Conference Battle Royale 2019: GDC vs. GTC

March is one of those complicated months, at least in and around the games industry, that throws around a lot of scheduling headaches for event planners and attendees. In recent years, the schedules for South by Southwest (SXSW), Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX East), NVIDIA’s GPU Tech Conference, and the Game Developers Conference have sometimes run up against each other — even overlapped each other. Cross-country flights, complex scheduling gymnastics, making sacrifices of business over passion (and vice versa) sometimes ensue. 

It should be mentioned that organizers do not do this deliberately, giving attendees and event marketers headaches, since they usually have to reserve event venues months or years in advance, so intersections like this can happen.

In this case, during March 2019, the event-planning powers that be have dictated that the Game Developers Conference and NVIDIA’s GPU Tech Conference are not only in the San Francisco Bay area but share overlapping schedules and interest groups. GDC is hosted from Monday, March 18 to Friday, March 22. GTC is hosted from that Monday to Thursday, March 21. As icing on this complicated cake, both events also have pre-activities taking place on Sunday, March 17th.


The struggle is real when trying to schedule how to attend both GDC and GTC (credit: Micah Blumberg)

What’s a conflicted game developer or business person in games to do when deciding between these high-profile events, each with different connections to the game industry? 

If you’re struggling with making a choice on which of the two conferences to attend and when, here’s a few considerations that might help you decide how to invest your time at either, or both, events.


NVIDIA’s GTC event has evolved into a conference focused on the cutting edge of cloud- and silicon-based computing. The GTC 2019 website helpfully categorizes talks by topics and industry. If you look in “Media/Entertainment,” then “Gaming and AI” talks, you’ll have drilled down to the gaming-focused talks. If gaming is not your main interest, there are plenty of other topics that might fit what you’re looking for.

One GTC attendee mentioned the technical depth and focus of that show’s talks as one reason why that show attracts him. “GTC is incredibly more technical, and has tracks for a wide swath of industries beyond games. I’d recommend GDC for anyone who’s not interested in research or programming,” said Paul Edmondson, an industry professional with experience in film, games, and computer graphics.

GDC talks cover a lot more ground for a lot more attendees. Beyond the main conference content, there are several topical summits across the business and craft of game development. As it happens, there’s plenty of NVIDIA-centered content at GDC 2019 too. Even if you can only commit to GDC, even with an expo pass alone, you don’t have to lose out on NVIDIA’s perspective if you don’t want to. 


If cost, more than anything else, is a determining factor, the options between both conferences are actually quite similar. The (current) regular registration rates for both end on March 15th, then the on-site rate kicks in. The expo pass option, which generally gives access to the expo floors and sponsored talk, is $250 at GDC and $300 at GTC (or $75 for Thursday only if you’re a student).

On the other end of the spectrum, with “all access” for both conferences, you can expect to shell out over $2,000. As one might expect, an all access conference pass type provides access to all levels of talks and the expo floor experience too. GTC, however, makes it easy to invest a specific day into the event by offering one-day passes, which some attendees may prefer, either for cost or convenience.

Because of the scale of GDC 2019, in terms of regions, topics, and attendees, there’s no shortage of networking opportunities in the venue-packed South of Market neighborhood near the Moscone Convention Center. Our Events for Gamers’ events list for GDC 2019 attests to that. If it’s important to you have a cornucopia of networking choices, for either business or fun, it’s well worth exploring the options in and around the Game Developer’s Conference — whether you’re attending the conference or not.

GTC, however, will have most of its networking options on-site at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. The receptions and “dinner with strangers” can be found on the conference agenda. There are likely to be a few offsite events as well but nothing at the scale of GDC’s offerings.

But, as has been mentioned before, if GPUs, AI, machine learning, deep learning, mixed reality, cloud computing light your fire, you are unlikely to do any better than GTC 2019 for finding professionals and enthusiasts of like mind.

If you try to go to both conferences

If you want the best of both worlds and have the ability to choose to attend both events, be sure to plan and prioritize for what’s most important to you during that busy week. Aside from topical differences, the sponsors reflect those differences too. More hardware, cloud computing and cloud hosting companies attend GTC, while GDC covers everything from development platform companies AAA developers and almost everything in games in-between.

Also include transit time between San Francisco and San Jose in the event-splitting plans you make, whether driving, ride-sharing or taking public transit. Traffic will definitely be a factor for the first two options.

One of the highlights of GTC is NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang’s keynote, which will be on Monday afternoon. The NVIDIA roadmap, discussions about machine learning, AI and robotics, even gaming, will be addressed in the wide-ranging keynote address. Or, set aside time to watch the keynotes on livestream.

Can you spare a day (or two) away from GDC between Tuesday or Thursday? One day GTC expo or one-day conference passes, as mentioned, are available. Checking out GTC’s expo hall is usually an interesting and insightful experience, with plenty of virtual reality, robotics, AI, machine learning and even some game demos and platform companies to check out

If you feel more invested in GTC but still want to check out the Game Developers Conference, keep in mind that GDC doesn’t offer day passes — only program passes, such as for tutorials, summits, and the main conference track. An expo pass might be the safest investment if you prefer to put your fingers on the pulse of the game industry without sinking a lot of money into a pass. Wednesday and Thursday offer full expo hours at GDC, which gives an attendee a good chunk of time to check out the vendor tables and game developer showcases.

Whichever way you go, if you have a game plan for this week and an understanding of your priorities, you will get the good stuff you need from either (or both) GDC or GTC.

Updated: July 12, 2020 — 6:08 pm