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LOS ANGELES — It’s a time of transition for the video game industry.
With last year’s launch of the Wii U, the impending arrival of the PlayStation 4 and the likelihood of a new Xbox on the horizon, the next generation of video game consoles is nearly here.
However, more than half of the attendees at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco identify themselves as indie developers, and their next creations will be for smartphones and tablets. So when it comes to the next generation of consoles, the question on their minds doesn’t seem to be “What’s next?” but rather “Who cares?”
The schedule for this year’s GDC illustrates the dramatic changes that are reshaping the gaming industry, an evolution that is as much about business models as it is about pixels.
GDC organizers have added a summit on free-to-play games, plan talks on topics like crowd funding and micro-transactions, and are presenting panels with such titles as “Making Money with Mobile Gaming” and “Why Won’t FarmVille Go Away?”
For the past 15 years, the Independent Games Festival has served as the Sundance of GDC, specifically honoring and highlighting the work of indie developers. But the lines have increasingly blurred between the IGF and GDC, the 27-year-old conference that serves as the largest gathering of the gaming industry in the U.S. outside the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Simon Carless, executive vice president at UBM Tech Game Network, which hosts GDC, IGF and several other technology conferences throughout the year, said 58 percent of developers surveyed by organizers plan to release their next game for tablets and smartphones. That’s a big switch from 15 years ago, when GDC was known as CGDC — the Computer Game Developers Conference.
“I think what we’re seeing is that there’s many more small developers,” said Carless. “For example, 53 percent of developers identify as an indie developer and 46 percent of those surveyed work at companies with 10 employees or less. It’s simply a fact that people are more excited by platforms where there’s a low barrier for entry.”
Sony is angling to reignite developers’ enthusiasm with the PlayStation 4.
When the Japanese electronics giant announced the PS4 during a splashy press conference in New York last month, Sony boasted that the successor to the PS3 would essentially be a “supercharged PC,” a platform that would make it easier for developers to create and sell games.
Nintendo also was on hand Wednesday with a session outlining easier ways for developers to make apps for the Wii U, the touchscreen controller system that kicked off the latest generation of consoles last year but has not caught fire the way the original Wii did when it launched in 2006.
Microsoft will likely wait to tease how it plans to succeed its Xbox 360 console and camera-based Kinect system until E3 in June, although the company has scheduled several talks at GDC this week, including how to create games for Windows smartphones.
The Game Developers Conference is under way this week in San Francisco, touting the next generation of video games consoles that has nearly arrived. A major difference this year will be that many of the new developers will be making their creations for smartphones and tablets, a stark change from the past.×
Andrew House, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, speaks at an event to announce the Sony Playstation 4 last month. The schedule for the 2013 Game Developers Conference being held this week illustrates the dramatic changes that have reshaped the gaming industry in recent years. (AP/Frank Franklin II/File)×