How game conferences can help prevent the Gearbox/G2A Situation
I'm sure by now you've heard about the recent Gearbox/G2A situation. I'm not going to get into details, as that's not what the post is about. TotalBiscuit did a good summary in this video.
What kept on baffling me for a while is how a situation like that could come to be. After last year's events when we ousted G2A as a shady marketplace that facilitates a fraud-fueled economy [here's a good summary], it felt like everyone understood the situation and we haven't bothered with it much since.
Today, as I was booking my trip to Reboot Develop - a conference in Croatia I've wanted to visit for a long time due to their speaker's line-up. Last year they industry veterans like Tim Schafer, and this year the content is quiet insane - from well known companies like Epic Games and Wargaming, to my inspirations of getting into the industry like Cliff Blezinski.
And then I scroll down the speaker's list and find this:
The official bio used by the person speaking at Reboot Develop is boasting about himself being extremely unprofessional while crashing a panel was attending at GDC.
In short, he came over to the Q&A line, and started shouting that he was the guy dealing with me calling them out last year - embarrassing himself in front of a room filled with industry professionals. The moderator quickly shut it down, and afterwards Mario Mirek went onto explaining to Polygon why G2A is great.
You're probably reading this and thinking I'm upset about the description -- which I am. However, what I'm really trying to understand is how a deal like G2A and Gearbox could come about. So let's explore the conference situation further.
Upon reading the bio, I remembered a few discussions earlier in the year with conference organizers. Discussions where G2A popped up as a potential sponsor/speaker.
There was a very interesting situation in Poland last year leading up to Digital Dragons -- a fantastic gamedev conference. Apparently after G2A was publicly announced as a sponsor of the event, other sponsors started pulling out. So the organizers pulled the plug on the key reseller's sponsorship (a very bold and respectable move), and it ended up being a productive event with great content and sponsors line-up.
I heard a similar story about G2A wanting to sponsor a very expensive party at Nordic Games Conference, and same thing - organizers realized it wasn't a good idea.
Even IGDA publicly distanced itself from the key reseller following our debate last year.
Then, later in the year, I went to DevGAMM Minsk (which also rejected G2A sponsorship) to meet with hundreds of indies from the Eastern European / Russian Speaking region, only to be surprised by how supportive many of them were of G2A.
It turned out there was an event just a few weeks before in Moscow. At the event, Mario Mirek gave a presentation.
Let's take a quick look at the event's announcement mail:
I'm going to translate the paragraph:
"On October 11-12 in Moscow these game industry leaders will gather: Game Insight, Playrix, King, Pixonic, CD Projekt Red, Facebook, Creative Mobile, VK.com, Unity, G2A.com, MyTona, Alconost, Nevosoft, Playkot, Google, Apple and many more."
The event listed their attending companies. G2A was both a sponsor and a speaker. And the reason many devs in Minsk didn't understand my confusion on why it's not a trustworthy company -- is Mario's presentation. Here it is embedded:
The presentation gives an overview of what G2A is, and how developers can profit from it.
So let's take a step back.
A G2A representative attends an industry event, where the company is positioned as a speaker. Typically there are useful side-events for speakers aimed towards networking and mingling. It's common knowledge that anyone at this event is a speaker, and is already vetted by the conference -- putting a badge of approval on the company, and its representative. Wearing this badge of approval opens doors to making deals.
Imagine I'm an industry executive. Odds are I'm very busy running a large business, and don't have the time to follow industry drama about marketplaces. Then I see a marketplace positioned alongside very reputable companies, I wouldn't think twice about their reputation if they're next to CD Projekt Red, Apple, 343, Obsidian, etc. If a company I don't know is amongst reputable speakers, there's no reason for doubt in making a business deal with said marketplace.
This is how I believe a deal like we saw with Gearbox and G2A could come together.
Game conferences are the face of our industry, and I believe it's important for them to take responsibility for who represents it -- potentially preventing situations as described with Gearbox. I hope this post brings some insight into potential issues, and helps conference organizers understand how their content can impact the industry.