The 10 Best Casual Gaming Presentations from GDC 2014

Matthew Warneford

The team at GDC have uploaded hundreds of talks and slides from this year’s event. No-one has time to watch them all, so we’ve picked out the ten we found most interesting. The presentations cover topics including, how to use YouTube to market your game, how to attract Whales, narrative testing techniques, and lessons learned from Jelly Splash.

Using YouTube to Market Your Indie Game

Video game commentators on YouTube and streaming services like are becoming some of the most influential personalities in gaming – especially for kids! This talk from professional YouTuber Ryan Letourneau (“Northernlion”) teaches how to easily find and contact these content creators, and communicate with them as effectively (and efficiently) as possible to hopefully persuade them to cover your game.

Jelly Splash: Puzzling Your Way to the Top of the App Store

The match-3 puzzle genre is almost as old as it gets. Scour the App Store and you’ll find hundreds of different varieties out there. Very few of these succeed however, and even less manage to hit the number one spot on the U.S App Store top download chart. Wooga’s Jelly Splash managed to do just that, and in this session Florian Steinhoff, the creator of Jelly Splash, details how his team managed it and what they learned throughout the development process.

<iframe src="//" width="595" height="485" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" style="border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;" allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style="margin-bottom:5px"> <strong> <a href="//" title="Jelly Splash: Puzzling your way to the top of the App Stores - GDC 2014" target="_blank">Jelly Splash: Puzzling your way to the top of the App Stores - GDC 2014</a> </strong> from <strong><a href="" target="_blank">Wooga</a></strong> </div>

Getting Players to Care: Using Narrative to Drive Retention

In this presentation lead writer Kara Loo and producer, and designer Royal McGraw explain the use narrative in High School Story. The slides focus on the strategy of using drama, romance, comedy and cliffhangers to drive user engagement. Within a week of its release on iOS, High School Story hit number 5 in the U.S. top free category and number 10 in the U.S. top grossing category. Since then, High School Story has managed to cultivate and expand its dedicated player base – all while maintaining industry-leading retention numbers.

Why Whales Sing: Heavy Spenders Drive Virality and Retention

Heavy spenders are social animals and according to Jussi Laakkonen of Applifier they discover new games via online word of mouth, drive viral growth via inviting and sharing, and they stick to games with strong social features. Whales sing because they love discovering, sharing and connecting. In his presentation Laakkonen presents results from a survey of heavy spenders in mobile games. He shows how we can learn how they discover, recommend and share games, what social features they value, and how they can be leveraged in social media channels to drive viral growth and retention.

Big Data Analytics 101: From DAU to Predictive Modeling

In the age of free-to-play it’s more important than ever to be a data-driven developer. In this presentation by Dmitri Williams of Ninja Metrics, Williams covers the building blocks of both basic and advanced analytics. Topics range from defining seemingly simple terminology to understanding tools like segmentation and cohort analysis, and parsing out the pros and cons of advanced machine-learning modeling techniques.

Awesome Video Game Data 2014

If you love numbers you will be rather fond of this presentation by EEDAR co-founder Geoffrey Zatkin. It’s hard to say what the focus is since it covers video game industry data, patterns and trends, on everything from next generation consoles to the maturation of mobile games to how review scores affect perception and everything in-between. What we can say is that it’s well worth a look.

Analysis and Lessons from the Global Free-to-Play Market

In the first of his talks at GDC 2014 Glu Mobile’s president of publishing, Chris Akhavan, presents his company’s high-level assessment of global trends in mobile gaming. He emphasises the importance of global expansion and highlights the differences between gamers in the East and the West.

Design and Monetization Strategies in Highly Successful F2P Games

In this talk Nick Fortugno of Playmatics looks at a set of the most successful F2P games, from Candy Crush to Clash of Clans to League of Legends, to analyze what design principles they share in the way the game leverages the free-to-play model to keep gamers happy and make profitable products.

The Connection Between Boys’ Social Status, Gaming and Conflict

Ashley Burch and Rosalind Wiseman conduct a provocative seminar on the connection between gaming and social hierarchies among middle and high school boys. The pair examine group dynamics, the different roles that are embodied in those groups, and how these roles manifest when they play games. They discuss how the games young people choose to play have an effect, not only on their social status amongst their peers, but their social competence in moments of conflict.

Using User Research to Improve Game Narratives

While narrative is important in virtual worlds, research suggests that gamers struggle to remember even their favourite game narratives (in contrast to other media), only remembering big moments or characters in isolation. Because of this Microsoft Studios’ user research group developed a narrative usability method to test story early in production, allowing for iteration driven by player experience.  This test can identify twists that don’t work and conclusions that are confusing, removing understanding blockers. This technique was covered at GDC by Microsoft’s Deborah Hendersen.

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