Interview

Brazil’s Biggest Games Expo Goes Digital

An Interview with BIG Digital with Eliana Russi and Gustavo Steinberg

By Zubi Khan
Published May 12, 2020
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The videogame industry continues to grow, Brazil, in particular, is booming thanks to the efforts of the growing independent scene and the insurgence of development studios, not just in Brazil but in neighbouring territories as well. Since its inception in 2012, BIG or the Brazil Independent Games Festival has been the central hub for both local and international audiences to interact with an equally eclectic group of insiders, developers and game industry professionals.

CGMagazine had the pleasure to sit down with Eliana Russi, the Executive Manager of Brazil Games and the Content Director of BIG Festival, alongside Gustavo Steinberg, the Director of BIG Festival and BIG Digital, the first online-only venture for BIG.

For those unaware, BIG or the Brazil Independent Games Festival traditionally takes place every June and is Brazil’s largest games expo in the country with free access to the general public. Unfortunately, due to the current global climate, the in-person event has been pushed to next year.  Thankfully, BIG will still take place this year in the form of BIG Digital, which, as the name implies, is the inaugural online-only incarnation of the prestigious event.

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BIG Expo – Photo Provided by Brazil Games

CGMagazine: As BIG typically takes place in-person, how will the online event manifest, and how will it impact the B2B (business to business) aspect of the event?

Gustavo Steinberg: It is a new platform for us, but I think we will do it fine. It is mostly B2B, but we are contemplating holding an eSports event. Its’ not a sure thing yet, maybe we will do something connected to covid 19, like a competition and promoting institutions and places outside of the city, like the outskirts.

Eliana Russi: BIG Digital will be online but the BIG Festival has always been open to the public.

CGMagazine: As BIG is a large event, what is the process in selecting the games that will be featured during the yearly event and Big Digital?

Gustavo Steinberg: usually for the general public, a selection of 70-80 games are available on the show floor for attendees to enjoy. We breakdown the games to different categories, specifically for competitive titles which is around 400-500 games but that number is larger for games that are still in development and fall under other categories.

Both Steinberg and Russi went on to comment on the fact that they are still planning on what games will be present online for BIG Digital, but an emphasis on competitive games will be taken into consideration.

CGMagazine: what would you consider to be your biggest avenues of interest in terms of what is generally present during the yearly event (mobile vs pc vs other specific consoles), including the categories of what is present?

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BIG Expo – Photo Provided by Brazil Games

Gustavo Steinberg:  We don’t have a preference because the reality is most indie developers tend to create games for the mobile and PC spaces. We have categories for best overall game, best Brazilian game and best Latin-American game. Our categories include best mobile, best game for kids, and one called BIG Diversity, which is related to games related to diversity issues.”

CGMagazine: What kind of games are on display aside from competitive titles?

Gustavo Steinberg: We have a section that is parallel to the competitive games that feature quality Brazilian games, so we have a way for developers and publishers to engage with each other.

CGMagazine: Are there any initiatives BIG partakes in that helps smaller studios or those trying to break into the industry?

Gustavo Steinberg: We are always scouting for new talent in other events, but its basically two separate teams, one is scouting via an application, which is then evaluated. We don’t have a specific invitation category. We invite and then we evaluate all the games that are sent in. More and more we have been getting lots of VR games. We’ve had the category for three years, and last year we had almost 80.

CGMagazine: Why is BIG important to the country, what sets it apart from other large conferences such as E3 and Gamescom?

Eliana Russi: Publishers were unaware of Brazil as a games industry and considered it primarily a consumer-country, but thanks to BIG, both Brazil and some of the neighbouring countries such as Argentina and Chile have become known for having very good (development) studios.

Brazil is the13th largest contributor and the 4th largest consumer of games, so it makes sense that events such as BIG help promote both sides of the industry.

Finally, when asked about how BIG Digital aims to recreate the atmosphere of the in-person festival, Russi and Steinberg stated that for the BIG Digital  event, they aim to recreate the feeling of a more traditional experience through the inclusion of a digital mixer. In other words, attendees will be able to listen in on the various lectures at the event then partake in a digital mixer where people can mingle and enjoy themselves from the comfort of their own homes.

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BIG Expo – Photo Provided by Brazil Games

Gustavo went on to mention the possible inclusion of a non-professional eSports competition, something more accessible for a general audience, in addition to panels that help those wanting to break into the world of professional gaming. It is not certain, but it something both Gustavo and Eliana hope will be a part of BIG digital when it kicks off later in the year. The event is planned to spread out through an entire week, rather than the typical two-day event, as it will be online, giving people more time to enjoy the show leisurely.

As someone who only heard of BIG through other outlets, it was fascinating and very informative in getting the opportunity to interview both Russi and Steinberg. Undertakings such as BIG are not only crucial to the games industry but are paramount in promoting independent and new talent. It will be interesting to see how BIG Digital unfolds, and CGMagazine wishes all those involved the best of luck.

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