What if we told you that a company that regularly holds global mobile gaming conferences connecting 100s of games companies from over 50 countries was being run from just outside Bath? Well, Steel Media, the publishing company behind brands like Pocket Gamer and AppSpy, has been shouting about and connecting indie gamers from there since the days of the Gameboy and Nintendo DS.
“Smartphone gaming is 40% of the total global games business”
We caught up with Dave Bradley (pictured in the VR helmet, left), COO of Steel Media, to learn more about what the publishing and events company does, how it came to exist, and how indie gamers can show off their wares at its events and in its publications.
TechSPARK: What is Steel Media and what do you do?
Dave Bradley: Steel Media is a publishing and events company. It’s based in Kelston, just outside Bath, but has a global outlook. We run websites specialising in mobile gaming and VR – our biggest brand is Pocket Gamer, the leading site for handheld and smartphone gaming. Other consumer sites include AppSpy.com and 148Apps.com while on the more business side we serve the industry with PocketGamer.biz and TheVirtualReport.biz.
Steel Media also hosts conferences for mobile games and VR professionals (PG Connects and VR Connects) as well as games developer events like the Big Indie Pitch, and these take place throughout the year in different territories around the world.
TS: What was pocket gaming when you started?
DB: Mobile gaming was really in its infancy up until 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone, kickstarting the app revolution. Before then portable gaming meant handheld consoles like the Gameboy and Nintendo DS, and the N-Gage. Phones with Java had seen casual gaming start to take hold too. But there really wasn’t much coverage of these games, and Steel Media saw an opportunity to provide information and reviews about a sector that wasn’t being embraced by traditional games media.
This meant that it was well placed to take advantage in the boom in iOS and Android games that would follow. Up until fairly recently gamers have almost looked down on smartphone gaming – but it’s now 40% of the total global games business, which is huge. In 2016 we started covering the VR industry too.
“Some years back, Steel Media was invited by a client to help run a party. Turns out we were really good at it!”
TS: How did the events side get going?
DB: Some years back, Steel Media was invited by a client to help run a party. Turns out we were really good at it! After a few socials and some very positive feedback we decided to expand into bigger events.
Since only a few companies were running dedicated mobile gaming conferences at the time, it made sense to celebrate our expertise in that arena – we envisaged a b2b [business to business] “Pocket Gamer live” event that would feature informative talks about the market, coupled with some fun networking. PG Connects was born.
The first one launched in 2014. The most recent was in London in January 2017 and was our biggest yet, with bonus VR tracks and expo. It had almost 2,000 industry attendees.
We’ve been on tour with the conference too – Bangalore, Vancouver, Helsinki, we’ve taken PG Connects all over the globe. On June 27 and 28 we’ll be in San Francisco. Tickets are still available!
Then we’ll be back in Helsinki in September, and London again in January 2018.
TS: You are a worldwide organisation, why are you based in Kelston?
DB: The directors of the company used to work at Future, a publisher which has been based in the west country since 1985. As a young man, Steel Media’s CEO Chris James moved to the area to work on PC Guide and PC Format magazines, and many of us tell a similar story: we’ve just stayed local since then.
Chris left Future to work at James Pembroke Publishing in Bath, and then set up the company that would become Steel Media after leaving there.
Steel Media Towers: Kelston Park , visible from the train going from Bath to Bristol, which looks like a manor house but is instead the HQ for pocket gamer aficionados
The House at Kelston Park is a grand place to have a head office, by the way – glorious views from the patio in this sunny weather. But we are a widely distributed company now with staff contributing remotely from across the UK and the planet, including Russia and China.
TS: Are you impressed by the Bristol and Bath tech cluster?
DB: It’s wonderful how many great tech and games companies there are in the region. Not only is there some real innovation going on locally, but it also has a genuinely welcoming, collaborative feel. We’ve attended VR World Congress, the Global Games Jam, the Anti-Socials at the Bristol Games Hub… The spirit of encouragement and knowledge sharing is very strong.
TS: How can people get involved with what you are doing?
DB: We’re always happy to hear about new mobile games – when it comes time to review something, the best thing to do is contact the Pocket Gamer editor Glen Fox on firstname.lastname@example.org. He lives in Bristol so you might even run into him at local games events.
“Big Indie Pitches are “speed dating”-style events where indie developers pitch their games to a panel of press, publishers and pundits”
In-progress games from indie developers are very welcome in our Big Indie Pitch evenings. The next one in the UK will be at Develop in Brighton in July, although we’re looking to add more dates to our 2017 calendar. These are “speed dating”-style events where indie developers pitch their games to a panel of press, publishers and pundits. There are prizes and the chance for feedback and media coverage of your project.
From this September we’ll be including some PC games in our Big Indie Pitches and talks at PG Connects, so bear that in mind.
And of course we’re always looking for advertisers and sponsors who want to put their mobile or VR projects in front of engaged gamers and the international industry!
Many thanks to Dave for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. You can see more about Steel Media’s upcoming events – including conferences in Helsinki and London that are now open for submissions – at Steel Media’s www.PGConnects.com website.
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