Year after year, TwitchCon remains our favorite event. 2018 was no different. Here's our recap of how it all went down, and TONS of photos to prove we were actually there.



Last  year’s trip to San Jose marks the third year straight we’ve attended TwitchCon.  And it never fails that we take away something new and interesting with every trip west.  To say the event has grown would be a tremendous understatement. San Diego felt big at 40,000 attendees - until we went to Long Beach and it was closer to 50,000.  This year felt bigger but we’ve not seen an official statement on attendance from Twitch.

And whether you’re primarily a streamer, a viewer, or member of the industry, there’s something for everyone at TwitchCon.  This year was no different.

So let’s get down to business.  Here’s our big honking recap of our weekend in San Jose - at TwitchCon 2018!

Games - new and old

If you set out to TwitchCon to sample AAA games, or to cop pre-release keys to the latest indie titles, you'll do well. Measuring excitement around new games is also a great way to plot out what to stream in the future to keep your audience engaged. After all, audience engagement is one of the most critical factors in developing a successful channel.

Twitch has done great work seeding the expo floor with interesting vendors. There’s been a solid mix of established games and franchises alongside up-and-coming studios and titles. TwitchCon 2016 gets a pass since it was Twitch's first attempt, and sponsors were cautious about throwing money at something new.  It’s a very different show floor now than it was three years ago.

Groups of people standing outside of the Fortnite Hall at TwitchCon 2018 with a large blue Fortnite banner over the entrance.
One of the few short lines in front of the Fortnite Hall. It got MUCH worse.

This year the heavy-hitters came in force.  So much so that both Fortnite and PUBG had their own buildings - split off from the main hall. Black Desert Online developer Pearl Abyss spared no expense, with a massive display complete with cosplayers and gaming stations.

Wizards of the Coast took an unconventional approach that I’d love to see from more vendors.  Their space evolved throughout the event, focusing less on audience gameplay and more on streaming sessions that invited audience participation.  A big chunk of the first day was Dungeons & Dragons, shifting over the weekend to the new Magic: the Gathering Arena title.  Everyone I spoke with was super amped about this one.  

The early access / pre-Alpha titles that grabbed our attention were Splitgate from 1047 Games and Breach by QC Games.  Splitgate is an arena shooter that combines FPS mechanics with player-generated portals.  You’re best off checking out their demo video to get a real sense for what they’re aiming for.

Two rows of TwitchCon attendees playing Splitgate on a LAN while a 1047 Games staff member watches over the group.
The demo stations at the Splitgate stand were packed from start to finish.

Breach is a “co-op action RPG” title where players compete against a player-controlled boss called the Veil Demon.  Think of it as a modern take on Dungeon Keeper where one player attempts to defeat a squad of opposing players.

There were many, many more games featured on the expo floor.  The lines to play them were very long - something we hope Twitch can remedy at future events.

A Breach dev team member assists a player with a game demo at the Breach stand at TwitchCon 2018.
Breach has great potential. The game is a real labor of love for the devs.

StreamKick recommends:  Don’t plan to come to TwitchCon solely to try new games.  There are loads of bigger events that are game-focused that would be a better use of your time and money. Consider this a delightful add-on to your event, not the centerpiece to your TwitchCon dinner.

Networking

Even if networking is your jam, there are pros and cons to consider.  

The numbers game is in your favor.  There were tens of thousands of people at the event, from all walks of the industry.  Unlike other large conventions I’ve attended, you can approach and talk to anyone and get a warm response nearly every time.  If you read anything about #linecon on the first day (Friday), you know there was lots of down time surrounded by like-minded people.  I was fortunate to get through the lines quickly, but I had great conversations in line.  

Group of about a dozen people waiting to meet a streamer while one person takes a selfie with him.
A common scene throughout the weekend - people meeting their favorite streamers for a quick hello and a pic.

Due to the volume of attendees, you’ll encounter purple-clad event-goers throughout the surrounding area. Bars, restaurants, coffee shops - everywhere around the convention district you’ll spot fellow Twitch enthusiasts. Catching some football at a hotel bar, I had great conversations with attendees doing the same.  We had a blast, and it made watching the game even more enjoyable.

Group of people sitting and standing, watching two people sitting on a couch playing a fighting game.
Waiting in line for a shot at a game was one of the best opportunities to meet new people.

Both TwitchCon 2018 and 2017 had food trucks on site for people looking to stay put. The trucks formed a semicircle, around a courtyard packed with tables that could accommodate about 8 - 10 people.  You could grab a seat and strike up a conversation with anyone.

Your only limitation was how outgoing you chose to be.

