Geoff Keighley talks Summer Game Fest and what’s next for gaming

NOTNo matter the season, Geoff Keighley is never far from your screen. In hot weather – well, actually this week – Keighley is responsible for all things Summer Game Fest, the gaming showcase that has hosted the game industry’s flashiest news and announcements in recent years. In winter, meanwhile, the journalist and game presenter is back to host Game rewards – a show that celebrates the biggest hits from each year and previews what the next 12 months will bring. A writer-turned-animator who is now arguably the face of the video game industry, Keighley acknowledges his position with a laugh: “Now I’m just Mr. Video Game Awards, aren’t I?”

When the industry standard E3 was canceled due to COVID in 2020, it was Keighley who hosted the Summer Game Fest. In a practical sense, the show is a necessary way to keep fans up to date with the most exciting games in the world. However, it also fills a spiritual void that was left with the departure of E3 – which is still come back again. For the industry, summer means sunny conferences featuring big names like nintendo, sony and Xbox. Having the biggest announcements of the year crammed into one hectic event meant E3 held a special place in gamers’ hearts – and when that was compromised by the pandemic, Keighley created the Summer Game Fest because that he didn’t want this magic to die.

“I think it’s important for the industry to come together for a big time! I love the cross-pollination of games and ideas,” Keighley said. NME. “It’s something that I hope we can continue with Summer Game Fest. We’re proud to have built it during the pandemic and to continue to build it – I think it’s important because we love what moment in time. All my life, from a very young age, I have always loved summer[‘s] great video game moments – we have to keep going!

Ring Elden. Credit: FromSoftware

Looking back, Keighley says a lifetime of “great video game moments” initially fueled her desire to carry the E3 torch. After being “blown away” by Nintendo’s 1996 reveal of Super Mario 64 who took the series in 3D for the first time, to Elden Ring’s jaw-dropping trailer from last year’s Summer Game FestKeighley explains: “When I was a child [and] going to E3, I was excited about these press conferences and big announcements, and I’m sure in some way it inspired me to say, hey, let’s keep it going – let’s create these big moments for the fans. There are definitely moments from my childhood that inspired me to do what I do today.

However, the industry has undergone major changes since Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto wowed young Keighley with Super Mario 64 — namely, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with what publishers considered the norm just a few years ago. Despite the dramatic upheaval, however, Keighley believes the games industry is “in a great position overall” – even as 2022 has become what he calls a “COVID gap year”.

“COVID has finally caught up with the gaming industry [with] lots of delays. So I think there are fewer games coming out in the second half of this year than we would like,” admits Keighley, although he also notes that the first few months of the year were still jam-packed with releases from major games like Ring of Elden, Sifua fate witch queen expanding and Forbidden Horizon West.

The rest of 2022 promises to be quiet for major game launches (star field and Breath of the Wild 2 have both been pushed back to 2023), but Keighley – who has spent his free time obsessing over “awesome” Zelda-As Tunic and Valveit is steam bridge — is optimistic that our favorite games no longer always need to come from big publishers to be in the spotlight.

Geoff Keighley.
Geoff Keighley. Credit: Charley Gallay/Stringer/Getty Images.

“We see a lot of outside funding and independent teams being able to pull it off and do things on their own,” says Keighley. “Last year at The Game Awards, we had no announcement of EA Where Ubisoft, and it didn’t matter as much because there are so many indie studios doing really cool stuff. It’s exciting for me. You don’t have to go through a big traditional publisher anymore to really get noticed and make a game – I think that’s going to allow for even more creativity.

That’s not the only trend Keighley is optimistic about; in fact, Keighley is thrilled with how far the game has come in recent years. Laughing, Keighley recalls applying to college years ago and mentioning CD-ROMs in her application, which resulted in a confused call from admissions staff asking what it meant. At the time, Keighley says the mainstream “didn’t understand or get games”, but today Keighley thinks they’re recognized as “a powerful creative medium for telling stories, but also for build and create things”.

“Gaming is everywhere now – everyone is playing! I think the introduction of these new cloud and streaming platforms [like] Game pass, simply makes the game easier to access and more enjoyable for more people. I think games have firmly established themselves as the top of the entertainment food chain. Those of us who’ve played games have always felt that way, but now I think they’ve been rightly anointed as something really special. And yet, we all love watching movies and streaming shows – I think games fit right in with everything else. It’s a good time to be in games.

