SXSW Sydney unveils its Games Festival and esports tournament


The Games Festival will celebrate and support games as a major creative industry

South by Southwest (SXSW) Sydney has offered a first look at what attendees will be able to experience at its Games Festival and the first games to be confirmed via the festival showcase submissions process.  

The futurist conference and festival also unveiled an international esports tournament, Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM), which will be hosted in connection with ESL at the inaugural SXSW Sydney 2023 event as part of the huge 5-day Games Festival that will see the harbour city come alive throughout Sydney’s Tech Central and CBD. 

From Sunday, October 15 to Sunday, October 22, 2023, SXSW Sydney will see the Asia-Pacific’s pre-eminent creative industries come together across content pillars of Tech and Innovation, Games, Music, Screen and Culture within a stacked week-long program. Platinum and Industry badges are now available HERE.

SXSW Sydney 2023 Games Festival 

The SXSW Sydney 2023 Games Festival has something to offer all interconnected layers of the games industry, from the people who make games to those that love playing them. Sitting alongside SXSW Sydney’s 2023 Music and Screen Festivals, the Games Festival will celebrate and support games as a major creative industry. The festival will explore future trends in game development, publishing, and hardware manufacturing with games demos, announcements, hands-on play, stage sessions, performances, screenings, networking events, investment sessions and workshops.  

Luke Lancaster, head of games, SXSW Sydney, said: “I’m incredibly humbled to work with a team that shares the vision of presenting an event designed to showcase the power, creativity and possibility of games in 2023. From the biggest, most accessible showcase of independent games in Australia, to the sheer spectacle of Intel Extreme Masters, we cannot wait to put SXSW Sydney on the map as an unmissable date in the international games calendar.”

John Graham, minister for Jobs and Tourism, minister for the Arts and minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, said: “This announcement by SXSW Sydney gives NSW a chance to catch up on the gaming industry boom that is happening around the world. We have been off the pace when it comes to growing our local gaming industry.

“SXSW Sydney’s gaming programme is a chance to jump start that journey. It is also exactly why the government has launched a push for a new creative industries policy. I hope the long-tail benefit of SXSW Sydney is felt across the entire creative, visitor and night-time economy ecosystem and signals our intention for Sydney to be the major events and creative industries capital of the Asia Pacific.” 

Intel® Extreme Masters 

The world’s leading teams will descend upon SXSW Sydney to battle it out onstage as part of the internationally-acclaimed Intel® Extreme Masters Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pro tournament. The longest-running pro gaming tour in the world will run for three days (20-22 October) at the Aware Super Theatre, in the heart of the SXSW Sydney event precinct. Additionally, the Intel® Extreme Masters Expo will include activations, games and hardware demonstrations by Intel®, Monster and more.   

Most recently held in Katowice, Rio de Janeiro and Dallas, and selling out Qudos Bank Arena in its most recent Sydney instalment in 2019, the equivalent of the World Cup of Games will host its own showcase of domestic and international esports brands alongside some of the best players in the world, including teams from across the APAC region. 

Graeme Du Toit, head of Sales and Marketing at ESL FACEIT Group Australia, said: “We’re incredibly excited to see Intel® Extreme Masters return to Australia as part of the inaugural SXSW Sydney event, igniting a new chapter for Australia’s favourite esports tournament. The combination of IEM’s leadership in esports and SXSW’s culture of innovation, technology and creativity offers a unique synergy that we can’t wait to bring to life this October.”

