Seeing as we are a fairly new indie studio, it seemed appropriate to document our first EGX games show. It was a truly incredible weekend full of creative, inspiring people with fantastic games! There were also some really interesting talks and events, so what better way to download than by writing a blog piece (it’s all about the content and traffic right?!) Additionally, from a business development perspective, we thought it could be pretty helpful as a comparison document for future events. Unsurprisingly there were lessons learnt and things we may have chosen to have done differently, so getting it all out would be a good reminder of the do’s and don’ts of event planning as a team.
Before EGX there was the Play Expo....
First, lets take this back a few steps to a sunny day in August…. Chris and I took a weekend trip to visit the Play Expo in London at Surrey Quays. We went with networking in mind (eurgh hate that word) but as big retro game fans, it was as much about the game play and meeting retro players. Chris had a ploy to reignite his relationship with the love of his life, the pinball table “Medieval Madness”. After several long minutes loitering around the pinball area, glaring at people in the backs of their heads with folded arms “No you can’t ask the 10 year old to stop playing. Yes it is rude to jump the queue” he finally got a go. I went and found a bar. He met me there much, much later!
The Play Expo was a brilliant event. There were a variety of areas to play, meet and compete and it was a great atmosphere. We had been talking about exhibiting at a show with Scintillatron 4096 for some time by this point. Although the game was not quite finished, the Play Expo would have been a great opportunity to demo the game. There were other developers exhibiting with unfinished games too so it looked like this was pretty common. Not only did we feel that the retro lovers would have been the perfect players to debut the game (hi-score shoot ‘em up arcade fun!) there were lots of industry bods floating about too – which would have been a perfect opportunity to hobnob (there, much better than ‘networking!’) and schmooze with likeminded people.
One of the best things about the day was meeting other game players. We spent a while outside sinking a few beers and talking all things gaming. We learnt A LOT from them all. Most were hardcore gamers that lived, breathed and slept gaming. I’ve heard before that ‘conversation is inspiration’ and I couldn’t agree with this more. They all had such a valuable insight into the gaming world. Some liked forums, most used online publications to get their gaming info or read reviews and all were happy to hear from a startup studio about the games we had been working on*. We already established that we’d missed a big indie show (Rezzed) in April but the one thing they did all say – you have to get to EGX!
*It’s worth mentioning at this point, our website was still in development, our trailer was the old version and we didn’t have business cards. Epic fail on all accounts. Hence the reason we started our lessons learnt list.
To exhibit or not to exhibit....
I didn’t waste any time following up on EGX and sent an email to the organisers before we got back to the hotel. ‘Was this a possibility? Could we exhibit at the largest gaming event in the country?! They have a large area for indies but surely they are all booked up? It’s on in just over a month!’ Well, the lovely people from EGX certainly did come back to me and a possibility it was! There were a number of areas still available on the floor plan! There was some time pressure to commit but yes, we could exhibit. Whoop!
The Monday after Play Expo, we met as a team to discuss the opportunity. We reviewed the costs, made a list of possible swag for the game players and set about making a plan. However, there was a slight snag in the road to exhibiting…. Both Chris & Roch are old hands in software development. Both are all too familiar with time pressure, unthinkable soft or hardware scenarios that can throw even your best attempts into the can. Mostly, there were still quite a few technical hurdles to prepare for the show. This was also competing with a pressing deadline to get the game ready for submission to the publishing platform.
Basically, the long and short of all of this is that we got spooked. There was a very realistic chance bugs could not be resolved, the game could glitch and we would be standing on an exhibition floor with blank screens, blank expressions and blank outlooks.
Again, in hindsight, this is where I wish I had done some more digging. As our marketing person – I was all for it. “It was worth the risk! A bit of pressure is good! The adrenaline will get us through! You have worked to tighter deadlines! Surely this is too much of an opportunity to miss?!” After some back and forth, we eventually agreed that this could be too risky. Would it not be better to attend and get a feel for how the show works and chalk it up as experience?
So that’s exactly what we did. I went back to the lovely people at EGX explaining our plight and that from a technical point of view we were concerned we would not be able to bring our A-Game. We were lucky enough to be provided with a complimentary industry pass for the full 4 days (I told you they were lovely people!) and purchased tickets for the rest of the team. We were going! Whoop!
During the weeks running up to the event, we worked our respective behinds off at getting the game and business ready for the show. Websites were reconstructed with new brand guidelines, the trailer and screenshots were created with the new art work and the game was further developed with bugs being fixed. Firing on all cylinders, we also wanted to make sure we looked the part so we designed and ordered some branded t-shirts to get the game name out there. We also got some shiny new business cards with our names on and everything (cringe but it seemed appropriate for all the hobnobbing we intended on doing!)
We had all the gear and absolutely no idea but we were going to EGX….
Part 2 of the blog coming soon!