Game Conference Guide: News #2
How the conferences will look like in 2021 - predictions and insights from the data.
Since the first lock-down, we were denied interactions like “Hey, cool t-shirt, did you worked on that game?” Long gone are conversations, like “I saw you running in the morning, join me for a coffee before the keynote starts.” We are not witnessing random meetings in lounges waiting for connecting flights or while buying last-minute presents in the gift shops. Out of office replies “Attending conference X, I will get back to you next week.” do not exists anymore. Same as lunches with the team, organising dinner for your clients, flying in to visit studios, making business face to face, bumping into friends on the streets.
Where are we now?
We are not preparing ourselves mentally, nor physically for attending conferences. We are simple not there. We are pretending to be there while we are at work, checking emails or messenger on a side. Our bodies and minds are at work, distracted by home environment. With so many events out there and new players introduced to the mix, an oversaturated environment with almost zero barrier to attend was created, where conferences started to look alike.
They are offering an alternative slowly losing its appeal enforced by increased fatigue and providing almost no flavour. And since they are sharing the same screen estate of your device, the size of the event is not promoted and doesn’t have much needed impact.
We are in the midst of a second wave of pandemic; countries are preparing themselves for quieter Christmas, they are again being closed down and the future is even harder to predict. Planning ahead for a physical event is for all organisers impossible. They do rely on a lot of moving parts and third parties out of their reach & control. Airlines, borders, hotels, hospitality services to name a few.
If you think 2021 it is going to change, I have a bad news for you.
To recap, here is where we are now:
Travelling is still a challenge and considered to be a risk (wide company travel bans are still in motion; many are afraid from using public or any transport in general)
Hospitality services (hotels, restaurants, cafes, bistros) are being crushed and challenged with new restrictions
Planning with a guarantee ahead of time is almost impossible
Organising relatively small gatherings (100+ people) is considered to be a black magic
Fatigue is getting stronger (from calls, video conferencing, using the same platforms, zero connection with the audience)
Making a strong connection (rapport and trust) with a new partner is immensely tough for newcomers
Flavour of all events is similar, in some cases the same, and the need for changing the palette is almost palpable.
Where are we heading?
In 2021, conference tourism will start to pick up very very slowly. Airlines, hospitality services and technical support from 3rd parties covering all cultural events across the board will need longer lead time to get back on their feet and cater especially to large events.
Consumer shows will be hit the hardest.
With social distancing restriction in place for all in-door venues, it is expected that huge shows will have radically changed layouts with wide corridors, limiting the attendees (through raffles, or give-aways, pre-orders), hands-off station (you can look but no touch) and long queues to control the crowds (one way in, other way out), like in museums to guide you through the whole offering not just the one you want to see. Summer might be a huge opportunity to host out-door festival-like events with higher attendance levels.
Adoption of hybrid model (=the most expensive option to run an event) is a must to stay relevant, yet driving online audience is getting harder.
With more events and webinars introduced into the online space, attendance is slightly dipping, and without a strong community support the numbers are plummeting. Almost every event in Q1 and Q2 is digital.
An increased number of hybrid events is introduced in Q2/Q3 (with limited capacity at the premises of the venues), with more curated events catering to smaller audiences and laser focused conferences are going to take place across the whole year with master classes and paid webinars. Some physical events are happening on regional levels, negative PCR/Antibody tests or proof of vaccination are mandatory.
Start of the summer season will start to shave off the fear from travelling by air, train and buses.
The wide availability of vaccines will untie hands for the organisers, attending event in Fall 2021 without confirmed negative PCR/antibody test/vaccine is probably not going to be allowed.
2021 is going to define, how conference business will be done onwards.
The race for the largest, biggest, loudest show is starting again. This will affect every event, even small conferences.
The hunger for connection, socialisation, face to face interaction is omni-present, the great news for all event organisers. Companies and trade missions wants to participate, and some are reliant on these connections. There will be and already is hunger for hi-quality events and I suspect there will be one or two marked in 2021 as a major victory that will kick-off the conference tourism for games industry in general and reinsure everyone that attending one is safe. It might end up as a huge party / hang, without any “business” where business is going to happen. Who knows. And I hope we will see each other there.
Partner of the Month
It can be you. Ping me.
November was the busiest month so far not just for the industry (next-gen console launches, big acquisitions, biggest amount of events) but also personally. Wearing more hats on my head it was constant shuffle between attending online events, watching streams, moderating QA sections, preparing for interviews and hosting guests. The plan to introduce new features to Game Conference Guide was affected by this and few of the near finished ones had to be postponed. Apologies for this.
I am talking of course about dark mode (night mode) and a completely new project I am planning to add – Twitter Bot at @gameconfguide announcing new events added to the database (many thanks to Robert Zubek for sharing his coding skills with me).
Currently Game Conference Guide is tracking 241 events (2020 (198) and 2021 (43) combined).
We are still 13 events away from the end of the 2020
Busiest day of 2020 was 13th of November with 11 events happening simultaneously
Thank you for reading and supporting Game Conference Guide. Consider sharing it with your peers, colleagues and community.
Pavol Buday (@spacejunker), curator of GCG
[Game Conference Guide is tracking games industry & game developers events, trade shows, festivals, conferences and events around the world.]