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GamesBeat Summit 2021: Growing the next generation — Our leader-packed agenda



GamesBeat Summit 2021: Growing the next generation -- Our leader-packed agenda

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.

GamesBeat Summit 2021 is a digital online-only event taking place on April 28 and April 29 as our third virtual conference in a year.

We’re looking forward to getting together in the physical world or in the metaverse one day, but in the meantime, we’ve learned how to deliver a good experience with an online event.

I’ve included the full agenda below and will update it as we fill in the final names. We’ve got 87 speakers at the moment and 45 of them — about 52% — come from diverse backgrounds. We’ve got top speakers like Bobby Kotick of Activision Blizzard, Phil Spencer of Microsoft, and Laura Miele of Electronic Arts. And we have others you haven’t heard about who are making a difference in the ranks.

This is our most diverse event ever, and it will be the first one with a member of the U.S. Congress — Yvette Clarke, Democrat from New York’s 9th District. She will join Stanley Pierre-Louis of the Entertainment Software Association and Laila Shabir, CEO of Girls Make Games for a talk on the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education for gaming.

We’ve also confirmed our awesome emcees Kahlief Adams of Spawn on Me and Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games. Rene will moderate our second annual Women in Gaming Breakfast with speakers that include Samantha Ryan of Electronic Arts and Brenda Romero of Romero Games.

Above: Yvette Clarke is the U.S. Congresswoman from the 9th District of New York.

Image Credit: Yvette Clarke

Since our last post, we’ve added a lot of speakers including Karthik Bala of Velan Studios, Samir Agili of Tilting Point, tech futurist Cathy Hackl, Ken Martin of GreenPark Sports, Kimberly Voll of the Fair Play Alliance, James Zhang of Fifth Era and Concept Art House, Tim O’Brien of Scopely, Amir Rahimi of Scopely, Eric Seufert of Mobile Game Dev Memo, former NBCUniversal Games head Chris Heatherly, Jon Radoff of Beamable, Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities, Tammy McDonald, and Gabby Dizon of Yield Guild Games.

Diversity, inclusion, and mental health challenges are going to be big topics for discussion. And we’ll explore how games can keep their historic growth going and at the same time explore new parts of the business including blockchain and nonfungible tokens, the post-IDFA world, augmented and virtual reality, and the metaverse. Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities will open with a talk on the explosion of opportunities that come from having an unprecedented amount of money coming into the industry through investments, public offerings, and acquisitions.

We want to continue our reputation as the most intimate gaming event where business meets passion. Our event will include fireside chats, panels, and small-group roundtables. We’ll provide Q&A sessions for VIP attendees, and a way for attendees to network with each other and make new connections. We have a wide range of partners including the International Game Developers Association and Women in Gaming International. And our sponsors include Lego Ventures, Anzu, Xsolla, Jam City, Adjust, Accenture, Rogue Games, Epic Games, Scopely, Singtel, the Entertainment Software Association, Wildlife, Perforce, Outfit7, and more.

For attendees, you’ll be getting invitations to join using the email you used to register. If you upgrade to VIP, you’ll be able to join things like our GamesBeat Slack (which we’ve already started), one-on-one meetings in Grip, roundtables, and our Zoom Q&A sessions with our speakers.

Day one (April 28, 2021)

GamesBeat 2016 Michael Pachter talk

Above: Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnel/VentureBeat

8 a.m.

Tutorial for watching and participating in the event

8:10 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.


Emcee Kahlief Adams, Spawn on Me

Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat

8:30 a.m. – 8:40 a.m.

Gaming’s time to shine

Michael Pachter, managing director at Wedbush Securities and an analyst for the games industry for 20 years, will talk about
what it means to have so much money coming into the game business at all levels.

Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities

8:40 a.m – 9:00 a.m.

Scaling creativity through the Scopely Operating System

Join Scopely Chief Business Officer Aaron Loeb and moderator Dean Takahashi for a conversation on how game companies can maximize creativity among rapidly growing global teams.

Aaron Loeb, Scopely

Andrea Rene

Above: Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games

Image Credit: What’s Good Games

Moderator: Dean Takahashi, GamesBeat

9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Enabling the next generation of leaders

Game director Brenda Romero of Romero Games and technical director Sushama Chakraverty of Prodigy Education examine the role of leadership in the game industry through the lens of their own intertwining careers.

