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How Gaming Conferences Are Adapting to the Remote Model: A Post-Gamescom Chat

Since 2007, ModSquad has served as a power infusion for many of the gaming industry’s heaviest hitters. Our video game enthusiast Mods provide moderation, player support, community, and social media management for some of the hottest titles on every player’s games shelf. No wonder ModSquad is a regular presence at gaming-industry events throughout the world.

One such event is Gamescom, held every summer in Cologne, Germany. With this year’s installment going virtual, we were pleased to join our friends at Ukie by staffing a table in their digital booth. Two familiar faces on the gaming-conference circuit — Rich Weil, ModSquad’s SVP Global Operations and Clive Jefferies, ModSquad’s VP, Sales — were in attendance, albeit remotely. Here, they compare notes on the event and offer tips on how to make the most of a virtual conference.

CJ: We’ve been going to Gamescom for 10 years or more, and it’s one of the highlights of our year. Obviously the pandemic put the complete kibosh on that. After they cancelled GDC back in March, I was surprised they were going to move forward with Gamescom, as it is such a hugely social event.

RW: Gamescom is a unique show. It has been one of the most successful shows for us at ModSquad, when it comes to building relationships. Gamescom has always provided great opportunities to meet people in the industry. Yet many relationships and business partnerships are borne from what you might call second-priority conversations. For a start-up attending a conference, their first priority may be to talk to investors. The first priority for a publisher may be the events focused on players or streamers. That’s understandable. But the real value at these conferences are those next-level conversations; interacting with a healthy blend of attendees may not be the driving force behind one’s attendance, but those discussions can be quite valuable. For us, a conversation may reveal that someone is not happy with their current player support solution, and we can build from that discussion. But at a virtual conference, those happy-accident discussions and side conversations don’t happen; you’re just focusing on your main objective, and that’s it.

CJ: You’re right. Normally, people walk the floors staring at everyone else’s badges to figure out who to have a chat with. That’s why, in the virtual world, attendees have to be more proactive in order to make those connections. Most in-person conferences have an app, many of which offer sponsors and exhibitors the opportunity to connect with attendees, simply by scanning a badge and/or looking them up on the app. In the virtual setting, it’s more important to keep up with everything by taking advantage of the full suite of offerings like the app, social media tie-ins (like Gamescom’s content on Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok), online gameplay demos, and other features on the conference’s content hub.

RW: I think Gamescom did a good job and I was happy that we supported Gamescom and Ukie. But, as my colleague Clive has pointed out to me before, to get the real value out of a conference, you have to set aside time for it on your calendar. If you’re trying to do a virtual show in conjunction with your normal daily work, it won’t happen. You need to block off your calendar to allow you to focus on the show. And you’ll want to make sure you have all the networking tools set up well beforehand. If there are presentation streams you want to watch, put them in your calendar and make sure you understand how the viewing system works.

CJ: Gamescom had limited time to turn this around, and they did a fantastic job. But being in the games industry, I’d expect future conferences to be more immersive, whether as an MMO event or something held, say, in Second Life. A solution to overcome the hurdle of interacting with various attendees might be something along the lines of gamification. Perhaps you get a scorecard and earn points for the number of people with whom you have an actual conversation. Make it something that you have fun doing, where you have an avatar walking the hall space that can meet people randomly and strike up conversations. Because whether it’s gaming or whether it’s ecommerce, engagement is what sells anything.

RW: One takeaway, after seeing Gamescom and other virtual gaming shows, is that this isn’t the solution in full. The future of these shows can go two different ways. Either we just keep doing it this way until we can meet again in person, or we keep iterating and improving the overall system until we have a breakthrough, like gamifying the event, that changes the overall experience.

CJ: If I were an entrepreneur, I’d be thinking about the money that companies could save by developing a next-level online conference. It would cost next to nothing compared to what companies normally spend sending people to an event. That business model is ripe for the taking, if someone is brave enough to grab that and run with it.

Gamescom organizers hope to offer a more complete experience next year, combining the traditional expo in Cologne with the enhanced virtual experience for online attendees. However things shake out, you can be sure that ModSquad will be there, taking in the new releases, connecting with industry movers and shakers, and bringing more clients and partners into the ModSquad gaming universe.

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