It's the Alexa team’s second year attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC). The team is excited and eager to meet with our fellow gamers to discuss the future of games and development. We bring with us new features, development environments, and Alexa skills to inspire and educate the GDC audience about voice-first games.
Voice fits into the gaming industry in many facets. It is both the oldest and newest form of gaming. Whether you are yelling at your screen in excitement, or talking to your fellow players over chat, your voice plays a role in your gameplay more than you may think. While communication with a game has existed since the beginning, we are still exploring what it means to create innovative voice gaming experiences.
Yesterday at GDC, we participated in Amazon Developer Day by hosting a session on how developers can leverage the Alexa Skills Kit to give their games a voice. I had the opportunity to present with Alexa gaming leaders Paul Larpenteur and Chris Morrow, Earplay CEO Jon Myers, and X2 Games Co-Founder Zai Ortiz on the future of voice games. We also discussed some best practices for building voice gaming experiences, drawing from successful game skills like Choose Your Own Adventure, voice-enabled board games, and interactive stories from Earplay. Here are some of the biggest takeaways.
Think About What Your Customers Want to Hear
Larpenteur shared customer feedback from two voice games, Beat the Intro and Choose your Own Adventure. The key takeaway from these examples was to listen to the customer (pun intended). We analyzed some positive and negative reviews, and learned how to adjust the skill experience accordingly. For example, in Choose your Own Adventure, customers would have liked to skip over the narration of the story that they had already heard. They were saying “Skip” or “Fast forward,” which Alexa originally would not react to in the skill. The skill-building team integrated this into their interaction model, with slot confirmation, in order to appease their customers and gain a higher rating.
Test the Boundaries of Voice
Next, Ortiz shared how X2 Games created and conceptualized the new voice-enabled board game, St.Noire. With a background as a film director for movies such as Iron Man, Tron, and Mission Impossible, Ortiz has extensive experience working with extraordinary visuals. When he was introduced to voice games, he saw a major opportunity and wanted to see how far voice could go. He brought together a diverse team of people from various areas of industry, all unrelated to voice, to figure out how to translate a visually captivating experience to voice. With St.Noire, not only do you get a board game with multiple scenarios to discover, but you get a fully immersive experience that challenges you and brings the gameplay to a new dimension.
Don’t Be Afraid to Venture Outside the Norm
Finally, Morrow and Myers talked about where they see voice in the near future of gaming. Consider how voice is already connecting players globally, or allows for continuous gaming on the go. All said, the power of voice invites players to engage more deeply with your games, whether it is standalone, companion, integrated, or something yet to be discovered. Customers have already purchased 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Building an Alexa game skill expands your reach and enables your skill to reach millions of potential customers. Looking forward to the future, the opportunity and earning potential for voice-game developers is large and growing by the day.
In summary, right now, there are some obvious subcategories of games with Alexa. The first are standalone voice-first games, such as Yes Sire, that provide a fully immersive experience with audio. The second trending category is voice-companion games that enhance your currently existing game or fandom, such as Call of Duty and Pikachu Talk. The final category of games is integrated games, or games that redefine the boundaries of voice and where it can go. We see this in skills that feature Echo Buttons or reconstruct traditional board game mechanics to incorporate voice. But there are many more facets of the voice-game industry that have yet to be discovered. At Alexa, we’re inspired by how the developer community is already using voice to empower their game, and excited to see where it is taking the game industry next.
Connect with the Alexa Team at GDC
We are eager to hear what the gaming community thinks about this movement with Alexa Games. There are multiple opportunities to experiment with voice technology and meet with the Alexa team during GDC. If you’re attending GDC in person, find us at the Amazon Booth in the Exhibit Hall in Moscone Center South on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Learn more about Alexa and GDC here.
If you aren’t at GDC this week, or need a break from the conference hustle, join us on Twitch for our day-long live-streaming sessions during which we’ll dive into best practices and coding techniques for voice games. Register for the live streams here.
Finally, we will be hosting a post-GDC workshop and hackathon in San Francisco in April! Take what you have learned from GDC and apply at the AWS Loft on April 9-10. Register for the workshop and hackathon at the links below: