Member Spotlight: Stuart Dempsey, Founder & CEO of GamerFest and NEXUS Gaming Conference
Posted December 11, 2023
GamerFest was established in 2017 and is a consumer event that welcomes thousands of gamers to the RDS in Dublin twice a year in May and October as well as working with amazing partners including Xbox, PlayStation, SEGA, EA Games, Ubisoft, Trust Gaming and more. As well as this, NEXUS Games Conference is a much newer addition to the company which is a gathering of 150 industry leaders and professionals from the gaming ecosystem, facilitating invaluable knowledge-sharing and networking amongst developers, publishers, investors and service providers, that ran for the first time in October.
In this special edition of our member spotlight, we spoke to the CEO and founder of GamerFest, Stuart Dempsey, as he shared his insights, future plans and how you can get involved in upcoming GamerFests and Nexus Games Conferences!
To kick things off we asked Stuart about his motivation behind establishing GamerFest and the factors that drove him to extend his involvement in the gaming ecosystem through the creation of NEXUS Games Conference.
I was in a full-time marketing role at the time but I was also on the lookout for an opportunity to start my own business. I saw the growth of large-scale gaming events in other countries and felt there could be an opportunity to launch something similar here in Ireland. We’re proud to have developed an incredible and diverse audience including families, students, adults and everything in between.
As for NEXUS Games Conference… with the extensive connections we have made within the Irish gaming industry, it became clear that there was a lack of a B2B, industry-focused conference in this country. This prompted us to launch NEXUS which ran at Windmill Lane in Dublin where we welcomed 150 leaders from the Irish gaming industry. We’ve had incredible feedback for this first event and we’re looking forward to scaling the event significantly for 2024 and beyond. It’s a great opportunity to put the Irish games industry on the global map.
GamerFest is a massive showcase, so we asked Stuart to share some key highlights, milestones and the impact that Nexus Conference had on raising awareness of the gaming industry in Ireland…
We just had our biggest GamerFest event in October with over 6,000 visitors across the weekend. The event offered a range of gaming entertainment including the latest games, virtual reality tech, esports, multiple live stages and special guests. We’ve now developed commercial relationships with a number of global gaming brands including Xbox, SEGA, EA Games, PlayStation and Warner Bros. Furthermore we also work closely with our consumer brand partners including CUPRA, Eir, Britvic, Unilever and Specsavers as they leverage GamerFest to engage with the Irish gaming community.
NEXUS Games Conference, meanwhile, was an incredible inaugural event for us. We secured some of Ireland’s leading thought leaders to join us as speakers, while we also secured invaluable partnerships with Amazon, IDA Ireland and Pinsent Mason. The games industry is seeing more focus than ever from the government, particularly with the recent launch of the Digital Games Tax Credit, and we were delighted to welcome Minister Neale Richmond to speak at the event. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the games industry in Ireland, and we hope that GamerFest and NEXUS can play a small part in its continued growth.
As mentioned, it appears that community engagement and collaborations are huge for growth. How do you feel GamerFest has leveraged these types of supports?
Ever since starting GamerFest, we’ve really prioritised engaging with the games industry in Ireland and indeed the wider gaming community. In order to support aspiring game developers, for example, we offer complimentary space in our Indie Zone so that these developers can showcase projects they are working on and get feedback from our GamerFest audience. We also highlight the great employment opportunities within the gaming space, something our audience is really interested in. Traditionally there hasn’t really been a comprehensive source of information about career pathways, so we run a lot of career development content on our live stages, talking about how to plan for a career in the games industry. We get huge engagement during these sessions because young people love gaming and get really excited about a career in that space. We keep stressing that you don’t need to be a developer or a designer – you can be in marketing, HR, finance, administration etc and still find a great role in the industry.
The gaming community overall is very diverse, from content creators to esports players to cosplayers – we try and provide a welcoming platform at GamerFest for all groups to join us for a great weekend of gaming. In terms of NEXUS Games Conference, we continue to try and shine a light on the incredible game development talent in Ireland, while also facilitating networking and engagement in the industry. At our recent inaugural conference, we looked at a range of important areas including the Digital Games Tax Credit, FDI in Ireland, education and general opportunities facing the industry here.
The online social media presence was better than ever during the Gamerfest Weekend – it was great to see, how did you find this impacted awareness?
It’s nice of you to say that! If you can imagine the challenges we faced during the pandemic, as a company we practically crawled out of that period and had to get GamerFest up and running again on a shoestring budget. Thankfully as the events have come back stronger than ever we’ve been able to allocate more budget and resources to a range of areas, including socials and overall brand marketing. We’ve been able to lean on a great social team to develop a lot of really engaging content so it’s great to hear that’s coming across well!
As mentioned, you’ve had some big-name sponsors for this year’s events, is there still room for others to join in – how do they get involved?
We’ve been very fortunate to secure a lot of incredible partners and we’re very grateful for their support. Coming from a sponsorship background it’s an area that’s really important for the business and our events. I think we recognise that gaming is a new space for many brands, and often times there can be some caution about engaging with this audience. To overcome this we work closely with brands to identify the best way to approach a sponsorship with us in a genuine and meaningful way that resonates well with the gaming community. It’s an approach that works well for us and we’re always happy to chat with brands about GamerFest or indeed the gaming space in general.
So, what’s next for GamerFest and Nexus? How do you see the events unfolding in the next 10 years?
We see GamerFest continuing to grow and expect to welcome 10,000 visitors per event within the next 18 months. We’re also always looking at international opportunities for the event and are having some really interesting conversations about a variety of international markets. We’re continuing to explore investment and strategic partnership opportunities to allow us to achieve this.
Likewise, with NEXUS, we are expecting 1,000 visitors in the next 3 years with a big emphasis on attracting international stakeholders to Ireland to learn more about the developing gaming space here. Looking at the games industry in Ireland, if we can continue to see co-ordination amongst all stakeholders e.g. government, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland etc. then the sky is the limit.
With more and more multinational game developers considering investing in Ireland, allied to our education system and incredible indigenous talent already in place, there’s no reason we can’t see 20,000 roles created in Ireland in the next 10 years.
Before we go, would you like to give a special shoutout to anyone?
Our incredible team! In October we ran both NEXUS and GamerFest in the same week which was a massive undertaking. It took a huge amount of work and a lot of late nights, but despite the challenge everybody was just fantastic getting everything over the line successfully. So a sincere thank you to everyone who made it all possible.
Bonus Question: What’s your favourite thing about Galway and how has the sense of community helped you in your journey
Galway is a brilliant place to live. Everything is in close proximity and the energy and vibe is always incredibly positive. From a business point of view there is a lot happening in Galway right now, with more and more start-ups emerging which is great to see, supported by initiatives like Portershed, CREW and Platform94 amongst others. As a company based in the Portershed, I feel we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found this particular community. Like any business, we’ve faced some significant challenges, particularly during the pandemic, but having everyone at Portershed rooting for us during that period meant a huge amount and I’ve made a lot of great friends here. So I think Galway and Portershed has definitely helped create a really good work/life balance for me personally.
Tickets for GamerFest Summer are now available here
Here is an overview of GamerFest Winter 2023
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Connect with Stuart on Linkedi