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      Game Culture

      Let's Talk: A Couch Co-op Work Space

      Let's Talk: A Couch Co-op Work Space

      I was reading through one of my favorite start-up culture evangelists, Pat Riley of GAN, and he brought up something I’ve seen trending more and more the past year: no cell phone zones in offices.

      As someone who’s holistically connected to their devices more often than I should be, it resonated with me, and I had to move forward with it.

      Check out this photo that Pat was so willing to share from HATCH in Bergen, Norway. No Phone Zones are for refreshing your mind, switching gears, and keeping it analog.

      I couldn’t resist but to collaborate with some like-minded champions who want to turn their no-cell phone zone couches into couch co-op zones.

      • Simple to learn accessible controls, whether you had a Nintendo when they were new, or are just playing it for the first time.

      • Game design that borrows the best from the past while looking forward to the future.

      • Fun for Fun’s sake to feed your creative side

      Any startup accelerators, co-work spaces or offices looking for some retro indulgence to support your team, we’re eager to help. We’re selling a bundle at a cost that has everything you need to get at it:

      • A console of your choice, at cost.

      • Two controllers

      • A game of your choice, at cost.

      Let’s support one another through a medium we can all relate to. Want to chat about it or share photos of your Mega Cat infused office? Let’s talk!

      Better Branding with Games

      Better Branding with Games

      Importance of Having Brand Games

      Branded games give your audience an extra way of interacting with your brand. Games are the only form of media that you have to actively engage in to utilize. While music and movies can be enjoyed by an engaged audience, most of that audience is consuming the media passively, with something else on their mind. Video games require active participation to continue the experience, which leads to higher consumer levels of engagement. Increased engagement with a brand will help keep customer retention and drive consumer promotion via word of mouth, which is some of the most effective forms of customer acquisition.

      Branded games can increase purchases of your product or services. Due to increased engagement, customers not only feel more connected to the brand, but they also find themselves thinking about it more, and the often someone thinks about something, the more likely they are to buy that product, service, or the more likely they are to recommend it to a friend. These purchases can provide rewards in the game, giving positive reinforcement which will only add to customer engagement, which then leads to more purchases, and the cycle continues.

      The game can act as an avenue for sales and promotions. The use of the game as a platform to give out coupons and promote sales gives you a way to utilize the gaming market to further enhance engagement that will lead to the cycle of greater engagement and purchases.

      Games can be used as a tool rather than just for fun. Gamifying aspects of anything in daily life will enhance the user experience, so even if your brand game is for your internal sales department, the added level of entertainment can be used to drive performance and otherwise increase the value of your company.

      Games provide avenues of social sharing. Having a game that is addicting and fun to play can encourage players to share it with their friends. If that game then has a high score feature, the players may feel a need to one-up their friends leading to more game time and more engagement with the product, leading to greater brand engagement, bringing more customers in the engagement cycle for your business. If people can share their high scores to a wider audience, like on social media, not only will that share your name with a wide network of people, but it will be in an unexpected way. Unexpected advertising can gain customer attention in greater ways as they are less prone to tuning it out in the way that it happens when ads are in places people know, thus they cannot passively ignore them.

      Giving your app a theme, and releasing it at a key time can not only give you a way to engage with consumers at multiple times throughout the year but can also help build your reputation. For example, apps related to Soccer/Football around the time of the World Cup explode in popularity in the months leading up to the championship game. An app like this for your business can reach a wider audience then you may normally reach because it takes advantage of other events editing that will cross-promote your app, which means that any world cup promotion is in some way promotion for all World cup apps. This same ideology can be applied to events such as the Summer/Winter Olympics, the SuperBowl, the Stanley Cup, or any other large event. These events can provide large seasonal promotions for your business that can be used to keep your business feeling fresh and connected to the people.

      Overall, giving your brand a game will utilize the gaming medium to leverage enhanced consumer engagement, and using this as a tool to create deeper engagement and customer retention. Using a game as a way to enhance consumer connections can be doubled as an extra avenue of communication and ways to keep connected, which is important as a way to find new ways to remain connected in a world of endless advertisements and information.

      How Mega Cat Studios Can Help:

      Mega Cat Studios has been committed to making apps and games for businesses as well as for ourselves. We are focused on the consumer and want to ensure that we are always providing the best experience possible rather than creating a product for a quick sell. We have worked for companies to make apps for the Winter Olympics, for Woodstock, and apps that are used year-round. Our apps are used to increase branding for different companies across a wide variety of sectors, and we have worked on products for food companies, entertainment companies, public sectors, and more.

      Our headquarters is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but our team is distributed across the globe. Our team works to make sure that you’ll have the best game or platform to engage with your consumer base and keep them captivated with your brand, business, or company.