Brenda Romero, Romero Games

Moderator: Sushama Chakraverty, Prodigy Education

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Diving into digital humans with Epic Games

Join Vladimir Mastilovic and Paul Doyle of Epic Games and Wanda Meloni of M2 Insights for a discussion on the evolution of digital humans and how MetaHuman Creator simplifies the creation of unique, convincing digital humans.

These people are not people. They MetaHumans.

Above: These people are not people. They MetaHumans.

Image Credit: Epic Games

Paul Doyle, Epic Games

Vladimir Mastilović, Epic Games

Moderator: Wanda Meloni, M2 Insights

10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

How learning through play intersects with gaming

Rob Lowe, Lego Ventures

Karsten Lund, Director, Light Brick Studio

Moderator: Keza MacDonald, Guardian

10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Magic Meets the Measured: striking the right balance to make great games

Chris DeWolfe, CEO of Jam City, talks about striking the right balance in taking care of employees, taking advantage of growth opportunities during the pandemic, and doing the right things for gamers.

Chris DeWolfe, Jam City

Moderator: Dean Takahashi, GamesBeat

11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Game VCs who bring the value of operating experience to investing

Game VCs who are former operators at companies talk about the value — and the challenges — that they can bring to the table in helping startups grow.

Andrew Sheppard, Transcend Fund

Jens Hilgers, Bitkraft Ventures

Ed Fries, 1Up Ventures

Moderator: Eric Goldberg, Playable Worlds

11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

What IDFA changes mean for the game industry

Apple is requiring users to opt-in for sharing their private info on iOS, and that’s going to affect the ability for mobile game makers to target ads at gamers. What comes next?

Eric Seufert, Mobile Game Dev Memo

Moderator: Dean Takahashi, GamesBeat

12:00 pm -12:30 pm

The next generation of mobile game development

With more and more individuals turning to games amidst a global pandemic, the importance of mobile gaming is at an unprecedented height. But how does mobile gaming keep up with other platforms? Publishers talk about empowering the next generation of developers.

Victor Lazarte, Wildlife Studios

Ken Martin, GreenPark Sports

Samir Agili, Tilting Point

Moderator: TBD

12:30 p.m. -1:10 p.m.

The post-pandemic world of gaming


Above: Kahlief Adams of Spawn on Me.

Image Credit: Spawn On Me

Bobby Kotick, chairman and CEO of Activision Blizzard, will speak at one of our events for the first time in a fireside chat about the acceleration of games into the top tier of all entertainment. But what comes next? And how will we navigate 2021 and beyond?

Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard

Moderator: Dean Takahashi, GamesBeat

12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

Roundtable (invite for VIP attendees)

12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

Your Culture isn’t what you think it is

Caroline Stokes, Forward

Roundtables 2 and 3: TBD

1:10 p.m.-1:40 p.m.

Team Xbox on gaming for everyone

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer will lead a discussion about the company’s journey to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet. The panelists will explore the challenges of ensuring that gaming is inclusive for all players and that the game industry welcomes all creators.

Agnes Kim, Microsoft

Esteban Lora, Microsoft

Cierra McDonald, Microsoft

Moderator: Phil Spencer, head of Xbox at Microsoft

1:40 p.m. -2 p.m.

phil spencer 2

Above: Phil Spencer runs all of gaming at Microsoft.

Image Credit: AIAS

The future of accessibility in the game industry

Daniel Melville was born without an arm. But he has managed to become a gamer as well as an ambassador for Open Bionics, which recently produced a Metal Gear-themed bionic arm for him. He’ll discuss this and other themes about accessibility and inclusion in the game industry with Keisha Howard of Sugar Gamers.

Daniel Melville, Open Bionics

Moderator: Keisha Howard, Sugar Gamers

2 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Changing the game

Robert Antokol, CEO of Playtika, and Michael Metzger, partner at Drake Star Partners, will talk about Playtika’s journey from launch, to expansion into casual games and recent public offering.  Robert will discuss Playtika’s Boost Platform and acquisition of independent gaming studios as well as share his vision for Playtika in the years to come.