Games Festival Features Announced 

The SXSW Sydney 2023 Games Festival provides an opportunity for games industry professionals and emerging talent to connect, collaborate and discover the sector’s best in the Asia-Pacific region. A small taste of what can be experienced at SXSW Sydney’s Games Festival includes: 

• Indie Games Showcase: a curated showcase of 150 independent games from ANZ and around the world, with sessions for both industry and general audiences. Submissions for the Games Festival showcase are open HERE and close on 16 August, and all accepted work will have exhibition space, booth build and hardware provided for free.
Games Industry Conference Track: inspirational panels and presentations focused on current trends, convergence with other creative fields,  solutions to issues facing the games industry and visions for the future.
Tabletop Festival: an-expo-within-an-expo, dedicated solely to the tabletop games community, including exhibitors, demos, seminars and stage sessions and freeplay areas.
XR Showcase: hands-on demos of astounding augmented and virtual reality pieces.
Games Festival Stage: a stage packed with performances, presentations and live gameplay for the wider games audience.
Investment Summit: matchmade meetings, stage pitch sessions, casual networking events and a full docket of other events for developers to connect with scouts, publishers and investors.
Social Hub: a dedicated venue for parties, mixers, playtesting and networking events.
“Midnighters” Games Edition: following in the footsteps of SXSW Austin’s “Midnighters” horror film program, a one-night selection of horror games and stage content.
Student Showcase: featuring award-winning tertiary students’ works from around Australia.

Stay tuned for more SXSW Sydney Games Festival announcements, including partners and scheduled events.  

First Games Confirmed for Festival Showcase  

Announcing ten new Australian games, the first of over 150 indie titles that will be playable at SXSW Sydney’s inaugural Games Festival and chosen from showcase applications: 

1. Gubbins (Studio Folly): From Melbourne-based Studio Folly co-founders, Jessica Shipard and Darcy Smith, Gubbins is a puzzle-directed game that encourages players to place tiles and construct words, guided by a mischievous gang of friends, called Gubbins. 
2. The Master’s Pupil (Pat Naoum): Sydney-raised indie game developer, Pat Naoum presents his first full game following eight years of study and development in game design. Informed by Naoum’s graphic design background, The Master’s Pupil set inside a human eye.
3. Knuckle Sandwich (Andy Brophy): One half of Melbourne game collective, Hovergarden, Andy Brophy’s solo work guides a young man through his first day in a mysterious island paradise, Bright City. A series of mini-games featuring enemies, challenges and memory puzzles are there to defeat along the way.
4. Surf Club (Olivia Haines):Melbourne-based Olivia Haines’ first commercial game follows Holly, a woman in her early twenties, who returns to her home town to rekindle an old relationship. As she explores the seaside town and reconnects with the locals, she is swept up in nostalgia as the lines begin to blur between the present day and past memories.
5. Birth (Madison Karrh): A solo developer making personal, macabre games, Karrh mixes playful physics puzzles with a delicate hand-drawn art style in her semi-autobiographical work. Her most recent release, Birth, is a game about living alone in a large city. To quell your loneliness, you will build a partner from spare bones and organs while solving puzzles in the city.
6. Repella Fella (Phill):A post-apocalyptic comedy-drama set in a futuristic Australia where three characters work towards a better life. The game comes from solo developer, Phill, best known for the ‘Ray’ flash series that has earned tens of millions of plays online.
7. The Chef’s Shift (Panitia GameDev): From this small group of independent developers who met online on GameJam+, this is a fast-paced typing game in a restaurant setting, where you’ll cook and serve food to hungry customers, all by typing.
8. Wood & Weather (Paper House): This small, Melbourne-based developer is inspired by the world directly around it. Wood & Weather is a single player god-game set in a wooden toy city. Make friends and control the weather as an ethereal blue hand in a surprising little open world.
9. The Godfeather (Hojo Studio): Sydney-based Hojo Studio are back with their most recent roguelike development, The Godfeather, which follows the story of a mafia pigeon.
10. Fractured Core (Engram Interactive):From the small indie studio in Bali, Fractured Core is a turn-based RPG set in 2105 Germany.

Earlier this week, Mediaweek sat down with Hugh Forrest, co-president and chief programming officer for SXSW on his most recent trip to Australia, to chat about what made Sydney a good fit for the expansion, and what has kept him working with the organisation for so long. 

Read more: Hugh Forrest: Why people from SXSW Austin want to make the trip to Sydney in October

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