Live from the Game Developers show floor

Because the game market doesn’t focus a huge amount of attention on the Mac, much of what’s on display at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week is tied to console gaming and, to a lesser degree, PCs. Almost all of the conferences and sessions concentrate on these areas, too, although there’s a lot of attention paid to the business of gaming. And that translates across platforms.

That’s not to say there’s no Mac news here at all. My schedule has been filled with meetings since I arrived on Monday, both on and off the show floor.

“The important thing to understand about GDC is that it’s not so much about the conferences or technical sessions or keynote addresses,” said Wallace Poulter. And he would know. Poulter used to work Apple as a games partnership manager—the key contact for game developers with Apple’s developer relations group. He’s an industry veteran whose curriculum vitae includes stints at Atari, Sega, LucasArts, and other companies. Poulter is now an independent consultant who focuses on the games industry.

“What happens during the show often isn’t nearly as important from a business development standpoint as what happens outside of the show,” said Poulter, referring to the myriad parties, mixers, and functions that occupy the nights of GDC attendees.

That’s definitely been my experience. I’ve been surprised with the level of interest in the Mac platform from the developers I’ve met with—everyone, from casual game makers like PlayFirst to industry heavyweights like Intel and AMD—is excited about Apple’s current efforts.

Outside of the conference sessions, GDC features two exhibit halls—the first floor of the West Hall and the North Hall at Moscone Center. Both see constant foot traffic from developers in between technical sessions and games businesspeople looking to scope out the newest trends in the market. Take a look at a slideshow of photos that I’ve take at GDC.

Much of what’s being shown on the show floor comprises tools that developers use to make games or design them—motion-capture systems, for example, or middleware that controls the display of video content; audio mastering software; codecs; and more. There are also institutions like DeVry University and DigiPen, which offer programs in video game development and design. Even Adobe is here, pitching Flash and Director to developers in a modestly-sized booth.

There are a few vendors of products aimed at consumers—Logitech, for example, showing off its latest gaming mice and steering wheels; Matrox, which recently announced its TripleHead2Go interface that splits a single dual-link DVI connector to support up to three displays simultaneously; MumboJumbo, which publishes casual games for the Mac and Windows platforms and recently branched out to consoles; and Sony and Nintendo, which are both vying for attention with their new PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles, and are providing kiosks equipped with the PlayStation Portable and DS Lite so visitors can get their hands on the latest games.

On the second floor of Moscone West, there’s a career fair—a packed maze of kiosks, booths and private meeting rooms where companies ranging from Activision to Blizzard to THQ are actively recruiting game developers looking for work. That area has been packed from the start.

Wednesday afternoon saw the annual booth crawl, where developers walk the show floor in legions. Vendors use the promise of free beer and other goodies to get expo goers to talk with them—now there’s an idea that IDG World Expo should pick up for next year’s Macworld Conference and Expo.

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