Interesting first day at the Montreal International Game Summit

My first day at the Summit was simply awesome! Many interesting keynotes, passionate people and good energy where at rendez-vous to meet my expectations.

Wada San, as introduced by Stéphane D’Astous, was really interesting in his presentation because he was not only talking about games, he was talking about entertainment in general. He insisted that the word “game” was intentionally omitted in Square Enix Group’s philosophy: “To spread happiness across the globe by providing unforgettable experiences”. In order to spread this happiness around the globe, you have to take into account global diversities.  According to Yoichi Wada, It’s not because of the country, or because of age. Rather, lifestyles have to be taken into account to consider the nature of our customers. We talk about different areas, but we have to know about different cultures. You can be at the opposite side of the planet to someone and in a different age group but still have chances to have similar hobbies, or totally different ones.

Square Enix is working on spreading offices around the planet to make sure to reach his objective. Eidos acquisition was part of that plan and I don’t know if it was an official announcement, but Wada San mentioned that the first project coming from Eidos as part of the Square Enix Group would be from Montreal, as the third project of the Eidos Montreal offices.

Another presentation I really enjoyed assisting was Reid Schneider’s “Preaching to the Choir: Do We Make Games For Ourselves?” I think he is a good speaker and the way he made analogies between his Fraternity years and the game development caught my attention, maybe because my years at University are still fresh to my mind. To help understand his points, he began his presentation by a situation he faced when he was “Social Chairman” of his fraternity; he was tasked to improve the parties. The first unanimous request from the guys was that we needed to have more girls at our parties, he recalls. He also totally agreed with that, but the main problem they had at the parties is that they were about good beer and music that they liked… such as live bands and Guiness. They needed to redistribute capacity and resources; it was time to start thinking about spending money on girl-friendly drinks, anything pink usually works,  and more importantly; 80s music, because 80s music is what girls like to drink and dance to. They needed to offer what the market was asking for in order to attract them, even if it was not about him and his friends.

Game development is similar, you have to keep being creative and do stuff you like but you need to deliver viable products, games that the market will want to buy. He didn’t that we shouldn’t do games for ourselves, we still need to do games that we are passionate about but we also need to make sure we know what the market want and be successful.

I also went to a couple of other conferences that were as interesting as the firsts. Liza Wood from Artificial Mind & Movement talked about things she swore she would never do to someone else in a management perspective. It was about relationships within teams and collaboration skills. Many real life examples helped her make her point and this was interesting to me to see that people skills are important, especially honesty. It was interesting to me because I think that sometimes people tend to see their professional life as an every man for himself competition and she proved that it’s not like that.

A little trend I observed by attending to other conferences is that prototyping is important (obviously !), but in a different way than we would be used to. With the digital distribution we have now and web-based video games, it is possible to make your “beta” accessible to the consumers and iterate from there. Let’s say you have a racing game; you can put 3-4 tracks available with 4-5 different cars in your “beta” version available for free. Planning to monetize the game on what people will buy within the game (paint jobs, wheels, etc) and build new cars and tracks from there reduce the risks for the studio and also help delivering what consumers want for the game. This is a method widely used in South Korean, said Jason Della Rocca.

Also, augmented reality games are getting a bigger place into the gaming industry. Yet, I only saw it used into mini-games linked to an advertisement campaign, but I think it will be used more and more as true games.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, last day of the International Game Summit, there are many subjects that I want to learn on and this is the best place to be to get answers to my questions. Did you folks like the first day of the Summit? Which keynotes did you attend? See you tomorrow!

P.S. Special thanks to Reid Schneider, that picture of mechanically deboned chicken was somewhat intriguing.