Last month saw the return of Melbourne International Games Week, an event that sees the industry descend upon the Australian city to showcase games, studios, and everything the bustling games scene in the country has to offer.
While 2021's MIGW was all about getting back on track in the wake of a global pandemic, this year's focus was on building on that return, and making the trip to Melbourne a worthwhile block in every games professional's calendar.
"The main goal was to see crowds come back in person – and they did with the proverbial bells on," Fran Kerlin, senior manager at MIGW organiser Creative Victoria, tells GamesIndustry.biz. "After two years of struggling with virtual formats, organisers were keen to offer a veritable smorgasbord of programming that would excite the local games community, whether they were studios or players."
Kerlin shares that MIGW 2022 was a massive success on all fronts, and says that more people attended this year's instalment – which saw over 50 different events throughout the week – than any other event previously.
This year, MIGW staged an opening night networking event, Big Games Night Out, which "aimed at giving the industry a massive kick-off to a big week," Kerlin tells us. "It was a huge success, and one that will no doubt become an embedded event in future programming."
The week also saw several multiple-day conferences take place as part of the week-long celebration. This includes High Score, an event focused on the collaboration between the games and music industries, Games Connect Asia Pacific, a networking event for professionals in the region, and a three-day conference led by the international president for Games 4 Change.
And of course, GamesIndustry.biz parent Reedpop ran its own PAX Australia during the week, which reached an "all-time" high according to Kerlin
At the end of the week, the Victorian government pledged $5.2 million in funding to the local games industry, with $2 million allocated to the expansion of MIGW, which Kerlin calls "an exciting prospect for the industry."
While crowds returned to MIGW 2022 in record-breaking numbers, the event's hybrid option was less prevalent than it has been since the pandemic. MIGW 2020 was online only and last year's event, which took place in person, jousted with the limitations of Covid lockdowns.
"There were a small number of events that offered a hybrid option, however, most were pumped for live/in-person," Kerlin explains. "Anecdotal feedback from across the world was firmly supportive of attendance in-person, particularly following the excellent example set by Gamescom in August where it was very clear that people were galvanised by the idea of connecting again in a live format."
That's not to say that Creative Victoria is dismissing the achievements and audience garnered from hosting virtual events, or the accessibility that it grants to people worldwide.
"There's definitely room for hybrid events – after all, MIGW built a huge global following in 2020 and 2021 when the program was totally virtual," she adds. "We are keen to keep the connections with our international friends who are unable to make the physical trip.
"A big objective is to foster accessibility and diversity across the industry. This can always be better, and organisers are already hard at work looking at this aspect and how it can be further developed for 2023 and beyond."
Increasing international engagement is a big goal for next year's MIGW event, and Kerlin tells us that Creative Victoria is exploring how to encourage more visitors to make the trip to Melbourne, which can be quite financially and geographically daunting. The October event also follows the summer romps of E3 and Gamescom which developers may prefer to attend if they have to choose between one or the other.
"The Australian games industry is on a growth trajectory – you only have to look at the recent successes of Australian-made games to know there is something going on in the world 'down-under'"
"Many people in the northern hemisphere can be a bit put off by the travel time to Melbourne, but it's well worth making the trip to see the power and strength of the Australian games industry and how it is driving forward on the global stage," Kerlin says. "We say, 'the plane trip is not that bad – two movies, two meals and a little sleep and you are here!'"
"The Australian games industry is on a growth trajectory – you only have to look at the recent successes of Australian-made games to know there is something going on in the world 'down-under'. MIGW attracts the best and brightest from across Australia. The recent Australian pavilion at Gamescom cemented the country's reputation as home to incredible talent, innovation, and breakout ideas. People need to see this upfront and personal, and then they will make the trip every year."
Kerlin also mentions the impending introduction of the Federal Government's Digital Games Tax Offset, which is putting Australia on the map as a fruitful place for games companies to set up shop.
"Interest in Australia as a viable location for international studios wishing to expand has never been higher," Kerlin adds. "Indeed, several studios with investment front and centre have made the trip to MIGW with fruitful conversations ongoing."