Before heading off to SXSW Gaming coming up this week (March 15-17), we had a chat with Andrew McNeill, SXSW Gaming Conference Manager, about this year’s show and what exciting content visitors can expect throughout the three days. Have a read:
Tell us about how SXSW Gaming came about and how does it connect to the whole of SXSW?
SXSW Gaming has been around since SXSW 2006 when it was known as the Screenburn Arcade and was just a small part of the SXSW Interactive Trade Show. Over the years it grew larger, eventually becoming its own expo within SXSW.
We added conference sessions and other elements to it and rebranded it as SXSW Gaming several years later. In 2017, we added a SXSW Gaming wristband to the list of credentials at SXSW, so it became a unique event that was open to not only SXSW badge holders and the attendees from those convergent industries that SXSW touches, but also general gaming consumers.
Now SXSW Gaming is a one-of-a-kind event that highlights the ways in which the gaming world intersects with the other creative industries that are present at SXSW.
What makes Austin a great location for an industry event like SXSW Gaming?
Austin is a great for a number of reasons. First off, Austin is simply a one-of-a-kind city that people want to visit and March is a great time of year to do so. Additionally, Austin boasts some world-class development studios, from both the AAA level on down to the indie outfits. Austin is an extremely creative city and that trait is reflected in what happens at SXSW.
How does SXSW Gaming differ from shows like E3 Expo, PAX, or even GDC?
The biggest thing that I’ve noticed that sets SXSW Gaming apart from other events is the people that attend. While there are plenty of the traditional gaming fans that you’ll find at other conventions, there’s also lots of gaming fans who are in town for SXSW who wouldn’t otherwise attend a gaming event.
But these gamers are here for SXSW because they work in the tech or film or music industries and they’re getting their one taste of a gaming event in-person every year at SXSW Gaming. And for the games industry, it’s the one event that they can exhibit in front of those people, because you’re not going to find them at any other event.
What are some of the highlights we can look forward to for SXSW Gaming 2019?
We’re really excited about the program for SXSW Gaming 2019. We’ll have three days of Halo esports on our Tournament Stage, including a $100,000 prize pool for the Halo Championship Series Invitational, along with a number of other tournaments and events throughout SXSW Gaming. On the conference side of things, we’ve got some incredible Featured Sessions that run the gamut of the esports world, including a talk from Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer that’s sure to be news-worthy.
Our evening events should be amazing as well. The SXSW Gaming Opening Party is hosted by Blankos Block Party, the new game from Mythical Games, and will feature Questlove, who will emcee and DJ the evening’s festivities. Our SXSW Gaming Awards Ceremony will be hosted by Rooster Teeth’s Lindsay Jones and Alex Corea from Attack Media. Lastly, we’re partnering with Alienware to host our Cosplay Contest and official Closing Party at the Alienware Outpost, an incredible activation Dell is building for SXSW.
What can visitors expect might be welcomingly the same, or different, from last year’s event?
The structure and flow of SXSW Gaming should feel free familiar to anyone who has attended SXSW Gaming in the last couple of years, just expect the quality across the board to be improved.
We’ve worked hard as a team to collaborate closely with our production partners to program a lot of really good tournaments and events in our open play areas, like the PC Arena and Tabletop Experience. In addition to our open play areas, we’ll have some incredible activations from AXE, the Halo Championship Series, Dreamleague Racing Series, and more!
Who are the keynote speakers and what talks are being featured this year?
For the second year in a row, the esports industry is a big focus of our conference programming at SXSW Gaming. Nate Nanzer will have some interesting things to share about the future of the Overwatch League in his Featured Session. We’ve also got PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell talking about the emergence of a high school esports structure, Riot Games Head of Global Esports Partnerships Naz Aletaha discussing the growth of sponsorships coming from outside the games industry, and much more.
In talking with exhibitors, speakers, and expected attendees, what trends have you seen develop in the game industry?
I think the biggest thing is just that games are everywhere and in every industry. Gaming is no longer just a niche hobby or something off to the side. Gaming has touchpoints in every industry and every medium, which is incredible.
Who are SXSW Gaming partners and where can potential attendees go to get the latest SXSW Gaming updates?
We have a number of great partners for SXSW Gaming this year. HyperX, AMD and Zenni Optical are all sponsoring our PC Arena and showing off their products. Nighthawk Pro Gaming is sponsoring The Streamery at the SXSW Gaming Expo. Microsoft and 343 Industries are bringing the Halo Championship Series to the SXSW Gaming Tournament Stage. Blankos Block Party is sponsoring the SXSW Gaming Opening Party and giving SXSW Gaming attendees a first look at the game. Alienware is sponsoring the SXSW Gaming Cosplay Contest and Closing Party.
For more on SXSW Gaming and to get updates on the event, we can be found @SXSWGaming on all social media platforms.
Anything else you’d like to share about what visitors can expect?
We’ve got a really great event planned for this year and think fans will find a gaming event unlike any other!
You can get tickets for SXSW Gaming at www.sxswgaming.com.