For four years Gariath Concepts has delivered quality gaming experiences to the Filipino gaming community through the eSports and Gaming Summit (ESGS).
After the last ESGS, fans are starting to dub the event as the "E3 of the Philippines." And while it is a bit of a stretch in terms of numbers, it's not entirely wrong. ESGS remains to be the only huge gaming event in the country that brings together so many facets of the gaming industry: eSports events, hardware showcases, virtual reality demos, indie and AAA title presentations, and more.
I myself wrote a blog post during the first iteration of ESGS about its potential to become the "E3 of the Philippines," and it's good to see that I'm not the only one who believes in that notion.
But it's not just ESGS that's growing, it's also the organization behind it - Gariath Concepts. Those who follow key members of Gariath Concepts social media accounts will notice that a lot is happening in and around the company.
This year they've moved into a massive office that doubles as an events place and studio. They've also grown to thirty employees - which is both baffling and astounding if you consider the scale and elaborateness of the events they hold. The last ESGS seems enough to already overwhelm a group of thirty. Imagine having to deal with more events during the year?
But why even discuss the organizer? You may ask.
Ultimately, it's helped cultivate the Filipino gaming scene. So it's interesting to understand how a well-oiled machine works during a period of expected growth.
ESGS has been the platform that brought local gamers closer to their favorite brands abroad. This is where Ubisoft first scouted their talents for their arrival in the Philippines. This is where Sony, Bandai Namco, and Capcom first shared their big titles with the Filipino fans. This is where Koji Igarashi learned about the Filipino's passion for his games, a fact he was unaware of during his time with Konami.
ESGS also became a platform for indie developers to connect with the local base. Secret 6 has been a consistent developer from the early ESGS shows to the latest. Their FPS game, Xandata, has held the attention of many local gamers and all are anticipating its release. Then there's also Synergy 88, a company that works with other international developers for assets and more. They've gone beyond video game development and have released their own anime in collaboration with Japanese animation studios. Their anime, Barangay 143, is also accompanied by its own a mobile game.
With all that being said, on the evening of Halloween, just a few days after ESGS, I headed to their office at Eastwood to speak with Chad Ramos, Head of Communications, to get to know more about the company. Along the way we spoke about the state of gaming events in the Philippines, the history of ESGS, and of course, their plans for the future.
The first thing you need to know about ESGS and Gariath Concepts is that it all started with a small core group, led by a man named Joebert Yu. ESGS was an event they were working on with their former company. When it shut down, Joebert rallied his colleagues to continue on and invest in the idea of ESGS.
Yes, the money to fund the first ESGS came from their own pockets.
"It was supposed to be our swan song," Chad emphasized.
But from the initial reaction to the event, the small team would be proven wrong. ESGS garnered the support of fans, sponsors, partners, and other stakeholders on its first year. They expected 5,000 attendees.
The actual count? 7,000+.
What's also impressive about their "swan song" or what I would now like to call it as their "catalyst" is that Gariath Concepts wasn't even formally formed back then. Though their Facebook page was built in 2014, Gariath Concepts only fully came to be in 2016. So strictly speaking, it was a rag tag group of passionate gamers and event organizers bringing it all together. Imagine the teamwork and coordination one had to pull off in order to build such an event?
Speaking of teamwork, it would be remiss to not talk about the team behind Gariath Concepts.
One would think that the team by now would have expanded by quite a bit already with the number of events and projects that these guys have to juggle. But as I mentioned earlier, Gariath Concepts is run only by a crew of thirty.
But speaking to Chad, I realized it all boils down to two things: quality and collaboration.
During our conversation about the growth of Gariath Concepts, I learned from Chad that, for the most part, the members of the team were scouted and handpicked. They made sure that their needs were perfectly matched by the people they invited to join.
And for the moment, the move makes sense. By hiring people who they already are connected with, they're assured that 1) these guys know what needs to be done with minimal training or looking after; and 2) these guys are easier to communicate with. And as with all things in terms of teamwork and games, you can't win if you don't have good synergy.
But it's not just synergy within the team of Gariath Concepts that's made them also one of the most prolific event companies. It's also synergy outside the team.
There's a strong sense of collaboration between and among different companies in the country. Gariath Concepts has worked with Tier One Entertainment, which is engaged in eSports and entertainment. There's also Mineski, a multi-faceted company that's involved in eSports, entertainment, and events management as well.
Together they brought us "Sanduguan," the official Philippine coverage for DOTA 2's The International 2018 (TI8). It was professional, entertaining, and was an objectively better coverage than a lot of what we've experienced before. The talent, humor, passion, insight and quality was present during the entire occasion.
As we continued the discussion, Chad touched upon two things that we could credit for the success and growth of both Gariath and ESGS.
First is being critical of their work. Chad is also the proprietor of Reimaru Files, and one of their recent pieces dealt with what we call "Convention Fatigue." Convention Fatigue happens when attendees no longer feel or see the value of attending regular events. Reimaru Files' study found that repetitive content is often what caused this.
Taking cues from this, and from past experiences, Gariath Concepts strives to bring something new to the table at every event.
Then there's also being ready to assist the media during their events.
A little insight about covering conventions abroad - it's never easy, especially if you want to capture the news and get the scoop while connecting with developers for even more significant stories. You need to be working with a fast and efficient team and you have to be well connected to make things work because otherwise, you'll have a difficult time having the organizers help you out.
Gariath Concepts takes a different approach.
They will do their best to connect you with the developers you want in order to build your story. Case in point, they booked a smaller function hall above the main halls of the convention this year to make sure the media had a quiet place to write, conduct interviews, and discuss with developers and other members of the industry.
That's not to say that the media should be entitled to such things. At the end of the day, if you want to get that story then take your cue from Britney Spears because "you better work bitch."
But for Gariath's case, working with the media and making sure they're comfortable means that the media can keep pumping out stories about the event, and that critical feedback to improve the event is easily given and received with less animosity.
An exciting year is ahead of these guys for 2019. With the continued growth of Gariath Concepts, we can expect more projects from the team. They have an office, they've got a studio, they've got a venue, and even better, consistent partners. That means a lot of possibilities for the future of Gariath Concepts.
One such possibility, which Chad has confirmed, is that they're beefing up their video and streaming production. Chad has revealed that they have a pool of talent that they're working with for their shows. I'm guessing these will be familiar faces to us all - faces that have a fruitful connection with their audience.
Chad has also confirmed that followers of the scene can expect a more exciting ESGS in 2019. It is, after all, its fifth anniversary, and you can bet that they will be giving extra effort for its success.
Personally, I'm excited to see the digital content that Gariath Concepts will be coming up with in the future. Filipino streamers and local video game personalities are on the rise as more and more Filipino gamers gain access to faster and more stable internet connections to follow streams and interact with their favorites.
It will be interesting to see how exactly Gariath Concepts will collaborate with these personalities while building their own style of content.
At the end of the lengthy conversation, one thing became clear to me. Much like how I saw the Filipino gaming scene in general, Gariath Concepts is bolstered and fueled by three things. In more ways than one, their growth mirrors how the gaming scene should continue to grow: by displaying unwavering passion, by being open to healthy criticism, and by cultivating a culture of collaboration.