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Game for change? Gamers are, Trip Hawkins tells engineers

November 2, 2011

Trip Hawkins

The industry players in the video game business should get ready to use new strategies if they want to win the biggest game – the battle for customers.

Because while most customers aren’t exactly long in the tooth, they are moving on and they can’t “sit in a room and play PS2 for 50 hours,” Trip Hawkins, founder and CEO of Digital Chocolate, a leading publisher of social games like Millionaire City and Zombie Lane, told a Chapman University audience today.

Hawkins was the opening keynote speaker at Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Games Innovation Conference hosted by Chapman University and the Schmid College of Science and Technology. The two-day conference features presentations and talks by industry leaders from Sony to Rambus Inc. Topics range from innovations in cryptography and programming to the applications of game technology in numerous industries, including medicine, education and the military, as well as entertainment.

In his talk, Hawkins focused on the consumer trends in entertainment gaming. Hard-core gamers with the state-of-art monitors and a passion for realistic video game experiences are a smaller segment of the market. Enter Nintendo-playing kids who grew up to be soccer dads and busy moms. They prize convenience and social connections rather than sparkling technology in their gaming life, said Hawkins, whose design credits include John Madden Football, Army Men, M.U.L.E., and High Heat Baseball.

Hawkins pointed to cinema entertainment as an example. The visuals, sound and special affects of film production today are phenomenal, but the average American goes to a theater just four times a year. Movie fans increasingly stream movies at home. Even waiting for a video from Netflix to land in the mailbox is too much trouble compared to the convenience of streaming, he said.

 “The convenience allows you to put with the fact that the sound quality isn’t too good,” he said. “It’s no big shock that this trend is finally making its way into the gaming industry.”

Convenience also allows gamers “to still scratch that itch.” Connectivity and compatibility across platforms and devices will shape the gaming environment, he said.

“Fantasy football is a pretty good precursor to many more games that are going to go this way,” he said.

And never underestimate the power of connections, he said.

“Every social medium, including roads, started off as a bunch of silos that were not connected. In every single case, once it was interoperable, it became one hundred times bigger,” he said. “Once it becomes interoperable, people are more confident to use it.”

The IEEE conference continues through Thursday, Nov. 3. For more information, visit the conference website.

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