It's the time of the year when the great and the good of the UK games industry head down to Brighton for the annual Develop Conference, one of the most informative and essential events on the calendar. GamesIndustry.biz will be out in full force with our team covering the big sessions and interviewing speakers, sponsoring the Develop Awards after-party and generally socialising in the sun. If you want to say hello, just drop us a line.
But before the big week you'll need to get your schedule in order. We wanted to highlight some of the sessions we think will provide the best insight into where the industry is heading, the speakers that are most likely to drop the best sound bites and the teams creating some of the best video game content the business has to offer.
TUESDAY July 19
09:30 - 10:15 Evolve keynote: Moving the goalposts - bringing social experiences to all goal platforms.
In the past two year's the Evolve strand of Develop has been the most interesting and this year shouldn't be any different. EA Sports' Andrew Wilson will address the challenges of bringing huge gaming franchises to newer social platforms and making the most of the core mechanics that have always made video games social. We'd imagine he's frantically rewriting some of his speech in the wake of the PopCap acquisition.
10:20 - 11:05 The Future of Games.
That's a big subject for one session, but Bigpoint's chief games officer Philip Reisberger is well placed to at least share his thoughts on the growth of mobile, social and browser gaming. If he's anything like as brash as CEO Heiko Hubertz we should at least hear some choice quotes.
12:10 - 12:55 Browser - The place where console, web and social games come together.
Supercell's Ilkka Paanenen knows the browser audience and his company is currently flush with funding, from amongst other, London Venture Partners. Expect evangelising of the browser as the biggest games platform available, and how to tackle the challenges of keeping up with an audience well-versed in online entertainment.
14:00 - 14:45 The evolving games business model and how it will be funded.
Consultants and analysts can get a rough deal in the games industry, particularly if they make statements that old businesses don't want to hear. Nick Parker of Parker Consulting will look at the best new business models with variety of case studies, analysing the amount of funding and where that financing game from.
14:50 - 15:35 Social games, music and fashion: New frontiers.
Best known for growing the SingStar franchise at Sony, Paulina Bozek has since gone on to found her own company, INENSU, developing a hybrid music game and fan platform, as well as a fashion community for teenagers. If you want insight from a start-up pushing the boundaries of social, gaming and community, this should be an enlightening session.
15:50 - 16:35 A disruptive view of the gaming industry.
There used to be time when competitors didn't collaborate beyond a boxed product distribution deal, but now services like Applifier are specifically geared towards content creators sharing and cross-promoting players online. VP of business development Karri Hautanen will discuss these disruptive trends, and compare examples in the music, TV and movie industries.
16:40 - 17:25 Evolve Keynote: Lessons learned building Moshi Monsters to 50m users.
A true UK success, Mind Candy's moshimonsters.com is one of the fastest-growing and profitable children's sites in the world. Who better than CEO Michael Acton Smith to discuss the new frontiers of game entertainment, how to expand IP beyond the screen, and the success and failure that's enabled it to reach 50 million users. Also expect a sneak peak at where Moshi Monsters will go next...
WEDNESDAY July 20
09:30 Opening keynote: Living inside a Molecule.
Opening the first day of Develop proper, Phil Harrison, former boss of Worldwide Studios for Sony, sits down with his old protégés Media Molecule for a friendly roundtable. While they'll no doubt talk about going from start-up with a dream to darlings of the UK development scene, all ears will be pricked for any hints of what the team is working on next now it's distanced itself from the LittleBigPlanet franchise.
11:00 - 12:00 No console required? Bulldozing the barriers to entry.
Relentless threw out the traditional game controller for its Buzz games and then made a murder mystery game for all the family with Blue Toad. Now it's making iPhone quiz games, Kinect apps and more as it strives to reach more mainstream audiences. In this session, co-founder Andy Eades will talk about bypassing consoles to go straight to new audiences, and speculate what this could mean for the format-holders.
13:30 - 14:40 Six months on: The Livingstone Hope Review.
Quite simply an update on the Livingstone Hope Review - what effect has it had, what has actually changed in the Government's attitude to the games industry, are recommendations being taken on board? Expect honest opinions from UKIE's Andy Payne and co-author Ian Livingstone, with NESTA's Hasan Bahkshi and Skillset's John Walker.
15:00 - 16:00 Throw away your office.
Heavyweight panel chaired by Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell on the changes to company culture as new business models disrupt the norm. How heavyweight? Ngmoco's Alan Yu, Rob Smith of Jagex, SCEE's Dave Ranyard and David Amor of Relentless.
16:30 - 17:30 Three screens and a cloud: Building a socially connected user base across multiple devices.
This is Microsoft's session discussing using cloud services in conjunction with Xbox Live Arcade and other screens and devices. The company has experimented in the past and continues to do so, so Ted Woosley, director of XBLA for Microsoft Game Studios is hopefully going to share some forward-thinking about how the format holder intends to expand games beyond the basic console.
THURSDAY July 21
10:00 - 11:00 Keynote: The stereoscopic 3D experience - The first year of 3D on PlayStation 3.
This could go either way to be honest. Is stereoscopic 3D the success Sony hoped for, and will Mick Hocking of the Worldwide Studios business really open up on the subject? It's being held at the Odeon Cinema in Brighton, so it should at least be a dazzling experience.
11:30 - 12:30 Developer's question time: You ask, they answer.
Develop is requesting submissions here for a question and answer session with some of the UK's finest names: David Braben, Phil Harrison, Miles Jacobson and Chris Lee. Hosted by Eurogamer TV's Johnny Minkley, this session is exactly what you make it. Get involved by emailing questions via the official site.
13:30 - 14:30 Why great games don't always sell.
How do you avoid making a great game that doesn't sell? That's what Sumo Digital's Gareth Wilson hopes to tackle in this session, looking at recent examples (there have been too many of them) and offering ideas on how to change strategies to avoid creating great content that misses an audience.
14:45 - 15:45 Producing digital download content.
Stainless Games are a little under the radar, but they've got great form producing downloadable titles for XBLA, PSP and PC such as Magic: The Gathering, Risk: Factions and Happy Tree Friends. And just recently they bought the much-loved Carmageddon licence. So who better to discuss delivering hits than production director Ben Gunstone, who will be sharing tips and tricks learned on multiple digital titles.
16:00 - 17:00 Share in the community: LittleBigPlanet + X million players.
In a connected world there's nothing more important than engaging with your community, and Media Molecule has done a great job of bringing online interaction to triple-A video game development. This is the last session of the day, but should be key to anyone interested in applying community features and services to a traditional console game.
Other sessions of note: Thursday also features a dedicated audio track, with speakers from Rockstar North, Microsoft, Sony and Electronic Arts. The same day also sees the dedicated Indie Dev Day, with Hello Games, Hogrocket, Playniac, Remode, Mobile Pie and others discussing the landscape for independent creators.
For the full sessions listings, head over the official website. We'll see you there.