2022 Year End Advocacy UpdateDecember 21, 2022
Developing and deploying Real-time 3D Technology in our own BackyardJanuary 27, 2023
Digital Alberta, Edmonton Screen Industries Office, Calgary Economic Development and Calgary Game Developers Association partnered to bring you the Alberta Games Series – A game industry event for studios of all sizes & industry professionals on December 15th and 16th in Calgary!
Participants enjoyed two jam-packed days of programming including: 10+ sessions, international and national speakers, panel discussions, ted-style talks, networking lunches, an indie game showcase, happy hour and an epic after party at Revival Brewcade!
From how to get the most traction and exposure for your game, to the role of a producer, and how to build launch momentum, Day one of the Alberta Games Series covered important topics for studios during thier game development journey.
Day 1 Highlights
Alecia Peters, Executive Director with Digital Alberta opened the Alberta Games Series program and highlighted the importance of community to the future success of the gaming sector in Alberta. Digital Alberta is committed to providing resources, support, networking opportunities and being one clear voice for industry – creating the conditions for members to thrive and grow their business. She introduced our talented emcee for the day, Scott Nye, COO of Inflexion Games and Board Chair for Digital Alberta. Scott shared an update on Digital Alberta’s advocacy efforts.
Influencer Marketing Strategies for Indie Games
Clara Sia, Senior Influencer Strategist, at Devolver Digital wowed participants as she shared her insights on influencer marketing strategies:
- Live streams trump YouTube videos as it takes less post production time and youtube algorithms can be finicky and limit influencer success.
- Leading up to launch, prepare influencer-friendly assets, prepare a preview build for influencers, plan embargoes around competitive releases, and ensure you’re active on social media as well as Twitch.
- Key elements that appeal to influencers include multiplayer games with connectivity, visual appeal, opportunities for audience engagement, and ability to create shareable stories and inside jokes within communities.
Building Launch Momentum: A Framework for Community Validated Deployment
Jason Della Rocca walked our audience through building launch momentum and a framework for community validated deployment. “Successfully launching the game you made is what matters,” while this may seem like a no brainer, Jason provided the difficult advice that sometimes pivots are necessary or even abandoning games that don’t have momentum all together.
How to engineer a success launch?
- Ideate/Analyze – Confirm your cool idea has commercial potential
- Competitive Analysis – Assess the overall shape and health of a category/genre. Tip – check out Cassie Curran video on YouTube
- Concept Testing – Focus on psychographics, test things like art style, gameplay hook, characters, mock footage, a/b testing. Check out this article featuring Ben Wasser of Glumberland
- Deploy Iteration Phase: Open Dev/constant input & playtesting
- Launch phase: Early access: use momentum to launch game and trigger Steam’s algorithm – ten reviews is what triggers the algorithm.
Social Strategy for Card Cheaters and Cults
Jared Tan, Community Strategist at Nerial and Devolver Digital, shared his experience tapping into his strong analytic capabilities from his background as a CPA and how he has applied those skills to leverage the power of social networks.
Does social media convert? Answer: Sometimes. Do your research on your audience and make sure your channels make sense to your game. For example, Tik Tok attracts a younger audience. Try to use a hook when creating content which could include something funny related to your game. Focus on introductions to your game in the content. Context is crucial for attracting and retaining an audience. Create goals that you have for each channel, for example on steam, you’re closer to conversion than other platforms so your goals are going to be different than the use of social media platforms like Facebook or Tiktok.
A Celeste Art Postmortem
Moving from social media to the topic of design, Pedro Medeiros, Pixel Picker at EXOK Games, dove into the genesis for the pixel design of the hugely popular Celeste game. He had the crowd laughing as he described his strategy when you are stuck on a key design element that you can’t move past, his advice “sometimes you just have to give up!”. The key is adaptability and refining the vision as the art takes shape. He shared mistakes and provided great insight on shortcuts he learned through his journey as an artist.
The Role of a Producer in an Indie Game Studio
To close off day 1 we heard from the exceptionally talented Anahit Fernandez, Producer at Navegante. She took participants on her journey of producing her first game, Greak – Memories of Azur – and shared her insights on budget, strategies, setting milestones with deadlines, game architecture and operations. Anahit discussed her approach of dividing operations into three categories – technical, creative & administrative. On the creative and technical sides it’s important to know the games very well so you can provide detailed feedback in order to give gamers the best user experience. On the administrative side, understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses so you can assign work to those best suited for each task. She also shared the important role of a producer in establishing partnerships, licensing agreements, and pitching to publishers, “When evaluating publishers do your due diligence and ensure their strengths match your goals as a studio.”
