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Game Industry Offers Support and Alternatives After GDC 2020 Postponement

Most likely you’ve seen the widely publicized news that one of the most influential events in game development, this Game Developers Conference (GDC 2020), the organizers say, will be postponed to sometime this summer. About 29,000 attendees were expected in San Francisco this mid-March, before several significant sponsors like Amazon, Facebook,and Electronic Arts, as well as featured speakers like Hideo Kojima, dropped out due to COVID-2019 virus concerns. On Friday, February 28th, GDC 2020 was then officially postponed.

So, where does that leave attendees, sponsors, speakers, indie developers – especially from disadvantaged backgrounds – who can’t cancel with less than a month to recoup costs? The updated GDC FAQ will answer some questions but not all of them. Some GDC participants have paid for travel, hotel rooms, and taken time off from work they can’t roll back without a significant financial penalty.

San Francisco bridge in fog
Lingering question: where can game developers go, what can they do, in SF during GDC week? (Photo by Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash)

While it’s not the same as the GDC experience, several parties have decided to jump in by virtual developer-focused events or independently hosted live events in San Francisco during GDC’s week-long timeframe. These events are intended to help provide some value for many attendees who are need extra help to recover costs to attend or those who are committed to attendance and want to network and learn.

Here’s a summary of many events now being offered:

Fundraising Event

Gamedev.world, the global multilingual virtual conference established last year by a team led by well-known indie developer Rami Ismail, is partnered with the GDC Relief Fund by games publishing label, WINGS. From March 27 to April 3, the fundraiser will wrap up a games bundle, a game jam, online live talks and QA in several languages, which is one of Gamedev.world’s specialties. This fundraising effort is intended to assist marginalized developers from all over the world who committed resources to attending GDC but may have sunk costs in attending they can’t get back on their own ⁠— which this charitable effort aims to offer help with.

Virtual Event

VRGDC, a virtual reality-oriented event (although virtual reality access will not be required to partake) taking place in VR chat, is scheduled for March 19-20. To submit a live presentation, prospective speakers need only submit in the form on the page. A formal website is scheduled to be launched, presumably soon.

Live Events

Game Connection, the international networking-and-meeting-oriented conference that runs alongside GDC will continue on at its two venues in San Francisco, from March 16-20. Game connection organizers have assessed the COVID-19 threat as manageable.

On the official event website, Game Connection organizers stated that San Francisco has declared a “the state of emergency to proactively prepare for possible COVID-19 in the community. For now, there is no declared cases in San Francisco residents (the closest one is in Santa Clara) and they don’t recommend to cancel social activities so Game Connection won’t be cancelled.Also, organizers believe the investments in planning and attending that week in San Francisco needed to capitalized on, which represents another reason to carry on.

Also, for those who had registered for a GDC 2020 pass, the Game Connection organizers have arranged to offer 1,000 GDC attendees a visitor pass for the duration of the Game Connection Show.

During that same “GDC week” time window, March 16-20, some events from the week are continuing on, especially those in particular revolving around indie developers presenting their creations.

The San Francisco 2020 version of The MIX is still going forward. The MIX is typically one of the larger showcase event of indie game developers, an event seen at some of the bigger shows like GDC and E3, aimed at the press and game industry pros. The MIX is scheduled for Monday night, March 16th.

Other indie game development networking and showcase events that will continue to proceed include Levelup’s IndieDev GDC Networking Mixer & Demo Stations, taking place from Saturday, March 14 to Monday, March 16. Free tickets are sold out, but $10 and $15 ticket options remain, depending on the day selected. Also, On the evening of Sunday, March 15, Courage XL 2020 – San Francisco PreMixer for GDC takes place, featuring over 30 indie game developers, featuring Belgian game developers in particular.

Beyond GDC and the remaining evening-organizing stalwarts determined to host their originally planned events, some alternatives are springing up as well. Several industry leaders led by Kate Edwards have quickly constructed a framework for a literal “Plan B” conference. The PLAN B project is designed to provide GDC attendees who want professional value, can’t avoid incurring expense and feel they must travel to San Francisco during GDC week, and are willing to abide by health checks and hygiene conventions.

The PLAN B Project website is now live, where you can follow PLAN B activities and submit a talk (by March 8).

altGDC, as the name of the event implies, is another alternative conference to the Game Developers Conference. Organized by game industry veterans, Em Lazer-Walker, Andrew Cedotal, and Phildini James. altGDC will be hosted from March 16-18 in San Francisco, altGDC is a single-track conference which will professionally record presented sessions for later online distribution. The website currently offers basic event information, an FAQ, and an attendee, sponsor, and session submission form.

Across the Bay in Oakland, The MADE (Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment) is offering an Unconference for Game Developers. Between March 16 and March 20, The MADE will host an unconference-style event, with networking, coworking space, and share ideas in the presentation space. The unconference will be an all-ages event, which will cost $20 for admission.

The game industry is in uncharted territory with the postponement of GDC 2020 (among many other big-name games and technology-facing events), so expect the news and opportunities around what was GDC week this year to change quickly. We’ll keep on top of as many of the changes in events, those in and around GDC, and beyond.

EDITOR’S NOTE (3/9/20):  Game Connection America 2020 has been “postponed until further notice.”


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