Robert Antokol, Playtika

Moderator: Michael Metzger, Drake Star Partners

2:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.

STEAM, why it matters to video games, diversity, the future workforce, and the economy

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education is not only critical to the success of video game industry, but also to creating meaningful opportunities for people from different backgrounds and to American competitiveness. This panel will discuss the increasingly important role of STEAM in the overall American economic landscape, its impact on the video game industry, and youth leadership.

Laila Shabir, Girls Make Games

Yvette Clarke, U.S. Congresswoman from New York’s 9th District

Moderator: Stanley Pierre-Louis, Entertainment Software Association

3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

What to expect in a post-pandemic gaming world

Join Frank Azor, AMD’s Chief Architect of Gaming Solutions and Marketing, as he shares thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to impact the gaming industry, and how companies and developers are adapting to that change.

Frank Azor, AMD

Moderator: N’Gai Croal, Hit Detection

3:30 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.

Burnout: What it is and what we can do

A lot of people are suffering from burnout as the pandemic and quarantine continue into year two. What is burnout (beyond exhaustion and overwork)? This game-focused talk will detangle and explain the aspects of burnout, and provide actionable, practical steps for addressing it inside your studio and workplace.

Raffael Boccamazzo, Take This

Laura Miele is chief studios officer at EA.

Above: Laura Miele is chief studios officer at EA.

Image Credit: EA

3:50 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.

A strategy for a global gaming business

Mike Vorhaus of Vorhaus Advisers will interview Simon Zhu, general manager at NetEase, about the company’s approach to the gaming industry. They will talk about NetEase’s focus on quality as well as its investments in Bungie, Theorycraft, Behaviour Interactive, and Quantic Dream.

Simon Zhu, NetEase

Moderator: Mike Vorhaus

4:20 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.

Designing blockbuster games infused with diversity

What happens when you start designing a major video game and try to infuse diversity throughout the characters and environment? Halley Gross — a seasoned Hollywood writer on shows such as Westworld participated in such as project as the co-writer for The Last of Us Part II. The game won more than 215 awards for Game of the Year. She shares some of the lessons she learned about writing blockbuster narratives with an inclusive lens.

Halley Gross

Moderator: Dean Takahashi

4:50 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.

Why gaming M&A and investments have exploded and show no signs of slowing

M&A, public offerings, and investments have exploded for games during the pandemic. We’ll have a fireside chat with Lars Wingefors, CEO of Embracer Group, which has been the most active of all game company acquirers.

Lars Wingefors, Embracer Group

Moderator: Nick Tuosto, Liontree

5:20 p.m.-6:20 p.m.

Reception and networking on Clubhouse

Hosts Jon Radoff and Dean Takahashi

Day two (April 29)

gb summit picture

Above: GamesBeat Summit 2021 speakers.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

8:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Women in gaming breakfast

Samantha Ryan, EA

Brenda Romero, Romero Games

Moderator: Andrea Rene

9:30 am – 9:40 am


Andrea Rene, What’s Good Games

9:40 am – 9:45 am

Opening comments

Mike Minotti

9:45 a.m. – 10:05 a.m.

It takes a village

The game industry hasn’t always been kind to its own. And as a result, it has lost members to suicide. Mark Chandler of the International Games Summit on Mental Health Awareness and Jason Docton of Rise Above the Disorder will talk about what could be done so the game industry and gamers take care of their own better.

Mark Chandler, The International Games Summit on Mental Health Awareness

Jason Docton, Rise Above the Disorder

10:05 a.m. – 10:25 a.m.

How to do remote game development

When the world went remote, game development companies knew how to make it work. Many have been coordinating remote contributors for years. But with everyone at home, demands for media and games have dramatically increased. Our panel will discuss how to overcome challenges and build better games.

Glen Schofield, Striking Distance Studios

Karthik Bala, Velan Studios

Moderator: Brad Hart, CTO of Perforce

10:25 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Pulling the future from the cloud

Tim Guhl of Singtel and Lisa Cosmas Hanson of Niko Partners talk about the opportunities in gaming that will depend on 5G networks, including augmented reality, low-latency multiplayer games, and esports.

