GamesBeat 2017 agenda features talks about gaming’s past and its future

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Here’s the updated preliminary agenda for our GamesBeat 2017 event coming on October 5-6 at Fort Mason in San Francisco, California.

The event is GamesBeat 2017: The Time Machine. It’s full of speakers who can tell you the future of games before it happens — and they’ll use the same time machine to take you to the past for critical lessons that still apply. You can secure your seat here, still priced at a 40 percent discount. We think we’ve built a unique slate of speakers and experiences that you won’t find at any other event.

Many of our key slots are filled, and we’re in talks with various parties to fill the rest and bring you a great conference that will provide networking, inspiration, and intelligent interaction with the right people in the room.

Our talks will cover what is hot in the game industry, from esports to massive online simulations. Tim Chang, the managing director of Mayfield Fund and a longtime game investor, will speak with Ramez Naam, a former technologist and science fiction author of the Nexus series, about science nonfiction and how tech will continue to change games in the future.

The event will delve into the Leisure Economy, or the notion that a wider group of people will find ways to get paid to play games, from esports professionals to influencers to creators of user-generated content. We’ll see a cycle of accelerated growth as esports inspires more demand for games and new monetization methods, such as tipping, help influencers and streamers expand their reach and turn game spectating into an industry of its own. We’ve got speakers like Gio Hunt of Blizzard, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson of CCP Games, and Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs to speak about how the different pieces of the Leisure Economy will be intertwined.

We’ll look to lessons from industry pioneers like Robyn and Rand Miller, the co-creators of Myst and Riven, and see what they are doing now in the media of virtual reality, games, and films. We’ve lined up former executives from Sega, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft to tell us about the cycles of the past and how they could repeat themselves in the future.

As a community, we’ll be searching for the next big thing. If you’re interested in sponsoring, message mike.sly@venturebeat.com. Thanks to our initial sponsors, which include Samsung, Intel, Appodeal, Accel, and Epic Games. Here’s our agenda below. It is subject to change, but we’re close to filling it out.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Above: Kevin Chou, CEO of KSV Esports.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.  Registration and continental breakfast

9:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.  Introductory remarks. Dean Takahashi, lead writer for GamesBeat at VentureBeat

10:00 a.m. to 10:10 a.m.  We started at the bottom: An analyst’s perspective. As traditional entertainment crumbles and begrudgingly assumes its new role in a digital world, video games prosper and have evolved into a mainstream form of entertainment. But what does it mean for an industry to now service a global media audience and assume a leading role in pop culture? Where do we place interactive entertainment in relation to movies and music? Will esports replace traditional sports? And is it true that Gamergate cemented a discourse that would later manifest itself at the highest political levels?

Speaker: Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research

10:10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  Fireside chat: The future of technology, as viewed through the prism of science fiction and games. Science fiction or science fact? Hovercrafts, cybernetic implants, exoskeletons, travel portals, telekinesis, and A.I. workforces. Picking up on the topic examined at this Spring’s GamesBeat Summit, Mayfield’s Tim Chang sits down with technologist and author Ramez Naam (The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, Nexus, and Crux) to discuss the future of technology.

Speakers: Tim Chang, managing director at Mayfield Fund; Ramez Naam, author

Above: Ramez Naam, science fiction writer and author of the Nexus series.

Image Credit: Ramez Naam

10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  Games as spectacle: Rise of a new sport. Gaming tournaments as a spectator event have seen explosive growth, and they’re now broadcast to the mass market. Can it ever been considered a real sport? What factors would be needed, and what does it have in common with traditional sports? How are esports leagues and third-party tournaments evolving? How does esports’ emergence affect the way major publishers do business, and what do we foresee as emerging issues and possible policy matters as this segment evolves?

Speakers: Kevin Chou, CEO of KSV Esports; Dean Takahashi

11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  Old machines and new ones. From early computers and arcades to consoles, phones and now wearables, the platforms and form factors on which we play games have changed. Did the platforms change the players, or the players change the platforms? Ed Fries talks with another speaker about what can we glean from past console cycles and what can we expect next.

