CEO at Super Crowd Entertainment Wolf Lang talked about making an online game conference and discussed the consequences of the pandemic for the industry.
My name is Wolf Lang and I’m CEO of Super Crowd Entertainment, which was founded in 2018. Originally I’m an Indie Game Developer and founded the game studio THREAKS with my partners in 2011. Apart from Hamburg Games Conference, I think our most recognized event is the Indie Arena Booth, which is the biggest shared developer booth in the world.
Last year, when the pandemic hit we created, with Indie Arena Booth Online, the first Multiplayer Online Showcase at Gamescom 2021, and won the Heart of Gamescom award. After Gamescom, we further developed our online event framework for our own community convention, MAG. With the addition of a meta-game design and gamification elements, we were able to bring up the average visitor time to 2 hours! With Hamburg Games Conference we wanted to prove that our “Secret Online Event Formula” also works great for B2B events, so we introduced native video calls to our platform. In the next weeks, we have a big announcement to make which will take our framework to the next level.
Super Crowd Company
Working as a Game Developer at THREAKS, we saw how it was always really hard for indies to get attention at games shows, and also booth space was basically not affordable. With the Indie Arena Booth at Gamescom, it was affordable for the first time to exhibit and be part of the biggest entertainment show in the world. Each year the concept grew with more and more developers attending. In 2019 we even won Best of Booth of Gamescom among 1000+ exhibiting companies. This success was only possible when we started doing the Indie Arena Booth full-time with our newly founded company, Super Crowd Entertainment in 2018. We joined forces with the former boss of Gamescom, Boris Lehfeld, and the German Streamer pioneers from PietSmiet. This combination also led to having our own convention in Erfurt, the MAG Community Convention.
In the first 10 years of my career, I attended a lot of events, both as a speaker and as an exhibitor or B2B visitor. I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about why some events are good and others aren’t. Since Germany hasn’t really been the birthplace of entertainment events, I knew I could introduce a lot of cool event mechanics to the German audience. But honestly, in my first year organizing our first tradeshow, I was clueless most of the time about how to coordinate an event for 12.000 attendees and more than 150 exhibitors. Luckily we had a great team of mentors in our company and the folks from Messe Erfurt that taught me and the team a lot.
Since the pandemic, my two passions have united again. I can work on events and develop games! My dream job has become a dream within a dream job, and I also have the chance to work with so many wonderful teammates.
Consequences of the Pandemic
It was the third year of Super Crowd and our three main events, Indie Arena Booth, MAG, and Hamburg Games Conference, had very successful shows. Therefore by March 2020 we had our books fully planned and were hoping it would be a smooth ride. Then by mid-April, it became apparent that Gamescom would be canceled (as a physical event), so our plans for the Indie Mega Booth and our inspirations from overseas, went into hibernation. I was really worried and sad for a week, worrying that everything would fall apart, but then we got back on our feet and asked ourselves what we could do. So we set up a game jam at the end of April 2020 with a lot of trusted developer friends to come up with a new product. In my vision, it would have been a single-player experience, but one of our best coders Henning Steinbock was able to apply online multiplayer capabilities into the first Indie Arena Booth Online Demo, and the rest is history.
To be honest, I’m a bit surprised at how well our formula works and how much I enjoy it myself. Hanging out with my avatar in our social MMO with real guests and exhibitors is so much fun and it feels so good to finally talk with people again about the second most important thing in the world, videogames.
I think what we experienced in 2020 is a super fast-forward of what would have happened to the new genre of Online events over the course of the next 5-10 years. Furthermore, Online Events tackle the three most immediate issues of our generation: Fighting the pandemic, digitalization, and saving resources to save the planet.
It makes me and the team at Super Crowd very proud that by doing the things we love and do best, we can actually do something awesome for all our developers, visitors, and even the planet.
I started my career in 2009 with one of the first versions of Unity 3D and since then we have stuck with the engine since they are the most progressive when it comes to new platforms. In order to bring Online Multiplayer to our framework, we decided to use Photon tech, which is an awesome and stable multiplayer framework. Since we wanted to have an intuitive experience for the user with no installer and complicated controls, we decided to create a website-like user experience. In our latest installment, our “one-pager” combines a microsite, the main application, video calls, and even a conference stream, all on the same page.
After creating the Indie Arena Booth Online, we knew that online events needed to be simple to use and navigate and involve a lot of real event components. So, for example, in video games, you can always change the look of your avatar. But in the real world, you would need to find the dressing room first in order to change your clothing. So we made the “uncomfortable” design decision to make attendees take this extra step if they wanted to change their avatar, and it has actually helped increase immersion for the users that are attending our events.
With the MAG and Hamburg Games Conference behind, I think we can claim that Super Crowd runs the online events with the biggest interaction rates per user in the whole online event industry. Here are some stats:
- 600+ visitors attended the 2 days of the Hamburg Games Conference
- We had a peak of 250 people at the event at the same time and an average of 160 people on the boat constantly
- The average attendee spent 4,5 hours inside our world
- More than 35.000 virtual Business cards have been collected
- Each of the 51 exhibitors had an average of 500 attendee interactions and more than 70% watched our conference stream
Those numbers, especially when it comes to the no-show rate, are even better than comparable physical events. Plus, we know the exact stats of each booth, which is something hard to estimate with physical events. But most importantly, our devs could meet the best partners from around the world, and 70% of our attendees were actually first-time visitors! This is crazy since the Hamburg Games Conference has already been around for 12 years!
The biggest challenge has been developing and pitching events that haven’t been done like this before. Most of our ideas are developed on the fly, and we don’t have the documentation yet to show the partners and clients how cool they will be in practice – for example, the native video calls in our game world. Luckily we work with partners that trust our expertise and our passion to deliver outstanding events that we would also attend ourselves. We know there is a big hype on online events at the moment, and we benefit from it a lot, but there are so many positive aspects to online events that we know they won’t be going away any time soon. What Super Crowd is actually most excited about is developing awesome hybrid conventions that would combine on and offline design mechanics to give consumers and industry professionals from around the world a chance to enjoy some outstanding events.