As for the cons, if you’re a streamer attending TwitchCon to increase your viewership, you may be disappointed. Attendance skews towards streamers, so you’ll mainly be talking to people that are facing similar challenges.  They spend their free hours streaming, not watching other channels. Or at least that’s what you should assume. The networking game at TwitchCon is one more step down a long road. Find like-minded people, get to know them and vice versa, and see where that leads.

StreamKick recommends:  Do some pre-planning and single out the people and companies you want to meet.  Sending an email or two in advance as an introduction is a good idea. Scheduling meetings isn’t unusual but it can be tricky to pull off.  Aim high, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t come together.

Esports

Hands down, one of my favorite aspects of TwitchCon is the esports.  Simply put, the only certainty is that you’ll see top tier talent going HAM and putting on a good show.  These are streamers after all. Some are great at the game, some are...decent. But each has their own unique take on putting on an entertaining show.

Last year’s H1Z1 Arena was the top draw - and for good reason.  It was over the top in every way. Fast forward to 2018 and Fornite and PUBG are the new kings of the hill.  As previously noted, both were in separate buildings complete with their own lines. I wasn’t about that kind of life so I dedicated my allotted esports viewing hours to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (Blackout) and League of Legends.

It’s worth noting, this is the first time League has taken the big stage at TwitchCon. While Riot Games has done a great job dominating global esports with the LCS, they’ve shied away from any serious production at TwitchCon.  And while the CoD matches were excellent, LoL stole the show.

By now you’ve probably seen the memes from this event.  With both tyler1 and imaqtpie present there’s sure to be shenanigans.  What made the LoL competition so much fun was that it invited audience interaction.  Viewers and attendees could vote to influence different IRL challenges. These challenges would pop up throughout their matches.  In one instance, the team captains had to play with one arm. In another, they had to solve a math problem before they could return to their seats.  Not so tough until you have to do it on a stage, during a tournament!

Definitely not your standard LoL esports event, and that’s what made it so much fun.  It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t need to be. The interaction between the contestants and the more well known streamers brought it all together.  10/10 and hoping Twitch keeps this one alive for future TwitchCons.

Those are the two events I was able to fit in but there were others happening all around the expo hall. Some of the larger exhibitors we mentioned above were hosting their own tournaments throughout the weekend.  They weren’t hard to spot.

StreamKick recommends:  With esports popularity exploding, and with Twitch pushing its new Twitch Rivals program, expect to see more of this at future TwitchCons. These events are a great reason to attend, as you can easily fill an entire weekend with competitions across a variety of games.  Pair that with everything else going on, and you won’t have any downtime.

Artist Alley

In 2016, “Creative Corner” was first introduced to TwitchCon.  It was tucked away in a back corner, outside the meet-and-greet queue.  Traffic back there was light, there weren’t a ton of booths, but it steadily picked up over the weekend. I remember watching creative streams a few months before TwitchCon and streamers were questioning whether it would be worth the time and dollars to exhibit.  No one knew.

Creative Corner has since upgraded to “Artist Alley”, still tucked away outside the meet-and-greets.  However, the similarities stop there. This TwitchCon the Artist Alley was packed, from start to finish.

I did a drive-by Friday afternoon and noped right out.  Saturday I spent half the day meeting about 25% of the exhibitors there.  On Sunday I went first thing in the morning and managed to meet all but about 4-5 exhibitors.  It ended up being the most rewarding and fun experience I had the entire weekend.

The level of talent on display was incredible.  Nothing against the 2016 attendees - they paved the way for this to happen.  And some were the same! But this year it was next level in all regards. People have definitely caught on which is great to see.  Many of the artists we spoke with had sold out by Sunday and were taking orders for when they returned home. When asked if it was worth, it was a resounding “yes”.

Creative streamer smiles as she works on an ink sketch at her stand at TwitchCon 2018 as an attendee leafs through one of her sketchbooks to see her work.
The creators in Artist Alley weren't just selling - they were hustling hard, creating new pieces on the spot.

I met aspiring comic book artists, a painter who’s done Star Wars commissions for George Lucas, a taxidermist (yep), keycap makers, and musicians making royalty-free songs for streamers.  In fact, I’m going to do a separate write-up in a few weeks solely on Artist Alley and some of the people I met. So if you have any personal highlights or stories send them my way!

StreamKick recommends:  You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t dedicate real time to everything Artist Alley has to offer.  I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they increased the allotted space in 2019 - it was that busy. Try to arrive early if you want more time to talk with the artists.  That was by far the most rewarding part for me. Hearing their stories, their challenges and their successes, and what inspires them to create. You’ll be hard pressed not to pick up something to bring home, and you’ll be happy you did. 😉

Exhibit Hall

Of all the elements of TwitchCon, the exhibit hall is the only one I’m torn over.  On one hand, it’s great to see how it’s grown and how many things there are now to do.  But, on the other hand, despite everything they’ve added, it’s still really hard to enjoy most of it.

