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Our thoughts on Develop 2023


This year's Develop Conference in Brighton was a buzzing hive of game developer activity. Now that the dust has started to settle, we thought we'd take a look back at the week and share some of our thoughts. 

Networking or not-working

First and foremost, Develop's main strength is that it brings people together. That's true every year, but it felt particularly true this time around, with packed rooms, busy corridors, and gatherings full to capacity.

At times it felt like the entire UK games industry was in attendance - plus numerous internationals who had made the journey overseas to join the fun. Talking to people is always my favourite part of the show -  a chance to meet the people behind your favourite companies and games, learn from them, and share my own thoughts.

By hanging out at the conference venue, and at the wide variety of fringe events and nearby bars and restaurants, I had great conversations over a cocktail, over a coffee, over an ice cream, over spicy chicken strips, and in one case, over a box of vegan fish and chips (That's Brighton for ya!). 


And of course, there's a different kind of talking that goes on at Develop - the conference talks, bootcamps and roundtables. This year's selection was varied, and included things I agreed with - and one or two things that I didn't. Among the many topics discussed at the event, we heard people's views and insights about AI, diversity, pitching to press, TikTok, and Steam reviews.

But the official talks weren't the only place to learn...

On the fringe

Because everybody's in town for a few days, Develop has a significant number of fringe events - extra things, organised by companies in attendance, dotted along the seafront. Some of these events are basically parties (hello, GI.Biz). Others are more like networking mixers. And some even feature extra talks and panels.

Among the brilliant events we attended, were...

  • The Mini Marketing Summit: A selection of talks, and a panel, held in Brighton's gaming themed Loading Bar, hosted by IMPRESS. Although the acoustics of the room left a little to be desired, the content of these sessions was fantastic. Really informative sessions about Steam discoverability, working with agencies, trailers, working with content creators, and more.
  • Game Dev Heroes: An incredible, informal award ceremony that celebrates individuals doing amazing things in the games industry. We were happy to sponsor the Marketing Hero award - congratulations to Cristina Ruiz of Futurlab for winning that! And congrats also to all the worthy winners on the night. Find out more here.
  • The Splash Damage Mixer: A wonderful evening of discussion, food, and drink. Did you know there's an official Splash Damage cocktail?
  • Hannah Flynn's Marketing and Comms Breakfast: Lattes and croissants and hungover marketing people. What more could you want from an event?
  • Special Effect's Charity Drinks: A party! Both a fitting end to the week, and a chance to raise money for a vital charity.


As well as all the events listed above (and the many, many more that we couldn't go to because we were already booked up!), Develop also has a glitzy award ceremony known as the Develop:Star Awards. These awards recognise products, studios, and other companies who have done exceptional work in the last twelve months. 

And we were nominated!

For the second year running, we were on the shortlist for the Marketing Star award, alongside some very impressive other nominees. Ultimately, we didn't win - the award went to the team at nDreams, which was well deserved. Other awards in other categories went to worthy winners too, such as PoncleRoll7God of War Ragnarök, and Guerrilla Games.

As well as being a great celebration of games, this ceremony is also one of the most enjoyable evenings at Develop. The afterparty sees people in very high spirits, and Games Aid run a charity casino which is always entertaining. This year, on the roulette wheel, Dan Allman (of Kepler Interactive) put literally all of his chips on the number 7 - and won, presumably breaking some kind of record for the most ludicrous win that a charity casino has ever seen. I saw it with my own eyes and can still hardly believe it happened.

In summary

Although Develop is very enjoyable, it's also much harder work than it looks. It's very long hours, often in warm weather. And whether you're exploring the expo hall, walking along the seafront to an event, or stood at Meeting Point 2 waiting for your next chat, it can be tiring!

It's fortunate then, that it can also be so rewarding. I defy anyone to attend as we did and not learn something. Whether officially or unofficially, it's a brilliant space to hear and engage with the expertise of others. In fact, as a place to meet other people in games, it is absolutely unmatched. 

As the event grows, and the number and scale of the fringe events grow, they reflect the growth of gaming. And for three mostly-sunny days, we're reminded that all of us are in this industry together - sharing, collaborating, and growing ourselves. To borrow a phrase that I heard several times at the event, and one that seems fitting for an event held by the sea: A rising tide lifts all boats. 🌊⛵

See you next year. 👋