Game Connection is preparing for its annual stateside show, which like years past takes place in San Francisco during GDC week. This year marks the first North American edition of the Game Connection Marketing Awards, an effort organizers launched in Europe last fall.
For these awards, Game Connection is partnered with [a]list and aiming to recognize the marketing and business side of a changing game industry. The way they hope to do that – no fees. Unlike other major advertising and marketing awards, these are free to enter. That makes them accessible to a larger pool, with organizers encouraging indie developers that have launched their own games and smaller publishers to consider this as their opportunity to be recognized for their marketing efforts.
As part of its sponsorship of the awards, [a]list is adding three new categories that weren’t part of the Europe edition. They recognize the best original content campaign, best overall campaign and best individual marketer of the year. Other categories award the best campaigns of the past year – those that ran February 2012 to February 2013 – by discipline and also include Game Connection's award for best marketing agency of the year.
Submission is entirely digital and free, but deadline to enter is coming fast on February 22.
Game Connection’s partnership with [a]list also extends to its conference. The 2013 conference schedule kicks off with the Game Connection Marketing [a]list summit on March 25 and continues through March 27 with Game Connection's usual series of workshops, panels and networking sessions for developers and publishers. Marketing award winners are announced at a ceremony taking place at the end of [a]list summit on day one. The events all take place at the Sir Francis Drake hotel in San Francisco.
We spoke with Pierre Carde, Game Connection founder, Pierre Mirlit, managing director, and Giulia Palmieri, marketing manager, along with Steve Fowler, GM of [a]list, for more insight on the event and this year's awards.
[a]list: What prompted Game Connection to start an awards program for marketers?
Pierre Mirlit: Marketing Awards are part of the expansion of Game Connection to incorporate the vital marketing functions of the industry. Many leading games marketing businesses are now exhibiting at Game Connection shows, including business intelligence specialists and agencies focusing on media, advertising, creative, PR, community management, and digital, email and affiliate marketing. We wanted to give them all an additional reason for coming along.
[a]list: How long has Game Connection been organizing events, both in the US and abroad?
Pierre Carde: 2013 marks the 10th Anniversary of Game Connection in the United States. It is the best occasion to take a look back and realize how far we have gone. Established in 2001 to become the biggest marketplace for videogames professionals, Game Connection crossed the European border in 2004 and started hosting its business conventions first in San José, then in San Francisco, alongside GDC.
Since then, more than 1600 attendees came along for each edition, with an average of 5,000 meetings scheduled. This pushed us to develop a third business convention in Asia that will take place in Shanghai at the end of May 2013.
[a]list: It seems Game Connection was at the forefront of growth in digital and mobile and how it led to the resurgence of indie game development. What do you think are the long term effects of these changes both from an industry standpoint and how it affects game consumers?
Pierre Carde: Indeed, the market has significantly changed, affecting business models. Games industry professionals have no choice than to adapt themselves to those new challenges or they risk to be left behind, as THQ sadly proved.
In addition, if we consider how crowd founding turned into reality projects such as OUYA and Oculus Rift, we understand that both developers and consumers are about to face a brand new gaming era.
[a]list: Who is your main audience for these awards?
Giulia Palmieri: The Marketing Awards program is now accepting submissions from marketing, media, advertising and communications professionals who have overseen successful campaigns between February 2012 and February 2013. It is the first North American edition of these awards, but we want it to be considered as a global competition: there are no regional restrictions, since we know how talent is hidden everywhere.
[a]list: What made [a]list want to partner with Game Connection on their awards?
Steve Fowler: As a long time attendee of Game Connection events, I was privileged enough to cover last year’s inaugural Game Connection Awards in Paris. The level of quality in production and nominees was outstanding. There are many awards that recognize the games industry development side but very few that award the marketers in our industry. This is a natural fit for [a] list and the following we’ve built through [a]list daily and our summits.
[a]list: What do you think differentiates these from other game industry awards?
Steve Fowler: Marketing is a craft that gets little attention in the games industry, yet there are tremendously creative people behind the scenes. These awards look to recognize those individuals and companies who are leading the industry in consumer communication. The first and only game awards show for marketing without an entry fee allows even the independent publishers and developers to compete directly with the big dogs. It’s not about how big the budget is, it’s about how big the idea is.
Giulia Palmieri: We felt like no other event was really giving the chance to anyone working in video game marketing and communications, whether in-house with a publisher or developer, at an agency, or independent, to apply for such a competition. Normally fees are very high and intimidating, avoiding outstanding work in marketing and communications from across the breadth of the video game industry worldwide to be showcased properly, especially by smaller-sized companies. We simply wanted to democratize the participation to our awards, because by doing this we get to identify a lot more interesting players.
[a]list: Tell us a bit about the judging process and who is part of the committee?
Pierre Mirlit: The Judging process is all in the hands of an external committee. After February 15th, all applications will be sent to our advisory board of leading industry experts. We are going to confirm the final jury right after the applications deadline. Then, the board will be asked to identify three nominees for each category following criteria such as innovation of a campaign, assessment of the results and graphic assets. All nominees will then be invited to the awards ceremony which concludes the Game Connection Marketing [a]list Summit on March 25th at Game Connection America.
[a]list: What were some highlights from the Europe awards?
Giulia Palmieri: When we first opened this competition we couldn’t imagine such a great feedback. For our European edition, we received something around 100 applications. Winners included both big agencies, such as Sid Lee Paris for Best Broadcast Award with its Assassin’s Creed 3 trailer “Rise” and TBWA for Best Experiential Award with its “PS Vita - The World is in Play” campaign, and in-house marketing teams such as the ones from NC SOFT and Wargaming.net, respectively winners of the Best Print and Best Digital Awards for Guild Wars 2, and Best PR Award for World of Tanks. Not to neglect Crispin Porter + Bogusky that was crowned Best Marketing Team of the Year 2012 for its "Autodance" smartphone app for Ubisoft’s Just Dance 3.
I confess that it was an enormous satisfaction to hear from Benn Achilleas, founder of neoco and winner of the Best Social Media Strategy for the European graffiti campaign of Borderlands 2, [who said], "Marketing is such a critical part of the games industry and it's great that Game Connection have started to recognise this with these awards.”
[a]list: Any plans on expanding with categories such as ‘best game’ and awards for development disciplines?
Pierre Mirlit: If the marketing awards program keeps growing as we wish, we can’t exclude to provide new entries for upcoming Game Connection events. So, stay tuned and you’ll see!