By Dominic Walsh
The annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco proved to be a storming success. Mobile phone convergence received a shot in the arm, new developments in artificial intelligence were discussed, interface alternatives to the keyboard and mouse were proposed, and a Microsoft demo product went faulty on them.
Admittedly, the interface alternatives were a balance board or guitar, the artificial intelligence was mostly concerned with playing football, the mobile convergence was to do with Second Life (again), and the Microsoft demo was... well, business as usual.
Talking of which, and despite it being primarily a games show, there was also plenty for a B2B audience to mull over too.
First, mobile convergence. Given the interest in/hype over Second Life as a social networking and business tool, it’s interesting that its major mobile debut should be made at a gaming conference - will this perhaps result in business exploring the potential of other themed online worlds that have a far greater user-base, such as World of Warcraft (which has over 5.5 million subscribers in Asia alone)? The development of online worlds for mobiles points to their growing sophistication and capability – and it's less effort to carry a mobile phone on business than a laptop. The interface still isn't useful for all applications, but progress is certainly being made.
Alternative control methods are also of interest to users other than gamers. Touchscreens are already being touted as the next step for mobile phone interfaces, and Microsoft's Surface technology is also moving the interface away from highly specialised applications and into more general use, whether for design or just organising files. And once they can cope with more complex commands, even thought control-based interfaces could move beyond gamer headsets’ current "jump, duck, shoot" capabilities.
There was more, of course – the enthusiasm for online developer communities, continued moves to make as much content as possible downloadable, and a growing push towards user-generated content. But what has really come to the fore this year is that gaming is most definitely a business, with as much interest, activity and potential as, say, storage, telecoms or messaging.
You might still think in terms of spotty teenage inadequates feeding fifty pees into Sega Rally – but the truth is that the users, developers and related industry have all moved on to more serious territory.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to have another go on Minesweeper.