GDC (Game Developers Conference) Online 2011 in Austin, Texas has come and gone, but the gaming convention gave an important glimpse at many gaming trends going forward. Although Blizzard was in attendance and Rift did make a considerable splash at the GDC Award show, the overall focus was not on large fantasy MMORPGs similar to World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. Four other areas with bright futures had a more profound presence at the four day long event: Social Games, Mobile Games, Browser Games, and MOBAs (Massive Online Battle Arenas).
Social Games not only had a large presence with the likes of Zynga and Playdom in attendance, but nearly every game wanted to show off it’s social features to the attendees. Mobile Games were also very big. I was handed a mobile phone with a beautiful Android Game more times than I can remember. One such game I happened to see at a coffee shop a few blocks away from the convention center. The game, Dragons vs. Unicorns, was barely playable but should attract a casual audience when it is released next year. Besides the catchy name, the graphics are very engaging and the game play will be very simple.
Despite being around longer than the three genres, Browser Games continue to have a sparkling feature. In addition to their ease of use and attractiveness to casual gamers, browser games were bolstered further by Minecraft at the GDC Award Show. Minecraft walked away with the awards for Best Community Relations and Best Live Game. The only game to win more awards was Rift. Similar to the genre itself, MOBAs were undoubtedly lead by League of Legends at the convention. Will there were not many big game exhibits, the leading MOBA had its comparably large exhibit and meeting area in the center for everybody to pass by and see. It was hard to miss. At the booth, there were all types of loot to pick up and a large video displaying the various aspects of the game such as the extremely detailed artwork for several of the champions. This display showed an excitement about the game that was contagious to everybody who stopped by. Granted this was not E3, but it was interesting to see other major MMO taking more of a low profile stance at the exhibit area.