This year Spanish games industry event Gamelab hopes to attract attendees from across Europe and Spanish-speaking countries with its focus on online and future trends, and a range of speakers that include BigPoint's Nils Holger-Henning, Commandos creator Gonzo Suarez and some of the team from Sony's Singstar studio.
Ahead of the three-day event's start on June 30 GamesIndustry.biz spoke to Gamelab Conference director Ivan Fernandez-Lobo to find out more about what is on offer and why the event is so important for the thriving Spanish games industry.
Q: Could you start off telling us what are the main themes of this year's Gamelab event?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: Gamelab is always about trends and innovation. The industry is dramatically shifting to the online era, so we have an eye on all the new products, platforms, business models and opportunities that relate to that. Another big issue is all the innovation on user interfaces and immersion experiences. Move, Project Natal, 3D screens, brain interfaces, etc are knocking at the door and that means the interaction will be taken to a whole new level in the next few years.
Q: And what will be new for this year's event?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: We have a higher number of international participants in this this year's event. Gamelab has probably been too focused on the Spanish-speaking industry over the years and its time for the event to get a higher visibility on the European scene. We are making a big effort to accomplish this objective and I think we are doing well.
Q: What sort of feedback did you receive from attendees of last year's event and how have you used it to improve the experience this year?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: Both the attendees and participants are helping to evolve the event year after year. The conference has been transformed in many ways, generating new events around it. We are now producing more activities where the general public is allowed to participate. This includes creative competitions, interactive areas, workshops, etc.
Q: Can you tell us who the Gamelab conference is aimed at? Is it executives, developers, or publishers, or do you have sessions aimed across the industry?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: We have two different kinds of public and objectives. On one side, Gamelab is a networking event. A place where professionals meet professionals, and where the business opportunities at different levels are maximised. At this level, the topics covered by the conference are only an excuse to get together potential partners.
On the other hand, we understood a while ago that Gamelab could do very important work projecting the videogames industry to the general public and media. We help by creating positive messages around videogames and work to get this message understood by everyone, with special attention paid to public institutions. To give you an example of the progress on this, the Spanish Government’s Ministry of Culture did the opening speech of Gamelab 2009.
Q: And in terms of issues that will be covered at the event, will there be a focus on those specifically affecting the local industry, or is there a more global focus?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: As I said before, Gamelab always tries to bring up to the stage the current trends of the industry. These are by definition global issues. Obviously, we benefit from the exposure and also try to project the best of our industry.
Q: From which countries do you expect to attract attendees?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: Most of the international participants come from the UK, France and Germany. I want to emphasise also that Gamelab is presented in Spanish and, for that reason, the number of "real" and "virtual" attendees of the event come from Latin American countries. Gamelab is a great opportunity to open a channel of communication to a great community of Spanish speakers all around the world.
Q: What issues are especially affecting the Spanish games industry at the moment? Are there any particularly impacting the local industry that perhaps aren't such an issue in other European countries?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: Spain has around 100 game studios working at a very high level on almost every platform. From Novarama, hitting the PSP market with the incredible Augmented Reality game Invizimals, to MercurySteam, about to release one of the most important productions of this year Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, there is a full list of Spanish studios that are putting our country on the global map.
We are working on making the political and economical lobbies give them more support and realise this could be a very interesting industry for the economic development of our country.
Q: Why is it important for people to attend Gamelab if they're already attending other European events such as GDC?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: The splendid networking atmosphere and the amazing place where the conference takes place make Gamelab a remarkable experience for all the participants. The smaller the event, the bigger the impact of your participation.
Q: Why does Spain need its own conference rather than simply integrating with one of the bigger events happening in Europe?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: In my opinion events like Gamelab are necessary because they offer each country a unique opportunity to talk loudly about itself, and also represent a clear chance to communicate strongly and directly to this country. GDC (especially the European version) doesn't have an impact on the Spanish media compared to Gamelab.
Q: What speakers are currently lined up for the conference and are you pleased with the diversity of those speakers?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: We have high level speakers coming from all around the world. From Nils Holger-Henning from Bigpoint, Igor Pusenjack from LimaSky (DoodleJump) and the people of London Studios' Singstar, to the biggest Spanish names like Gonzo Suarez (creator of the popular Commandos) and Xavier Carrillo, CEO of Digital Legends Entertainment. People should stay tuned to our website because some last minute surprises will also come up.
Q: What do you hope people will take away with them from the conference?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: I will be satisfied if I see everyone enjoying their time over the three days of the conference. I also hope they can get back home with some inspiring ideas and interesting contacts both personal and on the business side.
Q: Will there be any other events integrated into the Gamelab conference? What networking opportunities do you offer delegates?
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo: Yes, we have a couple of events organised by the European Game Developers Federation and Windows Phone. Apart from that, we will be celebrating the best of our industry on the night of the Spanish Industry Awards. This is definitely one of the most awaited moments of the year.
Ivan Fernandez-Lobo is the director of the Gamelab Conference. Interview by Kath Brice.