Did you miss GamesBeat Summit 2021? Watch on-demand here! 


I hope that you are well and that a weight is lifting from your shoulders. I feel like I’m ready for some long overdue inspiration.
Our last event was just three months ago, but that was mostly about the metaverse. Now we’re ready to talk more about the expansive universe of games and where passion meets business.

If you are here, you are a survivor. You made it through the ordeal of a lifetime, and you are permitted to celebrate just for being here. The fact that we are here together shows our GamesBeat Summit community is still alive, and, in fact, it’s thriving.

This is our third online-only event in the pandemic. I managed to stay sane and healthy during the pandemic. My routine included jogging every day at a nearby park, working from home, staying close to family, and playing Call of Duty: Warzone. I also found ways to connect with people in the Game Industry club on Clubhouse. At midnight one day, I found myself discussing the metaverse with a gamer in a Clubhouse room, and it made me feel like I could have a serendipitous conversation again with someone in games. I hope you found your own moments of sanity as well.

Games have been our common salvation, distracting us from ugly politics and the coronavirus. This was the consolation for us all. I want to thank game developers and publishers for providing us with life-saving entertainment. You have done so well in creating human happiness, and we don’t recognize that enough.

The biggest numbers

InvestGame

Above: InvestGame’s M&A activity in games in 2020.

Image Credit: InvestGame

Our industry grew 20% in 2020 to $174.9 billion, and market researcher Newzoo expects it to hit $217 billion by 2023. We saw new gamers come aboard who see gaming as a new habit that is likely to stay part of their entertainment diets for good. Market insight firm App Annie estimates that mobile gaming adoption probably accelerated by a couple of years during the past year. And the consoles are going through a resurgence with the launches of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. We are ready to grow the next generation of gamers.

On a scale we have never seen before, investors took notice of gaming’s performance while many other industries tanked. Money flowed in via venture capital investing. Ed Fries of 1Up Ventures mentioned that he has connected with 80 game investors, and there are at least 30 game-focused VC funds. Money also came in through acquisitions and public offerings.

If you add up all of the deals in the first quarter of 2021, you get 280 announced and closed transactions worth $39 billion. That amount was higher than the $33 billion reported for all the deals of 2020, according to InvestGame.

Will the growth keep going? Come June, it will be hard for companies to organically beat the results they produced in 2020. Beating year-ago numbers could be a herculean task, but investors have come to expect it. Hopefully, those investors will stay with us and continue to fuel the growth even as results come down to earth.

Many of our speakers will wrestle with this question of how to keep the momentum going.

The money flowing in is rocket fuel. Embracer Group recently announced 13 acquisitions in a day. Game companies that went public or announced they would include Playtika, Nexters, PlayStudios, Huuuge Games, TinyBuild, AppLovin, Skillz, and Krafton. Roblox was valued at $42 billion in its public offering. Epic Games has raised $1 billion at a $28 billion valuation. They can now both be contenders to establish the metaverse.

We don’t know if the metaverse, where we live, play, and work in a digital space, is the right direction to go. But we do know the game industry has an enormous opportunity to become further ingrained as the best form of entertainment.

Not just growing business

MANHATTAN, NY - July 26: A protester holds a large flag that says, "Black Lives Matter" in Times Square in New York. Many people were wearing masks and observing social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

Above: A protester holds a large flag that says, “Black Lives Matter” in Times Square in New York.

Image Credit: Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

While we’re celebrating growth, we’re not pretending that everything is OK. We can’t simply focus on growth alone. We have so many other perspectives to consider.

The industry came together to support causes like social distancing in PlayApart Together, the civil unrest of Black Lives Matter and sexual harassment in the MeToo movement. Game companies amplified voices of important but underrepresented influencers within gaming and esports.

We don’t want to leave anybody behind. This is where our theme, “Growing the next generation,” means so more than just business. When you’re worried about survival, self-preservation is a concern, and it is hard to think about others.

