Highlights from GDC 2016
March 24, 2016

Highlights from GDC 2016

UBM Game Network’s 2016 Game Developers Conference (GDC), the world’s largest and longest-running event serving professionals dedicated to the art and science of making games, has set a record for event attendance, with more than 27,000 game industry professionals at the recent conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

This year, UBM Game Network also debuted the 2016 Virtual Reality Developers Conference (VRDC), an event dedicated to the creation of new video games, entertainment and technology around virtual and augmented reality (AR), which was held alongside GDC. 

The organizers have announced that GDC will return to the Moscone Center in San Francisco from Monday, February 27, to Friday, March 3, 2017, and will see the return of VRDC. Call for submissions for both GDC and VRDC to open this summer.

GDC 2016, through its introduction of the VRDC, has helped bring greater focus to the nascent field of Virtual Reality (VR) development, with two days of dedicated talks and sessions surrounding challenges and opportunities tied to the rapidly-maturing field of VR and AR.  The event and its resulting buzz helped to set the stage for Sony Computer Entertainment’s announcement of the price point of $399.99 in the United States and October 2016 release date for their upcoming PlayStation VR headset, which was first unveiled (under the project name Morpheus) at GDC 2014.


GDC 2016 marked the 30th edition of the event, and to celebrate the history and legacy of the conference, the organizers hosted a comprehensive retrospective talk on the history of GDC. On Wednesday, March 16, the main conference opened with the “Flash Backward: 30 Years of Making Games,” a session that brought together industry luminaries from GDC’s history. From conference founder Chris Crawford’s talk on the first GDC hosted at his house, to Lori Cole’s experiences crafting pioneering PC adventure games, to speakers including Phil Harrison, Ken Lobb, Tim Schafer, Palmer Luckey and others, the session covered insights into the history of game consoles, the birth of digital game distribution and the promising future of VR.  

The annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) and Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) ceremonies took place on Wednesday evening.  Developer Sam Barlow’s Her Story won the IGF Seumas McNally Grand Prize award of $30,000, as well as the IGF award for Excellence in Narrative. The IGF ceremony also played host to the ID@Xbox Rising Star Award, that went to Girls Make Games, which is a series of international summer camps, workshops and game jams designed to inspire the next generation of female designers, creators, and engineers. Sam Barlow made a reappearance on the Awards Show stage, as Her Story also went on to win the Game Developers Choice Awards for Innovation, Best Narrative and Best Handheld/Mobile Game during the ceremony that immediately followed the IGF Awards.

The GDCA Game of the Year went to CD Projekt Red for their game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt .

The bustling Expo Floors in the Moscone North and South Halls exhibited some of the most notable names in the tech and games industry, including Amazon, Epic Games, Google, Microsoft, Oculus, Sony, Unity and more than 550 other companies who offered product and tech demonstrations, networking and recruitment opportunities. The Moscone North Hall housed the IGF Pavilion which featured all the award finalists’ games, as well as the GDC Play area. Inspired by the success of the IGF Pavilion, GDC Play similarly offered a dedicated space where developers could show off their playable games and conduct meaningful business at GDC.

In addition to the Expo Floors, GDC hosted a variety of Interactive Spaces throughout the week. Independent developers and some of the latest indie games were featured in the GDC Train Jam, alt.ctrl.GDC and Mild Rumpus areas, a special edition of Double Fine’s “Day of the Devs” and the Indie MEGABOOTH showcase. The GDC VR Lounge featured a range of VR and AR demos across all the upcoming VR platforms. For fans of tabletop board games, ”Shut Up and Sit Down” hosted a selection of the best board games of the year for all attendees to enjoy. iam8bit returned to GDC this year with a 1980’s living room where attendees could pose for pictures and pay homage to the very first Game Developers Conference, which was held in the living room of GDC founder and developer Chris Crawford’s house in the 1980’s.

“This year’s GDC, paired with the inaugural VRDC, allows us to look both backwards at the legacy and lessons of previous years, and forward to the future of games and VR experiences. Even in its 30th edition, GDC continues to evolve and grow to encompass all of the key lessons, advancements and artistic strides that the industry makes. Once again, the staff, volunteers, speakers, students and attendees have made GDC 2016 an amazing, fun and safe show all around,” said Meggan Scavio, general manager of the Game Developers Conference. “As technologies mature and tastes in games change, we’re happy have a place for all of our friends, colleagues and soon-to-be-friends to meet about, learn about and discuss the games and VR experiences that we love. Games are becoming the most popular form of entertainment in the modern world, so it’s only appropriate that GDC carry with it the same spirit of fun, adventure and discovery as the games themselves, just as it has since its beginning.”