GDC 2024 draws nearly 30,000 attendees, up about 7%

The Game Developers Conference drew nearly 30,000 attendees to San Francisco’s Moscone Center last week, with the numbers up 7% from 28,000 a year earlier.

The show owner Informa also announced that GDC 2025 will be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco again on March 17 to March 21, 2025.

The conference featured more than 1,000 speakers, 325 exhibitors and 730 lectures, summits and roundtables. The call for submissions for GDC 2025 will open in early July 2024.

Once again the show featured programs such as the Independent Games Festival (IGF) in the IGF Pavilion, the Game Developers Choice Awards and the alt.ctrl.GDC exhibit that is home to games that use alternative controllers including wheelchairs, toaster ovens and giant oversized hats.

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New gadget demo of Limbitless at GDC 2024 show floor.

“GDC exists to give developers a space to meet, network and learn. The need for that connection has never been more urgent. We were gratified to witness first-hand as aspiring developers and veteran game makers convened to share their knowledge and ambitions to create the amazing games that we will enjoy in the years ahead,” said Stephenie Hawkins, GDC event director, in a statement. “In light of emerging generative AI technologies, layoffs and evolving working conditions, the Game Developers Conference will continue to provide developers with the key understandings and relationships to forge their way forward. We will also continue our efforts to recognize the amazing work of game makers and expand access to GDC content to a wider audience.”

GDC featured workshops and sessions led by some of the biggest names in the games and entertainment industry.

Esteemed developers shared their insights into the creations of hit games including: Alan Wake 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Zelda: Tears of Kingdom, Baldur’s Gate 3, and more.

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GDC 2024 panelists for #1ReasonToBe.

I attended the #1ReasonToBe session about women game developers from around the world (more on that later). And it was the first show where my daughter attended with me. She shot photos for GamesBeat while job hunting for environment artist roles. And she attended the Women in Gaming panel and gathering on Thursday at the show.

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Women in gaming panel at GDC 2024.

I also loved spending time with GamesBeat writers Jordan Fragen and Rachel Kaser at the show, as well as seeing many dear colleagues and friends from across the decades. 

Among the fun conversations was my chat with Jordan Mechner, creator of Prince of Persia, about Replay, his cross-generation family memoir that weaved in his own personal game development life. I also enjoyed a panel where Vedran Klanac, Alexey Pajitnov, Kate Edwards and Vlad Micu discussed the prototype of an unpublished Tetris game, Tetris Reversed, that was unearthed after more than a decade.

Tetris Reversed panel and audience selfie.
Tetris Reversed panel and audience selfie.

During GTC and GDC, I enjoyed (OK, not really enjoyed) going back and forth between San Jose and San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday during GDC week, moderating four on-camera interviews on Monday with Nvidia people, and moderating three panels on Tuesday with Community Clubhouse, Mysten Labs/Sui, and Nvidia’s digital twin/Omniverse session. On Thursday, I was able to moderate an interview session live from the show floor with Chris Hewish (CSO of Xsolla) and David Stelzer, president of Xsolla, for their views on the state of gaming in 2024. (Xsolla is a GamesBeat partner).

Event highlights

Troy Baker at the GDC concert.
Troy Baker at the GDC concert.

Among the highlights? Popular voice actor Troy Baker (Joel in The Last of Us) hosted musical performance of video game scores by a live orchestra with GDC Main Stage: A Developer’s Concert. The live instrumental performance showcased influential and notable game scores throughout history, including 2024 IGF, GDCA and Grammy Awards nominees.

Troy Baker and Austin Wintory on stage at the GDC concert.
Troy Baker and Austin Wintory on stage at the GDC concert.

The concert was conducted by Austin Wintory, composer for games like Stray Gods, Journey and more, and it was performed by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

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GDC 2024 concert performed by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Ubisoft demoed its AI Neo non-player characters. Epic Games’ State of Unreal revealed news about its upcoming iOS and Android store debut. And Amy Hennig showed up at the Epic Games event to debut her Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra trailer.

Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra
Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra

GDC 2024 honored the top developers of the past year with the 26th annual Independent Games Festival Awards and the 24th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA). Notably, Visai Games’ Venba won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Anthology of the Killer, developed by Thecatamites, Tommy Tone and A. Degen, won the Nuovo Award, which honors titles that make the awards jurors think differently about games as a medium.

Osama Dorias and Rami Ismail presented the GDC 2024 Ambassador Award to Fawzi Mesmar, an award winning creative director, game designer, leader, author, public speaker, mentor and retired e-sports player that has been in the gaming industry for two decades. His career spanned the Middle East, New Zealand, Japan and Europe working for companies such as Ubisoft, DICE (EA), King (Activision Blizzard), Gameloft and Atlus (SEGA) to name a few.

