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May 15, 2008 5:27 PM

Alex St. John at ION Game confab: Dim future for consoles, tips for online games

Posted by Brier Dudley

Of course. Alex St. John is in the online PC gaming business.

But the Wild Tangent chief executive made some interesting points about consoles in one of his trademark mythbusters keynotes that closed the ION Game Conference today.

Speaking on the comeback in PC gaming, St. John said the high-powered graphics that made consoles special are becoming commodities. Nintendo realized this and decided that the place to differentiate the Wii was with its unique input system.

The trend is also evident in game arcades, where games have all sorts of exotic input mechanisms to make them stand out from the sort of gaming that people can do on their PCs at home, he said.

"There may never be another generaiton of consoles," he said.

St. John also said it's a myth that casual games are being consumed mostly by middle-age women. Statistics from Wild Tangent play suggest that more males than females are playing its games, and 40 percent of its game sales are to young males.

He urged game developers to spend less time developing puzzle games for soccer moms and more time building classic, 3-D arcade style games.

St. John also made a pitch for gamers to choose ad-supported games instead of chasing outright purchases, saying there's more money to be made with ads on free games that attract an audience 50 to 100 times bigger.

But that doesn't mean game developers should use in-game ads like billboards, an approach that his former employer in Redmond is pursuing with its Xbox business.

"Avoid crapping up the interior of your games with in-game advertising," he said. "This is a myth, it doesn't work."

St. John also provided tips on how to make valuable games:

-- Develop games with high conversion rates and high replay value.

-- Games targeting young male gamers (console gamers) fetch the highest advertising CPMs and are the least served audience.

-- Think how do we maximize the revenue from my game?

-- Design games to be consumed in small units of value.

-- Ask for ad revenue sharing from distribution partners.

-- Do play a standard video ad during load time.

-- Avoid interrupting game play with ads.

-- Avoid ads in paid gameplay.

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