This year we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of GamesBeat Summit, our flagship industry event. Over the past decade we’ve seen games become a $134.9 billion dollar industry, with approximately 2.2 billion gamers in the world — one third of the earth’s population.
We’ve seen the industry grow and change to include game developers and publishers, industry CEOs, executives, marketers, and venture capitalists of every stripe. And we’ve seen GamesBeat Summit become the place where all the right and best people get in the room together to network, inspire each other, make deals happen, and help gaming take over the other two thirds of the planet.
Here are some highlights from the last ten years of the industry’s destination conference, the place where, as Dean Takahashi says, competitors and comrades and Klingons alike can gather and build a sense of community: GamesBeat Summit.
In 2009, the very first GamesBeat (tagline “All the World’s a Game”) kicked off with a vision of the future of education, business and games from Bing Gordon, a partner at Kleiner Perkins and former chief creative officer of Electronic Arts.
“Kids are learning to read for the first time while playing video games,” Gordon said. Because of the immersive, interactive nature of games, they are one of the most effective ways to learn about the world — and he predicted that they would eventually replace textbooks in schools. In 2019, with the advent of virtual reality and AR, that forecast has come more to life than ever, and the global games-based learning industry is predicted to hit $17 billion by 2023.
CEO Steve Perlman announced OnLive, the first-ever game streaming service of its kind. OnLive pointed the way to the future of games, allowing gamers to subscribe to a games-on-demand service for $14.95 a month and gain access titles from major publishers including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, 2K Games, THQ, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and new releases like Mass Effect 2, Borderlands, Assassin’s Creed II, and more.
At a fireside chat this year, Wibe Wagemans, head of brand marketing, advertising, and analytics of Rovio — the publisher of the wild out-of-nowhere success Angry Birds — threw his moderator, Rich Wong of Accel Partners, for a loop.
“We’re in fast growth mode, so we’re always on the lookout for good money,” Wagemans said, acknowledging that his company was considering raising another round of money, even after the $42 million Series A investment it had raised from Accel and others in March. “We’re always interested.”
The app at that point had been downloaded more than 200 million times, and was played by over 40 million active users.
Mark Pincus, the chief executive, chief product officer, and founder of Zynga, spoke at the opening fireside chat at MobileBeat/GamesBeat 2012, calling for “90-10,” or markets where Zynga can launch a game and have 10 million players within 90 days — making the market investable at scale, and allowing game companies to regularly launch games, get them noticed, and turn them into blockbusters.
Meanwhile, the legendary Will Wright, creator of the SimCity and The Sims franchises, two of gaming’s cornerstones, gave the conference’s keynote speech, arguing that after more than 30 years of steady evolution, gaming had reached its own version of the Cambrian Explosion — and the next step was making video games “as personal to us as our dreams.” He cited the growing wave of gamers’ personal data available to developers, which could be harnessed for in-depth, granular personalization on an individual level for every player.
2013 marked the year GamesBeat shifted toward looking at inclusion in the games industry. This was heralded as “a record year” in gaming “for memorable, well-developed female leads.” The proof: three female leads in top-selling games, in a field of about 4,000 game releases.
And on our first-ever GamesBeat diversity panel, we had questions for developers like, what makes women characters important? And, While diversity is something we should strive for, are we missing more compelling reasons for including them? Are woman characters just being used to appeal to a wider demographic and counter narrow marketing assumptions?
Over at a fireside chat, Wargaming.net chief executive officer Victor Kislyi was telling SimCity and Sims creator Will Wright that women were gamers’ biggest problem.
“It’s not a surprise, but the biggest enemy of World of Tanks is women, you would think,” Kislyi said, not down with the fact that the number of women gamers were surpassing the number of teenage boys. “You want to spend your little 30 minutes playing World of Tanks. But you have some other duties to do, right? So for us, the biggest challenge is the justification of World of Tanks in the eyes of our better halves.”
This was the year we at GamesBeat started doing better.
In 2014 came the cry around the world: “It’s about ethics in games journalism!” But Dean was quick to call out the hypocrisy.
Over at GamesBeat Summit, we learned that EA CEO Andrew Wilson launched EA Access, because, he said, humans have an instinctual need to steal — but companies can take advantage of that by offering incredible deals, and making customers feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck. EA Access, which let Xbox One owners shell out monthly or yearly for instant access to older titles, was meant to let players feel like they’re getting something over on the company, which would ultimately help the company build a stronger relationship with the people who buy games.
This year GamesBeat took a deeper dive into the sexism and diversity problem in the industry, in the wake of the online hate movement that led to harassment of female game developers. We saw that controversy as a wake-up call for the gaming industry, and addressed it at a breakout session. Featuring Gordon Bellamy, a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California, Asra Rasheed, executive producer at Disney’s game division; Justin Hefter, CEO of Bandura Games, Megan Gaiser, principal at Contagious Creativity, and Katy Jo Meyer, senior business program manager at Xbox, the session probed for nuances, looked for solutions, and confirmed one of the great strengths of the game industry: its focus on community regardless of roles.
We also snagged Gabe Leydon, the chief executive of Machine Zone, and the man on the Iron Throne of mobile gaming, for the Summit that year. His company’s Game of War: Fire Age had been in the top-grossing charts ever since its release in the summer of 2013, and that summer, more than two years after its release, it became No. 1, eclipsing King’s Candy Crush Saga match-3 puzzler and Supercell’s Clash of Clans strategy game. He spoke about the challenge of creating a global franchise — and why, contrary to popular wisdom, it makes sense to put everything behind just one game.
The co-founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell, also showed us that he’s still the spokesman and showman of video games, with an educational games startup, BrainRush, as an author, an advisor to a number of game startups, and the man who decades ago turned down a one-third stake in Apple for $50K.
