GDC Europe and Gamescom on a budget

GDC Europe and Gamescom on a budget

The objective

As you may know we attended GDC Europe and Gamescom and soon we will be posting more details on how that experience went day by day. But for this post I want to do something different. 2Awesome studio is a new Dutch independent game development studio and we are working on our first commercial game, Dimension Drive. If we wanted to get the word out we knew that going to GDC Europe and Gamescom was something we had to do. In May we attended Indie Gameleon where Rami Ismail concluded his talk with two very good questions to the audience. He first asked people to raise their hands if they consider themselves game developers or wanted to be one at some point. He got a room full of raised hands in response. He then asked people to raise their hands if they were planning to go to GDC Europe and Gamescom. Almost nobody raised a hand! He made a very good point on the necessity to attend both events. Everybody who is somebody in the industry will be there! So, we needed to be there! We want to be somebody in the industry at some point.

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The plan

After that Alejandro and I started to talk about our possibilities to attend and what we wanted to achieve from such event. We were not in a position to pay for a full pass, and having a booth was totally out of our possibilities, so we decided to explore other routes:

Unfortunately, we were not selected for a place in the Dutch Pavilion. The ten games that were selected where in most cases at a development stage much further than us, they had a publisher, some sort of funding or came from big names. It was clear that it was probably to soon for us to be selected but it was worth a shot nevertheless. Then, the selection for the Innovative Games Showcase came around and to our dismay we were again not amongst the selected ones. “But our game is very innovative!”, we thought. What could have happened? We were sure that Dimension Drive was going to make it. I mean, a shoot’em up where you play two games at once set in space and done by 2 guys that work in the Space Agency, how’s that for innovative? After checking the selection it was very clear why we were not selected. Those games were more than innovative, many were so incredible and rare that can be considered a totally new genre. Look at Bounden for example, or a Light in the Chorus (a game made out only of particles). So, we had to resort to our last option go to GDC Europe and Gamescom on a budget and make the most of it.

 

Execution

One of the most important things of attending GDC Europe and Gamescom for us was what we wanted to get out if it. It was clear that we would not be able to showcase in a booth or give a speaker talk that would help spread the word on us and our game. But we were not going to give up. We bought IGS tickets (180€) , a cheap hotel for 2 nights (80€) and return train tickets from The Netherlands to Cologne (80€). Total cost was around 350€ -400€ once you factor in the meals over there. Not bad, the problem now was how to get exposure on our game and ourselves. The last of our issues came when Alejandro told me that unfortunately he was not able to join me due to family issues. So, there I was, alone, no booth and almost no budget against the mother of all game conferences. Still, I was determined to make the most out of it. This is what I did:

  • I scheduled as much meetings as possible in advance via twitter, e-mail and other connections.
  • I signed up for every party and networking event that I could get into. Pocket Gamer Mobile Mixer and Pocket Gamer Big Indie Pitch (I will write a future article on how that went).
  • I became a man booth. I walked the floors of the expo with a build of the game in my laptop, game pad ready to play, another one in the PS Vita, trailers in my tablet, flyers and business cards. And I pitched my game in the spot to everybody that would like to hear what I had to say. By the second day, I lost any sense of shyness. I even pitched my game to some high ranked Microsoft executives because I couldn’t find Chris Charla from ID@Xbox and they paid attention to me!
  • I approached the booths of people I know, I have some connection with, or would let me showcase Dimension Drive just because. The guys at the Unity booth were amazing letting me showcase there. I’m Spanish and I have a Dutch company, so why not exploit that?  I went to both the Spanish and the Dutch pavilion and I hanged around there showing my game and meeting people.
  • Alejandro was supporting me from home, pointing me to events, meetings or just hammering twitter. He made a selection of the companies that could be interested in ourselves and were in the expo floor. I took the list and I pitched Dimension Drive (even without any meeting or appointment) to several publishers, press outlets and other game devs.

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The results

I would say that our first attendance to GDC Europe and Gamescom was a success, even if some things could have been better.

The good:

  • We ran out of flyers.
  • We made more than 100 contacts that now we have to follow-up with meetings, interviews and longer pitches.
  • I showcased our game almost non-stop during the three days I was there even with no booth.
  • I spend the evenings having dinner with great people talking about game development, publishing, the difficulties of an indie studio and plainly having fun!

The bad:

  • I could not find Chris Charla from ID@Xbox.
  • Finding somebody from Sony to pitch our game (even if having already a PS Vita alpha build) was impossible.
  • I could not pitch my game to Valve without having an appointment beforehand.
  • Some people is so busy that they had really no time to listen to me (plan meetings beforehand!).

Conclusion and advice

Are you a game developer or want to be part of the game industry at some point? Are you in Europe? Then, you must go to GDC Europe and Gamescom. We learned that it is possible to attend with less than 400€. And not only that, if you play your cards right, you can showcase your game almost non-stop even without a booth, get a lot of valuable contacts and make new friends. Are we planning to attend next year? Absolutely. Will we do it in the same way? Probably, if I could change something would be to schedule more meetings in advance next time. As much as I tried sometimes it was impossible to talk to people without having an appointment. Finally, the best piece of advice we can give on what to do when attending would be to talk to everyone. What do you think? Will you be attending next time? Did you attend and have a different take on how to make the most of it on a budget?