With so much of our business coming from overseas, we rarely get to see our international clients or business partners face to face. Even at industry-focused trade shows like GDC, we might only get time with clients in the context of a demo or some other work activity. And when you’re holding to a tight convention schedule like that, it can be difficult to find the moments to slow down and really get personal or talk about the bigger picture.
That’s not something we’re happy about. So this past spring, two of Sandbox’s partners – Corey Wade and myself – flew to Europe for a road trip across three countries to visit as many of our clients and industry friends (some former clients) as we could. No agendas or pitching or schedules – just stopping by (announced ahead of time!) to hang out and learn a bit more about their worlds firsthand.
The first stop was Berlin to attend Quo Vadis. If you’re not familiar, it’s one of my new favorite shows, a throwback to the original vibe GDC had about 15 years ago: a nice, casual mix of business meetings, informative talks and great parties. I’ve gone three times now, and it gets better and better every year. If it’s not on your list, definitely check it out: http://qvconf.com.
I had been asked to speak about the legacy of the King’s Quest franchise (which we work on) then and now. It was half history lesson, half modern inside baseball, reflecting on the first game I worked on at Sierra – King’s Quest V – and comparing and contrasting it to the experience of promoting The Odd Gentlemen’s recent, highly praised spin on the series. I prepared an hour’s worth of material, and the most talked-about slide was the one simply listing the system requirements of King’s Quest V – remember when we used to run games on 2 MB of RAM?
Later, we headed to Finland to chill with a bunch of studios, including Frogmind, Next Games, Housemarque and a few others. Finnish game developers are a big part of our business, and Helsinki’s gaming scene is incredibly tight-knit and social, so we try to stop by whenever we’re even vaguely in the neighborhood (this was our third company visit to Finland).
It was a valuable experience. That may not translate immediately on our ledgers – we took time away that could’ve been spent productively in the office. We ate well with friends and did some sightseeing in the places they call home. We enjoyed ourselves. But this wasn’t a business trip. It was a personal trip to spend time with the people we do business with, and their perspectives are ones you might miss if your travel is limited to the demands of press tours and conventions.