How 2020 Changed the Video Game Industry

ModSquad SVP, Global Operations Rich Weil is a familiar face on the video game conference circuit, giving popular presentations, hosting panels, and scouring the conference floor for marketing swag. With conferences slowly starting back up after a year-plus shutdown, we asked Rich for his thoughts on what the past year has meant to the industry.

For the games industry, the year 2020 (and 2021 so far) was a rollercoaster ride, bringing with it significant ups and downs. Among the many ways the global pandemic disrupted our lives, the new dynamics it brought to the world of video games was of particular interest to me. I’ve been in the games industry for more years than I’d care to admit, from working at some of the publishers you know and love to my decade-plus at ModSquad, where I help many of the biggest names in the industry by providing them with our peerless services.

Last year was, in many ways, a boom time for the games business. People were stuck at home, looking for things to do… so video games were a natural outlet, and it showed. Beyond the countless news stories about the 2020 games boom, there’s anecdotal evidence that this not only extended to the big guns of game development and publishing, but also to the establishment of quite a few new companies. Given the wider acceptance of remote workforces that came about in 2020, it’s no wonder so many new game companies are starting up. There are some other big trends worth noting from the past year or so:

  • There has been a true renaissance in player-generated content. Adding to the juggernaut of user-generated content that is Roblox, Epic’s Unreal Engine and Manticore’s Core suite of games are just a few examples showing how players have embraced the opportunity to contribute to their favorite adventures in a very real way.
  • The industry has made strides toward becoming more inclusive, and while recent headlines will attest that there’s still work that needs to be done, it’s great to see more games focused on characters of all colors and gender orientation.
  • Along with the rise of social gaming we’ve seen the explosive dominance of Discord as the central communication channel, whether official or unofficial, of a growing number of games.
  • Cryptocurrency has become more prevalent throughout the industry. Not only are gamers’ systems perfect for mining crypto, but players are increasingly purchasing in-game assets with virtual-yet-real crypto payments. In addition, there are dozens of new crypto-focused game companies out there that either have or are planning to have their own cryptocurrency as part of their game’s experience.

On the other side of the coin, the pandemic understandably crushed the convention and conference circuit — for everyone, not just the games industry. As someone who has been attending conferences for more than a decade, I’ve always felt that there was a particular value in meeting people in the games business face to face. Not just for business development purposes, but to establish relationships in an industry that, while very large from an economic perspective, can feel quite small from a personal point of view. Over the past year, many conventions and conferences tried to maintain their momentum by offering virtual gatherings, with (in my opinion) mixed results at best.

But now some organizers have announced in-person conferences in the months ahead, such as September’s PAX West event in Seattle. If all goes according to plan, it will be the first in-person conference in more than a year and a half. My colleague Linda Carlson, ModSquad Director of CX, and I will be hosting a panel entitled “Hitting Reset: Post-Pandemic Game Industry Careers” on Sunday, September 5 at 12:00 p.m. in the Sheraton Hotel’s Sandworm Theatre (on Level 2).

While it’s still too soon to proclaim the regular return of video game conferences, they’re such an integral part of doing business in the games industry, it’s safe to say they’ll be back sooner or later. And you know I’ll be there.

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