Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for reading GamesBeat and VentureBeat. We are grateful to our community for reading our stories, giving us news tips, commenting on our work, and yes even correcting us when we’re wrong. We’re the place where business meets passion. And you’re the ones that make sure that we stay true to that mission.
My DeanBeat column usually runs on Friday’s, but I’ll be off today and Thanksgiving seems a better day to say thanks than on Black Friday. I have much to be thankful for in yet another amazing year. It’s a privilege to be a video game journalist, a job that takes me to so many unexpected places. Last week, it brought me with 30 feet of Stephan Curry as he practiced dribbling at the Warriors’ Chase Center. Game journalism has taken me around the globe, from Tokyo to Tel Aviv, though lately during the pandemic I’ve been cloistered with my family.
I thank you also for attending our three online GamesBeat Summit conferences in the past year. We kicked it off in January with our first GamesBeat/Facebook Gaming Summit and Into the Metaverse, which was early on its theme but was validated when Mark Zuckerberg pivoted Facebook to the metaverse.
Then we held our diversity and mental-health focused GamesBeat Summit 2021 event in April, where Microsoft’s Phil Spencer spoke about valuing diversity and Bobby Kotick gave his last big talk before the events of the summer (the sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard) led him into a virtual bunker. And we closed our year’s events with our exploration of the metaverse, NFTs, and other edge opportunities at our GamesBeat Summit Next event in November (see the videos here and my speech about the revenge of the nerds here). More than 7,500 high-level people came to those events, not counting those who watched it on livestreams and on-demand. I was proud our events had 50% speakers with diverse backgrounds, and so glad the speakers chose our events to speak at.
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We appreciate those who took advantage of the summit Zoom Q&A sessions to engage one-on-one with our speakers, and those who came to our in-person reception in San Francisco. We had some groundbreaking talks. Matthew Ball spoke about investing in the metaverse now with the Metaverse ETF ($meta), Strauss Zelnick‘s did a fireside chat with Mike Vorhaus about a traditional game company’s view of the metaverse and NFTs, and we had NFT games leaders like John Linden, Yat Siu, Jeff Zirlin and others discuss the controversial yet enticing world that will combine crypto natives and gaming natives together. I was glad that we co-broadcasted session on a vision for the metaverse with eight metaverse luminaries (like Tim Sweeney). The talk was the fifth most popular session at Nvidia’s GTC, which had hundreds of talks.
It’s been so refreshing to see the $175 billion game industry face yet another age of transformation, renewal, and golden opportunities. In fact, I can remember people who struggled to raise $1 million now taking part in the biggest boom that the game industry has ever seen, with $71 billion poured into game public offerings, acquisitions, and investments in the first nine months of this year. We talked about the opportunities that come from this boom throughout the whole event.
What invigorated me about being a game and tech journalist this year is that I’ve had a chance to write the stories that I live for. I had to use my gaming and tech knowledge to understand some complex markets and find the right places to be, like walking among the true believers in NFT games at a party and hearing how they believe they’re going to change the world. I enjoyed writing about why I think that NFT game startups are going to be the big publishers and platform companies to a very big market.
And just last week, I got to see Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia — an entrepreneur that I covered when he told his first public story in 1996 — get the highest honor of the chip industry in an award given by his peers as the company’s market value hit $789 billion. I can still get access to him, even in a year when he made it to one of Time’s 100 most-influential people. And I coaxed a wild story out of Huang where he said he would marshal the huge supercomputing resources of Nvidia and its allies to build a digital twin of the Earth with meter-level accuracy in order to create a climate prediction model, and that digital twin would give us enough simulation data to build the metaverse for free.
And I enjoyed doing the closing podcast with GamesBeat’s crew including Mike Minotti, Jeff Grubb, and our newest writer Rachel Kaser. That was a blast. We lost our longtime managing editor Jason Wilson during the year, and I wish him well in whatever job he does next. We saw colleagues leave and arrive on the VentureBeat side as well, and I’m very happy with the folks who have chosen to stay on our little lifeboat for gamers and nerds. We’ve got an awesome business side and events crew on our VentureBeat team as well. I’m well aware that thousands of jobs have disappeared in traditional media as so many things are competing for our attention. Your sponsorships, ticket purchases, and clicking on our ad-based stories have kept us alive at a time when so many companies in our business have failed.
We also had a lot of people come to our webinars and our other VentureBeat events. We had some fun ones like stopping cheating in online games (and we did a reprise at our GamesBeat Summit Next event) and the inspirational connections between science fiction, tech, and games with investor Tim Chang and novelist Ramez Naam. That kind of inspiration is the wellspring of ideas that move the industry forward. We also did some very high-touch roundtable events this year that let our community speak openly in small-group settings — in online sessions. I appreciate those who make our events possible, from Subspace to Facebook.
