SAN FRANCISCO - I had the privilege of joining a throng of 20,000 attendees at the GDC in San Francisco this March for one full week and it gave me an opportunity for a first "deep dive" into gaming. Despite having skirted around gaming in mobile before (on a conceptual level or looking at gamification of commercial apps), this was the first opportunity to see at first hand what was making the gaming world quiver with excitement.
Overall, I was surprised that it was not quite as wacky an event as some had led me to believe. Mobile gaming is big business today, a $6bn business to be precise, and there was more of a corporate flavour to GDC than I expected. The most interesting talks however (with the exception of the very cool Mars Rover simulator talk by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab) were by the non-corporate game studios.
Supercell was a great example, with a brilliantly delivered and informative session on winning formulas developed for "Hay Day" and "Clash of Clans" games. A key lesson from this session was "don't release your game early". Other points from other sessions were to disguise the freemium nature of the game with lots of easy purchases, something King.com has taken to heart with their very successful CandyCrush saga. Tommy Palm from King gave an impressive talk and it was clear that Candy Crush has earned plenty of kudos amongst the gaming community.
One lesson I learnt for the future is how the (now separate) Game Connection event can be a much better forum to meet and do business with many of the companies at GDC. The problem with GDC is that, like many MMEs (Massive Multi-attendee Events), it is very dispersive and the seminars, while interesting, did not foster networking.
The gaming industry knows how to throw a good networking event, so a special shout out goes to GMIC and Kabam for organising some great post-GDC conference day events!