Jameson Hsu discusses changes for the Flash community on the eve of its annual summit

Interview: Flash Gaming Summit 2011

GDC marks its 25th anniversary next week, before that however the Flash community will converge for another important industry event.

The third annual Flash Gaming Summit takes place this Sunday, February 27th 2010 at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco.

Beginning in 2009 with the help of sponsor Adobe, the summit promises to be a significant event for those involved in the development and distribution of flash games.

Ahead of the summit, Develop spoke to Jameson Hsu, CEO of Mochi Media, the multimedia company who organise the event, about changing attitudes towards Flash games, what HTML5 means for Flash and how the summit has progressed.

This is the Flash Gaming Summit’s third year. How has the event evolved since its premier year in 2009?
Well, it’s certainly gotten bigger. In 2010 we moved to a much bigger venue, the Mission Bay Conference Center. This move allowed us to more than double the number of tickets sold and allowed us to have a bigger and wider roster of people speaking on more issues important to the industry. Last year, we had more than 500 attendees and the event sold out weeks before the conference took place. This year, we’re already sold out again (and the event isn’t until the very end of the month).

In terms of our audience, the majority is still made up of game developers and entrepreneurs. However, as Flash developers have seen more success, we’ve definitely seen the landscape for the event shift in terms of the size and complexity of the companies participating and the quality level of games. This shift has allowed us hold and facilitate deeper, richer discussions.

Have attitudes towards Flash games changed in the last few years?
They have. Flash as a medium is a lot stronger than it was, say, two or three years ago. As more money has flowed into the web games space in general, Flash games are getting better, attracting bigger audiences and generating more money. A lot of the top Facebook games are being created in Flash and really push the limits of what is possible. Similarly, games like Shadez 2, the Bloons franchise and Machinarium push the boundaries and therefore people can expect more out of Flash games today.

There’s also been a transformative effect with the use of microtransactions within games. Now developers are able to gather vast audiences of consumers that love their content and have the economics to support building amazing games in Flash.

What effect have Facebook and smartphones had on Flash development?
We just released a study of almost 1,400 Flash developers around the world and one of the most interesting findings was that devs are itching to develop for mobile. In the survey, 51 per cent of devs said they planned on making games on the Android platform during the next year, and 45 per cent were going to develop on iOS, so mobile has had a tremendous effect and has certainly caught developers’ attention.

Facebook helped make social possible. It was the first social gaming platform and also an incredible way to monetize your games, and it paved the way for us and other companies to develop our social distribution platforms.

This year you have speakers from PopCap, Adobe, Casual Collective and a host of other studios. What has the process of getting speakers to support your summit been like?
All of these companies are strong supporters of Flash and we’re thrilled that they’re willing to support the Flash Gaming Summit. Adobe and Casual Collective have actually been supporters since the Summit’s inception three years ago. PopCap and other gaming companies are also sources of inspiration for the Flash games community, so we’ve been really fortunate to have their support and interest in participating. All in all, there’s a ton of interest and we have many more submissions to speak than we had spaces within the schedule to fill.

The Mochis Awards are taking place for the third time. Why are these Flash-only awards relevant?
It’s been a great success for us because it’s fun! It’s a chance for the Flash games community to recognise excellent work and celebrate the best games and the people that created them. It’s always a highlight of the Flash Gaming Summit and the people nominated, as well as the attendees, really like it.

Are you doing anything differently with the awards compared to the IGF or IndieCade?
Since Mochi Media has been focused on Flash games only, we see some really incredible work coming out of this community that doesn’t always get recognised at broader events like IGF and IndieCade, which have multiple categories but nothing that is very Flash-specific. I think the biggest differentiator is the specificity around the medium. We’re able to turn a keen eye on games just built in Flash within the last year and because of that we see some really amazing stuff that maybe doesn’t get recognized, since it’s overshadowed by many of the bigger names in the indie games community.

The other thing too is that we have relationships with and see games coming from thousands of developers from around the world. It’s often common for us to have to ship trophies to mostly international addresses. I think the Mochis is unique in how nominations are sourced from consumer communities and recognises developers that are often from far-off locations and don’t normally participate in the game developer community.

With the coming of HTML5, what challenges lie ahead for those in the Flash community?
I don’t really think there are too many challenges for the Flash community with HTML5. We believe strongly in Flash and think that it’s a great medium to produce gaming content. There are a lot of new ways to create and distribute games and we think more choice is great because it means more creators become part of the community based on what they are most comfortable with.

Is your summit likely to change to reflect the growing number of web developers who are supporting HTML5?
Right now we’re just Flash focused but see the lines blurring for game developers that are creating awesome content and choosing different ways to create and distribute it. This year we don’t have a lot of HTML5 content, but we certainly see the conference changing to reflect the trends within the online games space. For example, we’ve definitely focused more on mobile and Facebook platforms for game developers in the past year or two as it’s become more prominent.

Are there any plans to bring the Flash Gaming Summit to other continents?
Hopefully in the future, but not right now.

What does the future hold for the Flash Gaming Summit?
Bigger, bolder and better. We want to continue to draw the top talent in our community and be a host to innovation and progression. That’s what Mochi Media has always stressed and what we’ve been working so hard to do. As the Flash games industry continues to grow, so will Flash Games Summit and Mochi Media.

Although this year’s event is already sold out, we encourage people interested in Flash gaming to visit www.flashgamingsummit.com and sign-up for the latest news and updates on events. We’ll also be live streaming the event with our premier sponsor Adobe’s support, so they can catch up on the day even if they aren’t able to attend.

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