Resilience and adaptation on display at GamesBeat Summit 2024 | The DeanBeat Resilience and adaptation on display at GamesBeat Summit 2024 | The DeanBeat
Join gaming leaders live this May 20-21 in Los Angeles to examine the strategies needed to adapt and excel in an ever evolving landscape,... Resilience and adaptation on display at GamesBeat Summit 2024 | The DeanBeat

It’s been a tough time in the game industry lately and I’d like to think of our GamesBeat Summit 2024 event as an oasis.

If you’d like to attend, you can use this code gbs24dean25 for a 25% discount on tickets. You can also read our entire agenda here or view it in our event’s Whova app.

Taking place on May 20-21 at the Marina del Rey Marriott in Los Angeles, the event is tackling the difficult time head-on with the theme of Resilience and Adaptation. Game companies laid off 10,500 people in 2023, and another 9,700 have been laid off in just four months this year. Yesterday, Phoenix Labs announced the cancellation of all games in development and layoffs.

I feel like this theme of Resilience and Adaptation is the story of my life. Game journalism, and journalism in general, isn’t what it used to be. I’ve seen the industry change so much and seen so many talented people leave it.

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That makes me sad, but I change with the times and try to not just survive but thrive. I like trying new things, like a little project we’re going to announce on Monday. We have to adapt. And every now and then I get to write a story like this piece on The Lord of the Rings franchise, and I remember why I do what I do. I’d like to be remembered for writing good stories about fascinating people.

Gaming’s difficult time

Game devs are concerned about layoffs, AI, and return to work.
Game devs are concerned about layoffs, AI, game engine pricing and return to work.

It isn’t getting easier. And I’m sorry about that, as it’s the worst I’ve seen in 27 years (or is it 28 now?) of covering the game industry on a daily basis. We have felt that pain with you at GamesBeat. Our conference has plenty of speakers who will help explain what’s happened.

Most observers, (like Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, told me yesterday) believe that the industry hired too many folks based on the enthusiasm for games during the pandemic, only to see that obsession with gaming dissipate after people could go out again. Sadly for the console makers, supply constraints during the pandemic held back the sales of consoles when this demand was so strong.

In the post-pandemic world, observers like Matthew Ball pointed out that costs have soared with inflation, hours played has waned and game sales have stalled across a variety of markets. And game makers are unable to raise prices. Even mobile games has shrunk, per the latest report from market researcher Newzoo, thanks to Apple’s push for privacy over targeted ads.

During this time, we’ve had to deal with the loneliness of not being able to see each other during COVID and weather the collapse of the U.S. industry’s gathering place, the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The industry’s response

Amir Satvat is an organized gamer. That has helped him with his game job listings.
Amir Satvat is an organized gamer. That has helped him with his game job listings.

The net result has been an unprecedented wave of layoffs — some that feel inspired by nothing other than the wave of layoffs. My heart goes out to those people affected, and my hat is off to people like Amir Satvat, who has helped so many people get gaming jobs with his well-organized game job resources. Satvat is speaking on a panel full of heart, with some fine gaming experts who have lost jobs, and they’re brainstorming about what can be done to help people find jobs.

We appreciate what he’s doing for the industry, and we are glad to see many speakers step forward with talks that are aimed not just at pointing out the problems. They will also go beyond that and try to explain how to recover, bounce back and find solutions for what seem like insurmountable industry-wide problems.

Of course, the real solution is the creation of the the kind of entertainment that makes us feels better, distracts us, helps us escape, and brings the world together, even at a time when there is so much strife. I’m talking, of course, about creating games.

There’s so much change underway, like the structural layers of the industry evolving. Big external development companies like Keywords have over 10,000 people. They’re meant to do work like co-development, so that core game teams can stay focused and don’t have to just hire and fire people. AI has come upon us, either as a threat that could lead to the demise of more jobs or a savior that can make us more efficient and enable ever greater numbers of dreamers to bring their game ideas to life.

How do we structure ourselves to honor these game creators while still enabling the business to keep on the growth path? That’s part of our mission at GamesBeat Summit.

