If you are an indie game developer, you’ve probably been to major gaming events like E3, Pax West, Pax East, Games Com, Tokyo Game Show or China Joy as a fanboy.
Maybe you’ve dreamed of bringing your own game to these events one day.
So the day has come when you have a game (or half of it) to showcase. But then you realize that getting even a tiny booth at one of these conventions will set you back a few thousand bucks, money that you will have to beg or borrow. So you ask yourself if it is going to be worth it. But before you ask that question, perhaps the better question to ask is – ‘what are you trying to achieve by exhibiting at an event’?
One of the obvious reasons for attending game shows is to generate awareness for your new game.
With tens to hundreds of thousands of gamers visiting these events, it is a great opportunity to showcase your game and generate some buzz.
A bonus would be when the press visits your booth and does a coverage on your game on a popular website, social media or gasp … National TV. We were very fortunate to have all the above happen to us when we exhibited Sairento VR at the Tokyo Game Show.
The credit goes to our partner VAQSO who gave us a spot in their pavilion and herded the press members our way.
If you don’t have the benefit of a partner like VAQSO, you can still attract the press by doing the following –
- Before you go to the event, try to find out which press would be visiting and reach out to them
- Make sure you have something news worthy to pitch and give them a good solid reason to visit your booth
- Bring your best people to the booth and maintain a high level of energy in showcasing your game
- Stay vigilant at all times for the moment the press drops by and do your best to impress
So you had a great time showcasing your game to thousands of gamers at one of these major events. Many of them shake hands with you congratulating you on a job well done and you rub your hands in glee waiting for the money to come rolling in.
And the sales figures barely register a tick. OK, maybe one or two, but it’s definitely not moving the needle.
You see, generating awareness for your game may not necessarily translate to sales.
A possible reason of course is that your game sucks. If it does then any awareness is just going to warn people to stay away from your game.
But assuming your game is decent but not yet ready, then obviously people won’t have a channel to buy it unless your are on Steam’s Early Access program or on some crowd-funding platform.
Another reason could be simply that the platform your game is on doesn’t have a high penetration rate yet. For example, when we went to major events like Games Com in Germany and Tokyo Game Show in Japan to showcase Sairento VR, we had relentlessly long queues of people from morning til evening, but it generated very little in terms of sales in those regions. But when our partner took Sairento to Pax East and West, our sales shot up, showing us that the penetration rate of VR headsets was higher in the US than in Europe and Japan.
There are a few kinds of business opportunities you can seek out at gaming events.
Publishing | Ask any indie game developer what they need most and they will usually tell you ‘funding’. Ask them from whom they think they can secure the funding and they will almost always echo ‘publishers’. Well, the good news is that there are plenty of publishers to speak to at gaming events. But the thing is you may not always need to or want to work with one. I’ve written an article on this topic here – Do You Really Need A Game Publisher?
Distribution | Perhaps you are looking for boxed retail distributors for your game? If so, gaming events are pretty useful for that. Our PSVR boxed retail distributor found us when he wandered to our booth at Games Com. And the funny thing was, he had offices in Singapore (where we are based) but he only found out about our game all the way in Germany!
Licensees | If your game is a big hit, you can seek out licensing agents or licensees who specialize in making and selling game merchandise to represent or license your game IP to make into all kinds of paraphernalia.
Collaboration | Game shows are not a bad place to look for other developers, artists, sound designers, etc to work with you on your latest game.
Vendors | Or if you have some budget and would rather outsource than to look for collaborators, you could visit the vendors’ booths which provide all sorts of services, including localization, character design, animation, foley and sound effects, music composing, etc.
If your game is already popular, you probably want to take the opportunity to meet up with fans, take some photos with them, build up rapport and give them freebies for being your supporters.
A lot of game developers focus on looking for new customers but forget that the old customers are the ones who have proven their loyalty and willingness to support them. Meet-and-greet sessions during such major events is a great opportunity to connect with them, let know them about your future plans and retain their support for the longer term.
And of course before you go to the event, it is best to shout out on social media and let your fans know that you will be attending the show. Give them a sneak preview of what you may be bringing to give away and be sure to wear a t-shirt showcasing your game or company.