The Game Developers Conference isn’t really a place to expect breaking news. The event is for people who actually make video games to meet up and network and learn from each other. As a journalist, I almost feel kind of weird going, like I’m not supposed to be there. And the stories I do write are about diversity among game developers, indie trends, and hands-on impressions of games you wouldn’t expect to get high-profile previews.
And yet for whatever reason GDC 2019 has an unusually high amount of newsworthy buzz surrounding it, so much so that we have a few predictions for what we might see at the San Francisco show next week.
Part of the reason we’re so excited for this GDC is because some of its biggest potential news has been leaked already. This is especially the case for Microsoft, who seems poised to shed its dependency on hardware and bring Xbox games to any machine that will have them. We already know Xbox Live is coming to iOS and Android, but it also seems very likely that it along with the Game Pass streaming subscription will bring these online services to Nintendo Switch as well.
Google’s Video Game Console
This is another rumor that’s been all but confirmed by the company itself, but we expect Google to unveil some sort of gaming console at its GDC panel. This could be a Chromecast with a controller for Android games, a full-on living room gaming PC, or anything else in-between. But it is happening and it’ll be the biggest test yet for Google’s burgeoning Project Stream service, for playing AAA console games on anything with a good internet connection.
Hints of PlayStation 5
While rivals keep throwing out different gimmicks, the total market dominance of the PlayStation 4 probably has Sony thinking they can stay the course just putting out straight-forward video game consoles. We don’t expect a PlayStation 5 to get formally revealed at GDC. Sony isn’t even going to E3 so we don’t expect to see that console anytime soon. However, it is coming, and this GDC would be the right time for developers to start hearing some of Sony’s behind-the-scenes plans… and then leak those plans to the public.
Epic vs. Steam
The bloodiest war currently happening in gaming isn’t between consoles, it’s between PC game stores. For the longest time Steam was basically a monopoly for buying PC games, and fostered a problematic culture as a result. But flush with Fortnite cash Epic is giving Valve a real run for its money by snatching up exclusives left and right for the new Epic Games Store. The everyday game developers at GDC are sure to get tons of pitches on why they should bring their projects to Epic’s platform with its more generous share of profits. But we’re curious to see if Valve fires back and how.
Finally, Video Game Developers Unions
The biggest drama at last year’s GDC was the confrontation between agitated video game workers hungry to unionize their industry at last and the IGDA that seemed disinterested in helping them. Things have only gotten worse in this industry when it comes to treatment of workers and unjust layoffs. Just ask former Activision, Telltale, Boss Key, and Capcom Vancouver employees. Game developers want to unionize. The AFL-CIO wants game developers to unionize. I and plenty of other players who appreciate the value of human labor want game developers to unionize. Hopefully at this year’s GDC we get even closer to making it actually happen.