Not just fun and games: Seeking tech behind video games

Three of the Top 10 games requiring Facebook logins are Israeli.

July 27, 2016 04:48
2 minute read.
CONFERENCE GUESTS try out a ByonData virtual experience in Tel Aviv yesterday.

CONFERENCE GUESTS try out a ByonData virtual experience in Tel Aviv yesterday.. (photo credit: NIV ELIS)

When 500 people gather in Tel Aviv on Wednesday for the 10th annual GameIS Developers conference, they’ll be talking about graphics, interactivity and user interaction.

Pokémon GO is likely to come up frequently.

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But behind these discussions will be a focus on technology, and its uses both in and out of the gaming world.

“Many big tech companies are looking for the related technologies. That’s how we persuaded them to come,” said Nir Miretzky, chairman of the board of GameIS, the gaming association that puts on the conference.

On the one hand, gaming is a profitable business in and of itself. For example, Finnish game company Supercell was valued at over $10 billion when it sold a majority stake to China’s Tencent in June. The video game industry in the US is bigger than the film industry. Israeli companies tend to specialize in “casual games,” those played for a little entertainment as opposed to the “AAA” Hollywood-style epic games that can engross players for hours on end.

Miretzky notes that three of the Top 10 games requiring Facebook logins are Israeli.

Games are also making their ways into non-game areas. A presentation to some of the foreign visitors attending the conference on Tuesday, for example, included Byondata, an Israeli platform that creates virtual reality experiences.

Byondata, which has, among other things, created a virtual reality experience for watching Israel’s sketch comedy show Eretz Nehederet, said it coordinated with ad firm McCann and luxury getaway company Veet on a VR game.

They sent 500 pink cardboard VR cases (similar to Google Cardboard, which lets people convert their smartphones into makeshift VR helmets) marketed at girls, to allow them to enjoy a virtual resort, and to find virtual keys: whoever found the most in the least amount of time won a weekend getaway. The game reached 11,000 players in less than two weeks, and clocked over 200,000 plays, reaching first place in the business category in the local app store.

Some of the same tools that underlie gaming experiences – such as integrating the real world with the virtual world, user interactions and data processing – have uses outside the gaming world.

That may be why a representative of Google’s Cloud platform, ostensibly a platform that has nothing to do with gaming, was in attendance.

Chris Keeling, director of product vision at game company WarGaming, said he was glad to come to see what technologies were making their way into the field. The company recently opened up an incubator of sorts, helping companies that are developing new gaming tech along. “We like to go and see where the development is being done,” he said.

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