      Our company has been able to take the technical lead on products across all forms of media, giving us a diverse skill set that we can bring together to complete any project you have in mind. We can take the technical leadership on any upcoming or existing projects and lead you to a product that you’ll be ready to ship out to bring in new consumers as well as strengthening connections with your current consumer base.

      Mega Cat Studios has streamlined our communication system in the house, letting us focus more time on you, and giving you the ability to communicate with us at every facet of production, ensuring that your product is exactly how you envisioned it.

      All-in-all, Mega Cat Studios is a group of dedicated gamers who are looking to share their love of gaming by making engaging products that will keep audiences entertained and continually engaging with your brand to keep consumers excited about your brand.

      A Case for Local Multiplayer

      A Case for Local Multiplayer

      Couch Cushion Roots

      I picked up my first controller when I was 7. I spent many afternoons at my babysitter’s; she had two teenage sons, and naturally, they owned an Xbox. I spent hours gaming beside them on the couch, getting my ass kicked over and over. I’d never had more fun.

      Many of my best memories from childhood consisted of playing Halo (2001) on co-op with a couple of friends, slaughtering the Covenant—or each other—late into the night. Those experiences where what got me into gaming. Next thing I knew, I was playing Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005) on the bus before school. It was a 40-minute ride, which gave me and my friends just enough time to show off whatever new improvement to our houses we’d just gotten, and perhaps vandalize one another’s gardens.

      Local multiplayer has been around ever since video games were introduced into living rooms across America. Pong (1975) is arguably one of the first and most renowned introductions of multiplayer for players; it was multiplayer-only, easy to understand, and non-committal, making it incredibly easy to pick up for just about anyone.

      From there, local multiplayer began to blossom; couch co-op came to define much of the 1980s and 1990s for gaming, with just about every console supporting local multiplayer. It was common to have numerous sets of controllers, and you would have to bring them along if you were going to visit a friend --heaven forbid one of their controllers ends up busted.

      This trend continued into the 2000s with the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube. The mid-2000s also saw the proliferation of the wireless controller, making couch co-op even more fun and convenient. However, a contender emerged in the 21st century that would prove to be an undeniable threat to couch co-op and the greatest shift in gaming multiplayer since its nascence.

      The Rise of Online Multiplayer

      Xbox Live was released in 2002 on the original Xbox. It wasn’t the first attempt at bringing the World Wide Web to gaming consoles, but where the Dreamcast failed, Xbox Live soared. In two years, it managed to acquire one million users strong. Nintendo and Sony followed suit, with the Nintendo Wifi Connection Service and PlayStation Network, respectively; the latter is still around. Couch co-ops and LAN parties suddenly weren’t necessary; all you needed was a broadband connection, a headset, and a console, and you could have a night of gaming with the boys, even if they were continents away.

      You no longer needed to walk or drive to a friend’s place and be forced to use their crappy second controller with the missing B-button. And if that wasn’t awesome enough, you could also play with anyone - you no longer needed a friend to play with. Matchmaking let you duke it out and play with anyone around the world, while MMO’s like World of Warcraft (2004) allowed you to join an entire community of players from the convenience of your own home. Guilds, raids, and entire economies were accessible in a virtual fantasy world. In short, the magic of the online multiplayer was on full display.

      However, it also contributed to a significant disconnect. Those with whom you had once gamed were replaced with an anonymous crowd spanning the globe. They did not have a name or a face; at best, a vague username gave you an idea of who they were. There is only so much you can glean from someone named “catsbecauseyeah” on the internet. That anonymity—combined with the competition of many multiplayer games—has led to a problem: toxicity.

      Flaming, Raging, and Toxifying

      Online titans like League of Legends (2009) and CS:GO (2012) suffer this issue. Abusive and toxic behavior has swelled like pustules on the skin of otherwise pristine gaming experience. It’s expected to trash talk a bit with friends when playing together, but wishing death upon their families is a bit much.

      With more players flocking to competitive online gaming, the stakes have risen for them to play the best they can. In League of Legends or Overwatch (2016), your performance is reliant upon other nameless, faceless players with whom you have no other relationship with besides this strange, enforced codependency. Expecting strangers who have never met (and most likely will never meet) to work together is a tall order.

      Of course, it’s not impossible. The success of the aforementioned titles is a testament to that. But the evolution of multiplayer onto the online sphere has led to this progressive trap. Camaraderie is on the decline.

      Return to the Sofa?

      There is an undeniable intimacy in gaming beside a friend—or a foe. Online multiplayer has grown to be more and more dominant in modern gaming, so these experiences are growing rarer and rarer with each wave of titles.

