By Reina Magica
Beatcon, a new gaming and music convention, is happening in Jyväskylä 29th – 31st January 2015.
Check out www.beatcon.net for more details
Reina: I’m here with Patty Toledo, organiser of Beatcon, great to have you here! Can you tell us more about yourself?
Patty: I am a Brazilian living in Finland. I have worked with music for twenty-two years, with ups and downs. I have my own game company in Jyväskylä called FanART games,which made MegaFan. I have a Masters in Digital Culture specialised in games. I was invited by Oulu Game Lab to be their new Lab Master, so I am teaching game design there.
Reina: It got me really interested that Beatcon is a music AND game conference, combining two of my favourite things. But I saw there have been changes to the music programme. Can you tell us about that?
Patty: We were offered a lot of support at first, but not all of those promises were fulfilled, so I had to reduce the music side. But the conference is going really well! We have Microsoft, Google and a lot of companies. We have people coming from Israel, Germany, Holland, and England. It’s going to be an awesome conference! We are going to have cool parties afterwards and everyone is going to have fun, learn a lot, and network a lot.
Reina: For the bands that aren’t coming, are you thinking of inviting them back next year?
Patty: The good thing is, I have a really good relationship with them. The bands were not upset with me, completely the opposite, they understand what’s going on, and already said they wanna come back. My plan is not to do it myself anymore, but just contact another company that does festivals, such as Q-stock in Oulu, so I can focus on the conference, and they can do the music side. I think the biggest mistake I made this year is organising everything by myself. I was not able to get a good team working behind me. I got some help, but not enough help, not early enough. You’re going to see the event: Even though it’s a lot smaller (than planned), it’s pretty big for one person to do!
Reina: Tell me about the game events that will be happening. What are the sponsors bringing, and what kind of talks will there be?
Patty: We are going to have two days of full conference. We’re gonna have a lot of companies at the booths, like Microsoft, Google, Broski & Co.(startup investor) from England, and FGL (indie game distribution platform) from the United states. PlayRaven is our largest sponsor. We have quite a lot of good companies coming. We are going to have a pitch competition, where the companies are offering services as prizes. So for startups, it’s a really good opportunity, because they can get a lot of free services. All the information is on the website, but I’m trying to remember by heart… Google is giving away about ten thousand dollars of cloud space for free. Microsoft is also giving away $67,000 worth of cloud service, but not only that, they are also giving away the software for free for three years plus the technical support. They are giving away “Bizspark Plus” packages, which is usually something they don’t give away for free. We have Fondia giving free attorney time, so you can have legal advice for free, documents for free, contracts for free. Broski & co. from England is giving free consultation times, so they are going to help you do your business internationally. Nokia is giving away devices… There is a lot of “stuff giving”.
And for all the companies that are coming, I was very certain on the presentations that they are not only presenting their products, they are giving their experience. They are talking about things that other companies should know, and these students that want to work with games should know. All the mistakes they made, everything that they did right, what are the best partners to have, how to deal with publishers, how to deal with difficulties, how to get the best funding, and things like that. Fiban is giving a really good presentation on how to do funding. Also, at the pitch competition they are giving free access to the advisors of Fiban. So it’s a very cool event, though not as super big as I imagined, but it will be a very cool event.
Reina: Okay. So tell me about the pitching competition. So if I am a game developer, or a wannabe game developer, and I have a great idea… what’s the process? What should I prepare, and how do I sign up for this?
Patty: The signup is on the site already, it’s a simple form where you just indicate you want to go. It’s a three-minute pitch, kind of an elevator pitch. As simple as possible. We are going to have the first presentation, and then people will go into a separate smaller room, so you don’t have to do your pitch in front of three hundred people. It’s more private, because I want the companies to feel comfortable doing that. The judges are going to be from Fiban and from the investors in England, from Google, and Microsoft. They are going to look at the importance of the project, how profitable it can be, how innovation is being applied, and then we are going to announce the winner on the 31st. We have some smaller prizes for second and third place as well, but of course, everyone wants to win, so I want them to work as hard as possible to be the winners. People can still apply for that, they can even apply when they come: They only have to be prepared with their pitch. It’s going to be a open mic, so it’s going to be really nice.
Reina: Are formalised teams needed for this competition?
Patty: For some of the prizes, for example for Microsoft’s prizes, they need to be a startup, so they need to have a Y-tunnus, and a business registration. But we want to keep it as open as possible, so if it’s a group that has not yet started a company but is on the verge of that, they are welcome to come and present. Because they can use these services in a few months when they are ready to open their startup. Of course, the idea is not for students to just go pitch an idea to see what happens: We want the prizes to go to developers that can really use them. But we don’t want to limit it to those who already have a company, because there are a lot of people who start developing their game first, and then they apply for funding, and then they are going to open their company
Reina: About music and gaming, what do you think is important about bringing music to gaming and gaming to music?