Tim Guhl, Singtel
Moderator: Lisa Cosmas Hanson, Niko Partners

10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

Making great games is only going to get more complicated

Laura Miele started her career in a game studio 25 years ago and today she is leading one of the largest collectives of game creators in the world at Electronic Arts. EA’s 20+ global studios. Geoff Keighley, creator of The Game Awards, will talk with Miele about the ever-changing world of game development and how she navigates through the internal and external challenges to deliver the best possible games to players.

Laura Miele, Electronic Arts

Moderator: Geoff Keighley

11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

Advertising in games: Tapping into the next wave

Brands are finally realizing the potential of gaming and are ready to treat it as an advertising medium. This panel will explain the evolution of advertising in games and why brands are now finally looking at games as an advertising category and what is on the horizon.

Ronnie Nelis, Lion Castle

Itamar Benedy, Anzu

Gabrielle Heyman, Zynga

Moderator: Steve Peterson, StoryPhorce

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Representation in-game matters, and it starts with developers

Nearly half of all gamers now identify as female. But in the development community, female representation is still sorely lacking. With such a skewed balance among the people who make our games, how can we make sure we’re meeting the needs of all our players, who are increasingly expressing their needs to see themselves represented in the games they play? Hear from top female development leads across Activision Blizzard about addressing the gender gap in the games, and on the teams who make them.

Jennifer Oneal, Blizzard Entertainment

Lydia Bottegoni, Blizzard Entertainment

Nour Polloni, Studio Head, Beenox

Moderator: Eunice Lee, Activision

12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Roundtable (for VIP attendees)

NFTs and games 101

Nonfungible tokens have taken the art and music collectible worlds by storm, and now they’re ready to disrupt games. Are NFTs the next big thing to monetize games, or are they a flash in the pan?

Chris Heatherly

Jon Radoff, Beamable

James Zhang, Fifth Era

Gabby Dizon, Yield Guild Games

GamesBeat Summit 2021

Above: GamesBeat Summit 2021 speakers.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Roundtable (for VIP attendees)

Understanding the future of consolidation, expanding capital pools, and hyperactivity in gaming M&A

Hemal Thakur, Goldman Sachs

Alina Soltys, Quantum Tech Partners

12:15 p.m. – 12:35 p.m.

How to do M&A right

Scopely acquired FoxNext Games in January 2020. The companies set a goal of a seamless merging of the two teams. It turns out that, during the pandemic, M&A has exploded in the game industry. Two Scopely leaders will talk about the lessons learned.

Tim O’Brien, Scopely

Amir Rahimi, Scopely

Moderator: Nick Tuosto, Liontree

12:35 p.m. – 12:55 p.m.

Scaling the right way: When a startup is no longer a startup

Katie Jansen, chief marketing officer at AppLovin, and Katie Madding, chief product officer at Adjust, share similar stories in their respective careers, with both having joined their current companies early on, and then having witnessed the trajectories of those companies skyrocket in a relatively short amount of time. Learn about their unique journeys in navigating these exciting, yet uncharted periods of hyper-growth.

Katie Jansen, AppLovin

Moderator: Katie Madding, Adjust

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

The past, present, and future of XR and mental health

Since the onset of COVID-19, 53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted. This is particularly evident for front line workers, where one-third have reported elevated levels of mental distress. This panel will bring together professionals in multiple sectors—Kelli Dunlap (Kentlands Psychotherapy, Take This), Noah Falstein (The Inspiracy), and Brennan Spiegel (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center)—to delve deeper into how this rapidly evolving technology is being used to directly help mental health.

Kelli Dunlap, American University

Noah Falstein, The Inspiracy

Brennan Spiegel, Cedars-Sinai

Moderator: Susanna Pollack, Games for Change

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

How Iron Galaxy Studios avoids crunch

One of Iron Galaxy’s Studios’ many core values is people – the strength of their team is the foundation of their success. They focus first and foremost on the well-being of their employees, making sure staff feel cared for and valued. Co-CEO’s Adam Boyes and Chelsea Blasko can share their leadership philosophies and how they continue to offer a healthy work/life balance.

