Level Up KL 2020’s goal is to bring the event energy into a virtual space, breaking some rules

  • By going virtual, Level Up KL doesn’t have to follow rules of its predecessors
  • Event’s goal is to be accessible; features a dedicated app, a gamified Play Day

Level Up KL 2020’s goal is to bring the event energy into a virtual space, breaking some rules


“Level Up KL has always been continuously growing, evolving and changing, and it’s no different for us this year. We continue to bite more than we can chew,” quips Mohan Low, the Head of Interactive Media at the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

It’s definitely a huge bite. Level Up KL, the annual Southeast Asian games festival organised by MDEC, is going virtual this year – owing, of course, to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But where the previous iterations were week-long affairs full of hype and pizazz, Level Up KL 2020 is doubling (or is it quadrupling?) down by stretching into a month-long extravaganza.

Running 11 Oct to 22 Nov, Level Up KL 2020 will be stuffed full with virtual conferences, a game jam, networking, e-sports tournaments and game showcases. Low acknowledges how daunting it all seems, but says that they have packaged it in a way that is accessible for everyone, allowing users to navigate the entire event both on the Level Up website and via the dedicated app available on iOS and Android.

Taking the games festival into the virtual realm hasn’t been easy, though thankfully it’s not an alien undertaking for MDEC, which held two online Level Up KL satellite events earlier this year. According to Low, the schedule changed several times as they tried to avoid clashing with other prominent game events such as Gamescom and the Tokyo Games Show (which have also gone virtual this year).

Going virtual, however, means that they can now expand beyond what Level Up KL used to be. Hence, the month-long endeavour. “We realised we don’t have to follow the rules of running [Level Up KL] as a traditional event anymore,” Low says during the press conference ahead of the event.

“We could stagger this out, and give a lot more exposure than what we could’ve gotten if we’re to compress it all in one week.”

There may not be any cool photo ops in the 2020 edition of Level Up KL, but by going virtual, it is going bigger and better and going global as well.

What to expect

Level Up KL 2020 will be kicking off with the SEA Game Jam, a digital games hackathon featuring 100 game developers from around Southeast Asia (and beyond) as they compete in creating games within a 48-hour time frame.

In showing off the cross-country collaborative aspect of Level Up KL, SEA Game Jam has partnered with Game Jam+ where all of the game jam entries will also be competing in the first phase of Game Jam+.

The SEA Game Jam isn’t the only avenue for game devs across the region to showcase their prowess. 19 Oct to 15 Nov will be the SEA Games Showcase, a platform to highlight game developers from the region as well as drive awareness of their games. Throughout this period, there will be Level Up-exclusive promotions, demos and game sales of the top games in the region.

All of this caps off with the SEA Games Awards, to be held in 20 November. Held during every Level Up KL, the SEA Games Awards is meant to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the region’s best games. This year, it will be broadcast across multiple livestreams as well as major networks in Southeast Asia.

There is, of course, the business portion of Level Up KL. 12 to 15 October will be the Business Connection part of the event, which will feature business networking sessions where participants get to meet developers, publishers and investors. Studios that are hiring will also be here, so it’s an opportunity to build and find talent.

No Level Up KL is complete without the games industry conference. Held on 14 and 15 October, will feature top industry experts on topics of game development, technology and commercialisation. There will be speakers from prominent game studios, too, such as Nintendo, Valve and Ubisoft.

Lastly, Level Up KL 2020 will feature Play Day, which Low describes as the consumer portion of the event. In order to transfer the energy and excitement of a consumer event into a digital space, the event will feature a gamified game expo, where visitors can collect points to win real-life rewards


Making it accessible

There are more. Level Up KL 2020 will also feature workshops, e-sports tournaments, livestreams and knowledge-sharing.

Low acknowledges that it will be a different experience than previous Level Up KLs. “It’s not going to give everyone the feeling of being in a hall,” he says. The goal for this year, therefore, is to make the event accessible. The Level Up KL 2020 app, for instance, is made to run on the simplest Android phones, and will also be in Bahasa Malaysia to reach a broader consumer base.

If anything, it’s important for Level Up KL to keep up its momentum. In 2019, the event attracted 1,791 participants. For the public portion of the event, held for the first time last year, it saw over 17,000 attendees, with 48.8% in the ages of 18 to 24.

The business portion of Level Up KL 2019 had 787 business participants from over 39 countries, leading to 291 meetings conducted. Earlier, MDEC CEO Surina Shukri says that this edition of Level Up KL is expected to reach 5,000,000 via social media, and record 50,000 registered visitors.

Could an entirely-virtual event be the future of Level Up KL? Low says it’s unlikely. “We definitely want to do a hybrid event. That said, with all the knowledge, tools and experience we have built from this year we definitely see the digital space complementing our physical events going forward,” he explains.

After all, a physical event does have the advantage with the energy, excitement and camaraderie expected of a hall with like-minded people, not to mention the valuable communication amongst each participants (as a Level Up KL 2019 visitor, this writer will sincerely miss attending the physical event).

But a hybrid event, Low says, will allow them to also extend the event to people across the region, who can now experience the event on their smartphones and computers.

That is, ultimately, an important thing – as Low explains, the spirit of Level Up KL has always been about collaborating and connecting the games industry in Southeast Asia. “We also want to take that to the rest of the world.”


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