Patty: I think this is a battleground. It’s a very complicated thing, especially because the licensing and copyright laws in music business are very old-fashioned. But there are some people fighting very hard to make it better. For example, one of the things I can see that are being made better… Do you know Ari Pulkkinen (composer of Angry Birds theme)? He is one of the guys I’m working with to create the Game Music Association, the GAMU, and the whole idea with that, is to make it easier for game companies and record companies and music publishers to have this communication and better understand how to do things: how it can be profitable for both sides without being nerve-racking or complicated. Of course, there are other companies, like Teosto, they are also making it easier for game companies to get music. They have a new contract that makes it a lot easier for the game companies to acquire music without having to pay every time (a song is used). It’s going really slowly, but little by little, it’s getting better. I think the larger and more profitable the game industry becomes, the more digital music suffers, and because that’s what’s happening, the more it forces a change in music companies and publishers to be more open-minded and try to accept these changes. It will take time, but it is going in this direction anyway.
Reina: So this brings us to your game Mega Fan. So you see it is a way for musicians to reach out to their fans more directly?
Patty: Yes, that’s the whole concept. Initially I chose not to use music, for the obvious reasons that you can already notice: The more musicians we have, the more complicated it would be to license music from all of them. But I see that there are a lot of fans, very loyal fans, that would do anything to get closer to their musicians… and they have absolutely no opportunity to do so. And there are a lot of musicians who would like to be in the game business, who would like to be connected to their fans, but don’t have a way to go around the record companies, so then my company just decided to say: “Okay, let’s take this risk and do that”. We already knew when we released it, it wasn’t going to be like “Oh my god, we’ll be millionaires in the first year”, but we were really happy. We did the soft-launch at the end of November, almost the beginning of December, and as you know, December is a terrible month for anything… I mean nobody does anything. But still we had about a thousand downloads without any promotion.
Reina: Where is it soft-launched?
Patty: It’s on Android. It’s in Google Play. We did it just to test, to fix the bugs, to see if everything is okay, and already we got a thousand downloads, and everyone loving it. We had only two negative feedback, everyone else is positive about it. So when the game is ready, and everyone promotes it at the same time, I think it’s going to be a good result. Because we also have pretty big bands who are interested in this.
Reina: Will there be some music-themed gaming talks at the conference?
Patty: We are going to have some. For example, SongHi is going to be talking about music education through games. We have NetSono that has this platform for musicians to communicate: it’s kind of like this gamified platform online. We have visitors from Warner and Universal coming to the conference. They didn’t ask to talk. What they want to do is just talk to the people, and talk to the game developers and the musicians, even the smaller ones. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have the big bands anymore, but we just put them all there to talk together. I think it will bring down a lot of the fears that both sides have. Of course, Ari (Pulkkinen) is going to be talking about making music for games, and Joonas Turner will be talking about sounds in games. We are trying to make the talks as broad as possible, but of course, we have some music-themed talks as well.
Reina: I saw that Unity will be presented too. What kind of talks will they be having?
Patty: They will have a longer, forty-five minute talk about Unity 5, and we agreed on having a long Q&A afterwards. I saw a lot of Unity conferences, it’s a very common thing, but usually they are really short. There is so much to show, that in the end there is very little time to ask about any details. I really wanted to give the chance for developers to ask them questions.
Reina: And there is going to be some kind of gaming lounge, where people can relax and play?
Patty: Yup. Microsoft is bringing Xboxs for the lounge. All the game companies are bringing their games, and people can go around and try everything. I’m reserving quite a lot of time, because I want people to be able to go and check out everything, and show what they are doing, and test what others are doing. At most conferences, you hardly have enough time to see game-by-game what is being done. I really want people to see what the indie companies are doing, and what the bigger companies are doing and just have a good time by testing the games.
Reina: Is there still space for exhibitors?
Patty: We have some. We don’t have many anymore, but we have some space. It’s still possible, especially for indies, for smaller booths, it’s still doable. If people buy the business pass for the conference, they get the space for free. I don’t want them to overpay. We still have some space for students and other developers.
Reina: Is there food and drinks onsite?
Patty: The coffee breaks are offered by the organisation, so it’s free. The site has a restaurant and it’s open until 3pm.
Reina: I saw there were free legal advice sessions that people can have with Fondia and Lexia. How does that work?
Patty: With Fondia and Lexia, both companies are offering legal advice. Companies that are interested in getting advice can fill in the form online or send an email to me, and they can get 1-on-1 legal advice. And it’s for free! So that’s always nice. Lawyers are very expensive!
Reina: Is it only for companies, or can students ask questions if they have already been developing a game, and are considering releasing it?
Patty: It’s for everybody, everybody can ask. If they think they need a lawyer, it’s no problem.
Reina: Any kind of legal questions, like copyright law, etc?
Patty: Anything! Of course they are specialised in game business. But it’s open for everybody to ask.
Reina: Thanks Patty for your time!
Beatcon is happening in Jyväskylä 29th – 31st January 2015.
Check out www.beatcon.net for more details