While it lacks the bombast and sheer size of major technology trade shows such as CES and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual Game Developers Conference has quietly become one of the most important events on gaming's calendar.
This relatively small conference, held in San Francisco, is where game designers and programmers, as well as publishers, developers, and the third-party technology companies they work with, come together for panels, classes, and keynotes. As the show has traditionally been (until a few years ago) largely under the press radar, you're just as likely to rub elbows with actual game auteurs such as Cliff Bleszinski or Sid Meier than a phalanx of PR people.
Of course, now that GDC is a bigger, better-attended show, the major console makers and game publishers all use it to reveal, unveil, and otherwise promote their latest wares. Here are some noteworthy developments we virtually guarantee you'll hear more about this week.
Sony's Motion Controller
The biggest story of the week will be the official coming out party for Sony's Wii-like motion controller device. Briefly glimpsed at E3 last year, its capabilities and details remain largely unknown. Look for it at Sony's March 10 press conference. Not expected to make a big showing is Microsoft's Project Natal -- another entry in the motion-control gaming sweepstakes. Microsoft recently wheeled out the system in NYC for hands-on press and industry demos (we'll detail our hands-on impressions later this week), but the company says it's not showcasing any new developments at GDC.
Don't count PC gaming out yet
Discussing the death of PC gaming is one of the all-time great tech fan arguments, and an easy way to inflame passions on both sides. While the glory days of Quake and Unreal may by long gone, companies such as Intel, Nvidia, and ATI are not going to let the PC gaming market simply vanish beneath the waves. While these companies may not have much in the way of new public product announcements (they largely attend GDC to brief the industry on background about upcoming hardware developments), we're particularly interested in talking to chip-maker Qualcomm about its laptop-lite Smartbook platforms, which seem like a natural growth area for gaming.
Hands-on with Holiday 2010 games
This is where the big titles we've seen briefly at past events get their first hands-on stress-tests in anticipation of the all-important Holiday season. We're especially keep to see more of Star Wars: The Old Republic (a Lucas-themed MMO), Mafia II (a 1950's GTA-style game), and the latest life-extending DLC add-ons for powerhouse titles Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.
Stay tuned for news, photos, and video all week long from the 2010 Game Developers Conference. For a look back at scenes from last year's show, check out the photo gallery below.