What do you get when you mix a respected game conference brand in Eastern Europe and Russia, a busy week of events and conferences in San Francisco around the cloud and social gambling, and a venue location near Chinatown? You get Sociality Rocks! San Francisco, a small but focused conference organized by a small team with a very specific mission amidst a very busy week in one of the busiest cities for game industry events.
Sociality Rocks, held in San Francisco on April 22-24 last month, is one of the best known conferences in Eastern Europe and Russia focused on the social and mobile games ecosystem. It’s the fifth iteration of this conference but the first to be held in the United States.
Conference content, delivered by heavyweight names and companies such as Chillingo, GREE, Kabam and Glu Mobile, focused on independent publishing, platforms, monetization, user acquisition — and particularly the Eastern European markets and the rise of social and mobile gambling games, reflecting the trend of mobile game developers worldwide to seriously consider the possibilities in gambling-style games. The body of content overall was solid, foundational, insightful at times, but likely familiar to many local developers. For the Eastern European congregation of over 100 developers in attendance, it was very likely more illuminating, especially because access to such content and connections isn‘t as easy to come by from half the world away.
Opportunities for Eastern European developers to learn from, and connect with, local social and mobile game powerhouses was one of the main objectives for Yulia Tarasova, the Sociality Rocks! Conference founder, in bringing the conference stateside. “The Eastern European region is one of the richest regions of developers and here (in the United States) is the best market for developers to spread their product. So that’s why this was our first attempt to bring social European developers to the US, because it’s a problem for most Eastern Europeans to come to the US.
“At this event in SF we can say without any doubt we brought the best speakers for social and mobile that can’t be heard anywhere but in the US, because many of these companies would never reach Eastern Europe because it’s too far,” Tarasova added later.
Even though the conference presentation room was not often more than half full, the organizers weren’t concerned as that was not their focus for this event.
“(This time) it is not a business event, not an event for making money. Our task was from the very beginning was to break the borders, to show the possibilities of both sides of the planet to each other (and exchanging ideas),” said Tarasova. “We didn’t expect 500 people for the first event, for Eastern European strangers. We wanted to show a great range of developers with strong products who can add value to the US market.”
Further adding to the road show feel for Eastern European developers was the addition of one hour office tours at mobile mainstays PlayHaven and Zynga on the 24th, largely for the benefit of non-local developers who might not otherwise have the chance to see the inner workings of a studio in the United States.
What does Sociality Rocks! hope to accomplish for the next conference hosted in San Francisco? According to Tarasova, they’ll rethink their objectives for 2014 with the possibility of a new venue and a focus more on attracting more local developers to balance out the mix of attendees. Those steps would certainly take the conference from a showcase event for developers abroad to a more profitable, more heavily attended event with a balanced mix of attendees.
But this time around, Sociality Rocks! Laid a foundation by connecting an interesting strategy of integrating proven but useful content from recognized names in the mobile games industry to a heavily eastern European audience one might see at their Kiev event, which is a rare kind of alchemy in San Francisco. Following the path Tarasova outlined, Sociality Rocks! San Francisco could evolve into a valuable boutique event, while retaining its uniquely Eastern European and Russian character, for mobile and social game development communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
– Paul Philleo, Contributing Editor