conferences GDC 2009

Don’t go to GDC; listen to “industry heavyweights” instead!

For a mere $600 (yes, that *is* going to double the cost of the GDC ticket that you already bought), you can go to this competing event on Tuesday next week:

“VentureBeat is teaming with industry heavy-weights.”

Ah, hubris, how we love you.

“You’ll learn how one of the most successful and rapidly growing sectors in the high-tech industry will be critical in the development of every major computing platform, including web, mobile and social media technologies.”

The thing about making such grandiose claims is that you’re going to look particularly stupid if you can’t live up to them. I read this far with interest, perhaps even a little excitement – what were they doing that they felt bold enough to go head to head with the world’s largest and most important games-industry annual event?

Hmm. Well. Let’s look at what these Industry Heavyweights are going to be saying:

8:45: 5 different Venture Capitalists talk about new business models, and which companies are going to “win” going forwards. This would be cool, except that VC’s love to say “if I thought I actually knew, I’d quit and found my own startup”. Probably a good session if you’ve not been to these guys’ VC panels before, just so you can get a bit of insight of how they think. However, the lack of anyone who would force them to be honest takes away most of the value of having them there; VC panels *always* need someone on them who’s post-funding, or a super angel, and not afraid to cry BS on them. Where’s Nabeel, or Susan, or one of the other bullish entrepreneurs with no iota of fear of VCs?

9:30: the man who was so unpopular at the ION conference last year he almost got booed / dragged off the stage is back to take credit for creating an MMO 12 years ago which his company has failed to equal since, and to claim to “launch a new breed of online games” that as we all know is is just a clone of other, bigger, games that came out 8 years ago. Colour me not impressed.

10:00: Someone from PlayStation Network is going to talk about how tough it is to focus on your consumers, and what you should do. This will be a short one; I predict she’ll say “just don’t do what we did, we’ve screwed up on every decision we ever made”. There’s also someone from Nokia, That Failed Mass Market Wannabe Game Company Who Never Saw What Was Right In Front Of Their Faces (as if nGage weren’t enough, they had to make another one to really seal their FAIL title). And a publisher trying to make a play for control of one of the “new platforms”, who’s probably going to be a teensy weensy bit biased. I’d say that Neil Young is going to be the one here worth listening to, bias included, because he might well reveal some interesting things about life as an iPhone publisher. I don’t think there’ll be much on-topic of value, though.

11:00: “Are the barriers to entry just too big with giants like Activision Blizzard using World of Warcraft as a continuous revenue stream to reinvest?”. This will be another short session, we – all – already know the answer: “yes”. That is why no-one sane is attempting it. Wasn’t Hellgate: London enough of a lesson for you? Although it would seem implicitly that at least two of the speakers on this panel are going ahead anyway. What I’d like to know is just where do those guys find the pants big enough?

12:00-16:00: these sessions seem mostly normal, the right kind of people speaking for the topics. Although I’m not sure exactly of the value of e.g. a 30 minute session with a non-game-developer talking about his dream game development studio. Great for him, if he knows what he wants and is getting it, that’s cool. But … what does that have to do with the “industry heavyweights”? Surely it would make more sense to get someone who’s made a whole series of studios answering that question? Maybe I’m missing something here, but IIRC he … hasn’t?

16:00: “Is what sells today going to be socially acceptable tomorrow?” and “If they are indeed becoming routine, then what comes next? And, how do companies make money from it?” – well, the companies speaking at these sessions are near *guaranteed* not to answer, because they’re all betting their own futures on “them knowing, and the rest of you not knowing”. Could be a short session…

16:45: I’m taking a wild guess here that you’ll see 3 Analysts show how little they know about the industry. You’ve got someone from DFC up there, the same DFC that published a report the other week which couldnt’ seem to remember the difference between a “company” and a “product”, or at least was keen to ignore it if it got in the way of producing a vague “top 10 list”. And what’s with this factor-of-3-guesswork at revenues? I’ve got much much more detailed info than that myself!


CMP/Think Services needn’t start sweating yet. It’s going to be a heck of a lot more successful than their own attempt at something similar a few years back (“GDC Prime”), but it’s really just a sideshow, even with all the big names in attendance. They’re names, but not industry heavyweights; the heavyweights are all at GDC, IMHO.

Although … the cunning move of holding this on the Tuesday might well draw a fair few people into going who don’t have 5-day tickets for GDC (have the cheaper 3-day ones). TS has deliberately kept Mondays and Tuesdays quiet by charging an extra fee for attendance. My advice personally would be not to bother with the VB event (if you’re not already on a 5-day GDC ticket) and to instead spend the day meeting up with random GDC attendees / attending meetings.

GDC rocks. I’ll see you there…

EDIT: PS: the rampant attempts to re-inforce elitism at GDC are beginning to really wind me up. GDC Prime was bad enough, but everyone’s got to experiment with their business model from time to time. There are reasons why the elitist, coke-addled, E3 died and the developer-driven, egalitarian GDC did not (there’s a clue there to my own thoughts on at least one of the big reasons ;)), and I don’t take kindly to attempts to turn GDC into “E3 … take two”. They won’t win, so long as TS keeps their heads about them, but … it’s just tacky to watch.