GDC 2013: My Pre-Show Thoughts

Check out the 3 most important topics for GDC 2013!

Every year, thousands of people descend upon San Francisco, CA for the annual Game Developer’s Conference. This year, the conference runs between 3/25 – 3/29, and every year, it seems that the show gets bigger and bigger. So big, in fact, that it outgrew its former home in San Jose, CA after 2006, and has been permanently held in the City by the Bay ever since. 

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As I have been charting out my plan of attack for GDC 2013 this past weekend, I would like to share with you what I am excited to see throughout the week. In an upcoming article, I will do a post-mortem, and see how it compares. 

Battle of the Consoles  

PS4 vs. Xbox 

How about some pictures of the console, Sony?

 

How about some pictures of the console, Sony?

Starting with the most obvious, we will most certainly see and hear much more about Sony’s upcoming Playstation 4. Unveied last month in New York at Sony’s own press conference, while we may know a few things about its specs, and some of the business models in the distribution of the games, not much else is known about the console. Sony has added a few last-minute sessions to GDC that should give us some more clues on what to expect when it is released, and hopefully a release date, or at least a glimpse of what it will look like?

 How about some info on the console, Microsoft?

How about some info on the console, Microsoft?

Just as obvious would be speculation, rumors, and other discussions on Microsoft’s next Xbox console. While it has been rumored that Microsoft would hold an “Apple” style press event to unveil the next-gen Xbox at, or around the time of GDC, since we haven’t heard anything up until now — the eve of GDC, hopefully, we will hear something from Microsoft next week during the show.  Realistically speaking though, the chances of this happening are probably pretty low since these types of announcements are usually reserved for E3, and the fact that there are not going to be any keynotes given at this year’s GDC. On the other hand, since Sony has already announced the PS4, perhaps there will be some kind of pressure on Microsoft to hurry up and get something out on the next Xbox? Regardless, be sure to expect plenty of discussion about the next Xbox this week. 

Android Battle 

Round 1... FIGHT!

Round 1, FIGHT!!!

For me personally, what will be exciting to see at GDC 2013 is the battle of the Android consoles. At current, I have counted 3 different Android-based TV consoles, and 1 portable console. Starting with the 3 TV consoles, we have the Ouya, the GameStick, and GreenThrottle. In essence, all of them provide relatively the same experience, namely, being able to play Android-based games on TV. Where they will differ, at least on the surface, is their degree of portability.

OH YEAH! It's the OUYA!

OH YEAH! It’s the OUYA!

 

For example, the Ouya, is a small box, that fits on the palm of your hand, and is meant to be connected to your TV, similar to a traditional console.

Where should I stick this?

Where should I stick this?

The GameStick, on the other hand, looks like a USB stick drive (it’s actually HDMI), that when not being used, cleverly fits inside its controller

Red Octane, Green Throttle, Blue Goji... I see a pattern somewhere here...

RedOctane, GreenThrottle, BlueGoji… I see a pattern somewhere here…

GreenThrottle, co-founded by Charles Huang (co-founder of RedOctane and BlueGoji) is somewhere in between, in which the console is your Android-powered phone or tablet (with HDMI output), and the company just sells its Atlas Controller.  

Much like how a Playstation and an Xbox are similar in that they both play games and have wireless controllers, these Android consoles will be battling it out on the exclusive titles they can secure. All 3 companies are working with developers to develop titles specifically for each respective console (versus games that will run on Android OS in general) so it will be interesting to see if any major announcements will be made during GDC. 

This is way better than attaching a controller to a tablet

This is way better than attaching a controller to a tablet

On the portable console side, so far, I have only seen Nvidia’s Project Shield. (if you don’t count tablets and phones as portable consoles) This seems to be an interesting project, as it will play Android games, but also works with Steam to access PC games, so long as you have a GeForce GTX-powered PC nearby that it can access. For now, the only exclusive titles it seems to have will be those that are developed specifically for the Nvidia TEGRA chipset, which are also available on any other TEGRA-powered Android tablet.  

New Business Models 

Free to Play 

F2P games are way better than this nowF2P games are way better than this now

 

 

While the free-to-play business model isn’t entirely new, it has increasingly become popular, especially with social and mobile games. However, developers of PC and console games have started exploring these new business models of letting players get into the game for free. The way to make money with these games are typically through advertising, (whether it be in-game, banner ads, freemiums, or a combination of them) in-game item sales, and hosting marketplaces for in-game items.  

Microtransactions 

This is a way for developers to literally nickel-and-dime gamers to purchase in-game items such as power-ups, so players can level-up quicker in the game. When coupled with Free-to-Play games, instead of charging players $60 up-front, instead, players find themselves spending way more in the game, as they play along and fight against other players in the game. For developers, this is great news, as they can now charge more for their games in the long run, and not so great for players… 

Metal Gear 

 The pain is that they won't tell us that this is a phantom game to sell MGS5!

The pain is that they won’t tell us that this is a phantom game to sell MGS5!

At the end of 2012, a trailer for an upcoming game called “The Phantom Pain” by an unknown Sweedish company called Moby Dick Studios came about, where the main character of the game looked very similar to the “Big Boss” character of Metal Gear. Speculation began to arise that this would be the upcoming “Metal Gear Solid 5”. People also started to notice that the game’s graphics were very similar to those of the “Fox Engine”, which is an upcoming game engine used for future Kojima Productions titles. Others also noticed that when using the same font, the words “Metal Gear Solid V” fit perfectly in the spaces of “The Phantom Pain” logo. Finally, some were quick to point out that the first name of the studio head, Joakim Mogren, is actually an anagram for “Kojima”. 


Check out Joakim’s shocked face at the end!

For those who don’t know, Hideo Kojima is the creator of the Metal Gear Solid franchise at Konami, and the director of Kojima Productions. Just a few days ago, in a twitter update, he posted an image of a trailer for GDC 2013 which uses the fron from The Phantom Pain trailer.  Also, Geoff Keighley from Gametrailers.com, posted an interview with Joakim Mogren about the upcoming game, where Joakim was bandaged up to look like Big Boss. (or the character in The Phatom Pain game) Joakim was not giving out too much information, but towards the end of the interview, showed several shots from the game, at which Keighley noticed that in the bottom right corner, some of the screenshots were marked with the “Fox Engine” logo. The interview abruptly stopped once he made that statement.  

Kojima-san is expected to give a talk at GDC about the Fox Engine, but it’s referencing a different game, “Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes”, which makes everyone wonder if these two are the same game? Perhaps this is all a gimmicky marketing play to drum up interest in the game and the Fox Engine. Many are speculating that the interview with Joakim is actually an interview with a very photo-realistic CGI-rendered person. Considering that the Fox Engine is supposed to create very photo-realistic images, there could be some merit to this speculation. 

Of all of the things I expect to see at GDC, this is by far, the most intriguing. I hope that after the March 27 presentation, all questions about Metal Gear and The Phantom Pain will be answered. 

 

While I believe that there will certainly be many other topics in the game industry that will cause quite a bit of buzz at GDC 2013, I believe that these topics will all eclipse everything else. Is there anything else that I could be missing? Let me know in the comments. Hopefully, I can look for those during the week, and have some more to report back to you on! 


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mchiu
mchiu is an old-timer, falling in love with video games since the introduction of Pong. Nowadays, his passions in gaming center around social and political issues, game development, promotion of games as an art form, promotion of games as sport, and the business and economics of games.