A gathering place

Dean Takahashi plays on a Cuphead-covered Origin PC laptop.
Dean Takahashi’s ready for our GamesBeat Summit. Are you?

I always say that GamesBeat Summit is a gathering place where you can leave your swords and shields at the door. This time, we have room inside this tent for people like leaders of giant companies as well as union representatives who want to organize game companies. Let’s face it. Going to a conference is a much better way to meet people and learn something about gaming than sitting at home on Zoom.

Altogether, we have 48 sessions with a total of 118 speakers, 57% who come from diverse backgrounds. We welcome diverse perspectives. We can reach into the ruling class of gaming and get them to talk about how they see things through the lens of years of experience. We know these people really well.

But we also listen to the new ideas coming from fresh voices and fresh eyes. Some of these people, to be honest, have a much better sensibility when it comes to taking care of people in the industry, or shedding light on something we didn’t already know about.

One of my favorite panels next week will be a talk with a group of young CEOs who run companies making games on Roblox. They’re all in their 20s. Don’t underestimate them because they spotted the power of user-generated content — and things like AI tools — before any of us did.

I’m very proud to say that the event includes our eighth Women in Gaming Breakfast with our biggest roster of women ever — made possible by our sponsor Xsolla. It also features our second Diversity in Gaming luncheon session, sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association.

All of this is brought to you by a core of just eighteen people. Our hard-working folks include David Glass, event director; Cathy Simpson, project manager; Gina Joseph, CSO; Mike Rosinski, CRO; and of course our team of GamesBeat writers Mike Minotti, Rachel Kaser, Jordan Fragen and, for this event, Giancarlo Valdes. We have plenty of other people who make things happen. Thank you.

Thank you for your help

The GamesBeat crew gets a selfie with Sam Lake. Thomas Puha is the photobomber.
The GamesBeat crew gets a selfie with Sam Lake. Thomas Puha is the photobomber.

We’re able to do this because of your help. We’ve had hundreds of people signing up in the weeks. We hope it’s because we can bring the best minds of gaming in an agora of the game industry to figure out how we get to the other side.

I’m thankful for the community that has supported us at GamesBeat for more than 16 years. I’ve covered this industry for 27 years and tech for 35 years. I’m always glad to see the companies I covered when they were babies grow up to be the biggest companies in the industry. I knew companies such as Nvidia, Xbox, Zynga, and many more in their infancy. And I’m glad to say some of these companies come back to give us news over and over and to support our community as well.

Decades ago, one of the first people I interviewed in gaming was Mike Morhaime, cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment (then Chaos Studios) and I’m glad to report he’ll be a speaker at our event, this time as CEO of Dreamhaven. As I sat next to Morhaime at the Dice Awards some years back, he said to me, “Thank you for your 25 years of great coverage.” Another longtime veteran asked me if my highly personal stories I was writing meant I was going to retire. And my answer was no. I enjoy this work too much.

We couldn’t do this without our sponsors which include our biggest supporters this time: Xsolla and Level Infinite.  And our other sponsors including Tik Tok, ESA, Coda, Scopely, ESL FACEIT Group,  FastSpring, Metal Core, Unchained Entertainment, Lightspeed, Modulate, Heroic Labs, Jam City, Earn Alliance, Limited Run, and Ludeo.

We’ve also got community partners that help share the word about our events, including Midwest Games, IGDA, Games for Love, Women-Led Games, Game Industry Gathering and the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.

The Women in Gaming Breakfast is a staple at our GamesBeat Summit events.
The Women in Gaming Breakfast is a staple at our GamesBeat Summit events. This is from May 2022.

As you can see, it takes a village to bring GamesBeat Summit to you.

We’re all looking for the ideas that will deliver the next level of growth for gaming. We believe the agora of the game industry needs to bring together the thinking of our best minds — and perhaps AIs — to figure out how to get to the other side.

Why is this happening? Is this part of a cycle, or is there something structurally changing in the game industry? And how can companies and people be more resilient and adapt to the change, whether you’re just starting out your career like my daughter or guiding the fate of hundreds or thousands as an industry leader?

