Every year in Old Montreal something special happens. Video game developers, students, professionals and enthusiasts gather to celebrate and promote the industry.
Unlike E3 or PAX, the Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS) is industry-focused instead of consumer-focused. That means the population at the conference is filled with publishers looking to fund games, developers looking to hire talent and find funding, and middleware organizations looking to forge relationships.
This year MIGS merged with another Montreal conference called MEGA, forming MEGA + MIGS. This conference spanned four days, and the weekend was more consumer-focused, while MIGS itself remained an industry-focused event.
Hosted in the Grand Quai at the port of Old Montreal, the conference shifted from the Palais de Congrais (the main Montreal Convention Centre) and took on a more informal and casual vibe. The results were mixed; I had appreciated the extra space of previous years, but the new venue itself was quite lovely.
I decided to attend only the Monday and Tuesday portion of the conferences, when there were smaller audiences but much of the same content. That content is the further benefit of the MIGS ethos – the speakers and experts they bring in to talk about the videogame industry.
What’s really interesting about these scheduled talks is that they all happen in a square area, with four stages, one at each corner. Everyone in attendance has a headset set to the channel of the speaker the want to hear. It was a little surreal to see hundreds of people listening to a talk in almost complete silence, with scattered applause and laughs.
Wandering the show floor, which is relatively small compared to PAX or E3, is very interesting. There are plenty of independent studios demoing their new games, but also many educational, training and recruitment organizations.
A great example is the Ubisoft booth, which of course was showing Assassins Creed and Rainbow Six (no new games though) but also actively talking about recruitment and job opportunities at their studios. They even had an instant freezing machine churning out frozen coffee shots and cocktails. Only in Montreal, folks!
Amazon was onsite promoting their cloud-based games engine, as was Framestore demoing their rendering prowess with a Game of Thrones VR experience. The Government of Canada was well represented with a booth dedicated to the Canada Media Fund, which provides grants to emerging videogame projects.
Wandering around MIGS is unlike any other conference I attend, and frankly, really refreshing. There are no new triple A games, no high pressure and glossy demos. Instead there are incredibly interesting indie titles, promising partnerships to explore, and a vibrant community of folks really invested in helping one another.
If you ever get a chance to check out this show I strongly recommend it. The vibe is so different from any other conference and is one of collaboration and enjoyment. Plus, who could argue with frozen coffee shots while checking out a cool new title from a talented small developer?