Mobile Mavens

How useful was GDC 2017 to an indie mobile developer?

Our Indie Mavens weigh in

How useful was GDC 2017 to an indie mobile developer?

GDC is one of the first big events of the year for the games industry (Pocket Gamer Connects London being the first, of course), so it's only natural that many developers will try to get out to the conference and get involved.

But what about the indie developers? Does such a major event have any impact on them? And how many of them can actually attend?

To answer these questions, we turned to our own Indie Mavens - as we did after GDC 2016 - to find out which of them made it out there and if they found the event to be useful to them.

Specifically, we asked:

  • If you attended GDC, how useful was the event for you as an indie developer?
  • If you didn't attend GDC, why did you choose to sit it out this year?


Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

Unfortunately, I didn’t attend this year and haven't managed to get to a GDC yet.

The biggest reason simply being the cost of going (travel to the US from UK, hotel costs and then the actual tickets works out at a few month's wages for me at the moment) but also the impact that sort of travel and time away has on my work.

The whole process of going overseas to conferences knocks me out of my zone for at least a week afterwards, so it sets me back a lot on whatever game I’m working on.

It's on my "gigs to go to at some point" list though. I really like meeting up with other game devs as you don't get to do that much and past games related conferences I've been to (GameFest, X-Fest, E3 etc.) have all been a blast. As has WWDC (although not so much for game dev info).

I just have to have another hit first before I can afford it!

Tanya X. Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

This was the fourth year in a row that I attended GDC as a speaker.

Right now, It doesn't really matter to me that I've met 100 new people, made 10 new friends, or gave a great talk.
Tanya Short

It was as useful as it ever was - dubious immediate benefit, but clear improvements to visibility and network, both of which are priceless long-term.

Right now, it doesn't really matter to me that I've met 100 new people, made 10 new friends, or gave a great talk. Neither makes my game play better, or even sell better.

But year after year, putting in that time and effort does make Kitfox more relevant to the industry as a whole.

I make a special effort to meet with mentors (or, to put it more casually, friends who have more experience and success than I do), to get their insight into whatever I'm currently struggling with and just catch up with their perspective on the industry.

I have Skype calls as needed of course, but that's just not the same as having lunch together in person.

Pierre-Luc Vettier CEO Zero Games Studios

I've never been to GDC since I founded Zero Games for one main reason - it's too expensive for such a small indie dev studio like us to travel to the other side of the earth when you have a very tight budget!

Developers enjoying the fun at the 2017 Pocket Gamer GDC Party

But when it will fit our budget, I'll go there for sure. (Or wait for a similar event in Europe...)

Matthew Annal MD Nitrome

I didn't go to GDC this year which is starting to become habit. I've been before and loved it, though I've found it hard to condone in terms of giving Nitrome any real boost from going.

It is a great event if you can make it.
Mat Annal

The main reason I keep skipping it is more down to time for me than money. There is always just too much going on at Nitrome.

Combine that with starting a family and it gets hard to condone going half way round the globe for a fun event that you can't condone you need to attend.

Having said that, I'd still like to think I will attend again some year soon. It is a great event if you can make it.

Dan Menard CEO Double Stallion

We attended GDC this year, mainly for business meetings and keeping our relationship with Microsoft / Sony / Nintendo going.

I bought a pass to go see some of the talks (mainly the cool Overwatch technical talks), but we will probably skip that next year because I had very little time to sit in lectures.

Developers pitching their games at a Big Indie Pitch held at GDC

This will have probably been my 10th or 11th GDC, so the conference itself is having diminishing returns. For us it's more about meeting up with friends (old and new) and keeping in touch with the business people who will make our game a success.

Simon Joslin Creative Director The Voxel Agents

I've been about six times, but this is the first year I've focused on attending talks, taking it all in and giving a talk myself.

Like others, the return on talks are diminishing as I become more experienced, except for the few standout talks.

Financially it's very hard to prove the value, but I don't regret it and I do think it was worthwhile.
Simon Joslin

That's a bit disappointing because great talks can make change your trajectory as a developer and knowing that it's getting harder to find outstanding talks is demotivating from going to conferences.

On the other hand, since I was there with my Co-Founder for the first time, it paid surprisingly good returns from having the time together to reflect, think about our future and discuss the talks as we went to them.

It's always hard to find some relaxed time to have general chats about games and where we want to be, and a week away from the studio halfway around the world certainly helped to provide that! So on that front it was certainly worth it.

The other surprising benefit I got was from giving a talk. It forced me to spend some time to reflect on our creative process, on what worked and what didn't and to think how our learnings could be applied in other teams on very different kinds of games.

It's yet another thing that is hard to find the time to do when you're busy working away on your games, but it pays good dividends every time.

Financially it's very hard to prove the value, but I don't regret it and I do think it was worthwhile.

Travis Ryan Studio Head Dumpling Design

I've not had chance to attend GDC since starting a family and Dumpling - it's hard to justify leaving my better half to wrestle a feisty 5 y/o and 7m/o while I jaunt off to the States.

The winners of the Big Indie Pitch at GDC 2017

We make up for it by networking UK events and the GDC Vault membership grants access to all of the talks for a fraction of the cost and effort, while GDC Vault YouTube channel release key talks for free - anything by Luke Muscat is a must-watch btw!

The volume and quality of mobile titles at GDC this year is super encouraging. Once the family has settled down a bit, we do plan on heading back out and hopefully giving a talk, as soon as I can figure out anything interesting to say.

Nathan Fouts Founder Mommy's Best Games

When I feel we can afford it, it's always been helpful.
Nathan Fouts

When I feel we can afford it, it's always been helpful.

The trick is GDC requires *work*. I have to work to push myself out of my comfort zone, and talk to people. I have to work at least a month in advance to set up meetings with potential publishers and with press. And I have to work to find old friends and make sure we can carve some time out to meet and catch up.

Sure I have a few friends I'll definitely see, but there's lots of devs out there and it's helpful to see what they're doing and if it's possible to work together somehow in the future. And everyone knows something a little different about the industry and trends.

Fortunately for me, I'm already in the US, so the flight out there is expensive (~$450) but not crippling. I also only go if I can stay with a friend, so that eliminates hotel costs (but there's still inter-city travel costs).

Bonus tip: Those devs you wanted to meet at GDC but never found the time? You should actually make it a point to have a Skype call with them later this month!


Ric is the Editor of, having started out as a Staff Writer on the site back in 2015. He received an honourable mention in both the MCV and Develop 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 and refuses to let anyone forget about it.