Rachel Kaser is a GamesBeat writer.
Rachel Kaser is a GamesBeat writer.

These are some of the questions will tackle at our flagship event, which will once again have at the Marina del Rey Marriott. We will celebrate how game professional face this challenge with innovation, creativity, resilience, community and collaboration.

Our conference will address how to adapt to a rapidly changing world, and will address big topics like GenAI, cross-media adaptations (games and Hollywood), and the challenge of layoffs in an industry that is becoming part of mainstream culture. We’ll need to keep our eyes on the prize of billions more customers on the planet while being careful not to slip as we find our footing in this downturn.

As Matthew Ball noted in a long piece on the game industry, gaming has strong secular tailwinds that signal good years ahead. The new generation of kids plays a lot of games and they’re replacing generations that rarely played games. Players are getting access to more platforms with access to quality games. Governments are becoming more supportive of games and causes like gaming for good.

Gaming culture is being elevated to the mainstream, and gaming is evolving as an art and tech platform. Access to high-quality gaming devices continues to improve. Gaming culture continues to proliferate, and the art form of gaming continues to evolve.

But these tailwinds do not guarantee that every year will see uninterrupted growth, significant growth, or profitable growth. In other words, growth isn’t guaranteed. We have to work at it. We’ll bring the top minds in the industry to discuss these topics in an interactive format.

Mike Morhaime is CEO of DreamHaven.
Mike Morhaime is CEO of DreamHaven.

Lastly, I’d like to thank our speakers. There are too many to name here, but I’ll name some of them here to give you a taste of the breadth of the industry knowledge we’re gathering.

They include Will Wright, cofounder of Gallium; his speaker partner Subutai Ahmad, CEO of Numenta; Chris Bell, cofounder and CEO of Gardens Interactive; Tyler Bahl, senior vice president and head of marketing at Activision; Jia Shen, CEO of AKA Virtual; Erin Ashley Simon, founder of XSET; David Stelzer, president of Xsolla; Mike Sepso, CSO of ESL FaceIt Group; Amir Satvat, business development director at Tencent; Marguerite deCourcelle, CEO at Blockade Labs; Laura Teclemariam, senior director of product management at LinkedIn; Farah Sutton, director of diversity and inclusion (D&I) at Riot Games; Walter Driver, co-CEO at Scopely; Warren Spector, CCO of Otherside Entertainment; Dennis Fong, CEO of Forge; Steve Chiang, president at Fortis Games; Josh Yguado, CEO of Jam City; Peter Levin, managing director of Griffin Gaming Partners; Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab Studios; Javier Ferreira, co-CEO at Scopely; Bryna Dabby Smith, CEO of Brass Lion Entertainment; Brian Ward, CEO of Savvy Gaming Group; Songyee Yoon, president and CSO of NCSoft; Alex Seropian, CEO of Look North World; Ed Fries, general partner at 1Up Ventures; Kim Kunes, general manager, Xbox Trust & Safety at Microsoft; Mike Morhaime, CEO of Dreamhaven; Eric Goldberg, cofounder of Playable Worlds; Rich Vogel, CEO of T-Minus-Zero Entertainment; Jim Huntley, USC Games associate professor and marketing head; Moritz Baier-Lentz, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners; and more.

Sibel Sunar presents Visionary Award for GamesBeat Summit 2023 to Meggan Scavio, president of AIAS.
Sibel Sunar presents Visionary Award for GamesBeat Summit 2023 to Meggan Scavio, president of AIAS.

OK, I have to seriously stop the name dropping now. Lastly, a couple of our last speakers are secret. We will hold our Visionary Awards at the end of the day on May 21, day two of the event. We give out just two awards with the help of industry judges. The Visionary award honors someone who has demonstrated vision. And the Up and Comer is someone whose potential lies ahead of them. Their work is very inspiring to me and I can wait to let you meet them.

So how dedicated am I to gathering this crowd of leaders and making this event happen? Well, Senua’s Sacrifice: Hellblade II, is coming out on Tuesday, the second day of our event. It’s one of my favorite games of all time, and I have touched my review copy yet.

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