We speak to GDC Europe's event director to find out more about its return

Q&A with Frank Sliwka

What differs this year’s event from previous GDC Europe conferences?

Our guiding principle has been to create a conference that addresses the unique issues facing the European game development community like no event has done before. As such, you can expect a speaker roster, an exhibitor roster and an attendee roster to include people from all over the continent coming together to learn, to network and to inspire each other to further the advancement of the games industry in Europe.

In just the keynotes alone, you see that we have speakers from Iceland, Sweden, France and Germany. Also we have made a concerted effort to bring people and companies that are interested in doing business in Europe. So you will see representatives from the business development departments of companies including Microsoft, Capcom, Disney, Paramount, DDM, Strategic Alternatives and more. This year we are also looking to shape some new tools which we would like to expand over the next years. For instance, we’re organising workshops for representatives from the film industry and the games industry where they can sit down and talk about character design, interactive opportunities in movies and games, story telling and other issues relevant to both. We’re also organising meetings with executives for digital distribution and online gaming. We, of course, are also developing sessions for students interested in moving into game development.

And what distinguishes the GDC Europe events from the other GDCs?

Each of the global Game Developers Conferences are designed and programmed to serve the needs of their immediate communities. GDC Europe keenly investigates the current technologies and business opportunities throughout Europe today. For example, the conference will play special attention to online games—their design, production, and business models in Europe. Also we are looking to help create new business opportunities for European developers with other regions – North America and Asia. One particularly important topic is to help expand the collaboration between European developers. Maybe, by working together, they can expand their businesses or find ways to save money by working together. We’ve also given the associations that serve the European game development community the opportunity to have a presence at GDC Europe.

If an attendee could only attend one session at this year’s GDC Europe, which do you think it should be?

I can’t limit it to one session, because there are so many exciting slots. But I can say that the one key topic at GDC Europe is: Showcasing Europe! It’s very difficult to narrow down to a single session, as the entire schedule features sessions that promise to be extremely valuable for different sectors of the European game development community but, outside of the keynotes which I would advise nobody miss, I think that the serious games panel, the outscourcing panel and the talk about digital istribution from Bigpoint should prove to be very exciting.

What can an attendee hope to take away from GDC Europe?

The three main things I feel attendees should come away with are: firstly, an understanding of the strength of the European development community, and the opportunities available to them. Secondly, a host of new contacts and potential partners and associates and I would hope, thirdly, ideas as to how to improve their current or next game, or solutions to problems they are facing on current projects.

What does Cologne offer GDC Europe as a host city?

Cologne is one of Europe’s – and certainly one of Germany’s – most fun cities. Aside from the city’s ease of reach via plane and train, Cologne offers an exciting nightlife as well as several day-time activities including sites, museums, performing arts, and shopping along cobblestone streets. GDC Europe attendees will definitely fall in love with Cologne by the end of the conference. And in Cologne you can enjoy Koelsch – enjoy it!

Which speakers are you most happy to have secured?

I am happy about every speaker that is addressing a topic important to the European game development community and what is necessary to be successful in Europe, and I am excited about all of our keynotes. On a personal level, I am particularly happy that some great German studios were selected by the Advisory Board to give talks at GDC Europe, including Crytek, Gameforge, Bigpoint, Fishlabs, Replay Studios and Exocet.

Why the extra focus on serious games and mobile games this year?

Both sectors provide an enormous amount of opportunity for developers, and during a time when the world economy is at its current state, it is important to make sure that European developers have access to the information about as many options available to them as possible. That’s why we have a sessions like the panel ‘Serious Games: New Business Opportunities for the Games Industry?’ and ‘Successful iPhone Product Development Experiences.’ It’s also why we have panels such as ‘Surviving Project Cancellation in the Economic Downturn’ and ‘Ask the Decision Makers: Find Out What Publishers Want and How to Get What You Want’ featuring panelists from Capcom, Digital Development Management, Disney Interactive, Foundation 9, Jerry Bruckheimer Games, Konami, Microsoft, Namco Bandai and Paramount Pictures.

In the end, GDC Europe is meant to serve the needs of the entire European game development community, and there is a tremendous amount of mobile game and serious game development happening here, as evidenced by conference particpants such as Daedelic Entertainment, Empatti, Fraunhofer IGD Rostock, Nordmedia and Simlinx on the serious Games side and Fishlabs, Subatomic Studios, Two Tribes and others on the mobile games side.

Finally, what is it that GDC offers that no other European industry event provides?

It is the ultimate showcase for Europe; the conference should provide the most comprehensive overview of the European games industry, whereas I feel that most other events are more focused on their specific regions. It will provide a uniquely European perspective and serve as a coming together of game development leadership from all over the continent.

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