Speakers: Ed Fries, former head of Microsoft Game Studios; surprise guest TBA.

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  Panel: The Leisure Economy. This panel will delve into the Leisure Economy, or the notion that a wider group of people will find ways to get paid to play games, from esports professionals to influencers to creators of user-generated content. We are moving to a self-sustaining gaming ecosystem with pro gamers and esports. Livestreamers are getting paid by spectators (via ads or direct tips). Sales of user-generated goods in worlds like Roblox and Second Life are providing young people with life-changing income streams. And player advocates like Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs foresee the day when people will simply get paid to play games. How will we get to this virtual economy?

Speakers: Dean Takahashi, moderator; Gio Hunt, executive vice president of operations at Blizzard Entertainment; Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs, CEO of Neverdie Studios; Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of CCP Games.

Breakout sessions

12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.

What’s next for monetization? Game monetization has changed a lot in the past few years, but there’s still enormous potential for changes ahead. Can console games successfully use the monetization techniques of mobile games? Can the amazing percentages of paying users and average payments that we see in certain games or regions become more common? Can tips be part of a new business model? What monetization methods are growing most rapidly now? What monetizaton experiments are happening now that show promise? Panelists will explore these and other questions as we do our best to “follow the money” into the future of monetization.

Speakers: Steve Peterson, CEO of StoryPhorce, moderator; Matt McCloskey, vice president of commerce at Twitch; Natalie Portier, chief operating officer at Appodeal

Building games for the platforms of tomorrow. Mobile games climbed to a $46 billion industry seemingly overnight, and the next evolution is coming just as fast. Standalone mobile app games get lots of gameplay, but now people are finding and playing games within the feeds they’re already using to connect with friends — including Facebook, Messenger, and other messaging apps. For example, Messenger Madness clocked 300 million plays in just one week in 2016. How is this new audience different — and similar — to gamers of today? Leading developers will talk about trends they’re seeing and offer specific tips for developing fun, sticky games for 2020.

Speakers: Leo Olebe, director of global games partnerships at Facebook; TBD

Breakout session 3 TBD


12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m.

2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.  The Console Wars. Perrin Kaplan and Bernie Stolar were there at the beginning of the console wars. Kaplan handled communications and marketing for Nintendo of America, while Stolar got the PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast off the ground. We’ll extract the lessons of the past from them that are relevant for today.

Speakers: Perrin Kaplan, principal at Zebra Partners; Bernie Stolar, CEO of the Stolar Group and former head of the U.S. divisions of Sony Computer Entertainment and Sega.

Above: Hilmar of CCP Games.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

2:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. Hollywood and games 2.0. Mobile game companies are taking their turn with Hollywood. As user acquisition costs rise, it pays to have a good brand from a Hollywood intellectual property. But how do you make it work? FoxNext Games and NBCUniversal are giving it a go. We’ll talk with them about the lessons of the past and how they apply to mobile and beyond.

Speakers: Michael Metzger, investment banker at Houlihan Lokey; Chris Heatherly, head of games at NBCUniversal; Aaron Loeb, president of FoxNext Studios

2:50 p.m. to 3:10 p.m. Competitive gaming, then and now.  As a pioneer in esports, Dennis Fong holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s first professional gamer and he’s been called “the Michael Jordan” of the gaming world. He founded successful gaming companies including Gamers.com, Lithium Technologies and Xfire (which Viacom acquired in 2006 for $110 million). Accel’s has invested in game companies including Plays.tv, Razer, Rovio, and Supercell. Accel’s Ping Li and Fong will look back on the 20 year arc in esports: the similarities between the gaming community then and now; some learnings that Fong, as a competitive gamer, applied when building his companies; and their views of the future. 

Speakers: Ping Li, general partner at Accel; Dennis Fong, CEO of Plays.tv

Above: Dennis Fong was the first to make himself a star in the 1990s world of competitive gaming scene.

