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Preview: Festival of Games 2011

Chairman Seth van der Meer discusses exciting plans for this year's event in The Netherlands

Preparations for one of Europe's first big games events, the Festival of Games - taking place on April 28-29 in Utrecht, The Netherlands - are well underway, with a raft of top-level speakers already announced and more to follow.

Here, chairman of the event, Seth van der Meer explains the theme of Games Anywhere, and why the Festival of Games this year could be among the most incisive on the calendar. What are the ambitions behind Festival of Games?
Seth van der Meer

Well, the whole plan when we started was to strengthen the Dutch games development market, and actually with the growth of the industry we discovered that Europe has its own agenda - it's much more focused on the creation of original IP and a bit less on publishing.

That's been changing over the last couple of years, away from the developer-publisher-retailer model to the digital distribution era, and we've seen some interesting European companies spring up, like SPIL Games, Bigpoint and Gameforge.

On the wave of those new developments we thought it would be interesting to have a festival that would align and present those developments in this area in Europe. That's what we've been trying to do in the last couple of years - programme an event that has its own European agenda; that shows the way the games industry is developing over here, in contrast to what's going on in other parts of the world. Do you still try to promote the Dutch industry as well?
Seth van der Meer

Not in a direct way; it's not that we try to be a Dutch event - but the fact that we're located in The Netherlands and have good ties with a couple of the European organisations... that does offer a good opportunity for Dutch developers in their own back yards. They can profit a lot from this event that's taking place so close to home - with very little investment they're able to meet many companies and interesting people. The European angle is interesting - one the one hand it's a challenge because there are a host of different markets and cultures in evidence. How difficult is it to pull all of that together and represent the developing business scene across the region?
Seth van der Meer

It depends from which angle you look at it. Of course there are cultural differences and language barriers that you still have in many European countries, but if you look at the MMO genre, where players from all kinds of backgrounds play together and don't even care from which country a person comes... I think you see something similar in the development scene as well - the fact that most European countries have a relatively small home market generates the need for them to go out for larger opportunities.

A lot of those developers have the same challenges, so they may have differences, but they've got a lot of agreement when it comes to getting into the big pool of what's an America-dominated publishing scene.

It's something that's been changing for the last couple of years, but whether you're from Denmark, or Italy, or Poland - there are differences when it comes to the home market, but when it comes to the global market they have a lot in common.

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