Play NYC, a two-day video game expo that premiered in the city last year, is moving to the Manhattan Center for its second annual event that will run in August and refocus on packing the Hammerstein Ballroom with games to play, video game art installations, and a live-streaming set. Play NYC 2018 will run on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12, with tickets going on sale May 21.
“What we found last year was that the straight up expo floor was the highest in demand,” said organizer Dan Butchko. “There are a lot of panels and talk-style events already going on in New York. So what we are leaning really hard into is the expo floor. We might add some talk and panel content later, but the primary point will be building out the show floor, having streaming be the focal point.”
Last year’s event brought in about 5,000 people and the streams saw about 80,000 views, he said. This year, the goal is to get attendance up to 10,000. The Hammerstein Ballroom only holds about 2,500 at a time, but Butchko said that they will also have access to a couple of smaller venues inside the Manhattan Center and that they will be staggering ticket entry this year to get as many people as possible into the venue over the weekend. The show’s hours will also be longer.
NYC Play 2018 will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with a one hour press-only window from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday. While Play NYC will still sell full-day and weekend passes, the event will also sell tickets for just 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday or Sunday. Tickets start at $30 per time slot with a special four-pack of tickets for groups and families, discounting the total to more than 20% off. While public tickets go on sale on May 21 at 10 a.m., those who attended last year’s event will be able to purchase tickets starting on May 18 at 10 a.m. with a special presale code.
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While Play NYC is looking to pull in developers and publishers from outside of New York, the main focus remains highlighting the work of New York locals in the video game industry.
“A big part of why we’re doing Play NYC is to get New York on the map, not just for developers but also for fans,” Butchko said. “It’s a big struggle to get developers to pay attention to New York. That speaks to the lack of tax incentives for large studios to set up satellites here. I think the fans and the developers in New York deserve to have the attention of the large-scale developers and publishers outside the country beyond New York Comic-Con.”
The show will also be bringing back its graffiti games initiative, which brought in partners to commission games to be made for the expo itself. Last year, those games includes Star Catcher VR, which had people using real nets to try and catch floating lights. Once caught, the lights disappeared and reappeared on the wall to create a growing constellation. Other games had players trying to get virtual beavers to roll salmon eggs up a stream and a game that used a teddy bear as a controller.
“These were projects from local artists and developers that would not have been possible had it not been for Play NYC,” he said. “The point of the graffiti games is that Play NYC gives birth to them and then they take on a life of their own. They leave to be shown at other shows. I’d like to eventually see the entire venue transformed into a playable space.”
The hope is to have 16 at this year’s show.
“What I love about this initiative is that it puts the power in the hands of the developers and lets them express themselves in interesting ways,” he said.
Butchko said he is also looking into one day maybe hosting a game jam at the venue or adding an esports element. A big part of growing the show is tied to the three-year deal that Play NYC just signed with the Manhattan Center.
This year the show will be centered around the Hammerstein, but next year it will likely include the Grand and by 2020 it could take over the entire venue, he said.
“The venue is a very big part of what’s going to elevate this year from last year,” Butchko said. “Last year’s venue was great, I think it was really the perfect launching point, but the Manhattan Center is the new home of Play NYC. They are so passionate about growing the games community. They like the idea of being the home of New York’s only full-scale games convention.”