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The Game Developers Conference drew more than 12,000 industry professionals to attend in-person in San Francisco last week. And another 5,000 joined GDC 2022 on the online platform.

The show was the largest conference in San Francisco since the start of the pandemic, taking place at the Moscone Convention Center from March 21 to March 25.

That is understandably a lot smaller than in pre-pandemic times. In 2019, GDC drew 29,000 people in person. And the number made sense to me, as I attended and saw much smaller crowds than normal for the Moscone sessions as well as the meeting locations such as the local hotel lobbies.

The call for submissions for GDC 2023 will open in the summer. The most crowded sessions I saw included the Game Developers Choice Awards and the Independent Games Festival (where Daniel Mullins Games’ Inscryption won both Game of the Year awards), which filled up a fair amount of the Moscone Center West Hall ground level.

There weren’t nearly as many platform events or talks (Unity had some talks, but Epic Games, Meta, Google, Microsoft, and many others did not do their usual large press events or developer events). For me, that meant I focused on meetings, interviews, and conference sessions. It was kind of like the old GDC, which wasn’t a spectacle, and which I enjoyed more in the good old days. I had some time to wander and check out the show floor, which was sparse but still had 200 exhibitors.

Here’s an example of the crowd size at GDC 2022. It wasn’t a ghost town, but it wasn’t huge either.

Overall, there were more than 1,000 speakers and more than 600 lectures, tutorials, and roundtables. I went to a limited number of sessions but I got the last week at a session where Jordan Blackman explained the opportunity around non-fungible tokens (NFTs). That’s a hot button topic, as many crypto enthusiasts and experimental game developers have embraced NFTs while many hardcore game fans and core game developers are rejecting them.

I had numerous conversations with people about NFTs, and it remains a volatile topic. (More about that later). But the GDC sessions aimed to share information with people so they could make their own decisions, said Katie Stern, head of GDC, in our pre-show interview.

Many people were of course cautious about attending GDC this year because of the ongoing pandemic. There were long lines to get into the event in the morning as people had to show proof of vaccination as they got their badges. I heard from some that they knew people who came back from the show with COVID, as has happened at the two previous public events I’ve attended (SXSW and the Dice Summit). Inside the halls, attendees had to wear masks. And in conference sessions, masks were also required. But at social events, I saw many people without masks.

The line to get badges on the first morning of GDC 2022.

GDC will return to the Moscone Convention Center Monday, March 20 to Friday, March 24, 2023. The call for submissions for GDC 2023 will open in the summer.

Among the session highlights: Josh Wardle, creator of the international phenomenon Wordle, gave a talk on how he developed, grew, and sold the ubiquitous word game, with a focus on all the mistakes made along the way to its status as a huge hit.

Other speakers talked about the creation of hit games including, Baldur’s Gate 3, Clash of Clans, Horizon: Forbidden West, Life is Strange: True Colors, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Psychonauts 2, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Sable, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience at Walt Disney World, classics such as Wolfenstein 3D and Q-bert, and much more.

Osama Dorias hosts the GDC Choice Awards.

“It’s been an honor to reunite the exceptional video game development community at GDC 2022 and to share in the love for games and each other that has brought so many people to San Francisco this week,” said Katie Stern, who oversees the GDC as VP of Entertainment Media at Informa Tech, in a statement. “The learnings, accomplishments and people that have made up GDC 2022, have made it clear that the video game industry community is stronger than ever and we’re already so excited for what is to come in GDC 2023.”

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