18,250. That is the number of attendees at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC). A record. Not bad considering the drop in numbers at the other related trade shows during the past 12 months, including SIGGRAPH.
Like always, GDC featured many software and hardware vendors showing off their products. I won’t list them here, but you can find the releases in the special News area dedicated to the show. (Click on News at the far left of the page.) Instead, I will focus on what I found particularly interested there.
Sony on the Move
The most impressive announcement, in my opinion, was Sony’s Move controller. In a PR event befitting this device, Sony made the announcement to a room of journalists during a special off-site event the day before the trade floor opened. And it certainly got the attention of the press.
Sony made it official. It is moving into the motion-controlled video game arena with its Move system, which includes the Move controller (a wand-like device with a sphere on the end) and a PlayStation Eye camera. Sony will offer the Move kit—which includes the controller, camera, and a Move game title—for the introductory price of less than $100 this fall. The system will work with a player’s current PS3, or players can purchase the whole system (which includes the console).
The announcement of the device definitely throws down the gauntlet in terms of Nintendo’s Wii. The Wii and PS3 were introduced about the same time: holiday-season 2006. While many predicted that the PS3, with its powerhouse graphics and Blu-ray player, easily would be the console of choice for most and far outsell Nintendo’s cheaper and less advanced graphics console, they were wrong. The Wii became the frontrunner, and was a must-have on most holiday wish lists the following year. While it did not sport the bells and whistles of its competitor, the Wii did offer something that was an obvious gem: motion control.
So what’s so different about Move? In one word, accuracy/precision. Unlike the Wii, the Move reflects exact movements and incorporates those into the gameplay. With the Move games, a player’s accuracy is reflected in his or her success. This is done with the Eye camera, which detects the exact location and movement of the controllers.
As part of the unveiling, Sony had a large room set up for journalists, enabling us to test out the Move on a number of titles. In addition to the adult titles, there were others geared to kids.
Another highlight of the conference was Sid Meier, who gave the keynote address on Friday. Meier, known as the father of gaming, discussed the psychological experience of the genre. He broke down the psychology of gaming into four categories: egomania, paranoia, delusion, self-destructive behavior. Successful games should empower the player—to a limit. As he pointed out, the player should not always win. But there should be a clear path to achieve success.
This year, most of the activity was under one roof—and it was certainly appreciated. No more running back and forth between buildings.
Indeed, the exhibit hall was busy, but the majority of activity seemed to be in the Job Fair area, at the far end of the show floor. Every time I was near that vicinity, the aisles were packed. Given the economy, it is not surprising that so many were looking for employment opportunities. However, it was a two-way street, with game studios interviewing long lines of hopefuls.
I also noticed that a great deal of space in the exhibit hall was taken up by studios, including giants such as Sony Computer Entertainment and Nintendo, as well as smaller facilities such as 38 Studios ad Blue Castle Games, along many others. In addition, there were a number of international pavilions, where a group of game-related companies from specific countries provided a glimpse of their interactive entertainment offerings under one roof, so to speak: Germany, Bavaria, France, Canada, Scotland.
All in all, the show was successful, though it appears that GDC is becoming a mini E3 as opposed to the hard-core game development show it once was. Traditional game development tool vendors were placed here and there among studios and other types of companies. Is that a good thing or not?