Preview: GDC Europe 2010
Conference director Frank Sliwka on how this year's Cologne event is shaping up
With the Develop conference now past, the next big date for this Summer is Cologne in August, with both GDC Europe and gamescom taking place.
Here, GDC Europe conference director Frank Sliwka looks back on last year's inaugural event, and gives us a sense of what we can look forward to from this year's edition.
Q: GDC Europe is now in its second year - but looking back at last year, how do you feel that went? Were you pleased with it?
Frank Sliwka: In general, yes - if you're responsible for events and their strategy, you see all the good things but you also see the things that don't work so well. So we've learned some lessons from last year, and hopefully we'll do a better job this year.
But I think it was a really good start for GDC Europe - and also, of course, for gamescom.
Q: It was a year of first events in Cologne - people seemed to be very positive about the city and location. Did you feel the whole package across the week was strong?
Frank Sliwka: Yes, I think it's a great opportunity for everybody who's in the games industry, because you start the week with the people that have the ideas about storytelling. Then you go on to game development, and then the publishing trade. You can have the whole madness of the games industry within a single week, and that's absolutely fantastic.
You can have a lot of meetings during that time - and having an exhibition along with the conference works very well. The move to Cologne was a really good idea, it's really well connected, and we had a lot of international visitors... so from that perspective, yes, it works.
Q: I know that one of the ambitions for the conference was to reflect specifically the European game development scene. How successful do you feel the event was on that level?
Frank Sliwka: The first thing for me was that everybody should understand that GDC is an event that serves the game development community worldwide. What we also wanted to show - last year and this - is that we're not a copy of any other event, particularly of GDC in San Francisco.
No, we want to have our own picture, to be the European showcase for the games industry, and I think we did that last year. We looked at other things - so while we still had the high quality of the GDC brand, we had a European focus.
That's a focus that will continue - we've had the opportunity to look at what was good last year, and what wasn't so good, and we already have plans to deliver more for European developers. This year we're starting a new series that brings a focus to a specific area, region or country that's upcoming and offers new business opportunities.
This year it's going to be Russia - during the last one or two years a lot has happened, with a lot of good online games developers and publishers rising up. That's one thing.
On the other side we want to bring in established games areas, so we're working with the Nordic region to look at what's behind the industry.
Also, we've got four keynotes, with two of them being focused specifically on Europe - one of them is Heiko Hurbertz from BigPoint, and the other is Herman Hulst from Guerilla Games.
Most of our talks are coming from Europe, in fact - and while we have a number coming from other regions, all of our speakers have to have a new talk. We don't want to have topics that they've presented at other events, so that we can bring new stories to the audience.
Q: The format is Monday-Wednesday again this year - but of course the last day is also the business day of gamescom. Did you notice a problem with people being drawn away on that day last year?
Frank Sliwka: Yes, we noticed that and we've acted on that, so our schedule on the Wednesday this year is a little bit smaller, and we only have four timelines instead of the five on Monday and Tuesday.
And the other thing - that we also did last year - is that we'll be focusing more on the technical side of development, so everybody who is involved in the business and financial side can go to gamescom without missing anything. Meanwhile, those that work in the technical side of development can stay around on the Wednesday.
Q: And it's in the same location as last year?
Frank Sliwka: Yes - that same hall. The only thing that we've changed is that we'd like to offer our clients lots more business opportunities, and have more integration with gamescom. So this year we have a business area in gamescom - a GDC lounge - where exhibitors can take meetings, and so on.
Q: What do you think will be the main themes of the conference this year?
Frank Sliwka: That's a good question - I've had a lot of meetings with other conference directors in the past few weeks, to look at how they're handling the key topics. Some are focusing online and mobile sessions, for example, throughout the main schedule, while others are creating a special day beforehand.
What we'll be doing is covering the whole process of development across all three days - so every topic that's of interest. A focus on online distribution, browser games, and so on - and we're looking at the topics from different perspectives, the business angle, the technical angle, etc.
Q: And what about those things that people will be talking about between sessions?
Frank Sliwka: The main thing I keep hearing is the challenge of the change between the old and new economies - and also how to make the business models for online games really work. That might be free-to-play concepts and how you create the business model that works in the long term, for example.
Frank Sliwka is conference director for GDC Europe. Interview by Phil Elliott.