While it seems like we just finished one event, we’re already busy planning for our second annual GamesBeat/Facebook Gaming Summit and GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 on January 25 to January 27. We’ve got some awesome speakers like Chris DeWolfe, CEO of Jam City, and Dave Baszucki, CEO of Roblox, who have been loyal friends of GamesBeat for a very long time now, even when their success has widened their reach to so many more people beyond our own circle.
I’m also thankful I got to slow down and smell the roses. For me, that means getting to play games. After all, a game journalist who doesn’t play games isn’t much good, and I have to fight for the time to play. I managed to play some games like Rome: Total War Remastered, Total War Saga: Troy, Life is Strange: True Colors, Halo: Infinite, Call of Duty: Vanguard, and Battlefield 2042. And of course, I stayed sane by playing Call of Duty: Warzone for much of the year, and I’m looking forward to the new Pacific map coming on December 8.
And I appreciate being able to travel a little. I got on a plane for the first time in 20 months and went to the WN Seattle conference, where I saw old friends and was able to talk with Ed Fries, an Xbox co-creator and Microsoft game studios executive-turned venture capitalist. It was also joyful to interview Seamus Blackley, another Xbox instigator, at our recent summit. I’m looking forward to watching Power On: The Story of Xbox, a six-part documentary coming on December 13. It documents some of the times that I lived through as I wrote my first book. In Seattle, I connected with my old friend Seth Schiesel, a former New York Times writer who is now writing for the top Xbox leader Phil Spencer.
I have considered other paths besides journalism as well, and I keep coming back to the joy of talking to new people every day on beat of shared interest with so many interesting characters. Gaming and tech are great beats to cover, but it’s the people within them that keep me coming back. This is my community, and I’m thankful to be a part of it.
It has been fun to engage with so many other new faces as well, from those who are just getting started in games (who I don’t mind introducing to others when I can be helpful) and others who share the same passion for things like science fiction, fantasy, games, and tech. I’ve enjoyed playing games with the likes of Anthony Palma, Mark Chandler, James Wing, Peter Levin, Osama Dorias, and many strangers in Warzone. (I’m always looking for more people to play with me in the wee hours).
I’ve also enjoyed meeting a lot of people on Clubhouse through weekly talks that I’ve done summarizing the game news of the week. Jon Radoff and others have joined in those talks which we now host on the Tech Talks club on Clubhouse. That helped me feel like I can still meet new people even in this online-focused world that we are now all sharing together. In fact, I noticed the people who were the most chatty and attentive in our online events were people that I met in Clubhouse.
I hope to foster connections with people in the next year not only online in whatever will become the metaverse. I’ve taken the lessons of not traveling to heart, like the chance it gives me to exercise just about every day. I don’t know what technology will bring the metaverse to life for us. But I do know that games will lead the way. And I’m looking forward to in-person travel again to events like The Game Awards in Los Angeles, CES 2022, and the Dice Summit in February. I’m planning some other things that may happen as well.
By April, we are hoping to do part of our program for our GamesBeat Summit 2022 event in Los Angeles, while part of it will still be online. I’ll be quite grateful if that can happen as planned. And I’ll always be looking for great stories to tell along the way, whether it’s someone I’ve covered five times before and is on to a new project, or someone coming out of the blue with a cool idea.
I always try to remember that Watergate lesson: follow the money. I hope to get past my blind spots and see things as they truly are, and not from some glazed view from inside a bubble. I always appreciate those who let me see things from another point of view, whether it’s the top CEOs or those on the fringes of the industry.
In the midst of a lot of worldwide misery from this pandemic, I’m reminded how lucky I am to still be here. I’ve lost some friends along the way, particularly in this time of COVID, like the always-kind Sarah Ross (may she rest in peace), the former head of global communications of Zynga. It reminds me that we’re not on this Earth forever, and we’re lucky to have the lives that we’re leading, fragile as they are on this pale blue dot in space. If you have your own challenges with mental health, please take care of yourself first.
I’m quite grateful to be celebrating this Thanksgiving with my family including my 88-year-old mother, who had COVID but managed to stay healthy and happy during the pandemic. Thank you all for getting vaccinated and wearing a mask for mom.
I’ll be heating up my professionally smoked (not by me) turkey and toasting you all. No doubt my family will ask me when I’m going to be ready to retire. But after a year like this one, I can’t imagine doing that. Thanks for reading this and for being a reader.
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