Chief executive of Unity Technologies and former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello warned us that VR sales would fall into a “gap of disappointment,” predicting that the industry would miss its numbers in 2016 by 80 percent, and miss them again in 2017 by 60 percent or more. He blamed the clear lack of consumer interest in picking up the far-too-expensive hardware, the clunkiness of the models actually available on the market, and the lack of killer VR software.
On the game design side, Owen Mahoney, chief executive of Asian gaming giant Nexon, had some things to say in a fireside chat about the state of the mobile gaming business. The artists who create games are being buried by corporate mandates, he said, leading to a mobile game market that’s unprofitable, for the most part, because it’s suffering from too many me-too games. Game developers can’t create the innovative games they’re passionate about, because they’re stuck in a cycle of designing the games that they think will sell or get approved.
Unleash the developers, let them create art, and then you’ll see a revolution in the industry, and the rise of a games company reminiscent of Pixar or HBO.
Megan Gaiser, co-CEO of Spiral Media Ltd. and principal at Contagious Creativity, was part of an important discussion that explored the power of diversity in game creation. If you lead with creativity, she said, then diverse thinking is the result. And if you have a diverse staff, you can get more diverse thinking and more creative results. She was joined by Ru Weerasuriya, creative director at Ready At Dawn Studios, Michael Condrey, cofounder of Sledgehammer Games, who wants to make the industry a fit place for people like his young daughter, and moderator Nicole Lazzaro, CEO of XEO Design, a creator of a wide range of games from The Sims to the VR game Follow the White Rabbit.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, believes the future of gaming — the Metaverse, or a virtual world where we’ll all digitally live, is coming faster than we think. It’ll be far more immersive an alternate reality than today’s virtual reality — as first envisioned by Neal Stephenson in 1992, and most recently seen in the now-classic book and new movie, Ready Player One. But he warns that corporate interests could eliminate the potential of a wide-open world, if industry giants try too hard to own these game and world platforms, leading toll booths, a lack of open standards, and a loss of privacy.
“I’m excited,” he said, “I’m a little bit scared, but that’s our industry.” The central question for us now: How do we keep the metaverse free?
We also talked about bucking the status quo, on a panel that featured Megan Gaiser, the CEO of Spiral Media; Rami Ismail, the cofounder of Vlambeer; Asi Burak of Power Play; and Asra Rasheed, the producer at Disney, and moderator Guy Bendov, the CEO of Side-kick Games.
Defying the culture of fear instigated by draconian new immigration policies, calls for a border wall, and more, the panel discussed the need to push back, and create an industry where diverse people, perspectives, and products were welcome. We talked diversity issues, equality in the workplace, and true international collaboration, and how leadership transformation is the way to move forward into a better world, without leaving anyone behind.
Andrew House spoke at GamesBeat Summit 2018, the first time he had been in public since leaving Sony’s PlayStation group. He was with the company for 27 years, last serving as Sony Interactive Entertainment’s president and chief executive officer. During a chat with tech analyst Mike Vorhaus, House speculated on the future of consoles, saying he was “bullish” about the future of consoles and of PS4, and predicting that PS4 has a long life ahead of it, despite the overwhelming conventional wisdom that had pronounced the console dead. But we’re going to see a wholesale shift in the distribution method of titles, he says, with cloud-streaming becoming the next big evolution of consoles.
One of the most exciting parts of last year’s summit was the discussion of the leisure economy, a utopia in which anyone can get paid a living wage — or more — just to play games. Already we’re seeing esports athletes, cosplayers, influencers, YouTubers, livestreamers, modders, and many other folk in the gaming ecosystem getting paid to play. Adam Sessler, cofounder of Spiketrap, Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs, CEO of Neverdie Studios, Gio Hunt, executive vice president and executive producer of platform technology and experiences at Blizzard Entertainment; Philip Rosedale, founder and CEO of High Fidelity; and Craig Donato, chief business officer at Roblox tackled the big question: can game companies create a long tail for these people who are inventing careers that didn’t exist five or ten years ago? (Spoiler alert: Maybe? But this new generation is going to create its own new economy, one way or another.)
Meanwhile, Keisha Howard, founder of Sugar Gamers and The BlazeBreakers, noted that the money flowing into esports, creating a whole new generation of successful online stars — and if they want to stay successful, they can’t hide toxic behavior any more. Anonymity isn’t any kind of shield any more, bad behavior is being called out, and trolls are getting kicked out of the dungeon. Bad behavior is finally starting to coming with a price.
That’s ten years of GamesBeat luminaries, and this year, GamesBeat Summit 2019 will celebrate those who have made outsized contributions to gaming with the the 10th Anniversary Awards. Three to five of the top gaming visionaries from the last decade will be chosen by a hand-picked panel of esteemed names in the industry. Stake your spot in the celebration, and in the next decade of game infamy, by registering now for GamesBeat Summit 2019, April 23 and 24, at the Two Bit Circus in Los Angeles.
This year the theme is building gaming communities, from the influence of loyal fans to hazing, harassment, and player rebellion. We’ll focus on the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality communities, exclusive and high-end game communities, esports communities, divided communities, and massively multiplayer online worlds. We’ll also explore the convergence of sci-fi, tech, and games; game jams; the future of game technology; monetization; the rise of influencers; and the oncoming changes from blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Join featured speakers like Kristen Dumont, CEO of Machine Zone; Frank Gibeau, CEO of Zynga; Owen Mahoney of Nexon; and Brock Pierce, chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, and more when you register for the must-attend games networking event of the year!
GamesBeat Gift Guides: Everything we recommend this holiday season