GamesBeat Summit 2022 returns with its largest event for leaders in gaming on April 26-28th. Reserve your spot here!
Here’s Dean Takahashi’s opening speech for GamesBeat Summit 2022:
Welcome back to our first in-person day for a GamesBeat Summit conference since the pandemic began. I’m so happy to see those of you who made it here in person, and I’m also glad we have many of you watching online.
I got so used to giving opening speeches online that I’m rusty at doing it in person. Maybe it will be better if I can give my speeches in the metaverse.
This is our sixth GamesBeat event that has taken place since the pandemic began, and it is our first hybrid event — combining both physical and online gatherings — that I hope is a stepping stone to bringing our community back together.
While we are grateful you are here, please be mindful of staying safe and healthy. My own way of greeting people at the summit is the elbow bump. It’s my way of saying we like you and we don’t want you to catch anything while you’re here as our guests.
I’d like you to look at this one picture. It’s not remarkable, but it is what I would call an example of ground truth. This is the workplace view of Pavel Izotov, a game developer in Cherkasy, Ukraine. Ever since the war started in his country, he has been working on a game called Rebuild Ukraine. And he has had to do it from a bomb shelter, alongside his game tester wife. They live a good distance from the war front, like about the distance from LA to San Luis Obispo. They have gone back to their apartment for showers, but it is not entirely safe from rocket attacks. It struck me that they believe enough in the power of games to do good in the world to work on a game in the middle of a war zone.
In fact, on Friday, the Ukrainians had a game conference entitled “game dev under bombs.” Geopolitics has reminded us just how important entertainment is to life itself. I wish safety to any game creator living in a dangerous place.
Once again we want to celebrate and thank game developers and publishers for providing us with entertainment that distracted us and saved us during the pandemic. As one of our speakers will say, “Play is an empathy multiplayer.”
We want to thank our sponsors who have heard our call to support a great GamesBeat community and a free and independent press that is capable of authentically covering games. Thanks to our speakers and advisers too.
This event differs from the metaverse event we held in January and from our GamesBeat Summit Next event we held last November. Those events were celebrations of leading edge, and sometimes bleeding edge of gaming.
GamesBeat Summit 2022 is our flagship event that is about the core of the industry. The core doesn’t have as much hype as the edge. But it is still extremely exciting. In 2021, there were $85 billion in deals in gaming, nearly triple the year before. In the first quarter of 2022, we have had 387 deals worth $98.7 billion, already exceeding last year’s total, and Drake Star Partners is forecasting it will cross $150 billion in 2022.
I don’t want to get us too hyped up. But an investment banker recently said game people should envision their industry not in the hundreds of billions of dollars, but in the trillions of dollars.
Investors have taken notice of games on a scale we have never seen before. Netflix’s move to make an Exploding Kittens cartoon show alongside a mobile game is just one of many that we will see big platforms make as games move to the center of all entertainment.
Investors are pouring money into the game industry, even in the face of a choppy stock market and continuing pandemic. They’re not only putting the money into new technologies or ideas like NFTs and the metaverse. They’re funneling money into new game studios in the core of the business. And they’re fueling acquisitions that would have never happened before. This is why we have a huge talent shortage.
All of this means that the core of the industry is going to change. That means disruption, and it’s why our keynote speaker, Reggie Fils-Aime, former president of Nintendo of America, is talking in a fireside chat with Danny Pena about entertainment disrupted.
There are those who want to see the game industry stay the way it is now. That is wishful thinking. Those deals will ensure that there is only more change ahead. We don’t have to look at the future with fear. Our belief is that we can look at that future — as complicated as it is — with understanding.
Both at the small level — like what it means to have 165 bosses in Elden Ring, a game that could take me a very long time to finish. Or at a high level, like how free-to-play games made the game audience 10 times bigger than it once was.
We need both the view of the microcosm and the macrocosm to get different perspectives on the game industry’s truth, like looking at a ground level view in a first-person game or a strategic view in a real-time strategy title.
Our event is designed to bring the thought leaders together to understand and explain the changes that are happening and where gaming is going. I truly hope that you’ll find some answers here and lead us to the golden age of gaming.
We want to lead honest conversations about thought leadership, change, and what’s coming next. We’ll explore issues like conflicts and decisions about platforms, geopolitical challenges, technological disruption, the changing craft of game development, mental health, diversity, and making the industry and games more accessible.
We kicked off our event with a fabulous Women in Gaming breakfast, the fourth one we’ve done and the first time we’ve provided an actual breakfast.
Jon Goldman will talk about why VR has a chance of a second coming that could bring it into the core of gaming, thanks in no small part to the potential of the metaverse. He’s putting a $50 million fund behind this idea.