Chelsea Blasko, Iron Galaxy

Adam Boyes, Iron Galaxy

Moderator: Eve Crevoshay, Take This

gb summit picture 3

Above: GamesBeat Summit 2021 speakers

Image Credit: GamesBeat

2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

A game changing experience for everyone

This panel will discuss issues of digital civility and the challenges to getting through to the next level as games become even more mainstream. What challenges need to be addressed in order for the gaming industry to seize the exponential opportunity at hand?

Christian Kelly, Accenture

Laura Higgins, Roblox

Kimberly Voll, Fair Play Alliance

Moderator: Seth Schuler, Accenture

2:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

How global publishers can differentiate themselves?

What are the challenges of global publishing? How do you use IP? How can you adapt to new platforms, app stores, business models, and regional markets?

Chris Hewish, Xsolla

Matt Casamassina, Rogue Games

Anthony Crouts, Tencent

Moderator: Lisa Cosmas Hanson, Niko Partners

3:15 p.m. – 3:35 p.m.

When is it time to launch a new IP?

Outfit7 has one of the biggest intellectual properties for games and entertainment with Talking Tom. It has created lots of apps and games based on it. It has endless runner games, virtual life simulations, videos, and others that tap into Tom’s personality. But the company also needs to create new IPs for the future. What’s the right time to do that and how?

Ante Odić, Senior VP of Product, at Outfit7

Moderator: TBD

3:35 p.m. – 3:55 p.m.

gb summit picture 4

Above: GamesBeat Summit 2021 speakers.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Brands x Creators: Collaborating to scale economic opportunity for everyone

Celebrity influencers have come out of the woodworks in the past decade, but not everybody can be the next Ninja. What can the industry do to create the next generation of streamers who can make a living at their trade? We’ll explore this in a panel on getting paid as a streamer.

Stu Grubbs, Lightstream

Natasha Zinda, ZombaeKillz

Moderator: Andrea Rene, What’s Good Game

3:55 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.

Brands and the metaverse

We’ve been stuck in the Zoomverse during the pandemic, and we can’t wait for an actual metaverse to arrive. Gaming will likely be the big draw for consumers. And if the consumers come, the brands will follow. We’ll ask some brands if they believe in the metaverse.

Ryan Mullins, Aglet

Ian Fitzpatrick, New Balance

Perry Nightingale, WPP

Moderator: Cathay Hackl

4:25 p.m. – 4:40 p.m.

Visionary Awards

Tammy McDonald

4:40 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Closing session

Dean Takahashi

4:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Networking on Clubhouse

Hosts Jon Radoff and Dean Takahashi


GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

Become a member

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Metacore secures $179.9M in credit from Supercell for casual games



Metacore secures $179.9M in credit from Supercell for casual games

Did you miss GamesBeat Summit 2021? Watch on-demand here! 

Mobile game studio Metacore has raised $179.9 million in credit from Supercell to continue developing its casual mobile game Merge Mansion.

It’s a huge amount of money to pour into a game studio with one game, but it shows what Helsinki-based Supercell is willing to do with the cash it generates from mobile gaming hits like Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Hay Day, and Brawl Stars.

Since releasing its first game (Merge Mansion) in late 2020, Metacore’s annual revenue run rate has reached $54 million, putting the company on track to become one of the fastest-growing game studios in Europe. Merge Mansion is a puzzle game with more than 800,000 daily players. The new funding will help boost Merge Mansion’s global operations and strengthen Metacore’s core team.

“We’re off to a really good start and raised this follow-on funding from Supercell to increase the scaling of the game,” said Metacore CEO Mika Tammenkoski in an interview with GamesBeat. “It couldn’t be more exciting than this.”

Supercell has backed the game studio for years, with an initial investment of $5.9 million in 2018 followed by a $17.9 million investment and $11.9 million credit line in 2020. The new credit line financing strengthens Metacore’s capability to accelerate its growth while maintaining their current ownership structure and autonomy.

Supercell’s investments lead Jaakko Harlas said in a statement that Metacore is going from strength to strength. He said Merge Mansion launched with high expectations and has met them. He said Supercell invests in strong teams, and Supercell’s role is to remove obstacles.

