Game Developers Conference takes a social turn

March 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The world's largest gathering of video game developers kicked off on Monday in San Francisco, but this year the gaming industry is at a turning point.

In a lobby lined with Xbox 360s, hardcore gamers clutch their controllers, transfixed on titles like Modern Warfare 3. But here at the Game Developers' Conference, there's a growing realization that this is only a small part of gaming's future.

"I think that social and mobile gaming is probably the future," said Bobby Santos, a conference delegate.

Santos came all the way from the Philippines to attend the conference and the games he played on the long flight here were nothing to sneeze at.

"Nowadays you can have the best graphics in the palm of your hands," said Santos.

Microsoft is showing off eye-popping games on phones running Windows8. And upstairs, in a session filled to capacity, Facebook is teaching developers how to make those games social.

"Games are so social, and have always been social, from board games to sports. It's just something you want to do and interact with your friends," said Matt Wyndowe, a Facebook games product manager.

"And that high score is higher than one of their friends high scores, they pass them, then we generate these mini leaderboards," said a Facebook presenter at the conference.

Any time a game automatically posts to your Facebook timeline, there's a chance your friends could see it and start playing too.

"You get access to hundreds of millions of users in a matter of minutes," said Brian My, an online game product manager.

Facebook may be the biggest social network for gaming, but now it has competition from Google. They're trying to lure developers away to build games for Google Plus by giving them tools they say will make it easier, and make the games look better.

"From Dust, who's played it? Xbox 360, PS3, ubisoft -- From Dust is running right now in native client in your web browser," said Colt McAnlis from Google.

Native Client is a new feature planned for future versions of Google's Chrome web browser that will let publishers release the games they already sell for XBOX and PlayStation as a web version in Google Plus, killer graphics and all, using much of their existing code.

"Now you have this amazing, vibrant, rich game in the social graph connecting all the people together, that's what these developers want," said McAnlis.

And developers hope their players will want it too.


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