I had a chance to deliver the opening speeches at our AR/VR day and the GamesBeat 2016 opening sessions. I’ve condensed those two speeches in to this single post. Please enjoy.
Welcome to GamesBeat 2016. This is our ninth annual event, which, in Star Wars terms, means it’s the end of our third trilogy. The nice thing about each GamesBeat, I think, is that it isn’t the same old movie over and over.
When we started this in 2008, Facebook was the hot platform for social games, and the iPhone was a promising platform where you couldn’t make money. I love how times have changed, and how the velocity is so fast. When we created our theme, The Platform Awakens, just a few months ago, we were thinking of VR. We didn’t realize that Pokémon Go would wake us all up to the potential of augmented reality, on top of the smartphone, as the world-changing platform.
As fast as things change, we’d like some things to stay the same. We want the GamesBeat experience to be consistent every time you come. We are always trying to get the right people in the room. We have 50 CEOs and founders among our 105 speakers. You are all Jedi. We want to speak to you all from the right level of elevation and leave you with enough networking time to make deals happen. We want to speak directly to the people who can move the ball forward and make this industry better.
Thank you to all of you who made this happen and recruited your peers to come, including our advisory board and the speakers themselves. We want you to think of GamesBeat as the neutral ground of the industry, where competitors and comrades alike can gather.
As I was riding up this road to Terranea, I realized we made it as hard for you to get here as possible. We moved our event from San Francisco to L.A. during vacation season. We put it at a remote resort. We put it just after Casual Connect, Siggraph, and ChinaJoy, and just before VRLA and Gamescom. And still, you made it here.
Maybe you’re here because we made a personal connection. Maybe it’s because GamesBeat listened to what you had to say when everyone else was laughing you out of the room. Our last GamesBeat Summit celebrated the theme of underdogs, and we can relate to that, as a small company ourselves.
This is one reason why we have 13 people here from small game studios. They got in for free, thanks in part to partnerships with Intel and Epic Games. They are great creators, and worthy padawans whom you should meet in the expo area.
We have a speaker from Blizzard onstage for the first time this year. I feel close to Blizzard because I wrote the very first story on Blizzard 25 years ago, and I wrote a 25th anniversary story earlier this year. But we got this speaker because GamesBeat’s Jason Wilson sought out Blizzard’s PR man at E3 and made a personal pitch to get them on our stage. We practice relationship journalism.
Now I would love to fill the Internet up with intelligent speech. And we all know it doesn’t always work out that way. Adam Orth knows that. Adam was drummed out of a job at Microsoft by an Internet hate mob, and a couple of the stories that helped him lose his job were in VentureBeat. He bounced back from that dark experience and created a game called Adr1ft, which was an allegory for how he felt. He launched that game in VR, and when I saw his pitch to speak come in, I didn’t hesitate to approve it. It felt like good karma to me, to catch Adam at a time of renewal in his career. So I’m happy to see Adam here today to talk about the lessons he learned making a VR game. That’s kicking the ball, or the BB8 droid, forward.
Our theme is “The Platform Awakens: A new hope for the game industry. VR and AR are not just offering developers a chance for renewal. They could become multibillion-dollar gaming platforms and economic foundations for the whole world. Our platform owners here want to inspire you to make games for their platforms. But everybody’s job here is to inspire you to create games that change the world.
Right now, the VR platforms have the same credibility challenges that Facebook and Apple had nearly a decade ago. And just like then, the critics and naysayers are warning that we’re in a bubble. AR and VR are drawing a huge amount of investment from venture capitalists, who are forming new funds just for this purpose. We’re also seeing huge platform investments from Facebook, Google, Valve, HTC, Microsoft, Magic Leap, and Samsung. These platforms aren’t designed just for games, but like the ultimate Darwinian life form, games have made their way onto these platforms, and gamers will lead their adoption.
Publishers and developers face the usual questions about which platform strategy to pursue. Who will the winners and losers be? When should they launch games? Which consumers should they target? We’ve got the platform owners at our conference, as well as the makers of the critical game engines and the marketing tools. The path forward is treacherous. That person across the table, smiling at you. That potential partner. Are they more like Han Solo, Rey, or Kylo Ren? Who are you going to trust?
