From November 1st to 6th I was at Paris Games Week to present Neverlooted Dungeon. It was my first participation in a physical event, and it was a very intense experience. The event was open on the 1st exclusively to VIPs from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., then from November 2 to 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
For more than 55 hours, I held a booth with 2 PCs offering a demo of Neverlooted Dungeon specially designed for the occasion. As a solo game dev, I was alone to handle all the event. I had no idea how much difficult it would be, but in the end it was tiring but pretty fun. I offer you in this long post a little look behind the scenes.
Jeux Made In France
For Paris Games Week, I was part of Jeux Made In France, an organization that promotes French video games. In the area, there were big French publishers with big booths, and smaller booths for independent studios, including mine.
I must say that they did an excellent job, and without all this support I would never have been able to participate in such an event. They took care of all the logistics, with the creation and installation of a booth, the supply of equipment, the printing of visuals, etc. Volunteers were there to set up and take down the booths, and also to provide a helping hand to the exhibitors throughout the event. In addition, there was a stage where interviews and presentations took place. I myself participated in an interview on the last day.
Day 1 – Preparation
I arrived at the PGW on November 1 in the morning to prepare my booth. Its positioning was better than I imagined on the maps, and the impression of the large banner was pretty decent, even if a little dark. I quickly set up the demos and everything worked perfectly, which was a big relief!
I took advantage of the remaining time before opening night to wander around and meet other exhibitors. All the booths were still under construction with many people running in all directions. A few minutes before the opening, some booths were still far from being ready, with for example unrolled carpets and missing decorative elements.
Day 1 – VIP evening
The PGW began with a private opening evening from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. When I was told about this opening night, I had imagined a large buffet-cocktail to discuss with the developers and the press. Absolutely not! It was in fact a completely classic opening, but reserved for the press and VIP visitors. So I held the booth like on other days and presented the game to passing visitors. Luckily, some volunteers got me some petit fours so that I could also enjoy the party a bit.
View from above, before the start of the event.
There was not much people that night.
The organizers of Paris Games Week estimate that there were around 150,000 visitors this year. This is less than the year 2019 with 319,000. However, the surface was reduced by 3, so there was a very dense crowd in Hall 1. Here is what I could see behind me while standing next to my booth.
And this is in an other place of the Hall 1.
My booth was located in a fairly restricted passageway. In the end, I’m quite happy with the attendance, because there were always people playing at both PCs and a few people watching, without being completely overwhelmed by the movements of the crowd. During almost the entire event, I was a few meters from the booth with my flyers to try to convince people to play the demo. The elevator pitch “do you want to explore a dungeon full of deadly traps” seemed to work well to catch people interest.
The first days, the demo had a small issue in its tutorial, and I spent my time giving the same instruction when players were stuck in the first minutes of the game. So I quickly decided to make a fix during the evening at the hotel. The next day, after the update, it’s a disaster, because a new, much more serious bug is happening all time: rats don not move anymore! Too bad, I put back the version of the day before. Finally, on the fourth day all the issues are corrected and I no longer have to tell anything to players, the demo plays very well on its own without any indication, and I can spend more time speaking with visitors.
Very close to the Jeux Made In France area was the large FNAC stage. They were amazingly loud for most of the day – it hard to hear at times without shouting in your ears. Sometimes I witnessed chaotic and noisy crowd movements, where tens or hundreds of people were running in all directions. These were often “fans” of some internet celebrities, following them screaming. Fortunately, I had a VIP pass, and I had the possibility to rest in the quiet VIP zone, in peace, and with a free coffee.
During the week, one of my computer suddenly stopped working. Fortunately, Jeux Made In France staff had a spare PC and in a few minutes the game was running again. Thanks Corentin for the help :)
Interview on Stage
On the last day, I was interviewed for 15 minutes by BillieChou. After a question/answer time, I commented on a 5min gameplay sequence illustrating a lot of the game’s possibilities, trying to convince the game is fun and not punishing. Even if I much prefer the tranquility of my office to being on stage, I was told that it went pretty well.
