@ LA Games Conference: iPad and Android carry the day

**As published in RCR Wireless News** HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. – Throughout the LA Games Conference, two names kept resurfacing whenever the topic of mobile was broached – iPad and Android. It should come as no surprise why the iPad is almost universally seen as an opportunity for game makers. Just look at the prices developers are charging for apps on the iPad and compare that to the so-called sweet spot app price of 99 cents on the iPhone. From the tone of at least a few developers represented at the annual conference, the iPhone may be left behind as the path to greater profits per app gains momentum on Apple’s latest gadget.

After the conference, SNL Kagan analyst John Fletcher told RCR Wireless News that while there is cause for concern, innovation should make up for it in spades. “The low and much used 99 cent app price point in the iTunes App Store concerned some speakers, but others were more interested in supplementing free or very inexpensive game prices with ads and in-game virtual purchases,” Fletcher wrote in response to questions. The clear take-away from the event, he added, is that “as the game business maneuvers from physical to digital, mobile is viewed as a critical platform to support.” It’s also worth noting that the keynote speaker for the one-day event, Ira Rubenstein, EVP of the global media group at Marvel Entertainment, was less than bullish on mobile at least in the short term. “I personally would love to figure out how to get our games and comic books working on these mobile platforms,” he said. As mobile phones and tablets become more of gaming and reading devices, he expects the company, which was acquired by The Walt Disney Co. at the end of 2009, to dive in much deeper. “I think we’re going to be able to get there, but I think it’s going to take a little more time to wait for these platforms to mature,” he said while at the same time hinting at some interesting news to come on the Android front. Indeed, as Fletcher wrote to RCR Wireless News: “Optimism remains high for Android as a game platform” despite worries of fragmentation. “Simple games that can be played in short bursts are still some of the most popular in mobile and there is plenty of room for new entrants.” Teemu Huuhtanen, EVP of business development and community at Sulake Inc. (makers of Habbo Hotel), drove home the point of being fast to market on these emerging platforms. The first year after the iPhone came out, the top 10 publishers were mostly small and independent shops, but now all the large players like EA have grabbed those top 10 spots to match their dominance on other platforms. When asked where small developers should be focusing their attention now, Michael Pachter, managing director of entertainment research at Wedbush Morgan Securities, said one word: Android. “If I were making a bet that’s where I’d go,” he said. Take note: Betting is essentially the business of Wedbush Morgan Securities. Pachter also said that he’s amazed HP wants to take on Apple. As such, the HP-owned Palm could present the next most open window for independent developers, he added. He and many of the day’s speakers were quite bullish on the HP-Palm deal despite the fact it re-emphasizes yet another operating system to support, Fletcher added. Framing up the size of mobile’s slice in the gaming pie is tough task, but Pachter did provide some data on digital as a whole, which he defined to include mobile, social and micro-transactions. The digital gaming market has grown to a $10 billion a year industry, he said. Not bad, considering it was essentially nonexistent a decade ago. And growing at a rate of 25% year-over-year, Pachter said the digital share of gaming will overtake the packaged good business over the next three to five years.

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