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How Farming Simulator's FarmCon bridges the gap between video games and the real farming world

How Farming Simulator's FarmCon bridges the gap between video games and the real farming world

The third instalment of Farming Simulator’s fan convention FarmCon 18 takes place on June 14/15. With over 800 people, Giants Software expects it to be between three to four times as large as two years ago. Yet, when the company mentions FarmCon in interviews many seem to be surprised why people would go there and what’s in it for them. PR and marketing manager Martin Rabl tells us more

Almost three years ago, back in 2015, when I just joined Giants Software, our CEO Christian Ammann approached me with the idea of organizing our own convention for fans of Farming Simulator. To be completely honest, I knew the game was big and had a huge fan base but at first I wasn’t sure how it would add something our presences at E3 and Gamescom couldn’t provide a few weeks more into the job I understood. While it was obvious that mods are one success factor of the series it was witnessing the team’s efforts being taken to get in close contact with the modding community that opened my eyes. The big fairs are for showing the game but FarmCon is also about preparing people for the upcoming changes, help people create better mods but also gather feedback in person in a more quiet environment.

It’s grown since then and more program points have been added but this was a message people could understand and the tent we rented for the first FarmCon turned out to be a little too small for the 250 fans who turned up. Yes, for the convention’s premiere we’ve picked a former mill out on the countryside and to make it look super authentic the presentations were held in a traditional tent with beer benches. Thankfully the weather stayed nice most of the times but when it rained cats and dogs for a few minutes we were scared our equipment would get wet.

But what’s the actual content? Imagine it a bit like a developer conference but it’s our devs explaining in detail how the Giants Engine, scripts, textures or even sounds work and how to get the most out of your modding efforts and how to convert your existing Farming Simulator 15 mods for the upcoming FS17.
We also didn’t want to forget about the real farming industry and invited Dr. Bernhard Schmitz from AGCO, our major brand addition for Farming Simulator 17, to speak about “Precision Farming” on real farms.
Last but not least, the audience got a detailed look at FS17 ahead of Gamescom. Up until then we’ve only shown a few screenshots and gave a behind closed doors presentation at E3. People were very sceptical in the forums since information about upcoming features was rare or some simply didn’t believe them. So at FarmCon, 250 of our most hardcore fans could take a look at a live presentation for over an hour and ask tons of questions afterwards. The thing with Farming Simulator is that many features take quite some understanding of how farming works to really appreciate them. It’s a simulation game after all. I’d say that many of them would sound tiny and not important enough to “brag” with them in press releases or in lengthy trailers. But here, with the guys who play this game so much, things like tire deformations when attaching a weight to your tractor got loud applause. The mood in the forums changed noticeably shortly after FarmCon since now there were witness reports talking about what they’ve seen.

Presenting the new game however was only the icing on the cake. While it was awesome to see this happening we’ve never considered it to be some sort of sales pitch and also not about earning money with ticket sales. Ticket prices were low enough to pretty much guarantee people don’t have to worry about the costs but also meant that we would not make any direct profit with it. FarmCon is an investment to empower our community to create the best mods they can. And make them look forward to the features in the upcoming version, of course, but mainly be able to work with them from day one of the game’s launch.

This was also the main reason why we decided to organize it again the following year despite not releasing a new base game. FarmCon 17 was more about going deeper into the modding with the current version based on the feedback we got since launch but also a great opportunity to gather direct input for what’s important for Farming Simulator 19 the year after. Location wise we decided to try out a different approach and choose something where most of the technical equipment and rooms are already suited for presentations in front of hundreds of people. The auditorium of the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum had the perfect size for the 350-400 people coming to the second FarmCon but once our industry guest speaker Michael Horsch spontaneously invited everyone to hold the next FarmCon at their headquarters next year plus a free lunch we kind of already knew where we might be in 2018.

FarmCon 18

So now within only two years of its existence, FarmCon 18 will have HORSCH Maschinenbau GmbH, one of the leading manufacturer of agricultural tools, as partner. More importantly, the way Michael Horsch repeatedly told our players and modding community that they can shape the future of farming - not only in the game but also in real life - during his speech the year before told me that FarmCon is definitely about more than just the game. The farming industry takes notice and knows that there are talented people at FarmCon who know a lot about farming. The best way to predict the future is to create it. Whether you’re a modder who creates content for Farming Simulator or maybe even end up working for us or in the farming industry itself, your ideas can help creating that future.

In the present, though we are looking forward to FarmCon 18, lots of presentations, a Farming Simulator 19 demo and a packed special activities program with a Farming Simulator Championship eSports competition, actual tractor riding out on the field next to the hall and Horsch factory tours.

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