Which Game Industry Conference Is Right for Me?
The main factors to consider when choosing an event to either attend or exhibit at are cost, time, location, and Category / Focus – Mobile, Casual, AAA (mostly b2c exhibitions), Indie, AR/VR, tabletop, etc.
Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco is by far the biggest and most significant event for developers to attend. It’s usually around late February to early March, and lasts about a week. Game Connection America is usually held in parallel nearby. I’ve made a list of off-site parties and events for GDC 2017.
There are two main categories of events for almost any industry:
B2B (Business to Business) is ideal for Developers, Service Providers, Game Publishers, Ad Networks, Distribution Platforms, Tools, etc. Examples include Casual Connect, Pocket Gamer Connects, and Game Connection.
Overlap: For games industry conferences, almost any event can be considered to be B2B if indie developers are in attendance, even if the show is primarily B2C focused. This is because it’s not always about who your target audience is an exhibitor, but rather who the attendees are interested in talking to, as they can have different interests (i.e. a journalist and gamer would have different reasons for looking at new games).The other aspect is that often times the roles can be reversed – a visitor can stop by multiple booths, and if almost all of the booths are their target audience, then in effect it’s as if the visitor had a booth and the exhibitors were their visitors.
Conversely, all attendees (except for players or fans) should try to find a B2B objective to take away from the event. For developers, that can be finding a publisher, trying to get press for their new game, or just general networking with peers.
See this list of game industry events indexable by date or country.
What happens at game industry trade shows:
Talks, panels, and workshops – Some of the information shared by presenters can be valuable. Executives will share candid insights on a particular topic, such as user acquisition, publishing, game design, etc. Some of the talks and sessions are recorded for later viewing. Here are the YouTube channels for Casual Connect, Pocket Gamer Connects, and GDC Vault.
Expo Hall – Like virtually any conference, the main attraction will be an exposition hall, where exhibitors will have booths for attendees to walk up and visit. Usually they will be stocked with promotional materials, pens, pamphlets, signs, TV’s, business cards, etc. Here’s more information on what you should bring with you as a developer [LINK].
Networking mixers, happy hours, parties, dinners – Usually a sponsored affair, evening meetups are usually a good time to network and connect with fellow attendees. Your main goal should be to meet new people here. For larger events like GDC, sometimes parties really are for entertainment, and not an ideal place for networking, but can still be a good time nonetheless. Dinners tend to provide the best option for networking
Private Meetings – Some people will schedule as many as 80 meetings* in one week, beginning as early as two months in advance. For an event that attracts 26,000 game industry professionals, I can see see as being a wise use of time.
*30-minute slots, 16 slots in an 8-hour periods, multiplied times 5 days equates to 80 meetings