The last time I was at PAX Prime was before it was called Prime. It was just PAX. No East, or South, or Australia, or Dev, etc. Just PAX. As usual, it did not disappoint with the customary onslaught of games and geeky awesomeness!

We had eight Execution Labs teams in tow. Kitfox was demoing Moon Hunters in the IndieMegaBooth, while Switchblade Monkeys had a dedicated booth to show off Secret Ponchos. The other six teams were behind closed doors pitching publishers and other such partners. Made for an intense couple of days.

Sadly, I was stuck in meetings most of the time. Good meetings… but meant I missed most of the fun on the show floor. And, absolutely no time for some board game action. Next time! 


From the 28th floor of the Grand Hyatt. My view for ~90% of PAX.


Constant lines to play Secret Ponchos!


The Kitfox booth was constantly jammed!


YouTube Gaming making a big splash after the announcement.


Arriving at the Sony party…


Awesome Chihuly glass sculpture.

Going to industry events is pretty taxing (days packed with meetings and evenings full of networking). Doing two events back-to-back is not for the feint of heart. I braved the bonkers big Gamescom (which includes GDC Europe and the Respawn indie gathering) in Cologne, Germany. Then flew over to San Francisco for the USA edition of Casual Connect. Some true event marathoners were in Shanghai for ChinaJoy the week prior!

And so, Gamescom continues to grow, with a record breaking 345,000 attendees. I was on stage 5 different times for various funding and business lectures/panels. While the show remains largely focused on the big league games, the ~50 titles in the Indie Arena were great to check out. We even had two of our Execution Labs studios on the floor: Tequila showing off Earthcore, and Sand Sailor demoing Black the Fall.

Heading over to SF for Casual Connect made for an interesting contrast. The heavy focus was on “app app pay pay” vendors… and every game on display on the floor was an indie game. Biggest surprise was that I enjoyed the Michael Eisner keynote ;)

 


Gamescom: The Sand Sailor crew setting up their Black the Fall booth. Danger!


Gamescom: The bustling floor of the Respawn gathering.


Gamescom: Giant syringe cocktail. Yummy!


Gamescom: There are booths literally from everywhere at Gamescom.


Gamescom: Will and Bruno of Thunder Lotus games showing off Jotun in the Indie Arena.


Gamescom: Tequila Games’ corner in the Indie Arena to demo Earthcore.


Gamescom: Martin Garrix plays the infamous WarGaming party.


Casual Connect: Michael Eisner conducts a lively opening keynote.


Casual Connect: View from the 45th floor of the Hilton Union Square, where the speakers are fed lunch :)


Casual Connect: I never miss a chance to hear Emily Greer (Kongregate) present!


Casual Connect: On the party bus… oh my…


Casual Connect: Main event party held at City Hall.


Casual Connect: Execution Labs co-founder Keith Katz (far right) hosts a deep dive on indie marketing. From left: Ken Seto (Massive Damage), Steve Escalante (Versus Evil), and Justin Bailey (Fig / Double Fine).

I was at the very first Develop conference over a decade ago, and kept attending over the first few years. Having missed that last couple of years, was nice to return to Brighton and take in the glory of the largest UK developer conference… along the beach no less.

Was good to see an emphasis on indies and startups, with several sessions on funding, a full indie day, an 18 hour game jam, and a game showcase. The UK scene is so dense that just walking into the lobby and bumping into folks delivers enough value to justify the trip! Sadly, I was stuck mostly in meetings that I didn’t get to take in too many sessions.

Evolve closing panel on day 1. Best advice? Ian Baverstock: “Stop making crap games.”

Ella Romanos with an exhaustive list of funding options/approaches in the UK.

Ah, a moment to chill. 

Cool games in the indie showcase. Hue won both the jury prize and popular vote.

Simon Roth with an excellent lecture on the business realities of being indie.

Big day for Leanna Bayley as she won the game jam, and delivered an excellent rant on the need to hire for more parents :)

Quick visit to Payload Studios, who were streaming their TerraTech game, and Starbound from guests Chucklefish.

Another great trip down to Sao Paulo and Rio for the Brazil Indie Game Festival (or BIG). Now easily one of the largest indie focused festivals worldwide, each year the event grows and simply gets more and more intense. My schedule was packed solid meeting developers.

It has been interesting to see the local ecosystem evolve over the past few years. Seems to be a shifting back to PC and digital console, and away from attempts at mobile and social — even though most of the local market is driven by mobile users. Also nice to see the event evolve to include learning games, and games for social impact, as well as roping in a broader audience in terms of investors, government, academia, etc.


Corner of Paulista avenue.


Opening night reception.


Enjoying the view from the Skye Bar.


Main exhibition zone.


Best gameplay nominee, Big Action Mega Fight in action.


The B2B matchmaking area was always humming.


Loading up on meat at Brazilian-style BBQ.


Mmmm, meat….


Amazing samba action at O Do Borogodo.


VP from national bank BNDES opens the BIG awards ceremony.


Swordtales win the Brazilian Revelation award for the poetic Toren.


Tamir Nadav summons his best Pink rendition.


Game expo zone was always packed.


Many informative lecture sessions…


Night view of beach while landing in Rio.


Visit to the first government-backed incubator for creative industries.


Samba school float!


Rafael Bastos pitches Dumativa ahead of an intense mentoring session.


The famous Copacabana Palace.


Sadly, beach was cloudy :(

Was over in Europe again, this time to keynote the first Interface matchmaking event in London, and jump over to Sweden for the annual Nordic Game Conference. All told, I had about 50 meetings with independent studios from the UK, and Nordic region. I was not disappointed! Given Execution Labs is always on the hunt for amazing studios to invest in, was great to see so many talented studios.

For a first time event, Interface was useful and chock full of developers. Though, understandably British focused. I also had a chance to pop down to Brighton for a day of meetings. Interesting fact, there were 18 new studios that started from the ashes of Disney’s closure of Black Rock a couple years ago, and all of them are still running!

For the Nordic Game Conference, it is impressive that the event is able to rally folks from across the entire region. The talent is so deep, we could easily fill Execution Labs just with teams from the Nordics!

 

The Interface event kept me so busy with developer meetings, this street art just outside the venue is the only photo I had a chance to take.

Popped into the PlayHubs shared workspace to meet with teams.

Brianna Code (Ubisoft) discusses the value of diverse teams.

The Canadian Consulate in Sweden hosted a nice VIP reception.

Reindeer dinner with Thomas Tull (Legendary Pictures), Hendrik Lesser (Remote Control),  and Matt Wilson (Rovio), among others.

Indies singing modified Karaoke songs. Was very amusing.

Uh, not sure what the internal ship structure is all about… A team brainstorms at the Arabic Game Jam.

Final night festivities over in Copenhagen. Dan Pearson (GamesIndustry.biz), Brianna Code (Ubisoft), and Habib Chams (MENA Games Conference) enjoy cocktails at Ruby (which is ranked 22nd of the 50 best cocktail bars in the world). So good!

While Europe is not thaaat far from Montreal, always nice to pack in as much action each time I jump the pond. This time I was able to combo three events: the Cartoons on the Bay animation festival in Venice, Quo Vadis and the Berlin Games Week, and then the Reboot Develop conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Was an exhausting, but also an exhilarating trip. It is all a bit of a blur, but was particularly interesting to connect with many of the central European developers participating at Reboot (which did a good job to gather those from neighboring communities). And, as an overarching umbrella, it is impressive to see all of the varied activities taking place under the Berlin Games Week banner!

Venice

The historical Palazzo Labia, HQ for Italian TV giant Rai and home for the Cartoons on the Bay festival.

The legendary Sylvia Anderson, creator of the Thunderbirds series.

Marty O’Donnell talks of his early inspirations.

Marty O’Donnell receives a Pulcinella award for his amazing work with games+music.

Marty celebrates with a Guinness.

So many picturesque “alleys” in Venice.

I took hundreds of pics of amazingly textured facades.

Entrance to the renowned Piazza San Marco.

Entrance/tower to the Arsenal.

Another beautiful view.

Berlin

Bottle collection at the secret gin bar :)

Happy party at the Happy Tuesday studio.

Cool venue for the German awards gala.

Paul Heydon (London Venture Partners) discusses the European investment climate for games.

Wow! Two rows full of investors interested in games at the pitch event.

One of the cool games being pitched…

Funky magnet game cabinet at Amaze.

The Amaze opening exhibit/party at Urban Spree.

Dubrovnik

In Dubrovnik… or King’s Landing?

Inside the 8th century fortress.

Post dinner drinks with cool industry folks from around the globe.

Peter Molyneux with inspiring words for the day2 keynote.

Team Gotham picks up the best indie game award.

Michal Drozdowski (11bit Studios) discusses the creative process behind This War of Mine.

Tightly packed pathways within the fortress.

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