Game Developers Conference Expecting Record Turnout Lured by New Revenue Opportunities

Analysts predict the global gaming industry will top $70.1 billion by 2015 due to new mobile and tablet devices and growth in areas like digital distribution.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Over 18,000 game makers, publishers and industry professionals will converge in San Francisco this week at the Moscone Convention Center for the 25th annual Game Developers Conference (GDC 2011). Despite the rough economy that has impacted retail sales of games, conference organizer UBM TechWeb Game Network is expecting a record turnout as cloud computing, new mobile and tablet devices and online gaming are opening up new revenue-generating opportunities for the industry aimed at the mainstream audience.

According to video game research firm DFC Intelligence, the global industry is poised to top $70.1 billion by 2015 thanks in large part to the growth of games in new areas like online, digital distribution, mobile and the traditional PC, console and portable hardware spaces. That's up from $60.4 billion in 2009.

David Cole, president of DFC Intelligence, believes the PC games business will top $20 billion by 2015 as microtransactions through free-to-play social games and other new revenue opportunities become more accepted with mainstream gamers. While console game sales are expected to take a hit over the long haul, key revenue growth for the console games business will come from online digital distribution, downloadable content and subscription models.

"GDC 2011 is about the cloud, social games, and mobile," said Michael Pachter, video game analyst, Wedbush Morgan Securities. "Cloud game companies like Gaikai and OnLive are opening up new audiences for game publishers, while Facebook and mobile games continue to broaden the gaming demographic."

With the just-released Nintendo 3DS already sold out in Japan, the company's president, Satoru Iwata, will provide the keynote address for GDC on March 2 at 9 a.m. Iwata's "Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future" will focus on how video gaming has evolved and where the industry goes from here. As a leading player during the modern gaming era, Nintendo has a unique perspective on who today's gamer is. The company has expanded the very audience of gamers with its Wii console, which ushered in a wave of motion-sensor controllers and mainstream interaction with games.

"Now in its 25th edition, we are proud to continue to serve and celebrate game developers by providing this forum to examine both the past and present as well as the trends, growth and diversity of the games industry," said Meggan Scavio, event director of GDC 2011.

Celebrations for the 25th GDC also include an all-star line-up of game creators, including John Romero (Doom), Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War), Will Wright (The Sims and TV series Bar Karma), and Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man).

Looking to the future, GDC 2011 is focusing on key growth areas for gaming, including smartphone and tablet games powered by new technology like NVIDIA Tegra 2 chips. Sony Ericsson will showcase its new Xperia Play gaming phone for developers. The convention will also explore the growing social and online games space, which is dominated by companies like Zynga and Bigpoint. The burgeoning serious game development space will also be a focus, as more corporations, the military, and the health sectors turn to game developers to help with everything from training to fighting diseases and obesity.

The conference features more than 450 lectures, panels, tutorials and roundtable discussions on a comprehensive selection of game development topics taught by leading industry experts. At its heart, GDC is still primarily an international job fair where the leading game companies from around the world seek out the brightest programmers, artists, designers and other game creatives. Thanks to the success of key game franchises like Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and StarCraft II, many game studios are hiring.

The week-long event also features an Expo and Career Pavilion, Business Center, the Game Career Seminar, the 13th annual Independent Games Festival (IGF), and the 11th annual Game Developers Choice Awards. The convention gives game future game developers a venue to showcase independent games, which have new digital distribution platforms to connect directly with consumers thanks to connected consoles and mobile devices.