Monday, March 03, 2008

GDC 2008 recap.

A week has passed since I returned from GDC 2008. Here I just want to jot down a brief summary of some things that got my attention. Of course, most of them are related to casual games – since I’m mostly interested in casual games development, I tried to concentrate in this area; it’s simply impossible to get to each interesting event and presentation at GDC!

1. At one of the panel sessions, several participating casual game developers unanimously agreed that the “try before you buy” business model for downloadable games is totally broken and should die. Since it used to be one of the most popular models, if this is true, then, probably, some radical shift in casual games distribution is coming. Also, on the same note, many people from the casual games industry expressed an opinion that now it is extremely difficult for new developers to successfully bring their titles on the market.

2. “Casual MMOs” became a hot topic. I suppose that partially the interest is ignited by the different business model, which might turn out to be more stable and reliable than “try before you buy”.

3. Facebook as a platform for game building and distribution was also mentioned in many discussions. The idea of “marriage” between casual games and social networks seems to be very innovative and promising – the only problem is, as for now, there are no good way to monetize this sort of games. I personally think that the Facebook gaming, at least in its present form, will be a short-lived phenomenon – people will simply get tired of the “viral distribution”, which, essentially, leads to increase of spam.

4. There is an observable trend to move away from the traditional match-3 style of casual games into a not-yet-explored territory between casual and hardcore. Designers, definitely, desire it – I am not so sure about the players.

5. Community game design. Microsoft and EA presented somewhat similar ideas – make creation of casual games easy and open publishing for everybody. Microsoft in the keynote announced “Xbox live community games” , and EA presented “Sims Carnival”. Microsoft called their service “A Youtube for the games”. It sounds appropriate, and, I think, the landscape of casual (and not only casual) gaming will be significantly changed by this sort of services.

6. Emotiv Epoc Neuroheadset – control games with your mind! This sounds like some cyberpunk idea, but the device presented by Emotiv worked (though a little bit uncertain), and they’re promising to bring it to the consumer market in less than a year! (Several other companies presented similar devices – I don’t remember their names.)

7. Now, one thing that really disappointed me was the Developer Choice Awards. Not the awards themselves - rather, the selection of the games that were nominated. Of 24 games, nominated for different awards (technology, sound, graphics etc.), 9 (more than a third part!) were shooters, 5 – arcades. Other genres were either not present at all, or represented by 1-2 titles. No simulations, no strategy – neither turn-base, nor RTS, no quests, no sports (!). Either the selection was somehow skewed, or something very wrong is going on with the game industry as a whole.

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