What challenge(s) did the show face?
The Game Developers Conference (GDC) brings together 28,000 video game industry professionals for 5 days of education at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Attendees span a wide range of creative, technical, and business disciplines in an industry increasingly split between large, high-end game studios and small “indie” developers.
The GDC 2017 post-show survey indicated increasing price sensitivity from indies, combined with general confusion about the overly complex attendee pass structure. New attendees indicated that navigation/wayfinding was a challenge, which would be heightened at GDC 2018 due to construction as part of the Moscone’s $500 million expansion project. At the same time, tools required to make video games have become less expensive and more widely available, making ROI measurement a challenge for GDC exhibitors.
What was the Best of Show solution(s)?
GDC leveraged user-centered design thinking principles to build out show elements to delight and connect our creative attendee base, focusing on compelling content, interactive experiences and acting on attendee feedback.
GDC 2018 hosted more than 700 sessions covering a wide range of creative, technical, and business topics. To communicate more effectively with our disparate audience groups, we developed personas including unique value propositions and event content aligned to each. Communications across all channels were driven by the personas, including micro-targeting for 30+ niche content programs. Promotional emails targeted by persona increased open rates from 17% to 21%. We also introduced a Vision Track, a series of mini-keynotes designed to provoke and inspire regardless of job role.
GDC attendees could relax, play games, and meet new people throughout the week at interactive spaces, themed areas for indie games, retro games, alternative controllers, and more. This year marked the debut of the GDC Film Festival, one of the first ever documentary & narrative film fests focused on the art and culture of video games.
Acting on attendee feedback, GDC restructured and simplified attendee passes, reducing the number of pass options from 12 to 6, while adding a lower priced expo pass to appeal to price-sensitive attendees. We partnered with industry organizations to distribute scholarships to low income and underrepresented attendee groups. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is front and center in our practices & communications. First time attendees were invited to attend “GDC 101” a crash course on getting the most out of GDC 2018. Covering everything from GDC program specifics to general best practices for networking, GDC 101 gave attendees tips and tricks to choose the right sessions, meet more people, and achieve their goals.
And what were the overall results and impact on the show?
GDC 2018 was a record breaking year with attendance increasing from 26,000 to 28,000 and more than 550 exhibitors including tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and game industry leaders like Sony, Valve, Unity, Epic. The expo halls were packed throughout the event, and nearly 700 reporters attended with 1,500 stories stemming from the event - including from ABC7, BBC, CNBC, Mashable, Reuters, Rolling Stone, The Hollywood Reporter, The Verge, and many more. Press coverage highlights:
Road to GDC: The Power of Play – Rolling Stone
The DeanBeat: Lots of reasons to be at GDC – VentureBeat
alt.ctrl.GDC Returns to Showcase Outside-the-Button Thinking - Newsweek
Puppet Shows, Zombie Heads, and a Unicorn Costume: Meet the Weird Controllers of alt.ctrl.GDC – The Verge
What innovative practices, customer service and/or networking environments occurred to make it the best show ever?
This year, indie games received a major spotlight, with the GDC hosting multiple showcases for aspiring developers, including the award-nominated titles in the Independent Games Festival Pavilion, the rotating lineup of promising projects in the Indie MEGABOOTH, iam8bit and Double Fine’s “Day of the Devs” interactive space, the traveling indie developers at Train Jam, and the super-chillaxed indie lounge called the Mild Rumpus. This remarkable array of lounges, exhibits, and other events present opportunities to play games and network in casual, highly “instagrammable” spaces throughout the week.
For more formal networking, GDC Connect business matchmaking connects exhibitors and attendees in an online meeting tool, with meetings hosted in a lounge on the show floor or in exhibitors’ booths. More than 3,600 meetings were confirmed during the week.
Attendees who stopped by the alt.ctrl.GDC exhibit, one of the event’s many interactive spaces, had the chance to play inventive and innovative games using unique, one-of-a-kind controllers. You could, for example, pilot a spaceship while shouting madly at a nearby friend/coworker/stranger to plug different-colored wires into your controller, or play games on a special sphere studded with LEDs. You might also play virtual golf by blowing madly into a set of sensors, or help virtual disco-loving cops save their city from a zombie invasion by slapping fake zombie heads in time to the beat. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you could climb inside a special unicorn controller and play a game with your horn and feet, or try your luck at a game of foosball played only using your voice.
GDC hosts two back to back award ceremonies recognizing the creativity, artistry and technical genius of the finest developers and games with 4,000 live attendees and a livestream on Twitch with 394,560 total views. The Game Developers Choice Awards are the leading peer-based video game awards show celebrating the industry’s top games and developers. The Independent Games Festival Awards honor the most innovative and exemplary projects in indie game development. Together, the events provide a celebratory evening event that acts as focal point for the week.
Did you initiate an “out of the box” idea?
Attendees told us that navigating between Moscone Center buildings was challenging and given the massive construction project taking place during the 2018 event, we wanted to call out wayfinding. We produced a “Festival Map” of the venue and layout of show elements with video-game inspired artwork. The playful style of the map allowed us to claim the space with the GDC brand and indicate closed sidewalks and other detours dictated by construction. We introduced the map on Twitter the week before the event and received more than 1,200 likes and retweets. The map was featured in the lobby along with an interactive “Where did you travel from?” feature where attendees placed stickers on a world map. The map was featured prominently in press coverage of the event, highlighting that GDC attendees are 32% international.
GDC partnered with exhibitors to create out of the box, “beyond the booth” solutions including sponsored lounges off the show floor. We collaborated with a key account to envision and implement a playable art installation showcasing the most beautiful and skillfully created 3d artwork created using the exhibitor’s tool. Artwork was submitted for a contest called the 3D Game Art Challenge and the winners received free passes and the opportunity to showcase their game, while bringing to life the capabilities of the exhibitor’s tool in an interactive space in the lobby.
GDC keeps the “why” and the “user” at the center of our plan and infuses what we know about our users into every element of show design. After all, people are at the heart of our business. We collect a tremendous amount of data from robust post-show surveys for attendees and exhibitors, onsite stakeholder intercept interviews, monitoring of social media chatter, and insight from our media brand Gamasutra to “know our audience” and continually iterate event experiences based on user feedback.
We take inspiration from diverse sources including event industry publications like TSNN, design thinking blogs and articles, festivals and other shows outside of our traditional industry shows, museums, experiential marketing or brand events and performances. We partner with experts in experiential design in the game industry to create engaging content with hands on elements to make the show come alive, create an emotional connection, and create “Instagrammable moments”.
View Video HERE
GDC 2018 Festival Map
GDC featured a Festival Map on large-scale signage as a fun way to help with onsite navigation between buildings during construction.
Interactive Space: Day of the Devs
GDC attendees relax, play games, and meet new people throughout the week at interactive spaces.
Attendees played inventive and innovative games using unique, one-of-a-kind controllers in the alt.ctrl.GDC interactive space.
Independent Games Festival (IGF) Awards
The Independent Games Festival Awards honor the most innovative and exemplary projects in indie game development.Show Details
Location of Show:
Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, CA, USA
Date of Show:
March 19-23, 2018
Number of attendees:
Number of exhibitors:
Size of showfloor in net sq. footage: