We’re back from BostonFIG Fest 2018, here’s a dev blog with our thoughts about the value of conferences and how to prepare for them.
Let’s start with things that aren’t part of a conference’s value, like the opportunity to sell your game. Conference appearances don’t translate into sales. There are some exceptions to this, of course, and even at BostonFIG it was possible and permissible for exhibitors to sell their games, but in general conferences are more about testing features, engaging with people, and building recognition.
Awards are also not part of a conference’s value. The esteem and recognition of being singled out from your peers is definitely gratifying, and can give a dev team a much-needed boost after crunching to finish con preparations, but if the reason you’re going to a conference is to win an award, statistically speaking, you’re going to be disappointed.
To determine the value of a conference for individual dev teams, we came up with three questions:
If you’re going to a conference that has a lot of press coverage and you’re going to make connections, quantify that. The value you get out of going is attracting press to your game. Now, how are you capturing that value? Have you prepared a pitch, do you have a list of people you’d like to meet and plans for how you’ll connect with them at the conference?
For us, we were going to BostonFIG to start building a community around our game and to litmus test the gameplay we’ve designed so far. To capture those values, we used physical feedback cards offered to every person who played our game.
They provided an opportunity for players to critically engage with our game amid the crowded, noisy atmosphere of a conference floor, where conversation might be difficult. They also provided an opportunity for players to provide their email addresses, and be added into our online community.
In addition to feedback cards, we also closely observed players while they played our demo--were lots of people getting confused by the same things? Is our level design intuitive? Are the puzzles too difficult, or not difficult enough? People who seemed to get it quickly, who later confirmed with us that puzzle platformer games like ours are the kinds of games they like to play, were invited to become beta testers. The physical cards are a pain to process post-conference, but for us the pros outweigh the cons.
Whatever it is that you want to test out about your game at a conference, pay attention to the players. If you’re not going there and measuring reactions on the floor, collecting data, then it’s a wasted opportunity to maximize the value of the conference.
Most importantly, follow up with those connections after the conference! No gamedev is an island--you need people, at the very least, to buy your game. So as long as you’re in the position of needing people, you might as well leverage them to the best of your ability. Make friends, talk to players, meet passionate gamers and entertain their thoughts.