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Mobile Mavens reflect on GDC trends and highlights

Back from San Francisco
Mobile Mavens reflect on GDC trends and highlights

In the aftermath of GDC, has already condensed insights from the show into the five most predominant trends.

But now it's time for the Mobile Mavens - the majority of whom were in attendance - to share their personal highlights from the San Francisco conference, and to reflect on the wider impact for the industry. We asked:

  • What do you consider the most significant trends to emerge from GDC 2016?
  • More broadly, what were the best things - games/talks/parties, etc. - that you enjoyed at and around the conference?
Jason Della Rocca

Jason Della Rocca

Co-founder at Execution Labs

This was my 20th GDC. So, I am somewhat immune to trends.

Hype and buzz come and go each year. What sticks is the amazing people. Each GDC I mostly focus on connecting with all the wonderful folks that drive the game industry and our medium forward.

From pre-planned formal meetings to chance encounters on the street to a fresh face showing up for the first time.

That is what is inspiring and keeps me coming back year after year

William D. Volk

William D. Volk

Chief Futurist at Forward Reality

Ah, GDC.

The most impressive thing is to see the amazing growth of the industry, from the one I attended in 1988 (the 2nd GDC) - I have attended most since.

The industry is huge and diverse in a way that I couldn’t have imagined back then, much less when I started in 1979 (really).

Microsoft committed a faux pas with their party (which I didn’t attend) with scantily clad women. AppAnnie about the same, which is strange considering the mobile game audience and developer demographic.

Crytek's <em>The Climb</em>, a VR favourite for Volk
Crytek's The Climb, a VR favourite for Volk

I always enjoy the Canada games event. I’m a regular speaker at the OIGC show, so I get invited to this every year.

Trends: VR all over the exhibition. I managed to get some time with the Crytek's The Climb on Oculus, which was enjoyable.

“I really enjoyed the Dome approach used in the IglooVision 360 projection setup.”
William D. Volk

I also really enjoyed the Dome approach used in the IglooVision 360 projection setup (you just wear LCD shutter glasses, the kind you use with 3D TV).

The lines to play most of these games was very long. I consider VR to be a Zero-Billion-Dollar Industry.

If it happens, it will be huge. Will be interesting to see how the affordable Samsung Gear VR works out and if Nintendo decides to jump into this (I think they will).

GDC isn’t very strong on a mobile games presence. Not much to report on that.

All and all, a great event and always fun to meet the people I’ve worked with over three decades.

Jared Steffes

Jared Steffes

Co-founder at Muxy

I recently moved to Austin, TX and had to break my GDC streak of 9 in a row. I attended SXSW Gaming instead.

SXSW Gaming has grown since their first event in 2012, which I also attended. It is a pleasant mix of fanfare for gamers with a little bit of industry panels mixed in.

The event is now completely open to the public and a free pass is issued to go to all SXSW Gaming functions. This meant there was a lot of families with younger kids running around.

The free SXSW Gaming expo tempted some away from GDC
The free SXSW Gaming expo tempted some away from GDC

It was interesting to see how many of my Twitter friends were leaving GDC mid-week to come to SXSW. One of the standout panels regarding esports and real money gaming.

It was refreshing to have people new to game development asking questions out of pure curiosity which helped create new feedback.

Games that stuck out to me were Omnibus, Super Galaxy Squadron EX, and Kingdom the Game. The lines to experience anything VR were very long. The public is hungry to try out VR because the availability is so limited.

Scott Foe

Scott Foe

Chief Product Officer at Ignited Artists

This was The Year of Virtual Reality at Game Developers Conference 2016, and investor Tipatat Chennavasin was The Mayor of GDC due to the recent fifty million dollar Venture Reality Fund announcement; really, I feared for his life and thought that he might be pulled apart like a wishbone by eager studio heads.

“We will continue to see these middle-market players be merged, acquired, or collapse throughout the next year.”
Scott Foe

Saying that "VR will eclipse all other gaming in five years" is not entirely dissimilar to saying that "software will eclipse all other gaming in five years," but I, for one, embrace our new headset-strapped overlords.

VR was the obvious fad with trend-potential for this year's conference, but there was more writing on the walls, maybe in a slightly smaller font.

The mobile gaming industry is now in accelerating up the curve of contraction and consolidation. There will always be small studios with big dreams, but the middle-market players sitting outside of the tops of the grossing charts are all experiencing layoffs, restructuring, and refocusing.

I expect that we will continue to see these middle-market players be merged, acquired, or collapse throughout the next year.

