Mobile Mavens

Mobile Mavens reflect on their GDC 2017 trends and highlights

What sticks in the memory?

Mobile Mavens reflect on their GDC 2017 trends and highlights

So another GDC is over.

And as always, the San Francisco mega-conference provided a great insight into the current state of play for the mobile games industry, and the trends that will define it in 2017 and beyond.

GDC has long been the key event in the gaming calendar for industry professionals, but what will stick in the memory from 2017's outing? To find out, we asked our Mobile Mavens:

  • What do you consider the most significant trends to emerge from GDC 2017?
  • More broadly, what were the best things that you enjoyed at and around the conference?
Jason Della Rocca Co-founder Execution Labs

Jason Della Rocca is the co-founder of Executions Labs, a first-of-its kind, hybrid game incubator and go-to-market accelerator that helps independent game developers produce games and bring them to market.

Formerly, Jason was a game industry consultant focused on business and cluster development, working with game studios and organizations all over the world.

Prior, he served as the executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) for nearly nine years, and was honored for his industry building efforts with the inaugural Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Conference.

In 2009, Jason was named to Game Developer Magazine’s “Power 50,” a list which profiles 50 of the most important contributors to the state of the game industry.

As a sought after expert on the game industry, Jason has lectured at conferences and universities worldwide. He also serves on various advisory boards and volunteer roles, such as co-chairing IGDA-Montreal, as an advisor to the ICT Practice of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and serving on the research management committee of the GRAND Network Center of Excellence

Oh wow, GDC is too much of whirlwind while I am in it to notice much in the way of trends! I read the news when I come home.

It does remind you, however, that we work in a close-knit industry and treating business as a human-to-human endeavour makes a difference.

That said, given I am still a geek at heart, the best swag was the stack of free cards at the Magic: The Gathering party (though, admittedly, I ran in, said hello, grabbed the cards and ran off).

Oleg Pridiuk Evangelist, Defold King

My show started from 90 awesome minutes at San Francisco airport, but after that GDC was a pure pleasure.

We at King made some brave moves for GDC and most worked very well.

The boldest one was to donate a huge 10’x30’ space to indie teams using Defold and do zero PR on all our tech announcements to keep the focus on our indies instead.

Everybody around supported the move, so giving away is probably a trendy thing again.

This was the first GDC when Epic understood my question about game updates.
Oleg Pridiuk

The surprise of the show, however, I found on the Epic booth. They had a mobile 2D game in the works!

Then I spent a good 40 minutes with their senior engineers discussing Unreal use for mobile free-to-play games with their new asset bundle process.

This was the first GDC when Epic understood my question about game updates instead of returning a “oh, just do DLC” reply.

And the last one is tricky. I showed some of our bigger games cold-starting on my iPhone 6s within three to four seconds (another two seconds to load a battle) to very different people, but it was only Asian publishers who seemed to care.

I wonder if 'time to start playing' is of less importance nowadays, or if my poll results are not representative?

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Whirlwind is the right word.

Being part of a global team like Unity means its an amazing chance to catch up with colleagues and old friends, as well as to meet new people.

I managed to talk to around 130 different developers and attend 14 different parties, and somehow still get up in the morning.

This year I was doing a lot more arranged meetings than I usually do, but I did manage to take part in the Big Indie Pitch as a judge which is always a highlight. You get to meet a lot of amazing talent!

Winners of The Big Indie Pitch at GDC 2017

I guess that's the biggest highlight I can talk about (apart from that incredible Unity Keynote and the huge announcement for Unity 5.6 of course)...

Also, Mike Hines (Amazon) and I agreed for the first time ever in a Big Indie Pitch! We must be mellowing with time!

Oh, and sorry to everyone I didn't get to chat to at the show... Next time!

William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

My thoughts:

  • The amount of VR stuff was amazing. Close to half of the expo floor.
  • Amazon’s Lumberyard is looking good, particularly the renderer and the tools. I still think most devs will opt for Unity though.
  • Amazon had the best swag: an Echo Dot. I’ve been enjoying talking to Alexa since then.
  • I realise that my first game (Avalon Hill’s Conflict 2500), was published before the majority of GDC attendees were born.

Nick Malaperiman Head of Marketing TopHouse Media

Nick Malaperiman has launched Console, PC or Mobile games since '95. Nick first started at EA, launching multiple FIFA, NBA and NHL franchises, during 7 years. Nick then started Nokia's Games marketing division, launching 300+ games/apps in 7 years. Nick was previously GM of Yummi Games, in China and Founder of Chunky Pig Marketing - now part of Roadhouse Interactive.

GDC is still the world's biggest and greatest platform for the world's developers to discuss, share and learn more about the business they're in and showcase their excellent work.

Hotels were advised not to allow companies to book suites for meetings.
Nick Malaperiman

The business is thriving. We all know this.

There are also a high percentage of non-developers in attendance and there is an exodus from the showfloor, for these business people looking to sell and promote their wares.

Big-chain hotels were advised not to allow companies to book suites to host meetings and product showcases, by the GDC show organisers.

But local hotel lobbies were still packed 19 hours a day, full of "dealmakers", despite the organiser's best efforts to contain and capitalise on this entrepreneurial behavior.

Jani Kahrama Founder Secret Exit

Pixar’s OpenSubdivs are finally making their way to game engines, starting with the announcement from Unreal and Sony’s demo of a working implementation and asset pipeline for PS4.

I’m willing to bet that subdivision surfaces are going to become the standard way to render realtime 3D objects in games in the next couple of years, with early adopters being able to get their hands dirty already today.

An example of the capabilities of subdivision surfaces

Desktop platforms and consoles will be first in line to benefit from this, and my crystal ball doesn’t yet predict the performance feasibility of the technology on mobile devices.

My personal reason for being excited about subdivs is that they will make more content-ambitious projects feasible for small teams.

Cheers to everyone involved in bringing this tech to developers' hands, and to Pixar for their goodwill toward the industry.

Vladimir Funtikov Co-Founder Creative Mobile

The most evident trend to me is GDC getting more expensive year after year. It's still totally worth it (if you know what you're after), but I strongly recommend first timers start planning their GDC 2018 right now and consider:

  • Non-downtown accommodation 

Spending an extra 10 minutes in a cab isn't that bad. Check the mail, plan the day, think how you will spend the $500+ you saved.

You need a clean and quiet place, everything else is excess, as you're going to spend very little time there. Just don't forget to check the area in StreetView if you aren't familiar with San Francisco neighbourhoods.

  • Cloning yourself as soon as we research the required tech

Or for now, being smart about workload management in the team - i.e. going to different talks, meetings and parties instead of giving in to herd instinct.

Sharing notes from the previous day and having stand-up style briefings over breakfast is a good way to energise each other and stay on the same page.

  • (For international arrivals) checking out flights to other airports.

This might not always work, but rental cars are super cheap in the US, and driving on the west coast is pure joy. There are really cool spots you can visit while dealing with jetlag or unwinding after a busy week.

GDC is so big and diverse that it's difficult to derive any specific trends having seen 10% of the show at best. I tried some very neat games (Beholder is pretty awesome) but not enough to make a judgement.

The Nordic party was my favorite - cool people, amazing burgers - yet upon second thought, it probably had something to do with celebrating the end of the week with too many drinks (or just our Northern camaraderie).

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.