The following article was researched by Anastasiia Bobeshko, chief editor at Game-Ace.
In the early days of video games — back in the 1970s — the game industry wasn’t really an “industry” at all. It was just a few companies with a few employees, and everybody seemed to know everybody else. But the popularity of games quickly grew, first through the “arcade boom,” and then driven by the rise of home computers and game consoles.
Now, video games are a $100 billion industry that employs tens of thousands of workers in diverse fields like art, programming, design, production, and audio. With all those people and all that technology, it’s far more difficult for game developers to keep up with each other — let alone keep up with the latest industry developments.
That’s why, each year, various industry groups host special events to bring game developers together from across the world. Some events are general-purpose for any and all game developers, while others focus on specific sub-fields within game development. What they have in common is that each offers a chance for attendees to collaborate, network, hunt for jobs, and share knowledge — all while having fun with their peers and celebrating an amazing industry.
It’s exciting to be in an industry chock full of annual events to help you learn and grow. But it also poses a challenge: With so many excellent events each year, which ones should you attend?
Let’s take a look at the various video game industry events and what they offer. My guess is you’ll find more than a few worth checking out as you start or grow your own game development career.
Game Developers Conference (GDC)
GDC is an annual event designed for professional game developers and students. And it’s big! Unlike conventions that focus on video game fans, this one focuses on providing education and inspiration for professional game developers.
Held by UBM Game Network, GDC takes place in San Francisco, California. More than 26,000 attendees are expected to visit the expo to see over 500 lectures, panels, and roundtable discussions on various topics. Topics cover game development process and technology. Attendees can visit vendor booths to learn about the new development tools, services, and platforms that are driving the industry forward.
Casual Connect USA
CC USA is another useful event to visit for game developers, and is usually held in January at the Disneyland Hotel in California.
It covers game-related topics such as the implementation of in-game ads and monetization, mobile gaming and casino titles, competition between giant corporations and indie developers, and many more. An exclusive Pitch and Match meeting system facilitates career networking with a great number of game developers. More than 2,000 gaming industry professionals join the event and dive into what makes the games special.
This year, the venue will feature 75 of the best independent games alongside with their developers and one-on-one conversations with leading company representatives like Vungle, Appodeal, Kochava, and Insomniac Games. The panels will also feature experts from Oculus VR, Microsoft Xbox, Fox, and many more, covering games and game-related topics.
Unite by Unity Technologies
Unite, organized by Unity Technologies, is for anyone who is passionate about creating assets and developing games using the Unity game engine. Depending on the season, Unite takes place in various parts of the world, including the USA (Austin, Texas) and Europe (Amsterdam, NL). It serves as a platform for artists, developers, and filmmakers to gain precious insights from Unity Technologies moguls and other developers.
Hearing about contemporary techniques from the heads of Unity departments can help you make a leap in understanding of how to produce your own game in the Unity engine. The event also highlights major engine additions, making the event the right direction to choose for becoming a Unity game development guru.
Connects London 2018 is a large event created by Steel Media that takes place in January and consist of three different parts, listed below. It attracts a wide variety of game industry specialists, as a ticket to each of the events grants full access to its peers, allowing for PC, mobile, and VR/AR/MR topics.
A special “Pitch and Match” system allows developers, publishers, and investors to plan their meetings beforehand.
- PC Connects is a segment dedicated to the PC game industry that will bring together more than 300 delegates, including hardware manufacturers, game developers, and education software producers. This section is mainly focused on PC game development, technical and design issues, and global gaming trends.
- PG Connects is a global mobile games conference that will feature a number of panels with more than 2,000 delegates tackling key questions in the mobile games industry: indie games, monetization, user acquisition, and plenty of practical development advice, including workshop sessions.
- XR Connects (previously VR Connects) is a place where VR/AR/MR-related technology topics are covered with the help of 500 delegates from all across the industry, highlighting the game development process and hardware usage aspects.
GamesForum London is another event in the British capital that provides a space for more than 500 representatives from mobile, console, and PC businesses, and 80 speakers, across two days during January. This forum tackles cross-platform issues in game development, serving as a helpful venue for attendees who wish to bring their titles to multiple platforms.
Alongside other topics such as marketing and e-sports, it also sheds light on the design and development aspects of games that will help developers understand and solve problems that they may face when making the games. Subjects such as VR and AR capabilities are covered on the second conference day.
The VFX Festival
The VFX Festival is held by Escape Studio in London, and welcomes all game development and animation enthusiasts. The event assembles big industry names through a range of workshops, panels, and interactive exhibition spaces, making it a go-to option for 3D modelers who wish to meet peers and expand their skills.
Creative Assembly, Framestore, Climax Studio (most likely), and many other companies share their views on game development, animation processes, and contemporary AR/VR techniques, and showcase their approaches to visual effects mastery.
Oculus Connect is an annual event held by Facebook that brings VR developers from across the world to collaborate, share ideas, and push the industry forward. This may be the best event for those who are looking to improve their skills in making applications for the Oculus platform.
Speakers in more than forty talks will shed light on topics ranging from making multiplayer games, to realistic storytelling techniques, to innovative CPU optimization and publishing methods.
This year, it’s also likely to be a good way to keep up with the latest trends and innovations such as the release of the brand-new Oculus Go, a gadget that may become a tipping point in making portable VR devices powerful without draining your wallet.
GamesCom is one of the biggest game fairs worldwide (and the biggest in Europe), taking place each year in Cologne, Germany. Organized by BIU and held in August, it usually attracts more than 340,000 visitors, 6,000 journalists, and 700 exhibitors. Developers, fans, and publishers attend to share and discuss the latest trends and upcoming titles in the game industry.
Despite not offering educational panels, it can still serve as a networking venue for developers as you can meet some representatives from some of the world’s top game and technology companies.
More Game Industry Conferences
There are a number of other industry events that mainly serve the purpose of entertainment. While visiting these venues might not boost your development skills, it can help you get acquainted with recent releases and learn more about the overall state of the industry.
- Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is the largest gaming trade event for software developers, publishers, and hardware manufacturers to advertise and introduce upcoming production releases. Held in Los Angeles, it draws more than 68K attendees and is considered to be a game changer when it comes to defining what and how people will play next year.
- Paris Games Week is an annual trade fair that often is held at the end of the year as a “closing event” where the latest releases are announced or showcased. It is now the third biggest game expo on the planet, surpassing 310K visitors in recent years.
- Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is a series of gaming culture festivals held across the world that include multiple entertainment features such as video, table, and arcade games, and attracts gamer-geeks from all over the world. It’s also a platform for indie game developers to showcase their products in front of 70,000 visitors.
- Tokyo Game Show is the biggest gaming expo in Japan that mostly features games from local publishers. However, there is a place for foreign companies as well. Despite having Capcom, Square Enix, and many other recognizable names on the list, many of the 270K attendees are interested in Sony Entertainment, an oversized leader in the console game market.
- Taipei Game Show is currently the largest video games event in the world with more than 450K visitors in 2017. This year, it’s promising another huge expo with PlayStation, Konami, and Ubisoft moguls on the list.
Anastasiia Bobeshko is a chief editor at Game-Ace, where she writes about virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, and researches how new technologies affect the business world. Connect with her on twitter @Program_Ace_Ltd.