This week I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal for the yearly International Games Summit or MIGS for short. Montreal is one of the largest game development hubs in the world with over 230 companies operating in the video game industry and related fields. This industry employs over 10,000 staff and accounts for 100’s of millions of dollars in revenue. Major companies like EA Motive, Bioware Montreal, and Ubisoft Montreal are joined by dozens of other mid and small sized companies. This makes the province of Quebec and Montreal in particular a hotbed of game development.
MIGS was formed as a way to bring developers, consumers, investors, and aspiring game industry applicants all together in a summit that is as much about recruitment, master classes, and informative sessions as it is showing current and upcoming games. At this years MIGS 2017 I was able to not only participate in a number of very informative sessions but was also able to meet a number of developers, artists, and composers to get their insight into the industry.
The Expo Hall
Having been to large consumer shows like PAX East, the Expo Hall was refreshingly light in content and easy to navigate. There was a well defined Indie Zone that had local studios showing their games and prototypes. There were a great number of titles in this zone but the one that really blew me away was a breakdance battle game called Floor Kids. Think DJ Hero meets street dancing with original beats by Kid Koala. The game is amazingly fun to play and has a unique art style I fell in love with. The only issue is that it is only on the Nintendo Switch right now but the devs (and Kid Koala) promised me it would come out for PC, PS4 and Xbox One as soon as they are able to make it happen.
The rest of the expo floor was made up of larger developers and middleware vendors Ubisoft was right around the corner from Amazon’s Lumberjack game engine as an example. The main floor also smartly featured a number of popup espresso stands so we could enjoy a free latte while checking out Framestores VR setup or the soon to be released Far Cry 5. The main show floor had a large number of studios, both large and small, who were also actively recruiting for their organizations.
This mix of game demoing and connection building is something really unique to MIGS, and I took great pleasure talking to members of Beenox, Gameloft, Ludia, Merj and many others. These chats were about their games, both past and present, but also about their organizations and where they are going. It was truly refreshing to speak with folks who love their job and are actively looking to add new talent to the growing Montreal development scene.
Business and Mentor Lounges
Another unique twist to MIGS is the Business and Mentor lounges that are provided to the industry participants. The Business Lounge is designed to host meetings between Media and developers or between developers and partners. This area was a great spot to pull each other aside and learn more about the future of a company or some new tech in the industry. There were even structured breakfast, lunch, and coffee break timelines setup where no sessions were scheduled so peers could chat with freedom.
The Mentoring Lounge is another interesting idea where industry Mentors (needing at least 7 years experience) were available to speak to and coach groups of Mentees. This series of six 20 minute sessions was held on the first night of MIGS and seemed to be a great success.
Master Classes and Sessions
MIGS 2017 as a summit started on Dec 12th, but the day before there was a full day of Master Classes offering deep dives into various aspects of the gaming industry. This is a gaming version of the Acting and Directing Master Classes we have seen before performed by industry veterans. Martin Talbot from Square Enix talked about Stability Testing and Play Testing, Mike Acton from Insomniac Games discussed Data-Oriented Design in C+, and Wojciech Michalski from Cd Projekt talked about Clothing for Game Characters as examples. These Master Classes brought insight and experience from seasoned professionals to anyone who was able to participate.
Much like many other conferences MIGS also has many sessions running on each of the two public days. The conference had talks in various tracks of study from Game Design and Audio Design to Business & Marketing and Advocacy & Industry. These sessions were hosted by professionals, educators, government representatives and members of the developer community. There was no shortage of interesting talks which I will touch on in a later article.
The Social Side of MIGS
MIGS is a conference seemingly dedicated to bringing developers together with partners, the community, and new employees, and they added plenty of social opportunities to bring all sides together. The event started with a cocktail hosted by Loto Quebec at the Montreal Casino where Kid Koala spinned some tracks and showed his new game Floor Kids. There was also live music and plenty of food and drinks to keep everyone engaged and chatting together.
During the main show there were numerous popup coffee stands and each day there was a booth crawl where wine and beer was served so attendees could mingle in a more relaxed setting. At the end of the night there was a Nocturne event hosted by ArtStation with more snacks and drinks to keep participants enjoying themselves and continuing to meet each other. The relaxed atmosphere is a far cry from a PAX or GDC event and was refreshing to experience. I found it much easier to chat with people as the environment was so relaxed and calm throughout the event.
MIGS is far from the bombastic spectacles seen at E3, PAX, GDC, and Gamescon. It is a much more industry friendly event where there is little pressure to show the next big thing. Instead it is a well choreographed networking event that brings industry, technology, and consumer groups together in a natural way. The sessions were all on point and interesting, the show floor, while small, was well equipped to entertain and the people were interesting and great to meet. I was happy to attend the show this year and in future articles will dig into some of the sessions I attended as well as interviews with Inon Zur and Framstore VR.