“The magic of it is the energy when [Eiji] Aonuma realizes he wins game of the year for ‘Breath of the Wild,’” Keighley tells The Washington Post. “That spontaneous energy really drives our show, so I really wanted to maintain that and do the show live.”
The missing live audience is only a sliver of the show’s reach historically. Keighley said last year’s awards show had 50 million viewers worldwide across dozens of online platforms including YouTube and Twitch. Really, the only big difference for the home viewer will be the missing live banter of industry personalities and talking heads.
Instead, 2020′s show will be on three stages across three continents. This gives developers and performers in Europe and Japan easier access to the show, whether virtually or in person at one of the stages.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, make the show more international in its focus,” Keighley said, adding that more than half of the show’s audience is outside the U.S. “This presented a unique opportunity to say, 'Hey if [developer Hideo] Kojima wants to join us now, he can go to Tokyo instead of coming to Los Angeles. That’s the big shift this year.”
Keighley’s spent the last few months observing similar live events of other big productions, like this week’s Emmy’s or last month’s political conventions. The Democratic National Convention featured an “audience” of virtual screens clapping, and it caused Keighley to think about how to recreate a similar feel for The Game Awards, especially since Twitch and YouTube users have been posting live reactions to game industry announcements for well over a decade now.
Keighley said it was decided early in the year that the show would go on in a digital format. This news should be little surprise to anyone who follows Keighley’s work — especially this past summer — as he became the unofficial impresario of video game announcements with Summer Game Fest. The Game Fest arose from the cancellation of various industry shows this summer, including E3.
This caused several publishers and developers to either find other avenues to promote their new titles, like through Keighley’s events schedule, or host their own, as big publishers such as Ubisoft and EA have done.
Keighley said he received a lot of feedback for the Summer Game Fest, and the one of the common refrains was how people wanted a condensed package of news and information across fewer days, rather than the four months of staggered announcements we saw.
Keighley dabbled in live streaming during the Summer Game Fest, going live on YouTube every few weeks to have conversations with fans and give updates to the haphazard timelines of upcoming titles.
The show will also feature one new award, dubbed Innovation in Assembly, which will recognize software or hardware developers who add features, technology and content to make their games more accessible. The show will also once again host a few days of playable game content, akin to last year’s The Game Festival on Steam, including demos and live stream drops of prizes.