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Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Saturday, 30 March 2013

GDC Isn't All Fun 'n Games, It's The Business of Games

For an industry that’s built around fun and games, GDC (Game Developers Conference) is anything but.

As GDC begins, all the troops are on the ground ready to one-up the others--not to win over consumer players, but the guys/gals who will design, develop, create the stuff we play and watch.

After all, it’s not just video games like our old Atari days it’s console games, computer games and mobile games (tablet and smartphone). Even after a week of working so hard on their GPU (graphic processor unit) Technology Conference, you expect to see Nvidia at GDC.

Their chips have given game designers so much power and performance that it’s hard to tell if that’s a real person on the screen or someone the developer created in his/her mind.

 

Reality – At the GPU Technology Conference, Nvidia® demoed Face Works, a 3D talking head named Ira, that was created with the Institute for Creative Technology at USC.

 

Of course, as Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s CEO, is no longer satisfied with the PC gaming market.

Now he brashly says their stuff will be everywhere in PCs (still a hardcore gamer’s choice as well as the major development platform) as well as tablets, smartphones.

True, there are a few people at GDC, like the folks at Intel and Qualcomm, who will take issue with Huang’s lofty goals. These two are also working on grabbing design win sales from the each other as well.

The games today look a world apart from the early days.

The graphics are much more realistic and the movement is extremely smooth (assuming you have enough memory) and when you throw the game up on your big HDTV screen, it’s enough to make you feel you really can control the outcome.

All three of the firms (and AMD) are putting a lot of focus on telling the game developers why their platform with their CPU/GPU and unified memory will give them the best creative results (and give the developer the edge with players).

Their development roadmaps look like they’re going to keep pace with – and challenge - game developers and creative content producers for the next few years.

That also means games and content will get better on all of the platforms.

 

 

Picking a winning platform (or platforms) is one of the key goals for GDC attendees because obviously, the more devices that are out there, the greater the number of potential customers.

With the dramatic growth of smartphones and apps (especially games) there are a lot of sessions and off-hour discussions about developing and marketing app games to women as well as the millennial and “older” gamers.

The independent developers and smaller game studios are in strong attendance for the five-day event which seems to be all business.

The legacy game companies and platform people have lost a lot of power with the industry spreading well beyond the standard game consoles.

In fact, as we saw at last week’s OTTCON (Over-The-Top Conference), game consoles still have a place by the HDTV; but more often than not, families are using them to stream video and entertainment content to their big screens from the Internet.

According to GDC’s pre-conference survey, more than 58 percent of the game developers plan to produce their next game for smartphones or tablets. Only about 56.5 percent of the developers are committed to developing for the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s next console, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U and Wii … combined.

It’s interesting that while all the attendees had smartphones, a lot had tablets (iPads) but most also had a notebook computer with them.

Guess when it comes to work, the computer is still the preferred tool of the trade!

Based on the attendance at the early sessions, these people didn’t come to San Francisco to play … O.K., maybe a little.

However, if you’re dropping about $1,500 to attend an educational conference, you want to get

your money’s worth.

 Came to Gain – Even though Twinkies have disappeared from store shelves there is still Red Bull to keep game developers focused. During the early GPU Technology Conference sessions, it was standing-room-only as attendees listened closely and took lots of notes.

 

And with about 800 different sessions spread over the five days, I’m pretty sure some of the attendees are teaming up to divide up the agenda and then share notes/information later.

That seems to be about the only way they can gather all the ideas they’re going to need for the work they do when they go home.

Nevertheless, interest in gaming hardware is still strong, particularly for established consoles and for the Android-based consoles Ouya and GameStick. Both bested the next Xbox and the PlayStation 4 when those same survey respondents were asked what platforms most excited or interested them.

Game developers have really taken advantage of the touchscreen and body-motion detection technology that were introduced a few years ago.

The next refinement we’ll be seeing incorporated into games will be voice-command software and motion-sensing technology that tracks hand gestures and movements.

But it will be interesting to see how game developers will be able to implement eye tracking technology, which Samsung introduced with their S4 smartphones earlier this year.

 

Eye tracking, the ability to detect your eye’s presence, could bring game play to a whole new level.

It’s certainly a lot more subtle when you’re playing a game with your tablet/smartphone to use your eyes to control the play rather than flailing your arms around.

We’re probably only on the leading edge of using that technology but it certainly would assist disabled people.

Beyond the practical use, game developers will figure out how to include it in their games.

 

 

Then too, there’s its use in the digital signage industry to make Minority Report more than just a decent movie and a pretty good video game.

You know, part of our everyday life.

It will be interesting to see how GDC turns out.

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