San Francisco: Game Developers’ Conference 2008 shows a glimpse of the future
The Game Developers’ Conference is the world’s biggest professionals-only games industry event and acts as “the essential forum for learning, inspiration, and networking for the creators of computer, console, handheld, mobile, and online games.”
The emphasis here must be on “professionals-only”. Surely nmp would have sent their trusty Research Assistant to California to cover this event were it not for this narrow-minded door policy. The problem is that I have been somewhat reliant on second-hand reports from GDC 08, most of which consist of details about how much delegates “partied, dude”. I have, however, managed to garner some interesting discussion points on the future of the industry.
Convergence is once again the name of the game. At the event, a panel of gaming luminaries were assembled by developer David Perry, of Earthworm Jim fame, to discuss the future of the industry, and one theme emerged – gaming moving towards a network with the internet and content delivered from one central server.
This would see the removal of consoles from the home, with games hosted on a server farm and sent through the internet straight to the user’s TV. This prediction comes in light of the pervading opinion that the console industry is already being outperformed by the web in terms of audience reach, the quantity of games being made, and although it is hard to measure, creativity.
Another trend that dovetails and could re-enforce this prediction is the rise of casual games. Jamil Moledina, director of the Game Developers' Conference sees a “definite increase in interest” in casual games, which reach out to a market far wider than the stereotypical legions of pasty teenagers locked in their bedrooms fighting orcs. Part of this upsurge in interest must be attributed to the Nintendo Wii’s success, which has brought gaming to children, women and older people in a way that has never been seen before. These games are being played in minutes, rather than hours, and the Wii is seen by many as the truly “next-generation” console.
It seems that casual gaming through the TV has the potential to hit dizzying heights with the development of games “on the network”. This will surely spell the end for Bamber Boozler, pixilated host of perennial Teletext quiz, Bamboozle. A sad day indeed, for those of us who grew up in the mid 90s. With TV-based casual gaming, the industry would certainly be able to enhance and expand its core audience; the potential of massive online multiplayer worlds has already been exhibited by the likes of World of Warcraft, and will only grow in the future. It seems that gaming is on the way to becoming more commonplace and more social than ever before.
What’s more, we sit on the cusp of a mobile gaming revolution. The arrival of Apple’s iPhone, Nokia’s N-Series and the Gphone means that mobiles now have the power to deliver high quality 3D graphics, multiplayer games and control through touch. These phones are soon expected to have the console power of a Sony PlayStation 2, as mobile games technology evolves five times as fast as the home console market. Not only is this going to boost the casual games market as users play on the move for short periods of time, but there is a massive potential for entirely new genres of games to be created.
Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's executive vice president of markets said: “"We can mix reality with virtuality and make games where you participate time and place independent or rather time and place dependent - where you are, what you do, who are your relationships."
The importance of mobile gaming is highlighted by the fact that GDC 08 hosted the first International Games Festival Mobile this year, alongside the regular independent festival, the “Sundance” of the games industry.
If you ask me though, like Tetris in the world of handhelds, nothing can top Snake on the Nokia 3210.