quebec games celebration steam sale demonights

The Quebec Games Celebration Steam sale and DemoNights showcase homegrown titles

We spoke with the founders of these important annual game events, which are both happening this week.

Looking for a new game to play? Need to beef up your Steam wishlist? Two events happening in early February will make this easier. Until Feb. 5, the annual Quebec Games Celebration Steam sale is the ideal way to discover new titles that were developed in Quebec. 

From AAA to solo devs, this year’s sale features nearly 250 games and culminates in the DemoNights livestream event. DemoNights runs Feb. 1 to 3 and showcases 15 recently released or soon-to-be-released indie games presented directly by their developers on the Loto-Québec Twitch channel.

These events are a boon for visibility: DemoNights boasts over 200k unique viewers, with the Quebec Games Celebration sale page garnering over 1 million impressions. Some studios see thousands of wishlists and a huge peak in sales as a result.

I spoke with two key founders of these initiatives: Jason Della Rocca, co-founder of Execution Labs and GamePlay Space (RIP) and a pillar of the Montreal game dev community as a game business consultant, investor, funding advisor and ecosystem strategist; and Chris Chancey, CEO of ManaVoid Entertainment, co-founder of Indie Asylum and Chairman of the Board of Directors at la Guilde.

Let there be DemoNight

Jason Della Rocca

“We ran the first DemoNight in 2006, as part of the International Game Developer Association of Montreal,” explains Della Rocca. Way back then, the community was only beginning to find its footing. Della Rocca continues: “We didn’t run another one until 2012 (that is the one that premiered Fez). It’s been run yearly since then.”

The event was also more of a gala party: “Originally, it was a single-night event. It was a big celebration for local developers to show off their games in front of other developers. There was no Twitch stream or PR or Steam sale. It was just developers cheering on other developers.”

“Then COVID hit and we couldn’t do a big party night with 500+ game developers, so we transitioned to an online broadcast model. That inherently shifted the focus to a more gamer-, consumer-facing format.” After both IGDA-Montreal and GamePlay Space closed down, Loto-Québec came on as a production partner. “Loto has been an unbelievably supportive and critical partner ever since!”

Then came the Steam sale

The Steam sale, co-founded by both Della Rocca and Chancey in 2021, rode on the wave of the new, online-only edition of DemoNight. The sale grew into a complementary event, allowing more visibility to Quebec studios. Incubator and studio co-op Indie Asylum stepped in two years ago and took over the sale. “It’s quite a bit of work, but we’re proud to be able to give back to the ecosystem,” says Chancey. “Particularly for local indie studios.”

The Quebec Games Celebration Steam sale and DemoNights showcase homegrown titles

“There’s so much competition out there today,” Chancey offers. “With over 13,000 games releasing each year on Steam, getting eyes on a project has never been harder. Having a front page regional sale of this magnitude — with AAA’s and indies coming together — gives everyone a chance to shine through the noise.” 

A great equalizer

Sunrise’s Order

“Quebec is one of the top five largest video game development hubs in the world and currently home to more than 290 studios across the province,” explains Chancey. “The Quebec Games Celebration represents a thriving industry and gives players a look at what the local community has to offer. Many of Quebec’s independent and AAA developers take part in this annual event.”

“In Quebec, the bigger studios also understand they have a corporate responsibility to help the Quebec ecosystem, which has given them the opportunity to grow over the past 25 years. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.” Another key sponsor of both events is la Guilde du jeu vidéo du Québec, a non-profit industry association representing studios of all sizes.

Chancey is also grateful for the support received from game sales platform Steam. “They’re great ambassadors for games and definitely have the community’s best interest at heart. They’re giving us a prime spot on the front page in order to give us more visibility, (which showcases) their commitment to Quebec studios and their respect for the talent we’ve developed in the province.”

“It’s a true honour to be able to shine a light on all the amazing Québécois talent and games,” says Della Rocca. ■

The Quebec Games Celebration Steam sale runs through Feb. 5 and DemoNights runs daily on Feb. 1, 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. the Loto-Québec Twitch page.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 2024 issue of Cult MTL.

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