As I said a year ago, the days when a rising tide of investment lifted all boats are over. The winner has to know how to outwit rivals, steal market share, and leapfrog others with thought leadership. Last year’s theme, Game of Thrones, was quite fitting, as it felt like gaming was a zero-sum game. But the new hope of AR and VR is to provide more blue oceans for game creators to roam. HTC and a bunch of VC firms have created the Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance with $10 billion in available funds.
This is about staking a claim in a new place, not just surviving in some fortress. We want to see that money flow to the people here who have the ideas that matter. We don’t know exactly what will come out of this event, but we know something good will be cooking from all of the deal making here.
This whole event, including our AR/VR day and the larger GamesBeat, is about giving you many choices to delve into the topics that are important to you. We have a dozen breakout sessions with nearly 50 speakers. After AR/VR day is over, we’ll continue GamesBeat with a focus on emerging areas such as esports, digital strategies, regional competition, and influencers. Any one of these people could be critical for you to meet. Any one of them could be the next John Hanke, the man who became an overnight success with Pokemon Go, after 20 years of work.
I don’t sleep very much and I don’t sleep enough. But the sleep that I get is because of our hardworking staff. GamesBeat has grown well beyond me. We run more than 90 stories in a week, and I’ll write less than 25 of them. GamesBeat has four full-timers and a number of freelancers. Our team includes managing editor Jason Wilson, our Obi-Wan figure. Jeff Grubb, our news writer and Chewbacca figure. And our community manager and all-around BB8 droid, Mike Minotti.
Jeff has written 5,300 stories for us. Mike has done 2,300. Jason has edited thousands. We like to think of ourselves as the Rebel Alliance. We’re always hoping for that one story about a game that changes the galaxy and blows up the Death Star of boredom.
Pokemon Go has enabled me to take more walks with my wonderful daughters than I have ever been able to do before, except when they were in strollers. My awakening hope is that this experience is repeatable.
Thank you so much for coming. We expect you all to do your part, in filling this room, and filling the Internet, with intelligent speech. So let’s kick that droid forward.
… We aren’t stopping with AR/VR day because gaming isn’t all about AR/VR. That’s maybe 1 percent of the industry today. We can continue to talk about VR and AR today, and we will. But there’s so much more to gaming which is now a $99 billion business.
Pokemon Go reminds me that we don’t just play one type of game, like only VR games. We play many kinds of games on many platforms across the world. And it reminds me that a single game can capture our imagination and inspire us to change, even if it is as simple a change as getting off the couch and taking a walk. Pokemon Go has inspired me to take unexpected but welcome walks with my kids in the park. It has made us healthier and less focused on our worries of the day.
I love writing about games. I have done it for 25 years, and I have written about it full-time for 20 years because this is where I find the most fascinating people. One of the first game stories that I ever wrote was about Brian Fargo, and the CEO of InXile Entertainment is here today to speak on a panel.
At VentureBeat, I have written 12,618 stories. Most of those are about games. Since September, 2011, I have been writing my weekly DeanBeat column. I have written 253 DeanBeat columns. And I missed one week.
I have traveled from the shores of Tel Aviv to the desert of Las Vegas. From London to Shanghai, I’ve had a wonderful time seeing the global world of games, and how they are embraced everywhere. And I always wait for that one story as inspirational as Pokemon Go, which has risen to the level of a cultural phenomenon in less than a month.
I can be wrong, and I can make a correction. I can write another, more accurate story. But games are different. In a 30 year career, you may get 10 chances to make a game. Maybe 20, if you’re in mobile. We usually think about how many games there are in the app stores, counting maybe 3 million of them. They seem so disposable. In fact, if you only get a chance to make 10 or 20 of them in your life, then every one of them is precious. So you have to make them as good as they can possibly be. Every game should be a beautiful experience. So make them great.
This year, we have had a wonderful string of continuous hits in the game industry that are so worth playing. I have played the entire campaigns for Call of Duty: Black Ops III, That Dragon, Cancer, Firewatch, Quantum Break, Uncharted 4, Doom, and I also played two missions of The Division. I also tried a bunch of experiences on the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. I play Clash Royale every day, even after the launch of Pokemon Go. The only game I quit was XCOM 2, because it was just too hard.
The one thing I hate about these conferences is that they make me too busy to play. It’s a bad day when I don’t have enough time for a round of Overwatch.