These 55 hours of standing were very tiring, but overall the 6 days went well. The reception of the game has been pretty good. I think a lot of people were surprised that they had so much fun with the game, because “it doesn’t look like it” with old school graphics, but it is quickly catchy. Obviously, we must also take into account the politeness of people who will simply say that they liked it so as not to upset the developer with his desperate look.
In fact, I was afraid that the public would not be receptive at all, especially in the conditions of the event (standing, bad lighting, surrounding noise). I was afraid they would run into the dungeon without paying attention, die, and leave with frustration. On the contrary, I was happy to see that the game was working well and that the experience was close to what I had conceived. The implicit suggestions worked well and people were in the right frame of mind, trying to put the stacks on the spikes, throwing things at the slabs from a distance, looking for every nook and cranny for coins, using the mushrooms as a light source in water, etc. I was especially happy when groups of friends were amazed to see that their playing friends were entering the dungeon in a totally different way from theirs.
Contrary to what one might think with an old school dungeon crawler game, I didn’t have a majority of old male players. On the contrary, the public was very varied. Men, women, teenagers, old people, couples, children with their parents, groups of friends, the game was well received regardless of the profile. I think the physical sandbox aspect and the fun grip had a lot to do with it.
Time to Disassemble
Sunday evening, the public begins to be accompanied to the exit by the security guards. It’s time to disassemble. Like every evening, I stayed a little to chat with the other exhibitors. I also partly helped to disassemble my booth to recover the large illustration of the game, which will be used to decorate a wall of my office. Some big stands were disassembled incredibly quickly, they were almost completely down in two hours!
After such an intense week, I returned to the hotel feeling a great void. Then the next day back by train to normal life in my mountains, and rest.
PGW Special Demo Analysis
By my numbers, around 580 people tried the demo, around 80 played until they reached the end of it. Many people didn’t finish the demo but played a considerable amount of time and left very happy.
The demo, although largely shortened for the event, was still a bit too long. I thought it would last on average 10 to 15 min, but the exploration being quite free and fun, the average was more like 20-25 min. I even had to politely ask several players to shorten their game to make room for others after 30 to 40 minutes! Given that it is recommended to make demos of rather 5 to 10 min for this kind of event, in order to give a good overview of the game while allowing a greater number of people to play, I may have had to further reduce a little. But it wasn’t easy, because given the very sandbox and exploration-based nature of the game, reducing too much would potentially break the experience!
I am pretty happy with the special features of the demo I implemented for the event, such as the automatic reset and the auto replay of the trailer after a certain period of inactivity, which greatly limited the amount of actions necessary for the operation of the booth. In fact, the demo and the booth pretty much managed themselves and I could focus on attracting people and chatting with them.
Marketing Impact Analysis
In addition to the pleasure of meeting people and making people them discover the game, my main objective was to increase the visibility of the game and to make it known. It is unfortunately rather a failure on this side. Indeed, almost all of the video game press didn’t come to my booth, I didn’t even have a few seconds to present the game to them and try to convince them as I had hoped. In addition, many generalist press and even some French ministers visited some association booths, but didn’t give a look at mine.
I still had the chance to meet in person some editors of newspapers or video game websites. I also had the chance to meet two video game critics that I have greatly appreciated for several years, in particular Medoc El Medoc! A big thank you to Medoc for streaming the demo after meeting me in ALaizeBlaize JeudiCouverte and talking about it in the CozyCorner!
A big thanks to Jeux Made In France staff for making this possible, and the staff and volunteers were very nice and helpful.
I was alone but I received help, especially I warmly thank Kevin, Jorane, Alban and Michaël, who came to say hello to me on the booth, and above all who also helped me for a while so that I could take breaks. Thanks to the volunteers of Jeux Made In France who also gave me a hand!
I made some nice encounters among visitors and exhibitors, this was fun.
Finally, thank you to everyone who came to the booth!