How important is it to have a presence at major industry award shows?
We are just over halfway through the year and over the summer months many games professionals will travelling across Europe for some major events and awards.
The Develop Conference and Awards takes place in Brighton this week, where the great and the good of games development head to the British seaside to hear new ideas, make new connections, meet old friends and enjoy some well-deserved praises. What impact do these combined awards shows and expo events have for the people working within the games industry, and is it worth making the trip?
Tom Beardsmore at Coatsink has a very clear view: “Big shows with award ceremonies are incredibly important. Having a presence on a show floor is particularly beneficial due to the exposure to the public, press and influencers. This exposure is just as important – if not more so – as the quality of the product itself. The games industry has become increasingly aware that getting a product out to market is one thing, but getting it found, bought and played is another. You can’t assume people will magically find your products.”
Sean Walsh, PR and marketing manager at Voofoo, agrees: “Although it can take considerable time and effort – not to mention costs – to enter award shows, they still have an important role to play in the games industry."
This is particularly true for indies and for studios who are still growing, Walsh continues: “Award shows give us an opportunity to positively showcase our passion and creativity, things which might otherwise go unrecognised in the wider industry. Award shows can help us develop closer links with our peers and give us all an opportunity to promote innovation whilst encouraging healthy competition."
Major industry events have the power to contribute significantly toward this visibility and accessibility of games. Many smaller studio devs gain real-time access to their audiences through demos, enabling them to witness gamers’ first-time experience of their products right before their eyes. These live-tests enable an unprecedented level of feedback on a scale not easily available elsewhere.
As with all success, both preparation and timing are key.
"Before having a presence at an award show it's important to have a released game” explains Andrew Bennison, MD at Prospect Games. “Events like these are great for networking, promoting your brand and securing deals but it always helps to have a released game or two under your belt. If you want to stand out from the crowd then first focus on making something worthy of their attention, who knows you might even win an award."
Naturally there is work to do to prepare and follow-up all the on-the-ground work done at events to reap full benefit from investment in attending. Some of the basics such as early booking of travel and accommodation can help minimise costs, but if you are in crunch or simply cannot fit the trip in the schedule it’s still possible to have a presence at awards as a nominee or even winner without physically being there on the night.
For Zoe Matthews, marketing manager at Realtime UK, the impact of these events goes beyond a single game.
“From a marketing perspective it’s great to have your work and studio recognised by the industry and the brand awareness and networking opportunities associated with these awards are a bonus,” she says.
Beardsmore agrees, adding: “It's nice to be nominated for specific award ceremonies too, but often awards don't correlate with commercial success."
So award-winner or not, presence at events has its own value and it’s important not to over-invest emotionally in actually winning an award. Awards are a welcome outcome but “not the be all and end all” as Matthews describes.
“Giving the artists the opportunity to celebrate their hard work is just as important” she says.
Jane Forsyth, head of production at Realtime UK highlights the opportunity for acknowledging the hard graft: “The results of the blood, sweat and tears that go into any production should be applauded. There is so much talent across the world it should be an opportunity to celebrate the industry as a whole so any event that does that gets my vote.
"Being in a room together with peers gives everyone the opportunity to converse about new ideas and form new relationships over a well-deserved glass of prosecco. It gives you a chance to congratulate new companies just starting out who may not be on your radar as well as the veterans who are leading the way forward. It’s a great way to reward managers and artists for their hard work throughout the year."
All in all, the commercial impact, networking opportunity and camaraderie found at major industry award shows mean that presence at these events is both enjoyable and worthwhile. Winning an award would be the icing on the cake.