You never forget your first trip to the United States. For Matteo Lana and Rocco Tartaglia, founders of “Tiny Bull Studios” (a startup dedicated to gaming that we’ve talked about here) this is beyond doubt: «A unique experience, above all for those like us who’ve had the possibility to go there for work and combine the expectations of a tourist with those of a startupper». The backdrop is San Francisco, the context “Game Connection 2014” held between the 17 and 19 March. One of the events hotly awaited all year by those in the business. A highlight of the calendar. Matteo is the first to recount his impressions of the Californian city: «San Francisco is really nice, but for all its size it’s relatively quiet. We walked its length and breadth but realized that it’s not easy to understand and discover. I was expecting enormous architectural structures that I didn’t find. Obviously I’d been influenced by what I’d seen in films and on television and expected to have confirmed a certain kind of image: big buildings, skyscrapers, noise, traffic, chaos everywhere. In the end I found San Francisco to be vaguely reminiscent of Turin. Compared to what I was expecting there’s lots of green spaces and loads of cyclists, as well as very few motorists given the main eight-lane roads. I’d imagined it was more chaotic than Rome and Milan put together but it’s not».
This parallel changes with the topic: the atmosphere of the place, the people, meeting with others. Suddenly, in the description of these two young guys, we’re no longer in Italy and certainly not in Turin. «San Francisco is special. It was a constant 26 degrees and the days were clear and bright. The atmosphere was weird, varied and changing. The streets were full of strange people who had no problem stopping to greet each other and talk together even if they didn’t know each other. We noticed really unique characters like the old woman quite naturally using a young working-class slang. Sometimes it felt like we’d been transported to a parallel universe: the people around us seemed always to be the same, circling continually around us, coming repeatedly into sight» says Rocco.
The San Francis Drake Hotel, which hosted the Game Connection, became their home for three days of intense work and promotion. Four floors occupied by programmers, designers, publishers and experts in the field, all ready to exchange contacts and ideas. Matteo: «We were lucky enough to go with an experienced group of Italians led by “AESVI”, the association of Italian videogame editors and developers, an adventure that we wouldn’t have been able to have without the funding of the “ICE” (agency for the overseas promotion and internationalization of Italian enterprise). To participate as a visitor costs around 500 Euros, while to have a table, four chairs, a dedicated space, banner and mail costs from 3000 to 4000 Euros». Not an insignificant amount, but one which allowed the adventurers to have a lot of advertising feedback and to greatly widen their own network of contacts. The Italian delegation was made up of 11 companies, all based in the same room and with their own personal workstation. «All the other participants had been in San Francisco at least once – confesses Rocco – we were the youngest, the most energetic and the most excited of the group».
Not far away, at the same time, another big, important event was taking place for those involved in videogames: «During the same days there was the “GDC – Game Developers Conference”. This meant that the majority of the world’s developers and producers were in San Francisco. Almost everyone alternated between the two locations amplifying the number of contacts that each of us could make». In fact the numbers don’t lie: between companies, publishers, developers, 2D/3D production studios, phonic experts and promoters of various services tied to the world of gaming, there were almost 800 participants.
But how did the individual days unfold? Matteo still records the detail «Each exhibiter had a personalized schedule, 16 slots of half an hour, every day for 3 days, from 9:00 till 18:00. Before each appointment the various companies, or the people identified as possible speakers and contributors, were contacted. If the invitation was accepted then an attempt was made, using an algorithm, to include it in the general program for the day. Everything was impeccably organized. Out of the 48 slots available to us we used 45. We were among the busiest, with very little free time. We had no intention of letting slip any possible future partner or any opportunity for constructive discussion».
Rocco adds, «We didn’t have the time to orientate ourselves or feel the excitement of what was around us. The first day we arrived at our stand 5 minutes late and there was already someone waiting for us. In general we didn’t even have the opportunity to think: as soon as a meeting finished with one person, another arrived. It all went extremely quickly: it was tiring, but we really made the most of the occasion».
In the end, what counts are the results obtained. The two creators of “Tiny Bull” are satisfied with what they’ve gathered: «We believe it went better than we’d anticipated. Previously, in December, we took part in “Game Connection Europea”, the one in Paris, but we had nothing that was actually ready to present. Very few contacts, all self-funded, a ticket for 5 meetings: very little visibility. In San Francisco we went prepared: 4 games, each with its own pitch, some for PCs and consoles, others for tablets and smartphones. In other words we were much more focused on specific themes and the feedback we received was incredible. Out of 40-45 people that we encountered 33 were publishers and all of them were interested in our products».
The publishers cited by Matteo and Rocco represent a wide sample of the international gaming market: diverse figures with personalized requests and varied interests. Encounters, therefore, all of which required prior preparation and an immediate offer of the game tailored to individual needs: «We chose what to give priority to on the basis of who we had in front of us. We knew they were very direct, especially the Americans, and that they wouldn’t have appreciated too much beating around the bush. Every appointment had a similar format: this is the product, I’ll tell you about it, I’ll tell you what I need, how much money I need, how long I think it will take to develop and what response I expect from the public. The most frequently asked questions referred to the way in which we expected to make money and the type of advertising we wanted to produce».
The last part of their account is dedicated to the videogaming world’s perception of Italy, something which was also certainly not taken for granted: «The Italians are still really well regarded by the international community. In general the impression it has is very positive, above all because it believes that the Italian abroad is a cut above the rest: the brain drain syndrome is well known, so if you’re an Italian and you’re overseas you’re potentially seen as a really capable one. Meeting other people the usual clichés came up: our food, the beautiful cities, the exaggerated hand gestures. The world of the publishers is less fortunate: there are few Italian ones, and they don’t perform so well, both because they lack experience and because they suffer the resistance of a national context which doesn’t value them as it should».
The Italian context is narrow and restricted, a sensation which intensifies on returning home: «How sad returning to Turin» confesses Matteo, while Rocco hurriedly adds, «but we’ll leave for America again soon, especially if we’re able to seal some of the agreements which demonstrated the interest in our products. Very soon we have a meeting on Skype with a publisher and we’re really confident».
Alessandro Frau (@ilmercurio85)
Traduzione di Carla Rossi