GDC 10: Nick Fortugno

10 March, 2010 (10:18) | Games, Life | By: Olivier

Extremely well dressed Nick Fortugno (of Diner Dash fame) gave a talk entitled “How to Innovate in the Land of Clones”, based on the starting point that there’s a crisis of cloning in the social games industry.

Why do we innovate ?

- Because First comers own their space. At least recognized first comers.
- Markets evolve as users get sophisticated and jaded.

Nick shows the evolution of game genres over time from 2003 on real Arcade.
By 2007, in only four years, all the dominants genre of 2003 were completely replaced by new genres that didn’t exist at the time.

When the games form becomes stagnant the audience moves. Which is why innovation is important for everybody.

Some advice for innovating:

- Point 1: Start from known places.
Example Luxor. When it came out Zuma and Ricochet where really popular. It took the two key mechanics of both games and combined them: a casual hit is born!

- Point 2: Be inspired by other game media
Example Plant vs Zombies. Start with a very successful game type (Desktop Tower defense) and bring it to the casual audience by making enemy movement simpler, making the end condition more comprehensible, make units more knowable, change narrative + polish, polish, polish.

- Point 3: build new mechanics around proven desires.
Example Restaurant City. Slow growth models (because they work) + restaurant are fun places + Pet Society + friends (like all Facebook games)

- Point 4: Go big or go home
…if you’re small and want to innovate. Anything easy to make is easy to steal. The big guys have much more money than you to market the game. Make something so far crazy that you’re going to be hard to catch up with. So do something hard that will be difficult to replicate : complex mechanics under the hood, high production values, Next level technology.

- Point 5: Don’t assume your audience is solved.
Example from movies: District9 , Paranormal activities…
The movie industry is older, has more money and know their audience better and they still get it wrong regularly. So don’t assume we know better in the games industry. Try things out: testing should be your guide.

Right after Nick, Kenny Shea Dinkin gave a fantastic talk which went way too fast for me to take notes other than the money quote: “Emotional connection breeds irrational loyalty”. Point well taken!

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