Twitch has taken steps to more evenly spread the crowd, such as organizing similar exhibitors into their own sections of the hall. Areas are dedicated to charity efforts, streaming tools, Twitch tools and services, etc.  These help, to an extent, but the real issue is how much time it takes to do the more involved activities like trying games and products. The other issue is that there just isn’t enough room allocated to the exhibits.

A large crowd of people are assembled in the TwitchCon Charity Plaza with a long row of charity exhibitors positioned to the right.
The Charity Plaza remained packed the entire weekend, with both brand new and return exhibitors from TwitchCons past.

All that aside, the exhibit area has a ton to offer but it requires some careful planning and scheduling. I didn’t get to try very many games this year, but I spent time with developers asking questions and learning about their journey. The biggest difference I’ve noticed since 2016 is how much they’ve embraced streaming as a means to promote their games and engage with their communities.  It’s far from perfect, but it’s more widespread and encouraged than it was a few years back.

My favorite activity on the expo floor, besides people watching, is learning about everything new and seeing how veteran vendors have grown. Aside from the games mentioned above, I really enjoyed my conversation with the team at CrowdQuest. Since 2017, they’ve been working on a viewer-engagement platform that gives streamers a creative new way to monetize their content. Viewers can propose quests for the streamer to undertake during the course of a broadcast. Everything he or she completes will provide some monetary reward, all while fostering more interaction with chat - a key component to success on any streaming platform.

All around the entrances to the expo hall were fun distractions that were a great touch.  Twitch set up a museum of emotes which, for being out of the way, was thoughtfully assembled.

There was an arcade near one of the side entrances that was surprisingly stocked with quality coin-op machines - all free of course.

Four people playing and leaning over pinball machines in the arcade section at TwitchCon.
Just outside the expo hall, the arcade was lined with pinball machines, coin-ops, and ample seating / phone charging areas.

Twitch also added a chalk wall for people to tag themselves, self-promote, or share whatever was on their mind.  It made for a great meeting point and conversation starter too. /hacks

All in all, it was evident Twitch was trying to spread out the crowd but they fell short this time. Despite everything happening around the convention center, it wasn’t enough to draw people away from the content heavy expo hall. That’s a great measure of the quality of the exhibitors, vendors, and artists making up TwitchCon, but it’s something Twitch should focus heavily on for 2019.

StreamKick recommends:  Plan, plan, plan. This event shows no signs of shrinking, and there’s a real chance you can miss out on some top tier content if you don’t plan ahead.  If you’re attending just for fun, keep things loose but schedule out the must-dos. If you’re prepping for business or networking, you may want to dial things in more tightly.

Wrapping Up

First and foremost, TwitchCon 2018 was heaps of fun. Frustrations and poor logistics aside, it was still three days packed with games, art, cutting edge technology, friends old and new, memes, and great food.  For those of us that have done this before, it’s incredible to see the event evolve year-to-year. There’s a kinship you feel when you meet someone for the first time and learn you’ve both been at this for years and never met.

There’s also that feeling you get when you meet someone at their first TwitchCon, and they’re blown away by the scope of it all.  You can’t help but reminisce to when you stepped into the expo hall and didn’t know where to start either.

A group of about a dozen people laying or sitting on black and purple bean bags on purple carpet, with a backdrop of white balloons and a massive screen featuring a live Twitch streamer.
The days were long and the nights were longer. Taking a load off was almost irresistible with set-ups like these.

It’s safe to say TwitchCon has done good work for Twitch both as a platform and as a community. Between TC ‘18 and when I finally wrote this article, Twitch announced TwitchCon Europe.  Slated for April 2019, folks farther east now have an opportunity to take it all in - and that’s awesome.

Our final recommendation is that if you can swing it, logistically and financially, TwitchCon is fantastic.  “Worth” is a relative term, but hopefully this helps nudge you in the direction right for you. The 2019 announcement should be just around the corner so we’ll be planning our trip out west again soon.  Hope to see you there - and don’t hesitate to connect beforehand!

The TwitchCon 2018 logo in white printed on a dark purple background with thin, soft, purple light rods positioned around the logo in an outward pattern.
Farewell San Jose!

Quick note on image credits…

Aside from the occasional logo, we pride ourselves on using only original content in our articles.  Every image you see in this piece is no different. This year we commissioned some friends of ours, ElysiaGriffin and TheHungerService, to augment my meager photography skills.  Not only are they extraordinarily talented streamers, one’s a chef, one’s an artist, and they’re both quite handy with a camera.  So if any of the above images really stand out, chances are one of them is responsible. I’m leagues from their level. Check out their content and if you’re in central Florida in need of a photographer (or two), consider hiring them.


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