This whole cycle that I live. Traveling. Talking to people. Playing games. Creating conferences. It has taught me to appreciate the diversity of games more than ever. The games like Uncharted 4 are some of the most beautiful ever made. The moments of joy that I’ve had in these games — like reaching the epilogue of the Nathan Drake story, or taking down the spider demon in Doom — these make me more optimistic about games than ever. Going to E3 and seeing demos like Days Gone gameplay and the God of War trailer got me very excited about the core of the industry. The edges of gaming, and its new territories, also offer a new hope. Not only do I get to a travel in real life, I also feel like a traveler in so many virtual worlds in all of the games that I play.
And from my travels, both physical and virtual, I have learned to believe in the power of creativity and diversity, both in people and ideas. Our lineup of speakers continues to be as diverse as we can make it. And I still believe that because of our emphasis on diversity, and not in spite of it, you’ll find that everybody who is in the room is important.
In celebrating diversity, we are not just counting what type of person is here. There are not enough women, underrepresented minorities, or LGBT people. But we are looking at individuals with diverse thinking. We are looking at people like Michael Condrey, a white male in charge of a studio of 300 people at Sledgehammer Games. From a position of power, he realized that that his studio could do more to promote the cause of diversity, and he made it a priority to be an instrument of change. We are here to celebrate that, because it is kicking the ball forward.
He’s part of a very interesting panel that will explore the connection between creativity and diversity. It includes Megan Gaiser, Nicole Lazzaro, and Ru Weerasuriya of Ready at Dawn Studios. These people couldn’t be more different, but they share a passion for changing the way things are. I hope you will find them inspiring.
Megan is part of a new book on Women in Game Development, a collection of essays about pioneering women in the industry. With the support of Wanda Meloni of the Open Gaming Alliance, we are holding a book signing at our reception this evening.
We’ve got a panel on influencers, and we’ve also done a couple of roadshow events about influencers. We’re finding that this is one of the most fluid groups in the entire gaming ecosystem, where the important people are changing rapidly. We’ve identified some of these people, from gamers to YouTubers to Twitch livestreamers to esports team owners. They are not all just young adolescent males without a lot of social skills.
We’re a different kind of media from what they represent, for sure, but we share a strategy with them about trying to be influential. Indeed, our own report by analyst Stewart Rogers and an independent report by Traackr found that we are among the most influential game journalists in the world. Our team includes Jeff Grubb, our news writer; Jason Wilson, our managing editor; Mike Minotti, our staff writer and community manager, and Giancarlo Valdes, our freelance writer.
I’m glad that my family is here for the first time at a GamesBeat event. I have three daughters. Last year, after so much Internet hate, I said we would have to put that far behind us if I were to ever consider recommending that my daughters work in the game industry. I thought that was a great story to tell to hammer home my point about diversity.
Well, my oldest daughter, Tanya, went ahead and spoiled that story by getting some work in the game industry anyway. She is an intern and she’s working on things like livestreams and Snapchatting, which are skills that the next generation of influencers will probably need. She could be one of the people who tips the scales in the right direction, as only 20 percent of the people who work in the game industry are women.
For now, she and my other kids are a great little focus group for me. I think all of us need games to stay young, alive, and connected to new generations. My kids are my Pokemon Go partners, and I hope there are other games out there that you can make to bring us closer.
For whatever reason you are here, I hope you can find what inspires you. We want you to get a download on what’s happening in as efficient a way as possible. We hope you come away with this feeling like you’ve got the right information and perspectives to make good choices and come up with bold ideas. But we want you to also come away renewed.
To steal a line from Owen Mahoney, CEO of Nexon, there is so much more you can do. No one has created the Pixar of the game industry yet. As much as I admire John Hanke, and his 20-year overnight success, I don’t think Pokemon Go is quite there yet. As much as I salute you all for doing what you do, we’ve got a long way before we see our industry’s Citizen Kane.
I encourage you all to drink from the well of creativity. We don’t need exploitative business models, fearful investors, cloned games, outrageous user-acquisition costs, an “indiepocalpyse,” sequels and reboots, and uninspired gameplay. Fear is the mind killer. We don’t need game developers to think about the millions of games withering in the app stores due to lack of discovery. We just need them to think about every game they create as precious, as a work of art, as a new child.
Our job is to get game makers to dream big, get business people to appreciate the value of those dreams, and propel everyone to work together to turn those dreams into a well-executed reality. If our speakers can get us all to focus on that, then we’ll move a step closer to that destiny that games are meant to deliver, and make this business more human.
Without further ado, welcome to the Platform Awakens.