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How are games industry events doing these days?

Let's revisit some predictions from last year and see if data can predict the future of events.

If you could ask a crystal ball one question about events, what would you ask? When is my favourite event returning? When can I shake someone’s hand before business lunch? When is the GDC returning in physical form? Wait, the last one I can answer. It is next March, and I think it is too soon.

My question to the crystal ball wouldn’t be any of the above, but more likely it would be something like this: When we will start to travel without fear and anxiety to a place filled with strangers under one roof without worrying about health and safety? Now, it could be in years due to various reasons, in current conditions it might feel that in some places everything is okay, which clearly isn’t. This was the topic of the last newsletter, and it partially answers why I think it is too early for a mega event like GDC to happen.

What I want to talk about in this issue, is to revisit bold predictions made in December 2020 and to see how far from the truth I was regarding, how the near future will look like and how it will affect events. So let's look at how data can predict the future.

Prediction: “Adoption of hybrid model (=the most expensive option to run an event) is a must to stay relevant. However, driving online audiences is getting harder.”

Partially true. The hybrid is not the knight in the shining armour. Nature of events can’t be described with one word, not every activity offered is accessible virtually and vice versa on location. The main reasons why we are not seeing more hybrids are related to cost, logistics and availability of venues which are hard to book in advance with ever changing restrictions and rules.

Driving online audiences is getting harder. This part of the prediction is true due to the sheer amount of events available to you at any given time where you can tap in, listen to a talk, or participate in a session. Here, event organizers are fighting with not just other digital events catering to a global audience (before they were tied to a location where you had to travel), but also daily work tasks, and a wide selection of entertainment at your disposal when working remotely.

Prediction: “Almost every event in Q1 and Q2 is digital.”

This prediction is true, albeit we have seen some hybrid / physical events happen during this timeframe. Out of 114 events during the first six months of 2021, 90% were digital.

Prediction: “In 2021, conference tourism will start to pick up very very slowly. “

True. New tools introduced to ease international travel and streamline mobility relaxed a bit company’s wide travel bans, large in-door events are still considered high risk to get infected thus in many countries they are not allowed to be organized. It is not expected the Q4 of 2021 will bring more physical events, even though PAX West is coming in September. 

Prediction: “An increased number of hybrid events is introduced in Q2/Q3 (with limited capacity at the premises of the venues) … and some physical events are happening on regional levels, negative PCR/Antibody tests or proof of vaccination are mandatory.”

This prediction is partially true to the fact that not so many hybrid events were announced as explained above. We do see more hyper local events happening in physical form and the number of them scheduled for the second half of 2021 saw a 420% increase compared to the first half of this year. Do not let the numbers fool you, the increase went from 5 to 26 events as show on the graph below.

Ratio between physical, virtual and hybrid events in 2021 based on Game Conference Guide report

Ratio between Virtual (blue), Hybrid (gray) and Physical (green) games industry events and their amount per month in 2021. More events are expected to be announced during SEP - DEC.

Prediction: The wide availability of vaccines will untie hands for the organisers, attending an event in Fall 2021 without a confirmed negative PCR/antibody test/vaccine is probably not going to be allowed.”

This is true, many smaller events are accepting exclusively fully vaccinated attendees, others are planning to allow also those with negative test results and or combination of these precautions. And as we have seen a few days ago, even the strategy behind PAX West changed drastically. In popular tourist places around Europe the EU Digital Covid Certificate is required to enter a restaurant for a sit-down meal for example.

And what will 2022 be like? As of now there is not much data available, but I will revisit predictions and make new ones for the upcoming year as the calendar populates with new events.

Events momentum is not slowing down

The database at Game Conference Guide is being updated on a daily basis, with new events added almost immediately after the announcement is made public (sometimes even sooner thanks to the organizer’s heads up). The other day I was looking at the time stamps of the entries and wondered how many events are being announced per month. I call this number momentum.

Number of events announced per month based on Game Conference Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The momentum is averaging at 21 events per month with Q1 2021 being the biggest contributor of new announcements and updates; 35 and 39 new events were announced during February and March respectively. This numbers represent all events, even those that were later delayed or cancelled completely. I suspect the reason for this huge spike was a better outlook for Q3 and Q4 this year, which has clearly changed with Delta variant.

As of now, I do not possess a complete data set for the whole year, but I will revisit the momentum later this year. Other interesting insight is how fast / slow organizers are reacting to the changes out of their control. And it is going to be even more fascinating to see if the lead time (from announcement to launch) is going to be shorter as we have seen during 2020 and 2021 or it will return back with sales for the next edition starting immediately after the current one ends.

For these and other future insights, please subscribe to the newsletter.

[Game Conference Guide is tracking games industry & game developers events, trade shows, festivals, conferences and events around the world.]

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