Last year's Game Developers Conference, like most in-person game industry events in 2020, was postponed, and then converted to an online-only event, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic still raging, GDC has announced that it will take "a new approach" for 2021 with a series of online events that will run throughout the year.
"The new constraints around in-person gatherings and travel also brought creativity, and we have been able to develop new formats, and new ways to offer content and community support throughout the year," GDC general manager Katie Stern said. "So, as Game Developers Conference celebrates its 35th edition this year, rather than pack everything into one week, we are hosting a family of GDC events that will deliver high-quality, curated content in more flexible and accessible ways online, as well as designing events that play to the strengths of virtual conferences, including more fluid networking and matchmaking opportunities."
Here's the schedule of events so far:
- GDC Masterclass (March 4-5): A series of one and two-day small-group virtual workshops that deliver in-depth, hands-on training around some of the most important challenges facing game developers today. These classes are a return to deeper, more intense learnings that go back to GDC’s roots and offer individualized feedback and practical experience.
- GDC Showcase (March 15-19): This first showcase event is a free-to-attend, all-digital event created to provide the GDC community a chance to come together safely in March. The event will provide a taste of what GDC is all about while exploring a slightly different and new array of content and formats with spotlight lectures, AMAs, interactive panels, live podcasts, and more.
- GDC 2021 (July 19-23): While we did consider an in-person component this year, we have decided that it’s more important that our speakers, attendees and sponsors be able to plan ahead, to continue to be as safe as possible, and to spend our attention on delivering the best possible GDC. As in a more traditional year, this year’s conference will be filled with deep content developed with our advisory board, a focus on community-building, networking and celebrations that GDC is known for.
- Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards (July 21): The IGF and GDCAs will return during the main GDC event. Submissions for the IGF Awards are already in and nominees will be announced in early May. The awards will take place back-to-back like usual and will be livestreamed on the official GDC Twitch channel.
The all-digital GDC plan follows less than two weeks behind the Entertainment Software Association's announcement that E3 will also be exclusively online this year. Bizarrely, Penny Arcade is still holding onto plans for in-person events in 2021: PAX East is currently scheduled to run June 3-6 in Boston, although organizers acknowledge that's an "optimistic scenario."
Additional GDC events are planned for the second half of 2021, "to keep the learning and networking going throughout this period of what feels like constant change." More information on that will be shared when it's available.