When it happened last year, the two-day Austin Game Conference was awakening from a 10-year pause. It had last appeared in Austin in 2006 and, four years after a similar conference, the Game Developers Conference Online headed west, it returned for a strong debut, featuring panels for those in the games industry, an expo hall and lots of discussion about the future of video games.
Now it’s back for round two. Taking place Thursday and Friday at the Austin Convention Center, the event is expected to have similar attendance as last year, which drew about 800 registrants, says Chris Sherman, executive director of Austin Game Conference.
That’s even as a rival conference that pulled up stakes from Austin to California in 2012, the Game Developers Conference, scheduled a Virtual Reality Developers Conference event for the same two days in San Francisco.
“This forced people to decide: AGC or VRDC?” Sherman says. “Even so, we have a great audience and even great participation from VR heavyweight HTC, which is once again hosting it's HTC VIVE VR Showcase in the AGC Expo Hall. That says something.”
This year, the conference will be anchored by keynotes featuring John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Inc., which was behind last year’s mobile hit “Pokemon Go,” and Richard Hilleman, director of Amazon Games. Hanke will speak on the increasingly popular medium of augmented reality while Hilleman will focus on staying inspired without compromises as a game developer.
Austin Game Conference is the largest event in the area dedicated to game development. Austin has regular meetups and groups devoted to game development and conferences including RTX and PAX South in San Antonio cater to game players with some content for creators and those hoping to join the industry. South by Southwest Gaming splits the difference with events for gamers as well as panels geared toward professionals in the industry.
Sherman said changes at Austin Game Conference this year include two new tracks of panels: Game Audio, sponsored by Dolby, and a Technical Track. Sponsors this year in addition to HTC include Intel, which is hosting an indie games showcase Wednesday night, and Twitter’s MoPub, which is sponsoring a Business track.
MoPub’s involvement (it helps publishers monetize mobile apps) points to interest in making money with mobile games, Sherman said. “They’re recognizing app games as a significant and growing segment,” he said. There will also be longer breaks between panels, 30 minutes instead of 15, to accommodate more networking for attendees.
As for panels, augmented reality is a hot topic as Apple has begun to make a big push in that area, but virtual reality is still of major interest to game developers, Sherman said. And he says that mobile games are seeing a resurgence while indie games are very hot right now.
“We have multiple sessions that address how indies can survive and thrive from Kickstarter campaigns to community management to marketing to working with a publisher,” Sherman said.