Speakers left to right: Clara Sia – Devolver Digital, Pedro Medeiros – EXOK Games, Anahit Fernandez – Navegante, Jason Della Rocca – Execution Labs/Game Play Space, Jared Tan – Nerial/Devolver Digital
Along with a lineup of high caliber speakers attendees had the opportunity to demo the latest indie games developed by local studios in the province! It was a great opportunity to get feedback from peers and gain exposure for their studios. Thank you to our participating studios: ISTO, Digitalwilson Consulting, Red Iron, EXPresso Mutt, Lethbridge College START, Dead Unicorn, Zugalu, and Schaden Fruede
Party time! Revival Brewcade
To unwind from a great day of learning and playing we closed off the night with networking and arcade games at a local brewery in Inglewood! The lager was on point and our out of town guests had a taste from one of our great local brewmasters in YYC Revival Brewcade.
Day 2 Highlights
Developing the Next Generation of Talent
Participants joined us on day 2 at the new Platform Innovation Centre, a space designed to promote collaboration and innovation in the ecosystem, which it certainly did! Our very own Paisley Churchill, Program Manager at Digital Alberta, led the first panel of the day talking to leaders in the gaming ecosystem from our post-secondary institutions on how they are Developing the Next Generation of Talent needed to fuel the sector. We also had some students in the audience who were eager to learn and engage with industry!
What we learned:
- There are many areas of gaming that students can choose to go into that don’t involve coding, which can sometimes be a deterrent for new program entrants. Other programs like animation can be great alternatives.
- Instructors have to encourage students to constantly keep evolving and learning (refining skills is a life-long commitment).
- Industry is impressed with the caliber of talent coming out of programs like the Centre for Entertainment Arts, students are getting hired by studios of all sizes.
- Programs are preparing the next gen of gaming in talent by ensuring students are using and learning the latest tools.
- It’s important to instill entrepreneurial skills in students if we want to build more studios in Alberta.
- The IDM tax credit is essentially to retain talent and build the Alberta ecosystem.
Starting a Game Studio in Alberta
Next up we learned the ins and outs of Starting a Studio in Alberta. Michael Lohaus, President of Calgary Game Developers Association, asked all the right questions to our esteemed panel of local subject matter experts. Panelists Kyle Kulyk from Itzy Interactive, Jennifer Laface from Only By Midnight, Nik Zorko from QI Games and Ryan Turner from Fortress Games shared their experiences with entrepreneurship in the gaming sector.
What we heard is that networking is key! You don’t need to go it alone as there is a supportive community that wants to help you succeed. Attend events, participate in local discords and connect with your peers. When it comes to funding it’s not one size fits all. There are various options to fund your studio – whether its grants like CMF or MITACS or publishers and venture capital. It really depends on the format of your game and what your objectives are. One thing is clear that there is a desire and energy to grow the gaming ecosystem in Alberta! Just get started.
Attracting and Growing a Playerbase
Building on the sage advice from gaming professionals who are growing studios in the province we then had a chance to learn about Attracting and Growing a Playerbase.
What an amazing dialogue led by Jon Higgins from Studio Capital Management discussing how studios can tap into the power of content generation to create awareness and establish a following. Speakers included Steven Messner from Digital Extremes, Logan Robb from New World Interactive and Christian Laventure from Evolve PR.
- There’s evidence to show social media frequency is important but start small if you’re spread thin as every impression counts.
- Content should be a strategic monthly look at your calendar which is important – look ahead instead of behind or being reactive.
- Content calendars can be simple as using an excel document or google calendar – plan ahead and that way you can react to items that come up more effectively.
- Tailor your content to the platform – tik tok has some unique benefits and content requires some modification in order to get traction. Play the features up based on what platform you’re using.
- No matter what you’re creating – copywriting is key.
Pitching to Publishers and Investors
- Common theme – when the presenter can capture a publishers or investor’s attention early on, your pitch will likely go smoother.
- Build a community and have an existing fan base by play testing early builds, and the pitch to a publisher can validate the success of the game.
- Find your unique selling points – in a pitch deck include the key differentiator that no other competitor has. Be specific, not generic.
- Funding journey is incremental and rarely will game developers get it in one go.
- Make sure you’re pitching to publishers that make sense and ones you have done research on. Don’t blanket pitch – customize it.
- Get a good game lawyer especially for IP advice
The Alberta Games Series was a sold out event with over 110+ participants from across the province. We had speakers from near and far join us to share their insight with our community! We are grateful for those that joined us on this journey for the first delivery of the program and we look forward to announcing the dates for the Edmonton event in 2023! Want to be the first to know more? Sign up to become a member!
Thank you to all our sponsors and organizers for for making this a memorable event!
Left to right: Tom Vinikka – ESIO, Alecia Peters – Digital Alberta, Tori Romano – CED. Paisley Churchill – Digital Alberta, Vieko Franetovic – Devolver Digital/CGDA, Michael Lohaus – CGDA, Jon Higgins – CGDA, Ruby Kaur – Digital Alberta