Game developers give the Mac another look

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is not historically known as a hotbed for Macintosh game or game development information. The event draws computer and video game developers from around the world, and like the game industry, many of the seminars, conference sessions and publicity surrounding GDC is focused on consoles and, to a lesser extent, the PC. But that’s beginning to change.

The event runs through the end of this week at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The first two days of GDC (Monday and Tuesday) feature conference tracks largely dedicated to a few burgeoning areas of game development—mobile gaming (on PDAs, smartphones and the like), casual games (where the Mac platform is often in the forefront of developers’ minds) and independent games (another area where the Mac can shine).

On Wednesday the show kicks into full gear with the opening of an exposition area in the Moscone West hall, featuring a multitude of companies that offer products for game developers. The thrust of this show isn’t on the consumer—the people who buy games—it’s on the developers of the games themselves. So some gaming enthusiasts’ eyes may glaze over at products that lack sex appeal like version control systems, rotoscoping technology, and 3-D visualization tools. But these are the products that enable game developers to make their games.

This is my first time at GDC, so I’m going into it without any set expectations of what I’ll be able to get out of it. I’ve covered news from the show remotely for several years. In the weeks before the show, after I registered my press badge, I was approached by a number of companies and exhibitors—some of whom I’ve worked with at Macworld Expo and other events, some who are new to me—who were interested in talking about their products and how they fit into the Macintosh ecology.

This is by no means a scientific analysis, but my first impression is that Apple’s switch to Intel chips and the company’s “Get a Mac” advertising campaign have combined to generate a lot of interest among game developers about the potential for supporting the platform.

Add to that efforts like TransGaming’s Cider technology, which enables Intel Macs to run Windows games without requiring a completely separate Windows partition to be installed, and suddenly you see the business people and the money people involved in these game companies starting to stir with interest.

It’s a good time for many of these developers and publishers to reexamine the Mac market and see if it’s a good fit with their own strategic plans.

I’ll be reporting more throughout the week from GDC as I meet with exhibitors and take in some of the sights and sounds from the show.

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