GameHorizon 2010 Review

GameHorizon by Sarbjit Bakhshi

Phew! What an event! I had intended to live blog through the show, but with all the interesting panel sessions, excellent networking opportunities and after conference activities there was simply no time to put anything up during the conference.

The two days’ conference was an amazing opportunity for networking with senior executives from the Games industry. I have been to other major industry events all around the world, but none other has had industry stars attending and networking in such an open way (perhaps this is due to being held in the Newcastle - the friendliest place in the world?).

This is certainly an event to attend next year and with GameHorizon recently announcing that they are open up their services to all UK companies (not just those based in the North East) other companies should make a beeline for advanced registration.

The conference itself was a mix of thought provoking and business orientated talks that raised many questions.  Jesse Schell (Schell Games) who apart from announcing his collaboration with Bigpoint games on his new game based on ‘The Mummy’ film, talked about the Gamepocalypse where life and games will eventually collide (presentation here) to Charles Cecil the CEO of Revolution, who drew comparisons between the state of copyright in the Games industry and the life and times of William Hogarth.

On the business of games, the was a panel debate on ‘free versus paid models’ which seemed to cut through much of the debates going on in the fringes of the conferences as many had invested heavily in one side or the other. Other talks, such as Darren Jobling’s the COO of Eutechnyx covered aspects of the industry related to the attraction and retention of talent which was good business advice for any industry.

There were also many discussions on how to attract, monetise and create games for ‘casual gamers’, which seemed to be used synonymously in the conference with ‘women’. Peter Molyneux spoke at length about how Fable 2 was being led and produced by people with an eye on casual gamers.

No wonder, when one considers the growth in browser based and especially Facebook games like Farmville by Zynga which was referenced constantly. Nils Holger Henning, the CCO of Bigpoint Games hammered home the point that his company, which only runs browser based games, have 120 million subscribers and the gravitational force of such a large group of gamers was dragging the rest of the industry towards it.

It was a story echoed by Michael Acton Smith, CEO of Mindcandy, who spoke about his Moshi Monsters game which had jumped up to profitability in a short period of time with over 20 million users.

CCP games, the creators of ‘Eve Online’ a Massively Multiplayer Space based PC game spoke of their exciting ‘Dust 514’ game which tries to knit console FPS gamers (hardcore) with PC MMO gamers (super hardcore).

The Sage by Sarbjit Bakhshi

It is an ambitious project which if it takes off, would be the first to provide a narrative context to shooting games on consoles that was dictated by the other players on their PCs. The game has just started production and with CCP’s announcement that they were creating 150+ jobs in the North East of England to help create this game, this was great news for the UK Games industry.

I really enjoyed myself at the conference and got to rub shoulders with my childhood hero, Ian Livingston and I would definitely recommend anyone with an interest in games, junior and senior to attend next year’s event!

Update: Videos of the keynote speakers from GameHorizon 2010 have now been published, check this blog post for more details.