We also have people like Phil Sanderson and Frankie Zhu later during our online days, who are part of Griffin Gaming Partners, which has raised around $800 million to invest in games. They’re going to talk with Alina Soltys and Chris Petrovic about what the big acquisitions mean for the entire game industry.
While we’re excited, we should be wary of the wolves among us. There are always snake oil sellers. We can see them in parts of the NFT gaming business. But you have to sort the good from the bad, rather than throw all new ideas out. We can debate the metaverse, business models like subscriptions, platform fees, targeted advertising versus privacy, and more. GamesBeat Summit is about embracing a large community of ideas and tossing the bad ones.
But geopolitics reminds us, it is good to remember that the virtual world is never completely divorced from the real world. When you create AI characters for humans to interact with in a virtual world, you may be modeling behavior for how they will treat people in the real world. This is an ethical subject that Richard Bartle and Richard Garriott will discuss in on online session on Thursday. And if we have problems with diversity in the real world, like at companies like Activision Blizzard, that can carry over into game worlds too.
As we push hard into the future and try to make the game industry bigger and bigger, it pays to remember the connection between virtual and real worlds.
Our new Metaverse Forum will contemplate thought leadership in bringing about the metaverse without forgetting about imperatives like building it in an open and ethical way. We are continuing to hold both public and private thought leadership sessions on a regular basis so that we can help create an open metaverse. This time, our Metaverse Forum conversation will happen in a roundtable on Wednesday (day 2 of our online sessions) in a roundtable about Science Fiction, Tech, and games.
What can science fiction teach us? One of the coolest ideas of Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline’s sequel to Ready Player One, was that the equivalent of YouTube would turn into a repository of uploaded content where we would record our time in the metaverse and show people exactly what it is to see the world from our perspective, to see it as an LGBTQ person would, or to see it as a person with accessibility challenges would. With the metaverse, we should be able to actually walk in someone else’s shoes.
It matters to think about how game developers have delivered amazing virtual worlds for us to get lost in, but sometimes they work under extremely harsh conditions, as I learned when I wrote an investigative story about Moon Studios, maker of the Ori games, and the alleged toxicity of the founders.
We have a roundtable session on how game companies should go beyond advising self-care for their employees and should be far more aggressive about promoting good mental health.
I’m looking forward to the debate over NFTs that we’ll have at the end of the day between David Kim of Wax and Rami Ismail.
We have some amazing conversations, like Rachel Kaser and Glen Schofield of Striking Distance Studios talking about horror engineering, and Rob Pardo of Bonfire and Ilkka Paananen of Supercell talking about evolving company cultures. Ilkka casually talks about making his own big mistakes as easily he talks about his team’s accomplishments.
We are glad that we have so many speakers willing to share their insights with us. GamesBeat Summit is a place where you can drop your swords and shields at the door. It’s a safe space.
We’re journalists. We tell stories. We are not fake news. We believe in getting it right, and covering the day to day events in this most interesting of all industries. We report for duty every day. Our conferences carry on this approach, as we aim for thought leadership and actionable insights that you can take home and apply to your business.
What I would like to see is elevated thinking. One example is with blockchain games. Some game studios fear that they can’t raise money unless they pivot into NFTs because that’s what the dumb VCs want. There is some truth to that, as 128 blockchain game companies raised $1.2 billion in Q1, according to Drake Star Partners. But the reality is that VCs and strategic investors poured $3.4 billion into private game companies in a total of 287 deals. ProbablyMonsters alone raised $250 million for triple-A games.
We don’t need game journalists to stoke fear that one type of game is crowding out another. Blockchain games could be a big success or a huge crater, but just like free-to-play mobile games a decade ago, we don’t have to worry that they’re going to kill off triple-A games. In fact, blockchain games are going to succeed if they become triple-A.
As a game journalist and an event organizer, I feel like I can contribute to justice. After one of our recording sessions, one of the senior women in our industry said to me, “Thank you for giving us a voice. It means a lot.” In our story on Moon Studios, with the alleged toxic founders, one source told me, “I accomplished what I wanted. I warned the people who came behind me to go into Moon with their eyes wide open.”
Those words humanized a long and lonely journey through the ranks of the game industry, and it made me feel good that we have chosen to give people a voice and a stage so they could simply say who they are, that they are here, and that they belong in this industry. Such people should not be isolated. For all of our speakers, I relish how they all light up when they come here or record their videos and deliver their important messages. It reminds me why we do this.
And remember, in the fall, we’ll have our next stop in our event schedule. Our GamesBeat Summit Next event details will be in SF, and details are coming soon.
We are very much in the golden age of gaming. But let’s not just think about it from a financial view. Let’s aspire to having a golden age of mental health, diversity, workplace equity, and
industry without harassment. In years past, these issues may have been viewed as sideshows on the periphery of the core game business. But I would assert that they should be front and center in any discussion of the core.
And so that is what you’re going to get at the GamesBeat Summit 2022.