Since conception as a forum to help the Nordic community stand up and be counted, Nordic Game has grown into one of the most important industry events for the wider European market.
Now in its fourth year, Nordic Game 2007 has an impressive line-up of speakers set for the May event, including representatives from Harmonix, SCEE, Electronic Arts, Crytek and CCP.
Here, Nordic Game organiser Erik Robertson discusses the evolution of the event, this year's focus and the importance of exploiting local markets.
GamesIndustry.biz: Can you begin by telling us how preparations are going for Nordic Game 2007?
Erik Robertson: Pretty well, I think. The first year was very amateurish, it was just me and an assistant that I had for the last few weeks. But with the steady growth that we've seen we're able to extrapolate from what we've been doing before. This year's event could be really nice. We're more on track with our schedules and everything than we were last year.What about the speaker line up, how does that compare to last year?
I think it compares pretty well. We do have some international big names, we always like to find some headline names from the US and Japan and other parts of Asia. We have that all in order, as well as some great Nordic names.What's the focus of this year's Nordic Game festival? Is it just to promote the Nordic games industry?
Well it started out in the first two years as discussing the potential for the Nordic game industry, that's where the name came from, it was actually called 'Nordic Game Potential'. It was a platform, a meeting place for the industry to speak to researchers and people who deal with public policy and influence that public policy in the Nordic game field.
Now I feel that last year we firmly established ourselves, not only on the European scene, but on the Nordic scene. The people who have been most sceptical have been the Nordic game developers. That doesn't necessarily mean that they think we're incompetent or underfunded - it's been a question of them thinking 'is there room for one more games conference' and 'who would we like to meet, and who, apart from the other people from the Nordic game industry, would actually come? How can we attract attention when there are so many other good games conferences?' I think that we've proven that we have this ability on the European and worldwide scene.What proportion of visitors are you expecting to have from outside the Nordic game scene?
Last year it was about 10 per cent and I wouldn't be surprised to see us double that this year. As we also expect a higher attendance this year I wouldn't be surprised to see at least 200 people from outside the Nordic area. We've had a lot of interest from the UK and Germany.What would your message be to professionals outside the Nordic region who are still considering whether Nordic Game is worth their while? What are the benefits for them?
It's a tight, community orientated conference where in addition to having a very good and interesting speaker line up, we've always been very aware of what the other thing is that you like to do at conferences. Apart from listen to engaging speakers and panels and asking questions of experts and peers - building your knowledge - the other half is the socialising, the networking. Meeting up with friends and potential business partners in an unplanned way. The things that just appear when you're at an event with like minded people.
That's a very important reason for attending an event like this. From the outset we've tried to do everything to facilitate that, to include lunches and a dinner that's included in the price. Also, things about the scheduling and the layout - we're doing everything we can to facilitate this networking that might even be some people's main reason for attending.What are the key issues that Nordic Game will be focusing on this year?
We've tried to bring the community issues into it as far as we are able. Not just the communities surrounding particular online games, but in a wider sense, such as the developer community. So community and communication is at the heart of it.Last year's big conference news was that E3 was being downsized. Do you think because of that, smaller events like Leipzig and Nordic Game are becoming more important?
It certainly helps. It's not a random choice that Nordic Game is happening in May this year. The slot that people have had in their diary for the last five years or so has been May. E3 is what people have assumed is the only thing they could do in May. That time slot suddenly opened up so we took it.
I would say that E3 isn't necessarily downsizing, the way I understand it they are only moving the semi-public expo. We know that the majority of visitors to E3 haven't really been professionals in that sense. So now they're splitting it up very wisely with the LA event for the public and focusing on the press in Santa Monica. Everyone is doing their own thing as far as I understand it, directly to the distributors and retail. The downsizing, or re-formatting of E3 gives an excellent opportunity to re-focus the world's attention on areas other than downtown LA. So it was a concious move on our part.Do you think the European games industry is as highly regarded as the US and Japanese industry, or do you think we still have a way to go?
Yes and no. We know the market is very large, but certainly the Nordic viewpoint is that too much control of these markets, and the access to our markets, are in Asian or North American hands. That's the way the market looks now — it makes sense from a cultural, political and strict business viewpoint to try and change that.What does the industry need to do to change that?
Try to do what we can to gain more control over distribution. That means digital distribution but it also means non-proprietary platforms - the PC is the independent developers best tool for market access. Xbox Live Arcade is very nice but the decision to publish games is still made in the US rather than Europe.
The closer that the decision is made to where the game is actually produced increases the likelihood of getting your game published. That's just a given. Doing local business is easier. If you're a developer in Tokyo it's much easier to talk to your local developers than to some strange cold country that you couldn't even place on the map.
Erik Robertson is organiser of Nordic Game 2007 which takes place May 15 — 16 in Malmo, Sweden. Interview by Ellie Gibson.