Here's my report on this year's GDC:
The conference was at the San Francisco Moscone Center this year, and reportedly had about 5000 people (about 20% larger than what it was last year at the San Jose convention center). The main difference in demographic is that the conference is really getting an "international" flavor, with many attendees (and even some speakers) coming in from other countries. For example, it was not uncommon to see talks that were being given by Japanese speakers (such as execs from Nintendo and Capcom). The speakers would give their talks in Japanese, and we could all wear headsets to hear a real-time English translation. It felt very United Nations!
Online games continue to be a big subject of buzz at the GDC, but the focus has been shifting more towards web/downloadable and wireless games these days. At the various "Online Game Developers" gathers, there were usually three times as many web/downloadable people as MMO developers. Mobile/Wireless games are also definitely being talked about, though there's a debate as to whether or not they really qualify as "online" games or whether they're a separate category. Folks also generally agree that Mobile games, while simple to develop on a single platform, are enormously difficult to make compatible with the wide variety of hardware types out there. Plus, marketing these games is still extremely tough, since a typical user will only download a game from their provider, and the provider's marketing is usually limited to a single page with a list of game titles in text, with nothing else to really base a decision on. Top games in this space seem to be those that have a cool branded title (such as Spongebob or a sports franchise), and really nothing to do with whether or not the game is any good.
In another section of the conference, there were a few dozen independent games showcased, and I was impressed with the attention that these titles are getting in the marketplace. Though the conventional wisdom is saying that a game needs to have huge production values in order to be viable, the web/downloadable space is proving that there's still very much a market for the games by smaller development teams. Some of the games showcased were written in Flash by teams of 1 or 2 people, but since they were very fun and easy to download, were getting literally hundreds of thousands of downloads. For example, the Metanet "N" game, written entirely in Flash by a team of 2 people, has reportedly gotten 500,000 downloads. The top downloaded title in the world right now, from what I was hearing at GDC, is one called "Diner Dash". Though some of these games are freeware, many are making money. The most common model on these games is to allow 60 minutes of free gameplay, and then require the user to buy the game for $19.99 if they wanted to continue playing (personally I think that's too little time and too high a price point, but it seems to be pretty industry sta... [ Read More (0.6k in body) ]