@ LA Games Conference: Mobile gaming gets bogged down in rapid changes

**As published in RCR Wireless News** HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. – The late afternoon panel dedicated to mobile at the LA Games Conference didn’t get as deep as it surely could have, but there were at least a couple interesting debates that solidified the continuing uncertainty that surrounds the platform. In an industry that’s built fortunes on console- and PC-based games, there’s an obvious disconnect between what successes are being achieved on mobile today and what can be made of the promising platform down the road. Stephen Saiz, director of marketing in the digital publishing group at Disney Interactive Studios, said although the company is mentally prepared, it’s not physically prepared to keep up with how rapidly things are shifting in the space.”

The mouse house supports upwards of 1,500 devices now. To further highlight how complex it’s become to support these varying operating systems and device types, Dave Ulmer, senior director of entertainment products at Motorola Media Solutions, told the audience that Glu Mobile created around 90,000 mobile versions of its forthcoming Iron Man 2 game. “It kind of told me the problem that we as an industry created here,” Ulmer added. That could partially explain why GoTV’s VP of business development Steve Bradbury ran into some resistance when he suggested that mobile is no longer the third screen but the first screen. But even more so, Americans love for their TV screens will keep mobile from ever becoming the first screen – in the United States at least, Saiz said. He added that mobile could surpass PCs on the gaming front since they will become less relevant as more Web browsing occurs via consoles and other connected devices. Ulmer said he sees mobile as a screen that’s connected to other screens. He argued that mobile has more opportunity to succeed as an extension of game play from PC or console environments. For example, $6 billion was generated in China on virtual goods purchases alone last year, he said. Extending that opportunity to even a fraction of the world’s 4 billion connected mobile phones presents an incredible use case, he continued. The panel wrapped up with some debate about the state of the deck – also known as the dreaded or revered on-deck and off-deck channels. Ulmer sparked the back-and-forth exchange by arguing that the deck essentially disappeared after the iPhone hit the scene. Michael Bergen, senior manager of developer relations at partnerships for Ovi at Nokia, countered that Apple simply created its own deck with the App Store – making the deck far from dead. Ben Lewis, co-founder at Tapjoy, pointed out that decks were always associated with carriers and despite popular opinion at times, Apple is not a carrier. Saiz held a more neutral position, defining the App Store as not a deck, but rather another animal entirely. The most striking similarity the App Store shares with the traditional deck is the importance that apps positions hold in the storefront, Lewis added. The difference between being in the top 50 list of free, paid or grossing apps versus the top 20 is a huge deal, he said. "Just being in the charts is the biggest and really the only way to get traction for your app,” he concluded.