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The Future of Gaming Events is Digital

By Matthew Arcilla

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This year has been a tough one so far for the video game industry. While digital purchases and engagement are up, thanks to more people turning to games during quarantine, developers have been hurt by the economic fallout of Covid-19. Big events like GDC, EGX Rezzed, E3, and Gamescom have been canceled, making it a difficult time for developers to connect with publishers and audiences.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom, no pun intended.

Enter LudoNarraCon, an all-digital convention that was hosted entirely on the digital games platform Steam in April. Begun last year as an alternative to the loud, noisy conventions that could sometimes make for a less than ideal environment for developers to present games and for audiences to connect with them, LudoNarraCon is a three-day-long celebration and showcase of games that emphasize interesting and innovative narratives.

Initiated by Fellow Traveller, the independent publishers behind The Stillness of the Wind and last year’s emotional rideshare adventure NeoCab, LudoNarraCon delivers the beneficial aspects of a real-life convention within a digital/streaming platform. Panels and exhibitors streamed their games and presented talks on a loop, dodging the “if you miss it, you miss it” aspect of physical cons. 

“As a publisher, we’ve been going to a lot of international events since 2015,” managing director Chris Wright told PC Gamer. “We spent years going to PAX East, PAX West, Gamescom, Rezzed, and other events. It was just part of what indies do, right? You get a lot out of them, but increasingly, we felt like we weren’t getting that much value and we were spending our biggest marketing expense on these events and traveling to them.”

Instead of game booths, developers and publishers streamed live from their game’s respective Steam store page, exhibiting gameplay, behind-the-scenes content, and “fireside” chats, all while eluding the unpleasantness of a crowded, noisy exhibition floor. The landing page for the event served as the main theater stage, which aired several hours of live panels with indie developers and influencers.

In effect, LudoNarraCon spotted the potential of digital events over a full year before the coronavirus pandemic began. Exhibits of story-heavy indie games need focus and attention and major conventions felt ill-served for that. “Trying to play a deeply emotional game in a noisy convention hall is not really conducive to a good experience, right?” said Chris. “That’s when we realized we maybe didn’t suit events in the same way anymore.”

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The digital nature of LudoNarraCon also makes for cheaper experience for indie devs. When the Game Developers Conference scheduled for March was canceled, many indie devs were shafted on hotel and flight reservations. A digital event means no travel expenses. Virtual attendance is also convenient. Anyone can get their hands on digital demos or hop into the stream chat to connect with developers.

Already gaming culture is being transformed by the idea of the digital convention. Publishers are struggling to figure out how to present their big games following the cancelation of E3, the industry’s biggest convention. Video game website IGN is hosting a digital event called Summer of Gaming in lieu of it. With physical events facing an uncertain future, digital events are the way to go and small indies did it first.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/05/08/the-future-of-gaming-events-is-digital/)

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