Events remain an integral part of the games industry, especially in B2B, where the loss of physical events has disrupted the investment pipeline. For Ant Workshop, which relies heavily on work for hire projects such as developing console ports of PC games, physical events play an important role in securing contracts.
“For us, consumer shows are always good from a B2B perspective for scouting the floor and seeing if there are any promising titles we’d like to work on that haven’t got their console plans organised,” says Gowland. “And there are just the opportunities you find out about from bumping into someone you see maybe two or three times a year and catching up with what they’re working on.
“We’ve tried a B2B digital event and it was okay, but often it’s just been easier to use our contacts and email people directly to organise meetings, rather than enter into the ‘speed dating’ pitching systems.
“I think a number of events companies haven’t got their pricing sorted out in a way that makes sense for companies of our [small] size as well; they’re struggling to figure out what value they are really adding in the digital space, while still trying to charge physical event prices to cover their own overheads – which is understandable for them, but really doesn’t work for us.”
Digital events are more accessible though, not requiring travel or accommodation expenses for attendees, which is an undeniably positive aspect. But we’ve also seen changing attitudes towards physical events within the industry in recent years, as large companies like Sony and Nintendo have stepped back from the traditional format of E3. We looked at the impact of E3’s cancellation earlier this year.
For some companies like indie publisher No More Robots, the loss of physical events hasn’t proven an issue.
“At the end of last year, I decided that No More Robots was not doing any travelling in 2020,” says founder and CEO Mike Rose. “Shows had become such a time sink for us in the previous year, and I felt like it was time we could have spent doing actual useful things for our games... Not doing physical shows, if anything, has been a good thing for us, and allowed us to power through and have an incredible year.”
It’s important to recognise that this recent industry boom (or in some segments, bust) is directly tied to the pandemic. Game companies are currently reaping the benefits of our new normal under coronavirus, but it is ultimately a temporary arrangement. Of course, even with an effective vaccine, “normal” could still be a long way away. Until then, the industry’s ability to adapt thus far can help prepare it for what lies ahead.
As Splash Damage CFO Ben Hopkinson points out: “I think you need only look at the record figures that games are pulling in these days to see the resilience of the industry.”