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$550,000 For A Spot In Summer Game Fest? In This Economy?

"I don’t know about that, man. That’s a lot of money for a few minutes"

Summer Game Fest

A new report from Esquirecorroborated by Kotaku – has laid out the pricing structure of Summer Game Fest, and it ain’t cheap. Beginning at $250,000 for one minute of trailer time, Keigh-3 Keigh-sees some developers and publishers pay up to $550,000 for 2.5 minutes. Is it worth the steep price of entry? On this week’s episode of Aftermath Hours, we discuss that.

This week, we begin by talking about Summer Game Fest’s significance in the wider landscape of video games and how, on one hand, it acts as a flashpoint that briefly gets multiple gaming subcultures on the same page, but on the other, it’s no E3. That in mind, should developers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to be part of it? Opinions are predictably divided. Then we talk about SGF-adjacent announcements like Dragon Age’s puzzling name change and Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree’s long-awaited gameplay reveal

After that, we move on to a discussion of Bloomberg’s report on Suicide Squad’s fraught development, which culminates in the birth of a new segment: These Guys Should Not Be In Charge. Speaking of, we then segue elegantly into a conversation about Variety’s pivot (back) into games coverage, which mirrors Rolling Stone’s recent games renaissance – albeit with less Saudi money involved. Finally, we talk about Valve’s continued mishandling of Team Fortress 2’s bot crisis, a story that resurfaces about once per year because, well, Valve still hasn’t solved the problem! And if that’s not enough for you, we close out by getting mad about trains.  

You can find this week's episode below and on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you prefer to listen to podcasts. If you like what you hear, make sure to leave a review so that we can buy a Summer Game Fest slot and use it to advertise blogs.

Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Riley: Kotaku reported that some smaller indies and also the big companies get in for free?

Nathan: Yeah, so the big companies get in for free for a pretty obvious reason: They bring the eyeballs. What companies that are mid-tier and smaller are paying for is the ability to siphon off some of that attention and be part of something where people will remember their game alongside this major announcement from Big Company X. It will always be intertwined. People will always be like “What’s going on with that game that I remember, that stands out from the crowd, because it was part of this major showcase?” That part at least makes sense to me even if, from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint, I’m like, I don’t know about that, man. That’s a lot of money for a few minutes.  

Riley: What it makes me wonder is, if the big companies don’t have to pay, who is paying $550,000. What company is that?

Nathan: Probably the double-A companies, the Saber Interactives of the world.

Riley: Is that a good use of your money? 

Nathan: I saw some PR people talking online, and they seemed to think it was. On one hand, yeah, it’s a lot of money; on the other, this could be a singularly defining moment for the narrative surrounding your game. It could be the thing that puts it on the map and keeps it on the map for years to come. For some games that never end up in that place – that never get a chance to be on the map – yeah, [it’s an appealing proposition]. 

I think it’s a roll of the dice, though. There’s also a chance that based on the way the show is organized and everything like that, you could have your game get shown and then it gets stomped by a much more significant trailer. People immediately forget that your game was ever there. I saw people online talking about how longer segments tend to do better. Like, if you’ve got a little short trailer that gets sandwiched between two longer ones, it probably gets forgotten. But if you take up some actual screen real estate, people are not gonna forget, for better or for worse.   

Riley: Yeah, you’re paying a lot in this era of booming development costs. It’s a lot of money. But I guess we don’t know what it costs to be in the Game Awards.

Nathan: We do. These are similar to the prices that Keighley charges for The Game Awards. 

Riley: Esquire also pointed out that Keighley is the only person officially on paper on The Game Awards LLC or whatever it’s called. But surely, obviously other people paid and involved in the show must cost a great deal of money too.  

Nathan: Yeah, and he hires production crews, rents out these massive theaters. I doubt that the show itself is cheap to produce.  

Riley: Yeah, I don’t think he’s rolling around in a vault full of money.  

Nathan: I mean, I do think he’s rich, but I don’t think he’s pocketing most of this.

Riley: People were talking about this in the comments to my blog – and the Esquire piece pointed this out, too – about how little we know about him as a person. He doesn’t even have a “personal life” Wikipedia section. And I’m tainted with this disease where I want to understand what everybody is like and think the best about them, and so I respect that for him. I respect that he has strong boundaries around his private and public lives, and he deserves that, and I admire that, and I want him to have that. But is he real? Does he live in LA? What is his life? What does he do? What is one fact about him as a guy?

Chris: Is he Canadian? These are very basic questions you can probably just ask somebody who knows him.

Riley: Who knows him?

Chris: But the idea of treating him like he’s a woodland creature or something like that [is funny].

Riley: It’s sort of admirable that he’s both the product and not the product. His blankness lets these games shine even though he is the focal point. It’s a very elegant dance. I respect that.  

Nathan: His parents were involved with IMAX. We knew that because he got put on an award show much earlier in his life – when he was, like, a teenager – so he’s always been in this scene. 

Chris: Typical IMAX baby.

Nathan: Somebody in chat said he doesn’t actually do anything. He just waits until the next award show. I imagine him like an RPG character, selecting the “wait” option in the menu and setting it to 180 days from now. And then he just sits down like Geralt from The Witcher, kind of kneels, and that’s it.   

Chris: I don’t mean to be mean, but he does have a Skyrim NPC-like affect to his eyes. He does look like he’s going to say, “Fine greetings to you.” He’s got a flat affect. He’s so identified with his job that it’s hard for me to conceptualize him as a real person because I’ve never met him. It’s sort of like when you’re like “When I leave school, my teacher just lives under the desk.” You see them at the supermarket, and it’s fucking weird.  

Riley: I’ve never seen his physical body [in person]. It’s like that time that I saw Jeff Bezos in The Washington Post office, and it was like, oh, he’s a real man with a body, and that body is in a space where my body is. 

Nathan: I saw Geoff on the sidewalk at… I wanna say GDC one year. Some event where he would be, but kind of in incognito mode. But it was funny because he walked by, and this is when he was still following me on Twitter – he’s since unfollowed me – but I said, “Hey Geoff!” and he sort of grunted and kept walking. 

Chris: And then he unfollowed you. 

Nathan: Right then and there. It would’ve been great if he turned around, pulled out his phone, opened Twitter, went to my profile, and showed it to me as he unfollowed me. And then just walked away after that.    

Chris: That would be nice, yeah.

Nathan: I would dine out on that story for years.

Riley: And he would deserve it. Good for him.  

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