But caring for the next generation is a spirit that everybody can get behind. As I’ve said before, this is where you put your swords and shields down at the door. You can check your tribalism and cynicism at the door. We become stronger when we share our knowledge. You will become richer when you help your industry fellows. In the safe space of this virtual event, you are in the neutral zone.

One of our speakers, Karthik Bala of Velan Studios, observed that game developers are more willing to share their tips about what works in game development with other companies. They know that they can compete on their creativity, and no one is going to steal that. That’s the spirit with which we should move forward in sharing.

It takes a village

IGDA, Fair Play Alliance, and My.Games did a survey of gamer mental health.

Above: IGDA, Fair Play Alliance, and My.Games did a survey of gamer mental health.

Image Credit: IGDA

Our talks are relevant to gaming in 2021. Mark Chandler of The International Game Summit on Mental Health Awareness will talk with Jason Docton of Rise Above the Disorder in an emotionally charged session about suicide, and how it takes a village to save our own in the game industry. Eve Crevoshay of Take This will talk with Adam Boyes and Chelsea Blasko about how studios don’t have to crunch. And Raffael Boccamazzo will talk about burnout.

As we race forward with unprecedented financial growth, it’s good to remember that we should also grow our efforts on diversity, inclusion, and mental health. These aren’t trivial side subjects. As Microsoft’s Phil Spencer will say in one of our upcoming sessions, these diversity matters are key to turning everyone into a gamer.

Diversity is a long game, but there’s a reason why I emphasize it. During the 1992 Rodney King riots, I was a very low-ranking tech reporter. But I helped lead a reckoning about race in the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times. We got more minorities hired and promoted. We did diversity reports and made historic changes. I kept a box of my files about that time in my attic. Last year, Sewell Chan, the editorial page editor of the LA Times, asked me to share some of those 28-year-old documents with him. He reviewed them, talked to a lot of people, and wrote an editorial apologizing for the Los Angeles Times’ role in a century of racism.

As I said, diversity is a long game.

This background made me feel comfortable in the world of tech blogging, where we report objectively and also express our opinions as advocates. My experiences from the riots of so long ago sadly prepared me for the riots of last year, and I truly hope we all learn so history doesn’t repeat itself. I think we should all ask ourselves how we can do better.

As a game journalist and an event organizer, I feel like I can contribute to justice. After one of our recording sessions, one of the senior women in our industry said to me, “Thank you for giving us a voice. It means a lot.”

Those words humanized her long and lonely journey through the ranks of the game industry, and it made me feel good that we have chosen to give people a voice and a stage so they could simply say who they are, that they are here, and that they belong in this industry. Such people should not be isolated. Even in this dark time, they should be celebrated, and we’ll see that in our Women in Gaming Breakfast on Thursday morning and our Visionary Awards on Thursday afternoon.

Representation matters

Life is Strange: True Colors

Above: Life is Strange’s next protagonist is Alex Chen, and Asian American.

Image Credit: Square Enix

Representation matters. Both inside our games and in the inner ranks of the game industry. Minority groups need protection and nurturing. The pain of racism has hit the Asian American community this year, with people of Asian descent being singled out for hate crimes. Our politicians enabled those haters.

I think we should think about the power of games as a medium to make an impact. If you as a game developer create the ability for everyone to see themselves in the games that you create, then you make us visible. It becomes harder to marginalize us. As I wrote in a recent column, I don’t want anyone to be invisible anymore. It’s too dangerous. It allows ignorant politicians using phrases like “kung flu” to define us as less than human. Represent us as human and normal so that it becomes a little harder to dehumanize us.

I loved how Naughty Dog infused diversity into its cast for The Last of Us Part II, as part of a mission to convey that everyone, including your enemy, is human. I hope you’ll like the conversation that the game’s co-writer Halley Gross and I had about this outstanding achievement in diverse perspectives.

Are we an advocate for diversity? Of course. Of our 105 speakers, at least 52, or 49.5%, come from diverse backgrounds. And all of them bring valuable perspectives. We can bring you thought leadership from more than one point of view.

