Aussie Developers On Games Conventions And What They Actually Do For Indies

Aussie Developers On Games Conventions And What They Actually Do For Indies

This is the second year that The Game Expo (TGX) has provided an event where the Australian gaming scene can be celebrated with a successful weekend of artists, cosplayers and competitive players coming together. Though smaller than an event like PAX, TGX offers a cheaper, more accessible pathway for independent developers to showcase their games to thousands of people. Though they don’t command the foot traffic of their larger rivals, smaller shows like this can still help budget-conscious indies gain exposure and foster a community of future players. 

I spoke to three indie developers on the TGX showfloor about their experiences showcasing at Australian gaming expos, and the impact they have on local games development.

Lal from Fine Feather Fiends presented their game Drăculești, a “villain-focused reimaging of the classic novel Dracula” through the lens of a horror-romance visual novel. They described the experience of showcasing at TGX as “so many little things that build the journey up”, all the small but crucial elements that go into curating a successful booth at expo events. 

The team has had experience showcasing Drăculești at other conventions, notably PAX 2023. Lal says the team considers smaller conventions like TGX a valuable tool on their belt. “There are cost barriers for doing these sorts of events, and that’s why TGX is really fantastic,” Lal tells me. “There still is a cost barrier, but they have kept in mind to try and keep it down as much as they can. If you haven’t done this before and you’re working out whether to buy monitors or where to rent them from, TGX is a fantastic event, especially while it is expanding.” 

Foodomina by Lumelli Studios, a “story-rich sci-fi themed RPG with pixel graphics and turn-based combat”, highlighted the communal benefits of hosting games at expos. After speaking to Irine, the creative director/ artist on the team, I learnt that it was their first “proper boothing” in an expo space, and it had “been a great experience so far!”

Image: The Game Expo

Irini emphasises the importance of these physical gaming spaces because “Having a booth and attending booths like these helps cater to your audience. Supporters know you as a person and connect with you as a developer…people connect with the developer first.”

This team also had a standout booth with fairy lights and large cutouts of their main characters to capture the playful and whimsical nature of this space-themed game. Irini emphasised the need for the booth to be “visually enticing” to keep both players and bystanders interested. Irini recommends smaller devs consider the “brand identity of the booth” as this is a crucial piece of physical marketing to help people learn more about your game and become invested.

I witnessed an incredibly wholesome interaction between Irini and a younger fan of the game begging to take a photo together, as the younger fan was mesmerised by the game. It is moments like these that are invaluable and are achievable through exhibition opportunities. 

Finally, Spelly Cat by Brkn Fixie Games had brought an incredibly unique strategy-puzzle spelling game to the show. Through interacting with the community, Gerrard, the solo developer, felt expos give developers opportunities to engage with communities beyond the game’s imagined or intended audience.

Gerrard told me he’d been “talking with teachers and people who have come to play the game who I wouldn’t have thought of the opportunities that I could have had”. These specific interactions with educators broadened the possibilities for Spelly Cat and how it could be used in the educational sector, not just a puzzle game for spelling enthusiasts. 

Gerrard also mentions the opportunities for direct feedback that expos present. “Events like this… it’s so great to have people playtest and give supportive feedback and critical feedback for where I need to focus on to get to a point where I am ready for release.”

A common thread emerges: the most beneficial component about gaming expos, to these developers, is the community building.  

Gerrard shares the true value of showcasing games at expos and believes “It’s great to see the number of wishlists and stuff go up on steam but it’s the expos where you can actually talk to people that you can see play your game and get direct feedback…I think it’s really great”. 

All of these studios view the local gaming convention as an important tool not specifically for generating sales, but for simply getting the word out. All of them encourage small devs like themselves to consider investing in a booth space, should they have the means to do so. TGX presents a good place to start, as do exhibitions like ACMI Works-in-Progress Night, and coworking spaces such as Sabbatical Gallery

What this tells us is that gaming expos have come to play a vital role in nurturing the ecosystem of indie game development. They give Australian  indie developers a place to showcase their talent, network, and gain invaluable exposure for their projects. Most importantly, they allow developers to gain crucial community engagement and exposure for their game. These booths are more than just a  marketing tool, but a place to build memories for both players and local Aussie developers. 

Image: The Game Expo

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