Gaming Not Just for The Hardcore, Boston’s Talent Pool is Hot, and More Takeaways from MIT Sloan’s Business In Gaming Conference

3/14/11Follow @xconomy

Thursday’s Business in Gaming conference, put on by MIT’s Sloan School of Management, showed me that gamers aren’t afraid to say what they really think. And that Facebook is really stirring debate in the industry, as it is in communication, commerce, advertising, and almost anything else we can think of. I caught a lot of candid comments from panelists, who represented all slices of the gaming industry: small indie startups, console developers, social gaming companies, big MMO players, VCs, and lawyers. Check below for a rundown of some of the points that really struck me.

—Gaming is a frontier with plenty of room for new participants. At the first panel I attended, called “The Game Entrepreneurs Play,” moderator Steve Charkoudian, who chairs Goodwin Procter’s technology transactions practice, noted the dominating presence of big names in console games (think Harmonix), social games (Zynga), and massively multiplayer online games (World of Warcraft). “Part of me wants to ask, ‘Are you crazy, what are you thinking?’” to the new entrepreneurs trying to break their way into the scene, Charkoudian said.

“There are more opportunities now for a small startup to make money than ever before,” said Eitan Glinert, creative director and founder of Cambridge-based indie game startup Fire Hose Games. “Because the market’s growing so much, all of a sudden these new channels are available.”

Thanks to Facebook and smartphones, online gaming has really cracked open to the masses, beyond the hardcore gamers who make a life of it (more on that later). Games are cheaper to develop, and thus don’t have to reap the millions of dollars that traditional, big console titles do, said North Bridge Venture Partners principal Dayna Grayson, a panelist on the entrepreneurs’ session.

There are plenty of “small, lean, nimble teams making games for less money,” agreed Ichiro Lambe, founder and president of Boston indie game firm Dejobaan Games.

—No one knows quite what to do with mobile yet. “There’s a lot of confusion and Wild Wild West to that market now,” Grayson said. “Confusion in the space means opportunities if you can figure it out before someone else.”

And growth with gaming on … Next Page »

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