In 2019, 8000 games were added to the Steam store. This does not include mobile games,console exclusives, in-browser games, or games otherwise not available on Steam. At best, the most avid gamer can complete fewer than 3% of 2019’s releases.
Movies have reviews. A new TV show is discoverable by channel surfing. Music is part of everyday life. But how do we learn which video games are worth our time? Word-of-mouth and event marketing.
E3 is the “premier trade event for the video game industry.” E3 is for AAA. The expo hall is where retailers decide between Skyrim or Vermintide, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Skate, Call of Duty or another shooter. The press conferences provide content for journalists, from hinting the Elder Scrolls 6 every year to announcing new consoles. Some avid gamers choose to attend but most either stream the press conferences at home or read articles as they get published.
At this time, E3 is still scheduled for June 9-11th. Organizers report that they are “monitoring and evaluating the situation daily,” even as the City of Los Angeles is in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19. Between the Coronavirus scare and iam8bit resigning as creative director, this year’s E3 is full of unknown variables.
Covid-19’s Latest Victim
Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) hosts a series of regional gaming conventions designed with the consumer in mind. Nerds gather for a weekend of tabletop and video games. There are panels with subjects such as cosplay design, game analysis, and Q&As with big name developers.Larger companies, such as Capcom and Bethesda, host parties for their fans. Smaller companies,including indie developers, take advantage of the visibility that the expo hall grants them.Consumers are granted the opportunity to win swag, demo upcoming games, and meet the creators behind their favorite games. PAX helps gamers better curate their wishlist.
Even with the confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New England, no PAX-related illnesses have been reported (aside from the usual PAX pox). This is likely due to increased sanitation practices by PAX enforcers, exhibitors, attendees, and BCEC employees.
The Game Development Conference (GDC)is the main professional event of the industry.Designed as a networking event, it brings together programmers, designers, sound and visual artists, producers, and other vital members of the community. At GDC, mentors take on protégés, creators form studios, and indies find publishers.
GDC 2020 is a confirmed victim of Coronavirus. One-by-one large companies pulled out due to increasing panic around this virus. Large companies, with large pools of resources, can afford to pull out of one industry event. Smaller studios and indie developers do not have this luxury.Many of these creators saved their money to purchase plane tickets, hotel accommodations and GDC badges. All for the opportunity to showcase demos and pitch ideas to publishers that are no longer attending GDC.
GDC was finally postponed on February 28th at 7pm. The non-refundable $249-$2,399 badges are allegedly being refunded within 6 weeks. This news gave those with Airbnb reservations less than 48 hours to cancel their reservations with no penalty. What is not refundable is airfare. The average GDC attendee is still in the hole $200+ in air travel expenses.
The Game Development Awards and Independent Games Festival have also been postponed due to their direct ties to GDC. It is now likely that Untitled Goose Game will receive the Seumas McNalley award nearly a year after it’s release date, when the joke is no longer funny.
It is unknown what the future holds for physical gaming events. Later this month marks the second annual GameDev.World, a virtual conference that live translates talks by industry experts. While GameDev.World is free, the event is doubling as a fundraiser benefitting the GDC Relief Fund.
The fund, started by Wings Interactive, is geared toward assisting indie developers burned by the lack of GDC 2020. To apply for assistance or to donate, please visit: https://wingsfund.me/gdcrelief
Sources: Batchelor, J. (2020, March 2). Industry rallies to offer relief after GDC cancellation.
GamesIndustry.Biz: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-03-02-industry-rallies-to-offer-relief-after-gdc-cancellation Calvin, A. (2020, January 2).
Over 8,000 games were released on Steam in 2019, according to SteamSpy. Pcgamesinsider.Biz. https://www.pcgamesinsider.biz/news/70259/over-8000-games-were-released-on-steam-in-2019-according-to-steamspy/ COVID-19 Update. (2020).
iam8bit. (2020, March 5). iam8bit on Twitter. @iam8bit. https://twitter.com/iam8bit/status/1235686367264301056