As you may have heard, Austin’s most famous pop culture event, SXSW, has escaped the American south for the global south: 2023 will mark the show’s debut in Sydney. The new show will be called SXSW Sydney (funny that), and will bring all the cultural cache of the American show with it. Imagine if San Diego Comic-Con became a weeklong cocktail party and you’ve got the idea. It’s a huge, evolving live event full of brand activations (a PR term for Parties And Publicity Stunts) and has traditionally put a huge focus on the film, television and music industries.
But what’s really interesting, at least as far as the Australian gaming audience is concerned, is that SXSW Sydney will host its own Gaming Festival.
According to organisers, the SXSW Sydney Gaming Festival will “celebrate the future of the industry and embrace the power and potential of games.” It seems like it’ll be a fairly big event too, with “over 100 local and international independent games … playable across Showcase ventures and the myriad other festival venues in the SXSW Sydney precinct.”
What we can infer from this is that the Gaming Festival, rather than being hosted in one single venue, is a cog in the massive, ever-turning wheel that is the larger festival. SXSW is somewhat decentralised — there’s no hub, like a convention centre, around which the whole event turns. This means there’s an element of discoverability (aka travel) involved, which might make things interesting for attendees keen on seeing all of the show’s hidden treasures. Here’s the map of sites so far:
This is not terribly dissimilar to the US version of the show, where SXSW Gaming has been a fixture since 2014. Gaming has historically been a smaller part of the show’s programme, occasionally overshadowed by the raw brand power of the tech-focused SXSW Interactive. Still, to see it make the jump to Australia is very cool indeed.
What’s more, the SXSW Sydney Gaming Festival is being headed up by a man who could be considered an old hand at putting on a gaming festival. Luke Lancaster, formerly the head of content and partnerships at ReedPop, and one of the driving forces behind Australia’s largest games convention, PAX Aus, is now the head of gaming for SXSW Sydney. If anyone knows how to throw a huge party with games at the centre of it, I feel like it’s probably him.
This, however, is the part where you might get your hair blown back a bit. Because of its scale, complexity and sheer number of high-profile events, SXSW has never been the cheapest festival to attend. SXSW Sydney is no different. The Gaming Badge alone, at the Early Bird pricing, will set you back (deep breath) $895.
I know, I know. Just let it marinate for a moment and then I’ll explain why it’s that high.
What does a Gaming Badge worth nearly $900 get you? Quite a bit, as it turns out. It comes with primary access to:
- Conference keynotes
- Conference panels and Featured Sessions
- The entire SXSW Sydney Tech & Innovation Expo
- The Gaming Expo
- The Gaming Festival
- Gaming workshops and mentor sessions
- Gaming industry meet-ups, networking, events and parties
- Gaming industry showcases, launches, and exclusive events
Primary access means you get priority access to gaming-focused events at the show, over people with Music, Screen or Tech & Innovation Badges. And looking at what the Badge gets you, I’m sure you’re beginning to understand why the price is the way that it is. Unlike PAX, which is a consumer-first event, SXSW Sydney Gaming is a professionals-first kind of event. It’s the kind of thing you’d want to attend if you already worked, or were interested in working, in the video games industry. $895 buys you access to industry names it would be quite hard to reach otherwise.
If PAX Aus suddenly feels like a cheap weekend out for the whole family, by comparison, I understand.
But wait, you thought I was done? No there’s a secondary access list attached to the Gaming Badge as well. While anyone with a Gaming Badge will have access to the following events, you’ll be put in line behind people with primary access:
- Tech workshops and mentor sessions
- Tech industry meet-ups, networking, events and parties
- Tech industry showcases, launches and exclusive events
- Startup pitch
- Music festival shows and events
- Music industry workshops and mentor sessions
- Music industry meet-ups, networking events and parties
- Music industry showcases, launches and exclusive events
- Screen festival screenings and events
- Screen festival exclusive premieres
- Screen industry workshops and mentor sessions
- Screen industry meet-ups, networking events and parties
- Screen industry showcases, launches, and exclusive events
And if you have severe FOMO and want primary access to EVERYTHING, you can get a Platinum Badge, the early bird pricing of which will run you $1,295. The Platinum Badge is the all-access pass, with primary access to every part of the show.
SXSW Sydney kicks off October 15-22, 2023. For those playing the home game, yes, that is the weekend directly after PAX Aus 2023, which just announced its 2023 dates earlier in the week.
You can get a SXSW Sydney badge here, should you be keen to get amongst it.
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