Tech

For gaming conferences, the future is hybrid

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If there was ever a moment in time for the video game industry to change how we conduct business, generate sales, and influence the market to be more inclusive, this might be it.

As a veteran attendee and exhibitor of video game conferences, I’ve spent an immeasurable amount of time, money, and resources attending gaming shows since the early 2000s. Some of my most memorable times have happened during these events. However, increasing costs and jam-packed schedules made it difficult to relax and focus on the event’s objective: establishing and strengthening meaningful relationships.

Physical events remain vital for their local business communities. But ever-rising costs force many of these to march toward economies of scale, relying on large regional and international participation.

This is why virtual events matter.

Analysts forecast that virtual events will grow tenfold over the next decade, alongside the $1 trillion physical events industry. So how can they grow together? By taking a hybrid approach, where events have both a physical and virtual footprint, designed to work together and offer the best of both.

Virtual is not just an alternative, a Plan B. It is an equally valuable companion that gives attendees the opportunity to participate when they otherwise couldn’t. The result is a more cost-effective, accessible, and inclusive event experience that improves the quality for all of us, the stakeholders.

If you’re in the gaming business, at some point during the pandemic you probably explored the virtual event landscape. And like me, you may not have found exactly what you were looking for. The business I have been running and the dream that fuels it needs a new way to market. And when this pandemic ends, the business landscape will be altered.

I’m looking for a fully immersive next-gen experience that scales. Plain and simple. Give me rich graphics, great networking, business matchmaking tools and the ability to do it from the comfort of my web browser. Virtual events that run inside of a web browser make them easily accessible to everyone. Business developers and marketing departments typically don’t have high-end 3D gaming hardware to run native clients. One of my biggest criticisms is making clients download software to their business devices for something that can easily run inside of a web browser. Business developers shouldn’t need to download anything to participate in a modern virtual event.

Perhaps cloud gaming technology is missing its true calling by providing better pixel streaming support for B2B events. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have the hardware capacity to support this effort today and with some focus on optimization likely at a  much lower cost than what current vGPU prices are at 4 cents per user, per minute.

With that said I recognize this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to improve, make things more inclusive and bring us back together.

The future of both virtual and hybrid events has been thrust upon us. The tradeshow industry is going to hustle towards the future. Events are the gaming industry’s lifeblood and they must go on no matter what. We need to future-proof our ecosystem and innovate.

Innovation knows no bounds. Virtual event technology is solving big tech hurdles that prevent truly viable options from existing such as increased concurrent user capacity per session or reducing the cost of pixel streaming to all devices. Virtual events that once may have appeared empty due to networking technology constraints can now be full of vibrant life and interaction. Removing these constraints is the first step in enhancing virtual event-based social experiences.

Equally as important are the responsible integration of communication, broadcasting, networking and interactive technologies that bring us together “outside of the box.

By providing scalable solutions for those that need it, virtual events such as Game Carnival, hosted by Xsolla, can achieve their B2B initiatives at scale. Xsolla was one of the first companies in our industry to attempt a virtual event to support game developers in need of exposure during the pandemic last year. Events such as GCX (formally Guardian Con) hosted by Rare Drop can achieve their charitable goals by supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Other examples such as virtual launch parties, tech seminars and game showcases can all benefit in new ways thanks to the rise of virtual event technology. As a GDC veteran, I’d like to see big events such as GDC take a page out of Xsolla’s book and offer a truly immersive experience.

Nowadays, developers don’t have to wait for the next trade show like GDC or CES to learn about a new technology. Consumers don’t have to wait for the next big digital reveal at E3 or GamesCom. Today there exists a new world where access to the next big event is literally at your fingertips. As virtual event technologies mature, anyone anywhere will be able to host a virtual event — and at a low cost — anytime.

Without square footage limitations, we can leverage the powerful gaming engines, such as Unreal Engine or Unity, to run potentially millions of simultaneous sessions to create a real metaverse of conference-goers and consumers, all connected, transacting and sharing. Imagine attending GDC as a hybrid event. Where a million developers can join in on the GDC experience from around the globe from the comfort of their computer chair. Imagine being able to interact in 3D with potential B2B clients of your new technological innovation virtually while doing a physical platform talk at GDC. You, as the presenter, are being streamed into the virtual event, on stage – to a million avatars. This truly is the future where everything begins to scale more easily. With unbound engagement potential, virtual event technology can be the elusive conduit between the games industry and the non-endemics that has long been sought after.

Literally, virtual events technology enables us to disconnect from reality. I’m excited to see what innovations await us. The gaming space is on the cusp of amazing innovative breakthroughs in virtual and hybrid events. Yes, we must hit all the checkboxes for a modern communications tool — but we can be so much more. We can go beyond those real-world limits and experience something completely out of this world.

Vince McMullin is an industry veteran and tech boss having worked with companies such as Microsoft, Nvidia, and Epic Games, with more than 20 years of experience presenting and exhibiting at global tradeshows and conferences.

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