Lastly, I get the feeling that we are nearing the end of a more silent sea change in the way that enthusiast press covers the games industry.

With the rise of YouTube stars and Twitch and Twitter personalities, the old-guard media outlets are losing both their punch and their power, as coverage becomes more decentralized and more personality-driven - like the difference between Condé Nast controlling a conversation and Guy Fieri giving a recommendation.

Bring on Facebook Instant Articles!

Dave Castelnuovo

Dave Castelnuovo

Owner at Bolt Creative

I think it’s more like the “The Year that Virtual Reality became the next 3D TV”. Looking back on 2016 will be like looking back on the feature phone era or the dot com bubble (although not nearly as big as the dot com bubble).

VR is starting its first early adopter period, people want the VR promise so badly that they are willing to overlook the realities. They want holodecks and they want to be in the matrix, but realistically there is no market and there is no affordable device.

“People want holodecks and they want to be in the matrix, but realistically there is no market and no affordable device.”
Dave Castelnuovo

We can’t even prevent most people from getting sick. There is no app that even the most die-hard among us spend an hour or two a day playing.

Lots of people want desperately to be part of the next big thing, they want to be in on the ground floor of the next iPhone-like explosion so there is a ton of money and effort being thrown around.

But these same people acted just as early when feature phones started coming out, convincing themselves that they can gather experience on the platform that would one day turn into an advantage when market exploded.

The truth of the matter is that the market will take a lot longer to explode than people think (if it does at all) and while some people will make money by taking advantage of this dumb capital, the majority will run out of steam before a real market actually develops.

And when it develops, any dev with 3D experience will be able to jump in at a moment’s notice to participate in its success.

Luckily, tech and gaming is somewhat diversified and can withstand a sharp decline in VR related activities after the next year or two. The market might even benefit from devs accumulating some financial runway during the next two years that they can then put into their own original games.

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

I think it was my 11th GDC (the first was with NVIDIA, I think in 2007).

But this year was special as it was the first time i was there as an indie developer (as well as a Unity guy).

Don't get me wrong, I attended with Sony when I was working on PlayStation Home, but it seems very different when you are there to build interest in your own game.

The biggest thing I noticed was how fast it went and how little you end up seeing. There was no time for lectures, just a relentless pace to get to the next meeting and show the game off again.

Trend-wise, it's hard to say but clearly there is a major push for VR, which admittedly has some similarities to the previous failed 3D TV market push. However, the desire for VR content consistently seems to remain real.

Is VR the new 3D TV?
Is VR the new 3D TV?

I went to the Silicon Valley Comic Con over the weekend, and consumers were constantly queing to see what VR was available. Sony's announcement of their price point was a major step for their proposition.

A route to market, platform to run it on and affordable price... seems a no-brainer to me. I'm sure there will be a suitable response from other players in time.

I'm still a believer, but then I also bought (and still use) a 3D TV - I even still buy 3D DVDs.

GDC is a vast beast with a huge opportunity to meet everyone you need to, and it remains well worth the effort.

(Indeed, I'm just heading to SFO to get my plane back - more meetings this week, too).

Shintaro Kanaoya

Shintaro Kanaoya

CEO at Chorus Worldwide

Still relatively new to GDC having been more on the publishing side, so it's still exciting for me.

Best moment was the unofficial Guildford reunion party, and seeing how many people were now treading the indie path. I'm really excited to see what these guys with years (decades) of experience come up with next.

VR was everywhere of course, but I personally enjoyed the Alt.Ctrl showcase.

VR is going to be exciting as it'll enable us to connect with people everywhere in a hugely immersive way, but Alt.Ctrl celebrated gaming as a social, same-room experience with people actually there. Actual Reality, imagine that.

In particular, I can't wait to play the excellent Fabulous Beasts with my family.

I spent the first few days over at Game Connection talking to various developers. At the end of the first day, I was being given a demo of a game, which I then asked to play.

The developer looked surprised, gave me the game, and told me I was the first publisher to ask to play the game all day.

Other publishers had just asked for retention and monetisation data, and to watch a video or have the game demo'd to them. As a gamer at heart, I have to admit that made me a little sad.

“Already looking forward to next year.”
Shintaro Kanaoya

Developers were on show taking great creative risks everywhere, and I'd love to see more publishers do the same.

If creativity doesn't get backed and we just look at the data, we'll end up being completely market-driven and developers will be forced to make games that simply repeat bandwagons gone by.

Overall though, I loved being back, seeing lots of old faces, and an insane amount of new ones. Already looking forward to next year.