“And [with] everyone flowing around her, [gaming’s] just changed so much,” he continues. “Gaming, as I said, has taken its rightful place at the top of the entertainment landscape, but it certainly wasn’t always that way. I think everyone has now realized that if you’re there devote time, it is a powerful experience.

Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass. Credit: Microsoft

The rise of subscription services like Xbox Game Pass and PSMore have been one of the biggest developments in the industry in recent years, and it’s yet another area of ​​gaming that Keighley is optimistic about. In particular, he hopes the market will create a better environment for smaller, shorter games to thrive.

“I like short-lived games. I think that’s one of the things that subscription services like Game Pass, I hope, will introduce – like, ‘hey, here’s a two-hour game – play -y, have fun!” It’s not [about] that old math that everybody used to do where it’s like, ‘oh, that’s only eight hours of gameplay for $60. So that equals X dollars an hour, right? When I’m playing a game and I get addicted to something, that’s all I can think of. It’s taking over my life, and I just have to finish it because there’s no other way for me to think about anything else until I finish this game! It’s a testament to the power of the medium, but it’s also difficult when it’s like…my whole weekend is over, because I’m playing a game. You get older, you have other obligations in life. And that’s why I hope there will be more games distributed in different formats. It’s not negative to have a slightly shorter game!”

That said, Keighley notes that while he “looks forward” to a proper subscription service from Nintendo, he “doesn’t believe” everything will suddenly become subscription-based, and says major games like Grand Automatic Flight 6 will likely remain too valuable to put on a subscription service from day one.

Elsewhere in recent years, the industry has experimented with the metaverse, a term for hosting digital events that were previously held in person. Earlier in the year, Roblox Vice President Jon Vlassopulos said NME that artists will be able to “launch and sustain successful careers virtually” without having to travel to venues and perform in person, while many of the music industry’s biggest stars – from Ariana Grande at Lizzo – have put this into practice with concerts in Fortnite and Roblox. Back in 2019, star wars fans will have spotted Keighley hosting an exclusive first clip for The Rise of Skywalker in Fortnite months before the coronavirus pandemic propelled these types of events into the mainstream.

Fortnite Coachelle
Fortnite. Credit: Epic Games / Coachella

Although some industry giants as Xbox chief Phil Spencer have questioned the validity of the Silicon Valley idea of ​​the metaverse, Keighley says he’s “very excited” to see how the concept will change storytelling for game developers, and hopes it will be used more in the future. “I like [metaverse storytelling], and everyone goes through a story experience together. I hope there will be more in the future. I think it’s really fertile ground for creativity and innovation.

“I’m just trying to stay ahead of what’s next and what’s exciting,” adds Keighley, who says he feels “very lucky to be doing what I have to do” with Summer Game Fest and The Game Awards.

Shining a light on the future of the game is where Keighley is happiest, and he has no interest in leveraging that position to create his own game. “I’ve never seen what I do like a gateway to go play my game,” says Keighley. “Before, it was always a question: ‘Hey, you’re a journalist, when are you going to work in a game company?’. I never saw this as my endgame,” he adds, though he “would love” to do a podcast or documentary if creating Summer Game Fest and The Game Awards didn’t take so much of his time. time. Still, creating these shows and putting game developers in the spotlight isn’t something he would trade.

“These developers work for years to create their projects, and the fact that they entrust us with sharing it with the world…I am very touched by this, and I am grateful that we can share this work with the world so personally. It’s fulfilling.

Continuing, Keighley shares that the responsibility of announcing these projects is something he takes very seriously: “When we have one of these biggest shows, sometimes we have 30, 40, 50 different people who make us all confidence to share their news with the world. So you want to do the right thing for them, and that’s what keeps me and my team awake at night: making sure we’re as close to perfect for those partners as possible. »

With the Summer Game Fest fast approaching (June 9, mark your calendar), Keighley couldn’t be happier with how far the showcase has come, as well as his professional situation. “I’m deeply, deeply honored that people are bringing their work to us and wanting to share it with the world.”

The Summer Game Fest takes place at 8:00 p.m. BST on June 9 – here’s how to watch it. words of Andy Browninterviewed by Jake Tucker.

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