“Merge Mansion has hit its metrics, and we have been scaling it successfully so far,” Tammenkoski said. “We believe that we can really reach the top of the charts with that game. As you know, as you know, getting to the top of the charts, or scaling mobile games, is really capital intensive because of the dynamics of the free-to-play business model. And it means that you have to invest heavily, and then you have to wait for a while to get the return on the investment.”

Metacore looks to fill key roles in game development and brand marketing.

“Most of the money goes into marketing,” he said. “The personal costs are really marginal compared to what you can spend on performance and brand marketing. And we really want to make Merge Mansion into an entertainment brand in the mobile game space. And that means that we really need to invest into it as well.”

Metacore has a distinctive approach to scaling its studio: It builds and tests games with small, two-to-three person teams that have full autonomy over games they develop and only expand these teams once they’ve validated the concept on the market through player feedback. That’s pretty similar to the way that Supercell runs.

Regarding Supercell, “They know how capital intensive scaling these games is,” Tammenkoski said. “We couldn’t have a better partner than this.”

Above: Metacore’s Merge Mansion mixes puzzles with discovery.

Image Credit: Metacore

This enables Metacore to quickly pivot or scrap game projects that players aren’t responding to, but it also means the studio can swiftly act when it’s clear they have a hit game like Merge Mansion on its hands.

Metacore has doubled its team size to close to 30 since last fall and is actively recruiting for key roles in game development, brand marketing, and other strategic business functions. Tammenkoski emphasized that the company is not rushing with recruitment and is taking the time to find the right fit.

Tammenkoski and Aki Järvilehto founded the company. Merge Mansion features a grandmother and her grandaughter who bond over an old mansion and try to get it back into livable shape. The advertising will focus on telling a story for a mass market audience, Tammenkoski said.

The funding comes at a time when mobile advertising is in flux, as Apple is prioritizing user privacy over targeting advertising. Tammenkoski said there is turbulence in the market and no one knows how bad it will get, but he said he is not targeting any particular cohort of players. That should make it easier to deal with Apple’s change in the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).

“The dynamics will change, but we will go broad with our advertising,” Tammenkoski said.


GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

Become a member

Continue Reading


Speech recognition system trains on radio archive to learn Niger Congo languages



speech recognition

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.

For many of the 700 million illiterate people around the world, speech recognition technology could provide a bridge to valuable information. Yet in many countries, these people tend to speak only languages for which the datasets necessary to train a speech recognition model are scarce. This data deficit persists for several reasons, chief among them the fact that creating products for languages spoken by smaller populations can be less profitable.

Nonprofit efforts are underway to close the gap, including 1000 Words in 1000 Languages, Mozilla’s Common Voice, and the Masakhane project, which seeks to translate African languages using neural machine translation. But this week, researchers at Guinea-based tech accelerator GNCode and Stanford detailed a new initiative that uniquely advocates using radio archives in developing speech systems for “low-resource” languages, particularly Maninka, Pular, and Susu in the Niger Congo family.

“People who speak Niger Congo languages have among the lowest literacy rates in the world, and illiteracy rates are especially pronounced for women,” the coauthors note. “Maninka, Pular, and Susu are spoken by a combined 10 million people, primarily in seven African countries, including six where the majority of the adult population is illiterate.”

The idea behind the new initiative is to make use of unsupervised speech representation learning, demonstrating that representations learned from radio programs can be leveraged for speech recognition. Where labeled datasets don’t exist, unsupervised learning can help to fill in domain knowledge by determining the correlations between data points and then training based on the newly applied data labels.

New datasets

The researchers created two datasets, West African Speech Recognition Corpus and the West African Radio Corpus, intended for applications targeting West African languages. The West African Speech Recognition Corpus contains over 10,000 hours of recorded speech in French, Maninka, Susu, and Pular from roughly 49 speakers, including Guinean first names and voice commands like “update that,” “delete that,” “yes,” and “no.” As for the West African Radio Corpus, it consists of 17,000 audio clips sampled from archives collected from six Guinean radio stations. The broadcasts in the West African Radio Corpus span news and shows in languages including French, Guerze, Koniaka, Kissi, Kono, Maninka, Mano, Pular, Susu, and Toma.