If you look at individual sessions, you’ll see the tactical advice about how to solve a particular problem in games. But if you zoom out to what this event is all about, you’ll see that growth, mental health, and diversity are intertwined. As Mark Chandler said, it takes a village. In this context, it takes a village to keep it all going.

At GamesBeat, we cover the daily diary of the game industry’s dreams. But our community can be more than that. It can help games find a compass to show us where the game industry is going and where it should go.

Cambrian explosion

MetaHuman Creator works with the Unreal Engine.

Above: MetaHuman Creator works with the Unreal Engine.

Image Credit: Epic Games

We see new technologies bring new opportunities. We are seeing a Cambrian explosion of technologies and startups. Think of all the AI startups out there that will automate jobs.

It’s our job to bring that technology into the industry in a way that creates a vast explosion of jobs, not a displacement of people. Marty O’Donnell, one of our speakers, said recently that if an AI creates a piece of music that can make you cry, he’ll hang up his spurs as a musician. I am very interested in how games could create new kinds of jobs, like what I call the Leisure Economy, where we get paid to play games or reap the benefits of user-generated content.

There are so many frontiers to explore, like how playing blockchain games can generate income for people in emerging markets like the Philippines, or how new crypto and blockchain software layers will enable new business models for mainstream games. There are so many more potentially transformative technologies that constantly renew gaming, and that is where we like to position GamesBeat as a publication.

On the next plane above us, the platform owners are jockeying for position. This week, Apple is choosing to prioritize user privacy over targeted advertising with its changes to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). On a tactical level, this will make it harder for mobile game companies to find users. On a strategic level, it’s a battle between Apple, Facebook, and Google over paid and free business models. Apple and Epic are also in a struggle for the hearts and minds of developers.

I think that raising the walls of walled gardens isn’t the way to the endgame. As Tim Sweeney of Epic Games has said, the key to making games ubiquitous is to knock down barriers and make them more accessible around the world. If you think about that big picture, then you can see the opportunity. Gaming was in the nerd ghetto for so long. It has emerged into the mainstream. And now the revenge of the nerds has come.

Part of the hope is that games, not platforms, will become the kingmakers, proving the old adage that content is king. And what happens next, now that games are winning? Well my friends, that is up to you.

How you move forward will determine whether you can help bring about an even greater golden age of gaming or see it snap back to being a smaller industry.

Working on the metaverse or just a game?

The metaverse is ready for you -- if you are prepared to be responsible.

Above: The metaverse is ready for you — if you are prepared to be responsible.

Image Credit: Unit 2 Games Limited

Whether you’re trying to create the metaverse, or you’re just trying to get your next game done, I think we’ve created a great event for you. You’ll learn some great things, like how Shawn Layden tells developers to focus on first, best, or must. Bobby Kotick will talk about 30 years of running one of the biggest companies in the industry. And Laura Miele will talk about how the process of making games is hard and always changing.

We have tried to make this event into a kind of digital watering hole, with roundtables, Zoom Q&As with speakers, 1-on-1s on Grip, and virtual chats on Slack. You can listen to sessions, but we would be thrilled if you used GamesBeat’s community to plot your next worldwide revolution. I am thankful that, in our digital form, we can now reach more people around the world.

We’re also here today because you care about what kind of game industry we create. I first tried to get a diversity in games event funded about six years ago. I consider this GamesBeat Summit to be the first time we have been successful with that cause.

I want to thank our sponsors who have heard our call to support a great GamesBeat community and a free and independent press that is capable of authentically covering games. We appreciate your support, and we are grateful that speakers have given us their time.

As it is, getting this event done is no easy matter. I want to thank our GamesBeat and VentureBeat writers, our excellent advisory board, our production company Evergreen, our VentureBeat business team, and our GamesBeat community. You have held us together during a crisis that has lasted far longer than we ever thought it would.

I am hopeful we’ll meet in person again some day. Or maybe we can just meet in the metaverse.

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