Trendspotting: SXSW, GDC, and PAX East

After a busy month at industry conferences, we’re still basking in the glow of meeting so many awesome people and seeing so much innovation on display. Is it too soon to feel nostalgic for shows that just ended? Not for us, and here’s why.

South by Southwest

For four full days, we hosted ModSquad’s Tropical Getaway at South by Southwest (SXSW), featuring a tiki hut, beach balls, flamingos, and umbrella drinks. We welcomed hundreds of visitors, including partners, clients, inquisitive reps from cool brands, and everyday fest-attendees. If you follow our social feeds (and if you’re not, why not?), you no doubt saw pictures of showgoers posing in our giant “Get Away From It All” postcards and posing on our nifty Vespa.

Being in the middle of the Trade Show gave us an opportunity to scope out groundbreaking tech like Lovot, a Japanese robot that looks like a small penguin and displays a digital approximation of love and affection to its owner. From ‘bots with forklift arms to future Terminators that will cook you breakfast, it was like a warm and fuzzy version of the robopocalypse at SXSW, we’ve got to say.

On a more human scale, we noticed how much focus companies are putting on the localization of languages. We saw translation and RFID devices used in industries from health care to publishing. We’re interested to see how this trend will touch customer support in the near future.

When we stepped outside for a few moments in the warm Austin sun, we often found ourselves not in a bustling Texas city, but in the landscapes of shows like Amazon Prime’s Good Omens. We were impressed with how immersive these marketing activations were, from in-character people on the streets to the ubiquitous props, posters, and promo material. These proactive campaigns get more detailed and elaborate every year, with characters and specific thematic content all over the streets of Austin.

Game Developers Conference

Over in the streets of San Francisco, the vibe was equally festive, as video game professionals and enthusiasts gathered for Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Center. We were there in force, meeting up with our many industry friends and taking in the whirlwind of presentations and displays that nearly overwhelm the senses.

As expected, Google used this opportunity to introduce the world to its cloud gaming platform, Stadia, which will stream games directly to any device running a Chrome browser, bypassing the need for a gaming console. We got a demo, but full details like price, titles, and a release date are TBD. Days later, Microsoft countered with a presentation of its own streaming service, Project xCloud. Its features and compatibility with Xbox One helped the service garner good buzz from those in attendance.

A popular topic of conversation (on the floor and in quite a few sessions) was the growing popularity of esports, a subject to which we’re particularly close. It’s a fledgling industry that’s working to identify itself while establishing guidelines. We also enjoyed the indie game pitch stage (think Shark Tank for game developers), talked to a wide range of industry insiders and fans alike, and had a chance to check out a fair number of upcoming titles (someone has to do the hard work).

PAX East

Over in Boston, ModSquad’s SVP, Global Operations Rich Weil was a ubiquitous presence at PAX East, moderating and organizing one panel and participating in two others.  On the show floor, VR was everywhere you looked. Some companies, like Oculus and Playstation, cleverly had glass demo booths that allowed showgoers to see people trying out VR games while keeping the player enclosed.

Rich Weil (left) overseeing his PAX East panel. Photo: Russell Miner.

Also out in force at PAX East were indie-game companies (showing off their impressive advancements) and board games (seemingly bigger than ever, with no end in sight for this trend). Rich also spent time at Mixer’s terrific party and the GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit, an interesting networking event with great panels from companies like Xsolla, Kickstarter, and Epic.

See why we’re so charged up? We love sharing the word about ModSourcing at shows like these, and in turn learning about the other inventive products and services that are hitting the market. So now the question remains: What’s next on our itinerary? Stay tuned to the ModSquad blog for the latest updates.

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