To create a speech recognition system, the researchers tapped Facebook’s wav2vec, an open source framework for unsupervised speech processing. Wav2vec uses an encoder module that takes raw audio and outputs speech representations, which are fed into a Transformer that ensures the representations capture whole-audio-sequence information. Created by Google researchers in 2017, the Transformer network architecture was initially intended as a way to improve machine translation. To this end, it uses attention functions instead of a recurrent neural network to predict what comes next in a sequence.

Above: The accuracies of WAwav2vec.

Despite the fact that the radio dataset includes phone calls as well as background and foreground music, static, and interference, the researchers managed to train a wav2vec model with the West African Radio Corpus, which they call WAwav2vec. In one experiment with speech across French, Maninka, Pular, and Susu, the coauthors say that they achieved multilingual speech recognition accuracy (88.01%) on par with Facebook’s baseline wav2vec model (88.79%) — despite the fact that the baseline model was trained on 960 hours of speech versus WAwav2vec’s 142 hours.

Virtual assistant

As a proof of concept, the researchers used WAwav2vec to create a prototype of a speech assistant. The assistant — which is available in open source along with the datasets — can recognize basic contact management commands (e.g., “search,” “add,” “update,” and “delete”) in addition to names and digits. As the coauthors note, smartphone access has exploded in the Global South, with an estimated 24.5 million smartphone owners in South Africa alone, according to Statista, making this sort of assistant likely to be useful.

“To the best of our knowledge, the multilingual speech recognition models we trained are the first-ever to recognize speech in Maninka, Pular, and Susu. We also showed how this model can power a voice interface for contact management,” the coauthors wrote. “Future work could expand its vocabulary to application domains such as microfinance, agriculture, or education. We also hope to expand its capabilities to more languages from the Niger-Congo family and beyond, so that literacy or ability to speak a foreign language are not prerequisites for accessing the benefits of technology. The abundance of radio data should make it straightforward to extend the encoder to other languages.”


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Gamescom announces online-only festival in August, reversing hybrid event plan



The crowd at Gamescom 2019 on opening day on Tuesday, August 20.

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Reversing a plan announced in March, Gamescom will no longer try to do a hybrid gaming expo this summer. Instead, it will focus on an online-only event at the end of August.

The fan-and-business trade show is the world’s biggest game-industry event — with 370,000 people attending the physical event in 2019 — but it had to switch to online-only in 2020 due to the pandemic. The event organizers floated the idea of a hybrid physical event where fans could come see games in person along with digital announcements. The hope was that the coronavirus would subside thanks to vaccinations and that people would want to recapture the excitement of an in-person event.

But today, the Association of the German Games Industry and Koelnmesse decided against that plan, based on responses from potential exhibitors and fans. They plan to hold the main part of the show from August 25 to August 29.

Gamescom Congress will once again take place Thursday, August 26, and Devcom will start off the events August 23. The main days of Gamescom will take place on August 26 and August 27. IGN will produce a show dubbed Awesome Indies. Opening Night Live, which Geoff Keighley produces, will still take place, but it will now be online-only as well. Gamescom was planning to start selling tickets in May.

Above: The crowd at Gamescom 2019 on opening day. The show was online-only in 2020. It will be online-only again in 2021.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

“This decision was made after extensive discussions with partners and exhibitors,” the organizers said in a press release. “Thus, the organizers take into account the current situation, in which too many companies are unable to participate in physical events this year due to the still difficult development. In this way, they also meet the partners’ strong need for planning security. This means that Gamescom 2021 will be held exclusively digitally and free of charge for all Gamescom fans.”

Last year, Gamescom had more than 100 million video views over all formats and channels, more than 50 million unique viewers from 180 countries, and 370 partners from 44 countries. Oliver Frese, chief operating officer of Koelnmesse, said in a statement that Gamescom was coming too early for many companies in the industry, as it required so much advanced planning amid an uncertain environment. Companies need that planning reliability, he said.

Felix Falk, managing director of the German Games Industry Association, said in a statement that next year the groups will be able to implement more of the concepts they had in mind for a hybrid version of Gamescom. There will be business-to-business matchmaking events such as “indies meet investors and publishers” pitch events.


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