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Major events like the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Gamescom, and the Tokyo Game Show have played a significant role in creating excitement in the games industry, even when the pandemic forced organizers to host events online. Marketers have still found that engagement goes “through the roof” when multiple studios and publishers come together to make announcements.

“This past year has shifted the page quite a bit for E3, Gamescom, and EA Live, but those events are still important,” said EA VP of global brand management and marketing Andrea Hopelain. “They drive the industry toward moments in time where mass player groups are looking for announcements.”

Hopelain joined Ryan Maloney, the head of cross platform gaming sales at Facebook, for the “Next-Generation Console Games: How to Grow Games at Scale” panel at the Driving Game Growth: A GamesBeat and Facebook Summit. The two executives discussed the challenges of making crossplay between consoles and mobile platforms work, the future of major gaming events, and the evolution of live service games now that a new generation of consoles has launched.

“The community and user engagement around those moments in time just goes through the roof,” Maloney said, adding that those moments will only get bigger now that they can be held virtually. “Everyone aligning on a key moment is really critical […] especially since we’re no longer limited by the walls of a convention center.”

Companies like EA and Nintendo have been moving away from these major events by choosing to host their own, either in-person or broadcast online before the pandemic shut events down worldwide in March of last year. EA started EA Live, its own showcase held at the Hollywood Palladium, about 13 miles from the Los Angeles Convention Center where E3 is held, at the same time as E3.

Nintendo, on the other hand, has opted to host its own broadcasts (Nintendo Directs) that are separate from any other industry event. The Japanese company started doing so long before the pandemic.

Hopelain said that the role of these physical events has shifted and will continue to shift. Publishers will need to evolve in “diverse ways” to interact with communities during those tentpole events.

The discussion about these major events evolved from a greater conversation about how game development has shifted to “community” development. Both Maloney and Hopelain agreed that developing live services games has become about working with fans in order to keep them attached to their product.

“We need to bring them into the fold at the earliest phases of development,” Hopelain said about working directly with players. “Show them the parts that are scary to show.”

Hopelain emphasized that few people know these games like the people that play them do. It’s important to include them in more than just marketing initiatives, but in the actual development process. That’s the best way to grow a product and reach communities they haven’t before.

“We’re even seeing users build out side-hustles using our products,” she said. “Our fans are our biggest advocates or our biggest adversaries”

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