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The search for mobile gaming at SXSW 2014

The search for mobile gaming at SXSW 2014

SXSW did an impressive job with its inaugural Gaming Awards show hosted by Youtube stars iJustine and Smosh.

The packed theatre at Long Center was entertained from start to finish with crowdpleasing games of PAC-MAN, an exclusive premiere of a Rooster Teeth video, and mesmerizing feats by Cirque du Soleil.

Each award was fronted by stunning cinematic trailers and cosplayers with production quality reminiscent of Spike TV's live audience Video Game Awards.

There was also a touching tribute to the show's producer, industry veteran Matthew Crump, who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 40 just before the opening of the festival.

Winners included Super Mario 3D World, which beat out Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts for Best Multiplayer, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for Excellence in Gaming Marketing Award, and The Last of Us for GotY.

Among celebrating AAA titles like GTA V, Bioshock Infinite, and Ni No Kuni, there was also a solid mix of sleeper hits including Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Nidhogg, and Papers, Please.

Mobile gaming a dirty word

Fifteen awards in all were presented but surprisingly there was not a single utterance of the word 'mobile game' or any recognition of the exploding multi-billion dollar industry.

The omission seemed calculated. There was a Convergence Award that went to Warner Bros.' Injustice: Gods Among Us for excellence in crossover appeal through multiple mediums.

As if SXSW was trying to say that not only has mobile gaming arrived, but we are so far beyond mobile, approaching an era of seamless cross-platform gameplay that is completely device-agnostic, and that the use of the word mobile perhaps is passe.

Progressive, future thinking, that's just how SXSW rolls.

A secret club

In a weekend blitz of SXSW Gaming, some signs of life of the mobile gaming community were found, however.

PS Vita's Tearaway won its first award ever at the SXSW Gaming Awards.

Handheld platform holder Nintendo had a thrilling life-sized Mario Karting racetrack and Nintendo museum. King's Tommy Palm spoke at several sessions on Candy Crush Saga, and Kiip hosted an epic rave featuring The Jane Doze and BizMarkie.

Gaming Expo exhibitor, Simon Czaplinski, co-founder & CEO of Odin's Hammer Apps, publisher of Revel which recently won Pocket Gamer's Big Indie Pitch @ Apps World SF, summed it up.

"We were first time exhibitors and our photo scavenger game app did amazing. We had a ton of installs, vendors all wanting custom themes and angel investors emailing aggressively to discuss opportunities. The overall response was extremely positive," he said.

"The crowed seemed to want mobile games. Everyone who stopped at our booth had a smartphone. However, we were one of the only, if not only, mobile app games presenting in the Gaming Expo.

"Perhaps they were in another building, it just seemed odd that so little mobile representation was present."

A good, good time

That aside, no-one could dispute that SXSW was an outrageous good time with anyone you've ever known or wanted to meet arriving into town.

It was the Year of Seths as comedians Meyers and Rogen dominated opening weekend with endless panels, parties and screenings.

Kevin Bacon took a Vine of his audience making everyone who attended his session a Bacon Number One (relevant if you've played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). Jason Bateman, egged on by actor Jeffrey Tambor, did a chicken dance on stage to promote his film, Bad Words.

And Grumpy Cat could be seen hustling around the Austin Convention Center.

The lines went on for hours in the freezing rain as crowds anxiously awaited the premiere of Veronica Mars. Salt Lick and open bars could be stumbled upon all along 6th Street, and sopping wet patrons could warm up in Mashable House while taking wild wrecking ball selfies.

Check out all the fun Pocket Gamer's US Events Editor Martine Paris (@contentnow) had with Machinima's Brett Hundley (@HungryHundar) as they covered the show in search of the mobile gaming scene.

Here is their Facebook photo gallery and the Pocket Gamer SXSW Party Guide and Pocket Gamer SXSW Survival Guide they followed in search of SXSW's mobile gaming scene.


Tech reporter Martine Paris covers trends across mobile, games, AR VR, wearables and IoT, the intersection of emerging tech, music, video and culture, and how to get featured, funded and monetized. You can typically find her at shows with a mic in her hand interviewing industry's leading voices. Follow her @contentnow.

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