This week it's GDC week, the "largest professional game developers conference" where the industry comes together to talk about games, games and games. I'm sure it's an awesome experience for most people, and I'm sure you can meet a lot of great people at a conference like this.
I'm a professional game developer since 2004, I've never been there.. and that's okay.
(this is a blog pos from my weekly indie-business series over at the Orangepixel blog)
The business point of view
I understand the advantages a big conference like that can have from the business perspective. You can meet with publishers, you can talk to journalists and influencers. You can hang out with other cool indie developers and create a mutual respect that way so that when you release your new game these guys can help you influence their audience to also look at your game.
But at what cost? I mean that literally, the costs. The GDC tickets start at $299 and go all the way up to $1900, and that's only if you are amongst the early ones. If you are slightly late to get your tickets, it can run up to $2300 for the all access pass. Granted, you most likely don't need the all access pass, but even at the middle tier we're talking about $1000 per ticket.
That's just the ticket! We still need to get there, and we need to sleep and eat somewhere for those days. From Europe, a quick check at CheapTickets, reveals that a plane ticket is in the range of $1300-$2000. That's excluding the trip to the airport which at this point seems like minor travel fare.
At this point we're at $2300-$3000 and we still can't actually sleep, eat or drink when we get there. As for Hotels, from what I read, most of them are full or extremely expensive during this week, let's say we add another $1000 for a few nights ($200 per night). Sure there are probably cheaper solutions, crashing on someones couch, hostels, things like that.. now I don't know about you, but I'm not 20 or even 30 anymore: my back needs a good rest!
This is all excluding the trips from airport to hotel to conferences!
Being a "small" indie-developer, I can't justify spending at least $4000+ for a week, where I might or most likely might not, get coverage for my latest game or meet people that in some meaningful way make me recoup that amount.
So you might not opt to spend the 2+ month-wages (depending on your locale).. and that's okay!
From a personal point of view
I don't like large groups of people. So there is nothing even remotely attractive of hearing about a conference with 27.000+ people attending. Holy shit. no thank you.
Like most developers, I'm somewhat of an introvert. not shy. introvert. Being in the middle of a group of people I don't know doesn't bring out the best in me. I shut down and I look for ways to get out. I can talk and have fun with a group of people I know, and don't shy away from talking to people when in the mood for it. But being in the middle of a crowd, is not my thing.
On top of that there is all the noises, and the visuals that come at things like this. My brain would go into over-drive processing all of that for many hours into the night. I always had this problem, even in long train rides, at the end of those I'm extremely tired as my brain keeps replaying snippets of things I heard or saw. Not even sure that's a normal thing or not, but it happens to me!
Nothing about a conference like that lures me, not on a personal level and not on a business level.
And that's okay
Don't worry if you can't be there, it's okay, really it is. You are saving a lot of money, you can read up on all the big announcements online, and you get to work on your game!
I've seen multiple (starting) developers put a lot of money into GDC or PAX so they can showcase their game.. they had very few sales when they released, and aren't even close to recouping just the conference tickets. Even tho they met people, they made contacts with influencers.
Over the years I made a lot of great contacts; and I met them online only. Using social media, via email, even using linked-in! I never met most of them, I most likely never will, and it's okay! I'd like to think that my games do the talking for me.
The big indie games that are suddenly getting mentions during GDC? guess what, they would have had those mentions anyway because their game is just that awesome or pushed by a publisher. It has nothing to do with being there, they often time their PR and promotion to be in the same week which makes it seem like they are everywhere. Mostly because they have been working towards the GDC or PAX events.
Of course some face-to-face contacts with influencers could help you when you need to reach out to them to promote your new game that's about to release, and they might remember you from one of the thousands of developers they once met in that after party with all that alcohol after a long day of walking around a crowded conference. I guess that happens?
If you have a game that's really, really, REALLY awesome, then you don't need GDC, you just need to mail people showing them video or handing them a copy and they will gladly talk about your game.
If you don't have a game that's THAT awesome, you don't need GDC, you just save your time and money and make the next game.