The Game Awards, which celebrate the best and brightest releases of the year in gaming, are back again.
Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 lead the pack of nominees, snagging eight nods each. They’ll compete with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario Bros. Wonder and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom for the night’s top honor, the coveted title of Game of the Year.
This year’s ceremony will be held on Dec. 7 at the Peacock Theater in L.A., and will also be streamed live worldwide across all major digital, social and gaming platforms.
Host/creator Geoff Keighley and executive producer Kimmie Kim sat down with Variety to share what fans can expect.
It’s hard to recall another year packed with this many massively successful and impressive games. What did you think of this year in gaming as you went into this year’s awards?
Geoff Keighley: It’s definitely a year filled with many big, incredible releases. This just happened to be a juggernaut of a year. When you look at the nominees for Game of the Year, they’re all pretty big established franchises: sequels, remakes, things like that. It’s all stuff that people sort of know, which is interesting. We’ve had so many legendary franchises all line up to release in the same year. Zelda, Mario, Alan Wake, Baldur’s Gate, Resident Evil, Spider-Man. They’re all these massive franchises.
How are you planning to match that insane year in gaming with the energy of this year’s awards?
Keighley: The orchestra’s back, so we’re excited about that. That’s always a big staple of the Game of the Year celebration. We’re still three weeks out, so a lot is developing. Last year’s show was great and reflected all the big games that were coming this year. I think this year, you’ll see we’ve got like a lot of new things to share with people from new studios, new voices, and new IP. It’s important for us not to just focus on the really big games. Beyond that, I think we’re doing some really interesting things production-wise in terms of how we’re presenting music and games in some really unique ways.
Geoff, you tweeted that The Game Awards saw a 73% increase in day one voting versus last year. Were you surprised by that?
Keighley: It’s our first indicator of excitement around the show, but also just the industry. When the games are good and people are excited about the state of the industry, it drives more viewership. Because it’s been such a great year for games, I think it just creates more excitement around the show in general. We like the debate and discussion, and that’s part of the reason we do things like this: to have people talk about their favorite games and why they like one game, or don’t like one game. I think it’s really a positive thing. Hopefully people keep it constructive and positive.
You’re already sold out for the live show at the Peacock Theater in L.A. on Dec. 7. Is that the fastest that’s ever happened?
Kimmie Kim: I do want to put a disclaimer: some people think it’s sold out the whole Peacock Theater. We only intentionally put orchestra and the loge. We don’t go to the mezzanine up top. So we sold out 4,000, by our choice. We’d like to keep it packed. When we saw that in less than 24 hours, the whole floor got sold out, it kind of felt like, ‘Alright, we don’t have to worry about filling the house.’ That’s a great feeling to have building up to the show.
Keighley: It’s definitely the earliest that we’ve sold out. We opened more seats than we ever have before for the show this year. I don’t think we ever sold out before Thanksgiving. It’s going to be an electric room.
Your team also prides itself on entertaining fans outside of the room through your global livestream. You recently revealed a new partnership with Twitch where fans can lock in their predictions – how did that come together?
Keighley: Any streamer on Twitch can put together a bracket, or predict what they think is going to win all the different categories. Everyone likes to debate and discuss what they think is gonna win or not. So if you’re on Twitch between now and the show, you’re able to go through all 31 categories and lock in your prediction of what you think is going to win. I think we try every year to find different ways for each platform to do something unique around the show, because we’re on so many platforms. Twitch is an amazing community every year. We have thousands of people co-stream the show.
Let’s talk about your Fortnite collaboration – players can drop into the TGA island and play some user-created maps before voting on them. Why was Fortnite the right fit for something like this?
Keighley: We’ve always stuck with Fortnite in The Game Awards. In 2019 I did the Live at Risky Reels event with J.J. Abrams for ‘Star Wars,’ which was really cool. Ever since then, I was like, ‘Oh, we’d love to do something in Fortnite again with the show.’ It happened to work out this year that we worked with Epic Games and put together that that map and that experience. What I love about it is that it’s a hub world that recognizes a lot of the user-generated content in Fortnite made by individuals around the world that are not part of big companies. It’s kind of an experiment!
Kim: it’s just a different way of engaging our fans and the industry. The way that Geoff reaches out to different outlets every year, the engagement experience goes up a more. I think that’s a way to keep things very fresh for us.
Keighley: Instead of buying a billboard for this show, we love doing things that engage the audience and bring value to the audience. The game industry and our partners are such good collaborators on this. When we started this show in 2014, everyone thought we were crazy doing a streaming-only show. Here we are a decade later, and all anyone wants to talk about is streaming. It’s been cool to see how things have evolved.
It makes sense – bring The Game Awards directly to the gamers.
Keighley: Not this year, but down the road, I think we’ll have more opportunities to watch and be part of the show from within these games and within these game worlds. The fortnight thing is a first of what the next generation will be. We’re very excited about the possibilities.
What’s your biggest hope to achieve for this year’s awards?
Kim: On the creative side of things, what I’m hoping for is that the unique, creative moments and performances we’re putting together resonate really well universally. Whether you’re a gamer, or it’s your first time watching TGAs or a longtime ten-year fan, they all feel like ‘Oh my god, that was so awesome.’ I just want a night for people to forget about all their issues or problems and enjoy themselves. Whether you’re at the theater, or you’re watching in Korea or Japan, that’s what I’m really hoping for.
Keighley: The comments I always see their most heartening to me are when people are like, ‘I can’t wait to get my friends together and watch this!’ It’s really become a tradition for a lot of people. We feel an obligation to do something really special for the community. We found that when we can do things that are very authentic to the game worlds, fans really respond to that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Katcy Stephan represents Variety as a member of The Game Awards jury.
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