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The Making of GDC: Planning GDC 2019 (and beyond!)

[In this opening blog, Game Developers Conference GDC GM Katie Stern discusses what's been going on since GDC ended in March, and sets the stage for a series of blogs going behind the scenes on how we put the event together.]

It always surprises me how fast time passes. Annual events come and go so quickly. Wasn’t GDC just last month?? As it turns out, GDC 2019 is only about 6 and a half months away. Seriously! 6 months!! There is so much to do! We have to line up speakers, confirm exhibitors, select Conference Associates, make audio-visual orders, design signage and so much more. In fact, with so much to do, we thought it appropriate to add a blog to our plate about what the GDC team does behind the scenes to produce GDC.

The greater team working on GDC encompasses about 40 full or part-time people. They do everything from crafting content, to marketing, to event operations, and this blog is intended to give you insight into what they do, long before GDC happens. So, how long does it take to plan GDC, and when does planning start?

Quick answer, 10-12 years. Yes, you read that correctly… 10-12 years. However, let me explain and provide the long answer. Currently, GDC is discussing dates as far in the future as 2030. In fact, dates for GDC 2019 were first discussed around 2008. Holding an event for 25,000-30,000 requires one to look far into the future. Many locations get booked up years in advance, so our operations team prepares long range forecasts predicting how much meeting space and how many hotel rooms will be required.

Without getting overly technical, GDC requires A LOT of conference rooms and A LOT of expo space and A LOT of hotel rooms to house our 550+ exhibitors, 750+ conference sessions and 28,000 guests. The fact of the matter is, there are only a small handful of cities that even come close to fitting a conference of this size and scope - and many of the most obvious picks for alternates don't have the conference space we need. Hence, the long-term planning and our cozy current home in San Francisco.

As it relates to when we actually start digging into the planning for the current year, the answer is one week after the previous year. Yep. We take a quick breather (get over being sick), and then dive right into analysis of every piece of data we have available – your session evaluations, your answers to the post-event survey, anecdotes we picked up onsite, everything you told our neutral 3rd party researchers, discussions with the GDC Advisory Board. We honestly read everything and pay attention to it all. This drives our strategy for the upcoming year. And we have a lot of exciting things in store based on your feedback. I can’t wait to start announcing it.

So there you have it. While this quick analysis may not provide all of the nitty gritty details, hopefully it does shed a little light on how the GDC team approaches selecting a location and how far in advance we are working to put together GDC for all of you fine folks. As the rest of the planning cycle unfolds, stay tuned for additional insider knowledge on “The Making of GDC”!


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