The Montreal International Game Summit has been attracting the industry eye to eastern Canada since 2004, with 2013 being the event’s ninth year. During that time it’s grown to accommodate more visitors, including many from outside the country. We spoke to Clement Galiay, the director of MIGS to get his perspective on the event itself and the industry it represents.
Comics Gaming Magazine: How’s the attendance for MIGS looking like compared to last year’s numbers?
Clement Galiay: It’s a bit early before the event to give any meaningful comparison, as the last month is always very busy for registration. Though, so far we’re on the track for a small growth in terms of attendees, mainly driven by a rise in international participation with a huge delegation from China, our Guest Country for this edition, as well as from Brazil.
CGM: MIGS is a business event intended for members of the game industry to benefit from sharing with peers, but does it offer anything to people on the outside, such as students or even just fans of the medium?
CG: Everybody who’s willing to work in the game industry, including students, may find interest in attending MIGS 2013. Our Career Fair—free to access on validation—is a great way to get into the event and see what the Expo has in store.
CGM: How would you describe the state of the Canadian game industry? It used to be that the two nerve centers were Vancouver and Montreal, but that seems to be changing with Toronto entering the mix more frequently.
CG: Toronto is definitely growing and all provinces in Canada have their own share of passionate developers willing to create the best possible games. Thankfully the game industry is globally growing as it reaches new audiences through digital distribution channels and there is room for more and more to make a living out of it – it is not easy, but possible. Canada is in good shape, creativity and talents are burgeoning, and the fact that AAA industry and independent studios are working next to each other makes it even richer. With incentives from government, we can definitely say that the game industry in Canada is in good health, even though it’s facing challenges as anywhere else.
CGM: What kind of concerns and opportunities are there in the industry now that a console generation is drawing to a close and a new one is starting?
CG: On one hand, consoles are no longer such a big opportunity for small and medium sized developers; only digital stores on PS4 and Xbox One are giving real opportunities for medium teams to produce games for these channels. But the proliferation of digital distribution channels—mobile devices, social networks, online stores, android home consoles—is definitely creating a whole new bunch of opportunities as producers can directly reach their potential customers through a widened audience. Globalization is now much more tangible than ever. However, getting out of the large crowd of games on these platforms is not an easy task and big success is not to be always expected!
On the other hand we must underline that Canada is home of some of the most creative and talented studios and are producing some of the best games in the world; be it WB Games’ Batman: Arkham Origins or Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs, just to name a couple, Canada and Montreal will still remain the place where some of the best console productions are created.
CGM: What does MIGS offer to the people that attend? Is there more to it than just being GDC East?
CG: MIGS really aims at gathering game professionals in Montreal and encouraging them to share their experience and have a lot of fun together. 2013 edition will really cover a wide range of topics in the conference sessions to make sure AAA and indie developers can all find interesting takeaways for their day-to-day work.
On top of that, MIGS is also setting up a great B2B environment where companies willing to do business can meet publishers and developers from all over the world in a very focused way, making it easy to discuss deal opportunities with top execs in the industry.
CGM: How does the keynote speaker selection process work? Do speakers approach with an idea they’d like to discuss, or are they asked to contribute a topic?
CG: The content is put together by an advisory board made of game developers representative of todays’ industry. There are two phases in the selection process: first we issue a call for speakers and the advisory board picks the best from the submitted proposals, second we look for speakers who have interesting insights on some topics we identifies as critical for our potential audience.
CGM: Aside from the obvious console transition, what are the other challenges or changes is the industry facing? Are more or less people playing games now?
CG: There are definitely more and more people playing games, thanks to new platforms. However, making sure their money goes from their pocket to your pocket is not as simple as getting a disc on a retail shelf. You have to do outstanding marketing to get noticed, and really understand all game mechanics to have people love and thus pay for your game. Console gaming by itself has concentrated with a global market significantly smaller and the number of companies doing console games has shrunk. Handheld consoles are definitely harmed by mobile markets. But on a larger scale, we have noticed that mobile devices are persuading people who were barely playing, to jump into some games and enjoy them. They may start with Angry Birds, Farmville or CandyCrush Saga but end up playing some games on different platforms just because they been introduced to gaming and realized it’s not always about shooting zombies in a World War 2 environment.
CGM: In recent years, a gulf seems to have formed with massive studios and massive teams on one side, producing triple A games, and small indie teams on the other extreme producing passion projects. The “middle” seems to have vanished. Why is that?
CG: Well, I will answer this question with a personal view, as I think it would need precise numbers to answer appropriately such a vast subject. For me, it seems that’s the way the story and history went; when PS1 dominated the console world, it was feasible for 10-20 employees companies to do good games in short time. With PS2 it was still possible and DS and Wii shortly arrived giving new opportunities to little and mid-size studios to do console games on their own. But PS3 and 360 really changed the rules as the barriers to entry were much higher. At the same time, the Nintendo devices started to be less profitable for third party publishers and they withdrew part of their support to developers. So a lot of them shut down or switched to digital markets but then you need smaller teams to be more flexible. And with Xbox One and PS4 upcoming, it will be even more challenging to create big console games.
CGM: Where do you see the future of the industry going, especially with new attempts at VR such as Oculus Rift, which looks like it might succeed this time?
CG: It’s hard to predict whether one or the other will win the hardware war. Oculus Rift is definitely a huge opportunity for new creative content but they have other competitors with interesting features too. And motion sensors like Kinect are quite interesting too!
But in my opinion, the real challenge is not about the hardware, it’s more about the content. Apple Store has changed the way we consume games on mobile, just like Steam has changed PC gaming. Console manufacturers are trying to make change happen on their platform too. This is probably just the beginning. There are no limits – but technology and it never lasts long – to what can be done. Game-streaming service like Gaikai available on all screens ? Game series format to explode and get TV-like success?
The good thing with all new platforms, compared to a PS1 dominated console world, is that the challenge is much higher and thus you have to be innovative. It’s very likely that we’ll soon know about many different innovations that will just change the way we play our games for ever!
CGM: Right now games occupy the same “scapegoat” position in media and society as comic books and even table top RPGs did many years ago. What do you think it will take for the mindset towards games to change and stop viewing it as a corruptive, potentially dangerous influence on the young?
CG: To be honest, I sincerely believe that even though games are still blamed for different things in society, it’s not as much as it used to be and it’s almost always blamed by sensational media who like to put oil on burning flames. The recent GTA V release is here to testify it; there has been more mainstream media praising the game for its interactive intelligence, its beauty – and its qualities, globally – than blaming it for its eventual corruption. It’s probably one of the most extreme example, still, that doesn’t mean that our industry does not have to keep changing and adapting. Violent games can be good and enjoyable but there are plenty of game genres that remain vastly untapped, creativity in gaming is still at its early age, I think. We need to offer more grown-up content, where, for example, women are more respected and not always bikini-dressed bimbos, and where the goal is not to kill the Russians.