      Who could pass up a classic LAN party with the lads? Or a round of Mario Kart (1992). Even in college, I find people would much rather play Overwatch sitting beside one another, rather than from their respective dorm rooms. Seeing the frustration on your friends’ faces in a rousing match of Super Smash Bros (2014) only makes the competition that much more juicy and personal - perfect for dorm feuds.

      Of course, I’m not a giant fan of everything about local multiplayer. I won’t necessarily argue for split-screen; I was never a big fan of being confined to half of the TV screen, and we all had that friend who’d “accidentally” glance at your half of the screen. But the days of Pictochat and LAN parties left behind an undeniable nostalgia for a good reason: they were effective. 343 Industries’ announcement that local multiplayer would make a return in upcoming Halo games was met with incredibly positive reception from fans.

      Pokemon Go (2016) is another title that found incredible success with local multiplayer, which turned out to be groundbreaking with its efficacy on mobile smartphones. It was a sweeping phenomenon that dominated 2016, encouraging players to meet up in real locations, support their respective teams, and catch Pokemon and hatch eggs together.

      The gaming industry would benefit from recreating these intimate experiences. Nintendo was praised for its announcement of the offbeat and DIY Nintendo Labo, which will without a doubt bring out the inner kid of many adults. With concerns over online toxicity, a relaxed and friendly approach to gaming like that of Nintendo’s is a breath of fresh air.

      Victory, defeat, and everything in between—these things constitute gaming. Win-states and loss-states elicit emotion, and those emotions are amplified when shared with another. Whether the gaming industry will set its sights back on local multiplayer is a mystery, but at least there’s hope.

      The Coffee Crisis Lessons: 3 Game Design Choices That Drive Organic Marketing

      The Coffee Crisis Lessons: 3 Game Design Choices That Drive Organic Marketing

      As the indie scene has grown and as Steam has lowered visibility for indie developers on its platform, discoverability for smaller studios is an incredible challenge. Even when you do all of what the marketing the gurus tell you to do, meaningful traction is hard to come by.

      Classic marketing advice usually includes some or all of the following:

      • Press releases
      • Soliciting reviews from bloggers and streamers
      • Social media marketing
      • Attending cons and expos
      • Building your email list

      We go hard on all of these points, with physical and digital boots to the pavement to drum-up exposure for our games, but we still feel like we have to claw and kick our way to every new player with these methods. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. It just means that by themselves they aren’t providing the number of players we think our games are capable of supporting.

      As we work with more publishers and as we become a more mature, experienced development team, we’re learning that key game design decisions can drive the organic traction and word-of-mouth marketing surrounding games, which means you need to think about marketing as you make the game, not after it’s completed.

      Here are three highlights from our process that are helping us find success:

      1. Look at your game with a rogue-like lens. Even if your game doesn’t fall squarely in the rogue-like genre, introducing elements of randomization and variations in play experiences add a great deal of replayability and also make your game more fun to stream. If your game is a single-play kind of game, you will get much less screen time and therefore have fewer people talking about it for any period of time.
      2. Twitch is a key organic channel, so test your game there as soon as you can. Giving streamers early copies of your game, even if it’s still in development, lets you see streamer and viewer reactions to your work before you’ve finalized all of the mechanics. For streamers, your game test sessions can be used for exclusive, private streams (if they so choose), and you get to learn about the potential traction of your game.
      3. Stream integration will be a big deal soon. Microsoft’s Mixer might not be the Twitch-killer they’re hoping for, but the stream integration technology is compelling. As streamers become even more important, expect viewers to be able to influence the gameplay, perhaps by voting on what happens next or donating to spawn bigger, badder enemies to torture the streamer. This is new, but we’re already seeing positive results from it.

      But how does that look in an actual game? This is what we are doing with Coffee Crisis:

      • We looked at our code and found ways to make it modular, reusing, and repurposing things we already made to extend replayability. Simple changes like adding shaders to characters to give them “elite” status all the way through building power-ups and randomized scenarios out of existing variables all come together to make the game more dynamic and to make each play-through feel different.
      • We started testing with streamers early on and have continued streamer testing as we make changes and adjust features. Going through a big block of video—sometimes five hours or more of a single stream—can feel tedious, but it’s an invaluable window into your game’s future.
      • We have also been working on Mixer integration, and the results there are also really exciting. Seeing viewers spawn more aliens to harass their favorite streamers (playfully) is always good for laughs, but more importantly, it’s good for the streamers, their viewers, and for the gameplay experience.

      As we continue to grow, we’re leaning into these sorts of approaches to game design more and more. The industry is evolving, of course, and there will be new organic opportunities to explore there, but the evolution of streaming is particularly interesting and has a lot of potential for helping indie studios like ours get a foothold and directly engage gamers. I'd suggest any Indie of any size take advantage of this kind of opportunity to watch people play your games, give feedback, and see what really resonates with them.