Image Credit: Uriel Espinoza

3:10 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Virtual Economy. Hilmar Veigar Petursson has been an advocate of virtual economies for decades. He launched CCP Games two decades ago and created one of the longest-lasting virtual worlds with Eve Online. He has also expanded the Eve universe in many directions, including virtual reality. We’ll talk with him about his vision for where it’s going.

Speakers: Dean Takahashi, moderator; Hilmar Veigar Petursson, CEO of CCP Games

3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Break

4:00 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. Games with ridiculous computation. The games of the future can be built on the cloud and tap massive computing power that can supplement the computing that happens on users’ machines. This will enable huge simulations that weren’t possible before, and we’ll explore where this is going to go. What kind of games will be imaginable now, even for small game startups?

Speakers: Bill Roper, chief creative officer at Improbable; TBD

4:20 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. The role of influencers in gaming. Influencers can make or break games, if they decide they like them or not. With armies of followers on platforms like Twitch or YouTube, influencers are getting rich playing games. How does the life of an influencer differ from the old school journalism, and how do you approach them?

Speakers: TBD

4:40 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The evolution of storytelling, from LucasArts to Telltale. LucasArts pioneered stories in graphic adventure games like Labyrinth, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Grim Fandango. In 2004, Telltale picked up the baton and started making episodic games, which unfold like TV shows over time. It hit its stride with The Walking Dead in 2012, and now it has many acclaimed story-based games in the market. We’ll talk about how this evolved into a popular product category with two LucasArts veterans. And we’ll look at the future of story in games.

Speakers: Dan Connors, CEO of Telltale Games; TBD

5:00 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. How we use spaces: Physical, virtual, gaming. John Underkoffler gave us an amazing gesture-based user interface years ago when he created the computing interface that Tom Cruise used in the film Minority Report. Now we’ll see what else he has in mind that could have an impact on games.

Speaker: John Underkoffler, CEO of Oblong Industries and science advisor for Minority Report

Above: Myst, first published in 1993, is an enduring video game brand.

Image Credit: Cyan

5:20 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. How experiential games have changed. Robyn and Rand Miller rose to fame in the early 90’s with their game “Myst”, a pioneer of immersive, atmospheric games that leveraged the new capabilities of the CD-ROM. Cyan is back with its Myst successor “Obduction” on VR platforms, and Robyn is making films and VR applications. The pair talk about what it’s like to be on the cutting edge of experiential games.

Speakers: Dean Takahashi, moderator; Robyn and Rand Miller, creators of Myst and Riven.

6:00 p.m. to 7 p.m. Reception

Friday, October 6, 2017

Above: Clinton Foy, chairman of The Immortals.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell/VentureBeat

8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m Registration and continental breakfast

9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m Welcome Dean Takahashi

9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Lightning talks. Five speakers will get five minutes each to impress the audience.

Speakers: Tom Emrich, moderator, partner at Super Ventures; Tam Armstrong, Polyarc; Paul Tozer, Mothership; 3 more TBD

10:00 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. Esports at the tipping point. Clinton Foy and Noah Whinston run the Immortals, the esports team that recently acquired an Overwatch franchise for an estimated $20 million. Yvette Martinez-Rea is an exec at ESL Gaming America. They’ll talk about how far esports has come toward mainstream acceptance and how far it has to go.

Speakers: Clinton Foy, managing director of Crosscut Ventures; Noah Whinston, CEO of The Immortals; Yvette Martinez-Rea, chief operating officer of ESL Gaming America

10:20 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. Bucking the Status Quo: Diversity & Discrimination Then, Now & As We Move Toward the Future. Panelists will discuss diversity and bias issues plagued the industry in the past, where we are today and if GamerGate was a tipping point. We’ll also look to the future to talk about what challenges we face with the emergence of things like AI, Virtual Reality, eSports and more.

