Like so many business events in 2020, Devcom went completely digital in this year’s edition. The developer convention still precedes the Gamescom trade show, which also had to go digital this year. Unlike the years before, the convention was less attached to the main promotion event on the fairground, as the program depended less on physical presence in Cologne this time. Devcom expanded the digital offering for a duration of 2 weeks instead of the usual 2 IRL days. This seems to correspond with the notion that the game industry may well benefit of the current situation, given the increased demand for gaming products during the pandemic.
Most of the well known program channels of the convention were sucessfully translated onto the digital platform, concerning the theme channels, lecture and panel sessions, recruiting events, workshop webinars and game exposition. The platform offered live-streaming lectures on two parallel channels every day and a daily summary stream on Twitch. The respective lectures could also be watched on demand after their live presentations.
The expo part was devided into pavillion sections mostly related to different funding regions. They offered portfolios of the respective funding institutions and national or regional gaming activities. Some productions were brief web presentations linking you to the companys’ sites for more info, some gave you detailed descriptions with video trailers, some offered downloadable demos.
There were two VR games on display: a multiplayer shooter, originally conceived for VR Arcades, now distributed as an online coop experience; and a strictly home entertainment focused seating experience where the player sits in a futuristic wheel chair and solves spatial puzzles in a space station under challenging gravitational conditions. I also noted in the expo section that service operators and commercial research institutions now begin to integrate VR into their playtesting and user analysis propositions.
VR was quite a topic in the lecture program, actually. In a very concise and detailed presentation Ubisoft shared insights on comfort design for this media platform, which still seems to be misunderstood by some developers as a subset of the gaming industry instead of a platform of its own. Vertigo Games summarized the business developments in distributing their VR hit Arizona Sunshine on a vast variety of platforms. And in a thought provoking keynote talk, XR was even given a principal role for establishing a more responsible and inclusive society, due to the medium’s enormous potential for empathetic role-playing scenarios.
It would have been favorable for the VR related topics to get a hand on a proof of concept, especially when model thinking risks to dominate intuition and common sense. This holds for a good cause as well as for US-American corporate strategies, as we could already experience with the internet. But there was no downloadable demo being offered. Coincidentally, one day after the screening of this talk Facebook announced the corporate integration of Oculus accounts into their questionable thinking model of basic human communication.
Among all the many other industry relevant topics of the convention, the discussions on user generated content products striked me most. UGC games are seen as a safe investment haven during times of the pandemic. But I would argue that this gaming section can also provide valuable insights for future event organisations in the digital realm: Media Molecule showcased how they promote player activities in PlayStation exclusive Dreams (which is also playable in VR) by setting up award shows and in-game hackathons like real world events. And Mythical Games promoted with great verve their upcoming Block Party game, where blockchain technology is applied to set up a game related economy platform for user generated unica.
In any case, this year’s Devcom achieved an exciting line-up on a multichanneled digital platform that worked reasonably well for a professional exchange on actual industry trends. I would even say that it worked reasonably better than this year’s short coming bridging events of former paragon GDC – reasonably well enough to strive for greater ambitions!