WN Conference expands to the US this month with Seattle event

For the better part of a decade, the White Nights Conference has helped game makers connect with investors and publishers.

In 2012, the WN Conference established itself as a premier event for games industry professionals, a place where developers, publishers, and company executives could network. As a business-facing forum, the WN Conference has served to connect game makers with publishers and investors for nearly a decade now. But attending meant living or traveling outside of the United States to Germany, China, Canada, or the conference’s home country of Russia. That changes this year, however, with WN Conference Seattle ‘21, the show’s first appearance in the US.

“For us, WN Seattle ’21 is not just another marker on the ever-growing map of the conference,” Julia Lebedeva, COO and Partner at WN Media Group, said. “Although, of course, we are proud to finally offer an event that is focused on the North American market, to add value specifically to those involved in the region’s video games economy.”

Taking place November 16th and 17th at the Washington Seattle Convention Center, WN Conference Seattle ‘21 will play host to a number of networking mixers and speaker panels aimed at providing attendees with the chance to build business relationships, showcase their games, sign with publishers, and more.

“The WN conference is a networking experience for video games professionals built on the belief that we, the industry, are stronger together,” Lebedeva explained. “The WN brand has always been about three things: sharing knowledge, making connections, and singing deals.”

The slate of speakers scheduled to present at WN Conference Seattle includes a number of industry professionals who will share their insights on navigating the rigors of raising funding, selling yourself and your project, and what pitfalls to avoid along the way. Presenters include Ed Fries of 1Up Ventures, Global Game Jam executive director Kate Edwards, Google strategic partner development lead Phoena Pang, head of product development at Amber Scott Humphires, and many others.

“We assemble our conference programs to only represent actionable insights from people who are actually out there, in the trenches,” Lebedeva said. “Each talk is a case study on how to manage a company, how to grow your gaming business, and how to get funding. It’s professionals sharing their learnings or failures with fellow devs.”

Speaker slots for the WN Conference are reserved for experts whose insight and experience provide genuine value to attendees. Talks aren’t limited to business-facing topics, either. For instance, Shiew Yeu Loh, art manager at Pocket Gems, will host a forum about the challenges of being a mother while working in the games industry.

In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, WN Seattle is offering online attendance in addition to hosting a live, in-person event. This hybrid model isn’t ideal, Lebedeva admitted, but it’s important for attendees to feel safe.

“COVID-19 has not exactly been conducive to any sort of mingling among video games professionals, so it really inspired us to improvise. With the stay-at-home provisions, it was an adapt or die kind of situation. We decided to adapt. That’s why we launched the WN Hub, our own online platform designed to address the B2B challenges the video game industry is facing.”

Launched in the wake of WN Amsterdam in January 2020--the conference’s last in-person event before lockdown--the WN Hub is a platform that serves as a sort of virtual alternative to in-person events. Here, attendees can schedule meetings, stream panels, host gatherings, and utilize private video and text messaging. As an added benefit, those who cannot travel can still experience what the conference has to offer thanks to WN Hub.

The introduction of WN Hub has allowed conference organizers to continue hosting events, but Lebedeva is adamant that virtual gatherings are a poor substitute for person-to-person interaction. For now, though, the hybrid model of WN Seattle is the safest option.

“We want the attendees to come into the Seattle event knowing that it’s safe,” Lebedeva said. “We are following all health and safety guidelines necessary in the state of Washington. All event attendees must have a negative test result verification or proof of WHO-approved vaccination. Also, wearing masks is mandatory at all times.”

Beyond that, Lebedeva hopes that the hybrid event doesn’t detract from WN Seattle’s ultimate goal: helping game developers ship their next hit.

“We take pride in the fact that businesses and people, who meet each other at our events, sign actual deals. That has been the case since we launched the WN conference in 2012. Since then, we’ve expanded from a Europe-centered event to include China, and now, finally, the U.S. market as well. It’s a great testament to how relevant the conference is to the industry."

In many ways, WN Seattle represents a return-to-form for the conference, and Lebedeva is excited about the restoration of in-person networking. Online events have been a great way to keep people connected in the shadow of the pandemic, she said, but there has been a noticable decline in business activity when compared to the pre-COVID era. For this reason, WN Seattle is a monumental event.

"We wanted to come up with a way to return good old on-site networking, with parties and all," Lebedeva said. "After all, the biggest virtue of the WN conference is that you can meet decision-makers in person."  

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