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The List: Five Things to Look for at GDC 2017

Columns By Garrett Fuller on February 27, 2017

Five Things to Look for at GDC 2017

For those of you in the game industry, GDC or Game Developers Conference in San Francisco marks a yearly crusade for new developers, highlighted speeches, and business meetings. If you are breaking into the industry, it is a great place to make connections. If you are an accomplished developer, perhaps it is your chance to give back and advise some of the younger generation on design. One thing I have learned after almost eleven years at GDC, things don’t change much. Here are our top five things to look out for as the game developers conference takes place this week.


5. A Lot of News on How to Adopt VR

With the Bethesda and Oculus lawsuit overshadowing a lot of VR news. There will be moments of hope for you VR fans out there this week. GDC is one of the places Valve comes to show off their material and last year their VR set up was the most impressive. We will also see a lot of experimental VR games coming out for the show and giving us some new insight to the future. Overall, we are not sure that the world is ready for VR gaming just yet, there is still a lot of back and forth on when VR will truly hit big. However, if you are a child of the 70s like me, well, you remember that funny thing called a computer right? Give it time and the VR landscape will explode, just not sure when yet.

4. The Indies and the AAAs

The funny thing about GDC is it is a week before PAX East. PAX East has now won the indie game war by featuring so many in their indie area. If you go to PAX you know that this is by far one of the hot spots of the show. If you are an indie developer GDC is the best place for business meetings and to get noticed. There are a lot of AAA teams and venture capitalists at the show who will meet with you. In some ways, GDC tries to pitch itself as an indie show, but really it puts these two groups in the same conference center and sees what happens. While many AAA teams do not attend, they do send people to watch over things. It has always been an interesting dance between the two. I expect some big signings, but overall these two groups will go back and forth, and all of the great indie games will highlight at PAX.

3. New Technology

GDC does have a technology side to it. There are always some interesting things to be seen and even though everyone is going the V R route, you may be surprised at what you find coming out this week. Valve did test their controller there after all and took the feedback very seriously. You do get a lot of random pieces of tech around the show and sometimes amazing things come out. Keep an eye on haptic gloves and parts that may go well with VR. That is a grey area that has not been fully established yet.

2. Will Any New Games be Announced?

Sadly, GDC is not really the place to announce new games. I miss the meetings and announcements, but in recent years this has not been the hotbed for announcements. It seems like big game companies have set up their own launches and announcements on their own. Also, the show is right on the doorstep of the Switch launch next week. With Zelda hitting the shelves, not too many people are going to be looking for new games to play. My guess is, this week will be quiet.

1. The Engine War

This is the one area where GDC has been the most interesting. With Unity, EPIC, and now Amazon all fighting in the ring of game engines, this is the show to watch. What will these companies do to entice developers to use their products? Amazon is the one to really gain ground here and open some amazing source code for developers. As the company grows you’ll be able to order your groceries and play their games on the Lumberyard engine without even missing a beat. Definitely, watch Amazon this week to see what they show off.