The G4 crew is back from Game Developers Conference 2009 and while I'm proud of everyone's contributions, I'm also annoyed with how numerous publishers are using GDC as a mini-E3. GDC is a fantastic event that hosts some of the most brilliant and creative minds in game development from around the world. Unfortunately, too many publishers decided to hold game demos at the show. Publishers had a great deal of the gaming press focused on product rather than talent. This was such a shame; instead of helping outlets educate their audiences about game development and raise the profile of game designers, publishers generated more preview coverage than features on their developers. This absolutely flies in the face of what GDC is all about and I'm disappointed that the show was used in such a manner.
Most of the blame should go to the publishers. While I understand that it's convenient and cost effective for publishers to reach a vast number of outlets during a tradeshow, it was inappropriate to do so at GDC. It's disrespectful to their development partners and Think Services (the company that organizes GDC). The developers should be the focus of GDC; publishers should have been working with the press to get more stories on their talent and the development process that led up to their great games -- helping gamers learn more about development, allowing them to appreciate games on a different level.
Instead, the publishers ordered their PR teams to push dozens of games at the show, most of which were B-level or C-level titles. Furthermore, most of the stuff I saw was under embargo, so instead of using my time reporting on the fantastic sessions at GDC, publishers had me looking at games that can't be written about until this week or next. It was a wasted opportunity.
Since E3 was downsized and GDC moved to San Francisco from San Jose, more and more publishers have been using GDC as a mini-E3 of sorts. In 2009, E3 is returning to a large-scale format, so I was (naively) hoping that publishers would lighten up on GDC 2009. Instead, this was arguably the biggest year for GDC preview coverage to date. Enthusiast outlets like TheFeed aren't in a position to turn down demos. It's bad for publisher relationships and bad for competition.
Not to sound like an ungracious guest, but I have to throw a teeny bit of the blame at Think Services. Every publisher TheFeed met with was partnered with GDC. I wish Think Services made a stern request to its partners to cool it on the preview events and meetings. It would have been better for the company and better for the show. GDC itself would have gotten more coverage instead of publishers A, B, and C that happened to be showing games at the conference. It was a wasted opportunity.
Events like DICE and GDC are rare opportunities for game writers to focus on educating their audiences on the people behind the games and the art of game creation. These shows give the gaming press access to people like Hitoshi Sakimoto, Keita Takahashi, Alex Evans, Peter Molyneaux, Cliff Bleszinski, Ted Price, Yoshinori Ono, Jenova Chen, and many more. These are rare opportunities to focus on the creators of the games we all love. Unfortunately, publishers, the media, and GDC's organizers made it easy for the focus to be taken away from game creators. It was a wasted opportunity.