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What's Next for GDC?

Game Developer's Conference boss Jamil Moledina on life after E3

With the announcement this week that the giant E3 events of the past decade and a half are no more, the question of what this means for the Game Developer's Conference has been on many people's lips. The event has become an increasingly important part of the calendar in recent years, and many fear that without E3 to attract the marketing budgets and product unveilings, GDC could become a venue for much of that activity - losing its social feel and creative focus along the way.

We asked GDC executive director Jamil Moledina to respond to these concerns - and to give his reaction to the demise of E3, which has suddenly made GDC into the biggest industry-only event in the gaming calendar...

The contraction and distillation of E3 into a 5,000-person event is as shocking as it is reasonable. As far as I can tell from my communications with ESA president Doug Lowenstein, E3 isn't about to disappear altogether, but will continue to service the publisher-media-retailer connection through a more tailored methodology. Therefore, I expect our two events will continue to provide a complementary balance to each other.

The more visible area that is being removed from the E3 experience is the vicarious consumer presence, where gamers with vaguely game industry-ish credentials could get hands on with playable games. Likely heirs to that essential consumer sector are the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle and America's VideoGame Expo in Philadelphia, as well as the Games Convention in Leipzig and the Tokyo Game Show on an international level.

However, behind the scenes, a great deal of business took place at E3 between publishers and developers, middleware providers, outsourcers, peripheral providers, R&D technologists, international consortia, and all the innovative prospects in Kentia. Much of this was a continuation of dialogue from GDC, but those who only exhibited at E3 are now evaluating how they can meet their goals in the resulting event ecosystem. Now that GDC is the largest game industry-only event in the world, I expect many of them will look to us to see if there is a fit. Rather than shoehorning E3 ex-pats into our existing structure, our team is reaching out to customize a package of opportunities at GDC that fits a budget that's rational to them.

Let's take for example publishers, who already have a firm presence at GDC. Publishers participate through sending teams to attend, by sponsoring and exhibiting, and by submitting sessions for editorial consideration. For the past few years, savvy publishers have been seeing GDC as a way to validate their new franchises, and working with us to propose editorially sound sessions. For example, EA's Will Wright presented a session outlining procedural animation in Spore as the first public unveiling of the game, as did Ubisoft's Jade Raymond and Patrice Desilets with the next-gen gameplay elements of Assassin's Creed. And that's the critical difference between GDC and E3. While E3 was a large expo for publishers to present their upcoming games to retailers in an expo form, GDC has always been about the attendees valuing our editorially balanced sessions.

Our attendees know they're getting solid learning and inspiration from their peers, and so they trust that the information is sound. They rely on the standards of the 20 industry veterans evaluating the submitted sessions, who then balance their decisions on years of accumulated attendee feedback. In turn, when developers preview their games at GDC through this process, they get a naturally well-placed audience, of the top people in the industry building word-of-mouth for their game. It's a win-win for the speakers, the attendees, and the publishers' marketing teams.

The same applies to our keynotes. GDC keynotes are part of the editorial content of the show. All keynote prospects receive the same set of editorial guidelines outlining suggested areas of attendee interest. We then work together in a collaborative process to deliver those elements on stage, be they never-before-seen technical demos that showcase a platform, or the philosophy that led to a particular market focus. In terms of next year, with the big platform reveals out of the way, we are looking for a more creative perspective, and the platforms are already in agreement on that.

So I don't expect that we will change GDC much based on this announcement. It has already been a working mandate for us to include the business side of the game industry. Examples include our Business and Management track, our partnership with Game Connection, which is speed dating for developers and publishers, and a new component that will debut at GDC 07 that targets executives and publishers.

However, GDC works because it maintains its collegiate, intimate atmosphere, where developers are free to share ideas with each other in the hallways, where vendors on the show floor can actually answer all of your questions in a business-like setting. It's this special balance of editorial integrity and high-impact networking that developers tell me they love about the GDC, and we're not about to change that.

If you're an E3 ex-pat, and you're curious whether there's a fit at GDC, feel free to contact me directly at jamil@gdconf.com.

Jamil Moledina is the executive director of the Game Developer's Conference, and is responsible for the business, production, and content of the show. Within the GDC, Jamil is also the executive producer of the Game Developers Choice Awards and the Independent Games Festival.


Jamil Moledina