Serious Play Conference 2014

This year, Serious Games Association executive director Sue Boyle moved the Serious Play conference from misty Seattle to sunny L.A., where it was hosted by the USC Interactive Media & Games Division.

WP_20140723_006If you missed the conference, serious game (and serious sim) topics ranged from collaboration, behavior modification, and measurement to virtual world frameworks, markets, and gamification (see June 2014 post, “Sims & Edugames & Gamification–What’s in a Name?”)

Noah Falstein, Chief Game Designer at Google, gave an excellent keynote, including a discussion of the game-changing possibilities of new hardware. (No, he was not wearing those glasses). He reminded us that although when we think “mobile” we might think of smartphones (after all in 2013, smartphone sales did surpass feature phone sales worldwide), but that much of the world is still using feature phones—a market not to be dismissed.

Along the same lines, in addition to doing your homework and knowing mobile penetration rates in each country you consider your potential market, it’s also important to know bandwidth percentages. For instance 80% of China Mobile is still on 2G, although they have an aggressive program to roll out 4G.

Probably because we at Ambient Insight are very strong on definitions, I enjoyed the quote that Justin Leites (VP for Games at Amplify) gave of Canadian philosopher Bernard Suits’ definition of a game from The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia: “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” Justin also noted that Mark Twain designed educational games (and that he wasn’t very good at it… personally, I’m glad he kept his day job). 

WP_20140722_018Erin Hoffman, Game Design Lead at Glass Lab / Institute of Play, told a great story on (surmounting) the development team challenges and lessons learned from creating Argubot Academy, a middle school edugame designed to teach kids how to build and validate (or change) an argument. GlassLab is following a pattern we’ve seen lately, instead of only developing games, of expanding to become a platform for other partners to use.

I was pleased to participate again this year, presenting forecasts, investment patterns, catalysts, and trends on both the 2013-2018 Worldwide Market for Sims and Edugames (which our chief research officer Sam Adkins has delivered in the past) and the 2013-2018 Mobile Edugame market. Worldwide, the Game-based Learning market growth rate is 6.7% and will reach $2.4 billion by 2018 with Asia still as the strongest buying region by far. CWWgame-basedMarket

In my mobile session I reported that 5-year CAGR growth in North America for mobile edugames is at 12.5% , and from 2013-2018, revenues will nearly double. kidSAFE__PlusI also raised the warning flag again about the need to keep informed about the various government entities (e.g. FTC + COPPA in the US) that are focusing on regulations, guidelines, and legal action about protecting online privacy for children, and that includes mobile apps.

We routinely post conference presentations (and white papers, our Research Taxonomy document, and executive summaries of our reports in Ambient Insight’s Resource Library and they’re always free to download. (See the Event Presentations section for slides.) If you’re seriously interested in serious games, you might want to also download the summary for the 2013-2018 North America Mobile Edugame Market report we published in January 2014. (See White Papers, Summaries, and Executive Overviews.)

The conference drew participants and speakers from as far away as India and Scotland.  WP_20140722_005It also attracted the attention of the NTD Global TV Network, the “No. 1 Chinese Media Group.” (They also interviewed Sue Boyle and me — about 7 minutes in, if you’re curious and have time on your hands.)

That’s all for now,

Tyson

 

 

 

EdNET-working the Crowd

About 500 education industry professionals—suppliers, administrators, and practitioners, plus Ambient Insight—came to Denver at the end of September for the 25th annual EdNET conference.

Nelson Heller, creator of EdNET conference

Nelson Heller, creator of EdNET

That in itself was a cause for celebration, as the networking conference that Nelson Heller (2009 inductee into the Association of American Publishers’ Hall of Fame and currently president of The HellerResults Group) started in 1988 is still going strong.

Conversations and presentations ranged from new ways to use data to traditional and new approaches to funding. One theme that came up at EdNET this year was one that Ambient Insight has seen across the planet and that was the need for suppliers to think about teaching the teachers how to implement and incorporate a new learning technology product. “Teachers are busy… (A product) needs to be a simple as an ATM machine” because teachers don’t have the time to figure out how to implement or incorporate a learning product, according to Harold Levy’s point of view as an investment firm executive.

EdNET 2013 "Staying Nimble in an Evolving Market"

Harold Levy, former New York City Schools Chancellor and now Managing Director at Palm Ventures, and Clement Erbmann, Managing Director of First Analysis and formerly with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, participated in the Private Equity panel chaired by Ambient Insight’s chief research officer Sam S. Adkins.

Sam Adkins, Ambient Insight's chief research officer

Sam Adkins, Ambient Insight’s chief research officer

Sam reported to conference attendees that as of mid-September, investment totals for learning technology products and services for 2013 stood at $950 million—with $57 million just in the two weeks preceding the conference.

  • Download the whitepaper “The 2012 Global Boom in Learning Technology Investments” and Sam’s slides  on investment patterns, including 2013 investments, from the Ambient Insight Resource Library: www.ambientinsight.com/News/PublishedContent.aspx.

Ambient Insight

The panelists offered insights into the dynamics of the ed tech investment world, including their firms’ different approaches, and provided valuable guidance on “what works” (and what doesn’t). Mr. Erbman reported that his firm takes a minority position and looks for established firms with positive cash flow and high growth rates. Mr.Levy’s firm targets “distressed education businesses” and innovative startups, and often takes a “slight majority” position. He also spoke emphatically that his firm was not interested in companies that offered “technology without pedagogy.”

Both panelists agreed with the impact of the new worldwide trend to alternative funding that Ambient Insight has been tracking for several years: the growth of new incubators and accelerators, and of crowdfunding. Mr. Erbman noted that crowdfunding is emerging as a viable funding alternative for startups.

For example, in 2012, Mango Health was one of 14 startups included in Rock Health’s 4th annual accelerator class. Mango Health did well in school: in 2013 they launched their medical adherence edugame with $3.1 million in funding.

The JOBS Act directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to remove the 1933 ban on advertising publically for investors will figuratively jump-start (pun avoided) more crowd funding and level the geographic playing field. According to crowdsourcing.org, crowdfunding platforms raised a total of $2.7 billion in 2012, an 81% increase over 2011.

Ironically, the new rules on crowdfunding became official on September 23—the last day of the EdNET conference –a place for an exceptionally networked crowd.

 
 
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