot of iPhone developers. However, this causes clutter.
Sometimes, high quality apps are buried under bad ones (.99 cent far apps).
Interesting stat: 165 new Apps published a day.
Pimping Spin and Zen Bound from Secret Exit. ngmoco is working on a game with them.
Rolando 2: Quest for the Golden Orchid coming in June. 4 worlds + 36 levels. Another 20 extra levels between July and October. Rolando 3 in November.
In 11 months: 3 games with 12 worlds, 148 levels, 40+ hours of gameplay.
All this for less of the cost for a single DS or PSP game.
The lifecycles in iPhone development are different. ngmoco will be releasing four level packs between March and May as free updates.
The role of a great publisher is to "help make the very best games" and "get the games in front of as many people as possible."
ngmoco is trying to create hits: critically acclaimed and commercially successful.
First, you need audience appeal. Two games that are 100% the same, but one set in Star Wars vs. another set in Babylon 5 = Star Wars game more successful.
You still need to create a game at the quality bar of the market.
Finally, you need to create something that uses the native features of the device in question.
You shouldn't fall into the problem of Katamari Damacy... putting in too much innovation at the sacrifice of audience appeal.
Hey now! Katamari is great!
The App Store has revolutionized distribution, but not publishing.
As a publisher, ngmoco focuses on knowing and communicating with their customers to wade through those 165 apps a day.
ngmoco has also built a unified platform into all of their games to transmit metrics back to them. This is a lot like Steam.
It also includes an ad engine, but ngmoco only uses it to advertise their other games. Example: Rolando ad shown in Topple.
ngmoco acquired Apptism, a website that aggregates iPhone applications and stats. Combined, ngmoco has a "pretty complete" view of the marketplace.
Platform II will include key features like a friend list and game invites using push notification.
This summer, ngmoco will open up their "Platform" to partners.
ngmoco will be silent in the background. They are making a "Steam" push.
The presentation is now over. Please leave your comments about the Live Blog software in the usual comments section. Thanks all!