As we begin our build up to GDC09, we talk to Pierre Carde, the man taking the reigns of Game Connection America. In this in-depth interview, the head of Connection Events explains what the unique format offers to attendees of the â??speed-dating business machine for game makersâ??.

Q&A: Game Connectionsâ?? Pierre Carde

DEVELOP: Could you explain a little more about what you mean by Game Connection being a ‘business meeting machine for games makers’?

It is actually pretty tough to define the population gathering the developers, the producers and all the players participating in the building of a game, including all the sub contractors who in many cases will contribute for only a part of the game. Each one of them providing a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, each piece being essential but you cannot see any of them when you look at the final result. For us, all these companies creating the game, making it happen, are the game makers.

Game Connection is a unique speed-dating event for business-focused game makers. It is a one-stop shop to meet face-to-face with dozens of targeted potential partners involved in all stages of the production pipeline, from the concept to the outsourcing, publishing, distribution and financing, in back-to-back 30-minute meetings.

For the video game industry, as for other sectors, the key to building and developing great relationships is communication and networking. That happens in other shows in the industry of course. Where we differentiate is in our optimisation approach.

We have a very powerful tool for setting up upstream meetings through our website. This enables the attendees to gain time over the pre-screening, but also to gain a lot of time on their agendas and schedules as all the meetings are optimised via a dedicated algorithm in order for everyone to meet everyone they want. Then, during the event, we also offer additional meetings between buyers and exhibitors, which may have free slots available.

Nothing is mechanic in the process, it all comes down the participants and who they want to meet but the added value of the meeting system and the agenda optimisation make it so efficient that we like to call it a ‘business meeting machine’.

Thus, Game Connection is an outstanding optimisation machine for the video game makers who want to make business fast, with a great number of meetings. This is the reason why this is a ‘business meeting machine for game makers’.

DEVELOP: How have you improved on the previous Game Connection events, and what have you learned from past years?

We have been organising the Game Connection since 2001 and through the years we have learned many lessons. With eight years of Game Connection behind us, Connection Events has developed true expertise in bringing events to the video game industry. Through the years, we have built an extensive worldwide network, and we listen carefully to the expectations of the worldwide industry. Thus, we have built a solid reputation in the videogame sector.

At the very beginning, the event was focusing only on developers willing to pitch their projects to publishers. It is now a unique and complete market place for games, from concept to finished games, but also for services, including outsourcing, QA, localisation, middleware and many more.

What has changed over the years is first that our attendees know the event in and out and take a full benefit of it.

Most of them have more than 30 profiled business meetings in three days. The market itself is also widening its spectrum with more platforms available on the market than ever but also with a lot of new distribution model including of course digital distribution as well as free to play or iPhone changing the business environment. We pay a lot of attention to those changes, making sure we always have the appropriate buyers and sellers at the event.

DEVELOP: What is the potential for those who attend the event this year? Can those who visit expect to leave with several constructive meetings behind them?

The potential is huge. With an average $1 million generated by the event for our exhibitors, Game Connection is today perceived by most as the best choice for developers and services companies.

Recent surveys conducted by major trade bodies including UK, Canadian and Scandinavian associations have shown that Game Connection is the favourite event in the game industry, not only or the quality of the food or the organisation but also for the financial results, the business generated thank to it.

Each year, more and more meetings are organised during the event, bringing to profitable collaborations, thanks to the Game Connection meetings but also downstream through the online meeting system and the marketplace tool.

However, even though having more attendees each year is the sign that the event works well, we do not want it to grow too much. Our main objective is to bring quality along with the quantity. And for the moment this goal is reached as each year a lot of business is done during the Game Connection. The event is not just about meetings, it is also a lot about making concrete business deals, selling and buying video games and services.

What people should expect from Game Connection is that they will be happy but tired at the end of the event, because 30 meetings in a row can be exhausting. But the efficiency associated compensates.

DEVELOP: Is there any real reason to visit the American event as well as the European show?

Your question could also be ‘why two Game Connections?’. Basically, because this is what our exhibitors demand. The appropriate rhythm would be for a lot of our attendees to have four meetings per year, one every three months – each of them international, possibly with a specific focus in some cases.

Finally, GC Europe and GC America take place in two key dates during the year. GC Europe is during the fourth quarter of the year. And the GC America takes place during the 1st quarter, which is usually a very dynamic period for the industry, along with only one other event, GDC, which is not a competitor or a threat as it is complementary to Game Connection.

The American event is a little bit more US centric than the European event but, to be honest, 60 to 70 per cent of the attendees will be similar. They just need to meet regularly. You don’t need business partners just once a year.

DEVELOP: What format does Game Connection America take? How is an environment for constructive networking created?

Game Connection America takes almost the same format as Game Connection Europe, the only difference being that it takes place within GDC, in downtown San Francisco. But basically this is the same upstream and downstream organisation.

I think that to be created, a constructive networking needs some essential environment features and basic principles, which are given by Game Connection. The concept of Game Connection is to organise meetings in closed rooms, which is quite unusual for a trade event but which guarantees privacy, confidentiality, and a better understanding of the different parties. Thus, networking is eased and optimised.

The networking is online to start with, but the event also offers a lot of onsite opportunities including a permanent bar right in the centrum of the event or first class sited meals to discuss further business opportunities

DEVELOP: Are you expecting attendees from most of the major publishers and developers?

Every year we are very pleased to welcome the major (and the less major) publishers and developers of the video game industry. This year again, 95 per cent of the top 20 publishers will be there, some of them with five teams, each of them focused on a specific segment or need. But developers and outsourcing companies do not only want to meet with the major players. The global growth of the industry has opened the way to the rise of more national and regional players, very active on their playground and able to generate significant revenues for companies opened to regional or local deals. And the newcomers of the casual, online or cell phone market are also eager to sign great projects.

The market as it is today is very fragmented and we are happy to have some of the largest independent developers and outsourcing companies in the world as well as more specialised, focused or sometimes only smaller players, presenting innovative projects and services to the appropriate buyers. Size is not the issue here; it’s more about meeting the right partner. And this is what our speed dating system provides.

DEVELOP: Has feedback from previous Game Connection events been positive about the merits of attending?

They love it.

We have built a solid reputation in the industry and have a lot of participants who come back year after year. The newcomers mainly hear about the Game Connection thanks to a very good word of mouth. We have a really high satisfaction rate and we work hard year after year to meet the needs of the industry. No other event is solely focused on business like the Game Connection and it has become the ‘must-attend’ event for business-focused professionals of the international industry.

The average revenue generated by our exhibitors is 300 times higher than the price we charge. It’s worth playing again and again.

DEVELOP: Will there be more traditional exhibiting and presentations at the event, or is the focus solely on networking event?

Game Connection is not a networking event as such. People won’t hang around, a glass of Champaign in their hand, trying to grab the man with cash. It’s more efficient but also tougher in the way that you have 30 minutes to convince that it is worth seeing you again, and if you see 30 potential buyers, each of them will see around the same number of projects or companies.

Now, regarding traditional exhibits, we organise that for our main partners next to the central coffee are but the main focus is kept on pre-organised meetings because this is where business can really start.

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