As a game designer/director he has worked on over 20 titles that have been enjoyed by millions of players world wide most notably games in the Battlefield franchise, Candy Crush Franchise, Persona Franchise and many more.

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GDC 2024 awards show.

At the Game Developers Choice Awards, Baldur’s Gate 3 took home four trophies: Game of the Year, Best Narrative, Best Design and the Audience Award, while the developers of Venba earned two awards: Best Debut and Social Impact Award. A recording of the IGF and GDCA ceremonies can be viewed at

Regarding other news, I wrote about Ludovic Bodin‘s new book, Atomic Scaling, based on his observations about how small companies win in gaming. The Sandbox has crossed 1,000 user-generated experiences. King talked about its AI experiences with Candy Crush Saga. Infinigods teamed up with Arbitrum on King of Destiny. crossed 100M users for cloud gaming. Inevitable Games Fund is pouring $100M into Web3 games. And Stellar is putting $100M in to an Ethereum competitor Soroban. 

One bad incident?

I heard of a single possible episode of a “roofie” drink spiking during an after-hours event. It was publicly reported. But the authorities evidently did not fully investigate the matter, as you can see from the report.

The GDC sent the following reply about this incident:

Safety is a top concern for the Game Developers Conference (GDC) team, and to that end, the GDC extensively bolstered their safety measures this year to address possible concerns around both onsite incidents and those that can take place at satellite events and throughout the city. GDC established a series of initiatives to help keep all attendees safe during their time in and around the Moscone Center. 

These measures included an increased security presence onsite at GDC, the offer of walking escorts to any attendee who required or requested them, the 24-hour GDC Safety phone line (+1 925-852-4361) to field any safety concerns from March 14 through April 5, 2024, expanded training of GDC’s volunteer Conference Associates to flag and deal with harassment and other serious issues, the establishment of the GDC Travel Together program to help any attendees who wanted to form networking groups to walk together to and from the Moscone Center, and GDC’s partnership with San Francisco’s Safety Welcome Ambassadors to assist attendees in navigating the city outside of the Moscone Center. 

These safety efforts were in addition to the pre-existing set of safety precautions at GDC, which includes emergency phone access throughout Moscone; the publishing of guidelines and safety standards for navigating the conference and understanding how to discern between events that are affiliated with GDC and would have the GDC event and security teams present versus those that are not and would not; and GDC’s partnerships with SF Travel and the City of San Francisco to ensure a safe environment for all attendees.

GDC’s commitment to safety means constantly evaluating all incoming concerns from attendees and adding new safety measures while continually bolstering existing programs to ensure that attendees are safe during GDC. All GDC attendees are also required to abide by GDC’s strict Code of Conduct, which is heavily promoted throughout pre-event communications and signage at Moscone, that states that GDC will not tolerate any unacceptable behaviors including intimidating, harassing, abusive, discriminatory, derogatory or demeaning conduct by any attendees of GDC and related events, and that these behaviors can result in expulsion from the event.

GDC 2023 saw multiple alleged roofie reports.

New GDC programs

GDC Choice Awards
GDC Choice Awards

GDC introduced several new initiatives this year including GDC Travel Together program to help attendees form networking walking groups between six locations throughout San Francisco and the Moscone Center; a 24-hour GDC Safety phone line (+1 925-852-4361) that is available from March 14 through April 5 to field any safety concerns that came up around GDC; the Game History Gallery that showcased games from marginalized developers as well as tips on how to preserve games; introduced sunflower stickers for attendees with invisible disabilities who may need additional assistance; and launched brand-new GDC Start-Up for companies that have been in the industry for less than five years and have fewer than 50 employees.

GDC continued multiple programs to expand access to GDC content, including the Equal Opportunity Attendance Program, which offered 1,000 complimentary GDC Expo passes to applicants who were otherwise unable to attend without considerable financial assistance. This year, 700-plus passes were donated through the GDC scholarships program, made in partnership with more than 25-plus organizations dedicated to supporting and uplifting underrepresented voices in the industry.

Cruising through the GDC.
Cruising through the GDC.

In addition, GDC provided all IGF finalists travel stipends to ensure they could attend and participate in the conference. GDC celebrated finalists with the annual IGF Pavilion with a kiosk and equipment to highlight their games to the public at no cost and IGF Award winners receive prize money for their incredible work.

Other support resources included affordable onsite childcare services, an ADA accessible kiosk at the IGF Pavilion, accessible controllers at alt.ctrl.GDC and Arcade Play, reserved seating at all sessions for those with visual or auditory impairments, and a complimentary bike valet service for attendees.

Each year, GDC adds a selection of sessions to its video archive, GDC Vault, available at no cost to the game developer community. All sessions added to GDC Vault include closed captions in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Japanese. Official photos are available via the Official GDC Flickr account.

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