Past, present and the near future of the events
Games Conference Guide Insights - February 2022
As a debate and dozens of polls inquiring if you are participating at DICE and GDC (or both) is still all the rage on various chat groups, I was asked to give a short presentation in front of representatives of European trade mission groups, chairmans, and association leaders including selected few event organisers. They said, please summarise events in 2021 and give us an overview how they will look in coming months.
I was puzzled. Wait a minute. Future of events? The future I see? The future you want to see? The future you want to present to your community or the future we imagine we would like to see? Not an easy task, but then I turned to my data and my expertise.
If we have learned one thing as we have entered the third year of the pandemic, it is that nothing is certain, and there is no magic bullet or a guarantee. I do believe that 2022 is a transition year. To help you create a picture of how I see the events this year, I give to you a few pointers that I was presenting during the call hosted by EGDF.eu.
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Where we are now
We are on the brink of a very interesting year. Many are patiently waiting for the restrictions to drop just like in Denmark or Ireland and with that lifting the wide travel bans. This doesn’t mean you will see mega (B2C) events popping up left and right. These will take more time. What I can share with you now is finding a venue big enough to accommodate a larger group is exponentially difficult this year, due to increased demand and increased rental prices. More on this below.
There are last minute changes to already announced events (date + format). We have been witnessing these throughout the whole last year. In fact there have been 50 changes to 307 events in total during 2021. Adding a day or shortening the length of a conference isn’t something new. This can be anything from additional networking opportunities to opening an expo showcase to the public. I would advise you to pay a close attention to events you are interested in, bookmark their website and socials and check back frequently. Or you know, visit the Game Conference Guide with a daily updated database.
Events are populating the calendar at a higher pace. Number of events announced per month was 27 in 2021. This is pretty high considering how many we are able to attend in a single month. I do not expect this number to increase though. 2021 was a very special year after a difficult period. With first lockdowns organisers have found themselves in a situation trying to find a way to operate and navigate among restrictions while pushing to organise “something” with restricted resources.
Last year brought a wide-range of events. From showcases targeting global audiences with announcements completely derailing plans of B2C events and their relevance, to highly specialised and curated competitions, awards and pitching sessions.
And let’s not forget about increased social anxiety and fatigue from virtual events hitting its tipping point where groups resigned and tried to stay away from digital offerings as far as possible.
Where we are heading
Virtual events are not going away. Tables have turned even for the biggest nay-sayers promising they will just do fine without events. Even with the zoom fatigue we will be seeing virtual events and highly specialised gatherings. Last year, we saw 307 events with pretty wide reach, few bold ones managed to pull off a “hybrid” or a complete physical activity. Kudos to all of them.
Today, Game Conference Guide tracks 110 events scheduled to happen this year. Out of all, 69% are physical first, meaning they are being organised as IRL event with virtual components attached to them. We will see them throughout the calendar, with established ones like Future Game Show, MIX, and others catering to PR agencies, studios and indies. A very good trend for everyone running on a tight budget with an added value of not travelling anywhere.
During this year, events will try to go into physical format, a more attractive alternative after such a long time spent behind computer screens. Some organisers are looking into dividing the attendees into two groups: those that are not able to travel can participate virtually usually a day or two before the event will welcome guests on-site. I do not think that many will be accepting meetings while enjoying drinks with fellow peers and doing a call with someone attending virtually. Some virtual only events are adding physical meet-ups to boost the networking and brand awareness.
Event industry was heavily hit with restrictions but also with on-going uncertainty. And to pull off a full experience takes not just time, but also a bit of luck. With prices from venues going up reacting to increased demand and catering to groups who moved the dates from 2021 to 2022, the production has risen which automatically means higher ticket and showfloor space. B2C events will shrink in size significantly and they will struggle to attract companies, and attendees throughout the year. By my estimates, the attendee levels are going to decrese by 40-60% compared to 2019.
Speaking about ticketing, virtual offerings are going to be monetized as well at every B2B event. Sure, you will have more discounts popping up closer to the event, but getting a complete virtual offering for free is going to be very rare. In 2021, average price for a single B2B pass was $96 and 42$ for a B2C event.
Q1 2022 is very slow compared to 2021 (this is the point when events started to become more aware how to run them), and all eyes are glued to DICE, GDC and PG Connects London which looks like another proper big event with international audience reminding us how we were conferencing in 2019. Good luck to Dave, Chris & the team!
Where we would like to be
I miss events. And I can’t believe I am saying this: I miss big halls and expensive production blasting new flashy images to my retina every second. Are events going to be the same as in 2019? The “new normal” is going to be massively different. There are many who suffered, struggled and till this day are trying to figure out how to make connections and generate leads. Social anxiety is going to be prevalent.
There will be more events to choose from, which of course might create FOMO (fear of missing out), head-aches with planning, but also pressure on organisers themselves, how to be different + justify costs of travelling and spending time moving to the destination country. Tickets and travel will be booked on the last minute as well.
I do hope, events in 2022 will pave the path for the next generation of B2B conferences. What I am still seeing is the same pattern (talks / workshops, expo, networking area), and while this has been a proven formula, and it is highly attractive, I would love to see something else on top. Yet, I can’t point a finger to it, I do hope we will see a new trends in this area.
Pay close attention to events you want to visit
B2C is going to struggle throughout the year
Smaller B2B events in size during H1, bigger with more international audiences in H2
Be prepared for packed Autumn / Fall
Lots of virtual events targeting newcomers / indies
Wide range of events to attend and connect with audiences around the world
Return of exclusive hi-class events
There is going to be FOMO = not events are for you
You can connect virtually, but serious business is done on-site
A perfect event doesn’t exist, or does it? (Point fingers if you can)
You have made it to the end! Thank you for reading.
What you have been reading is a summary of everything I am sharing every month via this newsletter. In December issue I was making bold predictions of what the events will look like in 2022. I will be returning to these predictions in coming months to see how right or wrong I was.
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[Game Conference Guide is tracking games industry & game developers’ events, trade shows, festivals, conferences and events around the world.]