Speakers: Charles Babb, CEO Fairchild Consortium; Rebecca Heineman, CEO Olde Sküül; 2 TBD

Above: Dennis Fong was the first to make himself a star in the 1990s world of competitive gaming scene.

Image Credit: Uriel Espinoza

10:50 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. China’s Westward Journey. How Chinese companies are expanding into games in the West through acquisition and investment.

Speakers: Lisa Cosmas Hanson, moderator, managing partner of Niko Partners; Alex Xu, CEO of Leyou; Billy Hsu, founder at SixtyFive02; Greg Pilarowski, founder of Pillar Legal; Bill Wang, president of overseas business at 360 Games

11:20 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.

Skating to where the puck is going to be: The games VC forecast for the next 12 months. Earlier-stage VCs making multiple investments in the market describe expectations for the best-returning — and more controversial — opportunities in games start-ups. Is esports approaching its peak, as VR was this time last year? Is augmented reality the next big thing, or is it Brazil? What are the prospects for next major games platform, from voice assistants to the cryptocurrency ecosystem? What configurations of people, market, and unique selling proposition are most likely to garner investment.

Speakers: Eric Goldberg, moderator, managing director at Crossover Technologies; Nabeel Hyatt, general partner at Spark Capital; Amit Kumar, venture investor at Accel; TBD.


Above: The International Game Developers Association chief Kate Edwards talks game-design job satisfaction with USGamer senior editor Kat Bailey at GamesBeat 2015.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell/GamesBeat

11:50 a.m. to 12:35 pm

How are players behaving? We’ll talk with players and those who know them about how they behave and why they spend.

Speakers: Maarten Noyons, moderator, head of the International Mobile Game Awards; Kayla Hebert, player. Two TBD.

Sci-Fi forging facts: The confluence of technology and creative futurism in games. Our media landscapes are populated with a variety of great examples of science fiction influencing the vision of how technology enhances and extends our human capabilities, perhaps with Star Trek being one of the most obvious citations. This dynamic of how creative visions provide a guidepost for the inception of new devices and experiences has seemingly increased in recent years as the iterative cycle between creation and realization has become increasingly efficient. How far will this go with the medium of games? Come explore the possibilities in this session which leverages the imaginative power of science fiction authors and the creator of the impactful user interface system seen in the movie Minority Report.

Speakers: Kate Edwards, moderator, former head of the International Game Developers Association; John Underkoffler, CEO of Oblong Industries and science adviser for Minority Report. Two TBD.

Connecting influencers with advertisers. Somebody has to play matchmaker, and in the big business of influencers, this is an increasingly important job.

Speakers: Albert Schwarzmeier, partner at Nevaly.


Above: Debbie Bestwick, CEO of Team17, will speak at GamesBeat 2017.

Image Credit: Team17

12:35 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

2:00 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. Making games based on brands work in mobile. Which brands work? How much time do you have to make them? How much time should you have between franchise launches? We’ll look at both past and present.

Speakers: moderator TBD; Josh Yguado, president and chief operating officer of Jam City

2:20 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. Where to find new users. The acquisition of Crowdstar brought Covet Fashion and Design Home into the Glu mobile game portfolio. This added a new kind of female player who came back every day for years at a time.

Speakers: Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors; Nick Earl, CEO of Glu Mobile

Above: Josh Yguado, chief operating officer of Jam City.

Image Credit: Jam City

2:40 p.m to 3:00 p.m. Break

3:00 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. TBD

3:20 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. From publisher to developer to games label. From the lessons learned in its 30 year heritage, Team 17 will outline what it sees as the core competencies for any publisher of premium games will need in the era of democratized distribution and development.

Speakers: Stephanie Chan, moderator, writer at GamesBeat; Debbie Bestwick, CEO of Team17

3:40 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. TBD

4:00 p.m. to 4:05 p.m. Closing remarks

Speaker: Dean Takahashi

Closing reception

4:05 to 5:00 p.m. 

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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