We don’t often make an enormous deal concerning the annual Game Developers Conference. Sure, we cowl it. Why not? It’s proper down the road from our workplace in San Francisco, and in previous years we’ve gotten some large tales out of it. It’s the place Microsoft gave us the first details on DirectX 12, again in 2014—a transfer that’s simply now beginning to come to fruition. It’s additionally the place Epic made Unreal Engine free for builders. It’s the place real-time ray tracing turned, properly, actual. And who may overlook the mythological Atari VCS, a console we “saw” at GDC 2018 however nonetheless have but to see in any working type.
Point being: There are all the time one or two attention-grabbing tales to come back from the present.
But 2019 is trying to be a GDC for the ages, an actual storm of reports from Google, Microsoft, Epic, Valve, and extra. New consoles! New providers! New questions on outdated providers! We often don’t write up one in all these primers for GDC, however this yr’s present is one you must in all probability control, for all the explanations beneath.
Let’s begin with Google, as its keynote is concurrently essentially the most predictable and essentially the most disruptive. For the final six months or so, Google’s been testing what it calls “Project Stream.” Those who signed as much as take part got a free copy of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey during the take a look at. The catch? You didn’t personal a duplicate of Odyssey, nor have been you profiting from any upscale PC you had readily available. As you would possibly anticipate from the identify, you have been streaming Assassin’s Creed from Google’s servers to your PC, through Chrome.
Now clearly Google’s not the primary to do that. OnLive pioneered the concept greater than a decade in the past, and Sony at present presents an identical service through PlayStation Now. You can even stream PlayStation exclusives to your PC.
Signs point out that Google will give Project Stream an official identify, pricing construction, and launch date subsequent week throughout GDC. We’ve been invited to an occasion scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 10 a.m. Pacific the place Google’s promised to unveil “the future of gaming.” And whereas I’d anticipate the already-tested Chrome performance to proceed, it’s value noting that is shaping as much as be a much bigger announcement than simply the PC. Google can also be anticipated to unveil a streaming-centric console throughout GDC, full with its personal controller. Other rumors have speculated there’s Chromecast performance as properly, given the newest mannequin comprises Bluetooth and thus may assist Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers.
That’s what makes this theoretically such an enormous deal. Before Google sells even a single console, it’s already carved a distinct segment into the video games trade that comprises each Chrome consumer and probably a major slice of Chromecast customers as properly. Then all it wants is video games.
Of course, Google’s not the one one wanting towards a digital future. Microsoft’s rumored to be engaged on streaming on a number of fronts, a few of which could present up at GDC. The overarching umbrella is Project xCloud, Microsoft’s recreation streaming answer. At the second, xCloud appears primarily supposed for next-gen. A brand new Xbox is true across the nook—so shut, the newest whispers say we’d hear particulars as early as E3. One rumor says we’d get an affordable, streaming-centric Xbox as a part of Microsoft’s next-gen lineup, constructed on Project xCloud.
So what’s that should do with GDC? Well, on this situation Microsoft’s not only a firm anymore, however a service firm. It doesn’t care the place you play its video games, so long as you pay to play them—a rumor that’s at the least partially supported by Microsoft’s friendlier perspective towards the PC of late.
Thus there’s a variety of curiosity in a Microsoft panel at GDC titled, “Xbox Live: Growing & Engaging Your Gaming Community Across Platforms.” That appears to suit into Thursday’s information that Microsoft ported Xbox Live to iOS and Android. And that is likely to be all we get subsequent week! There’s an opportunity xCloud will not be talked about in any respect.
Yet additional hypothesis (through Direct-Feed Games) suggests Microsoft will launch its Game Pass subscription service on the Nintendo Switch within the close to future. From there it’s a really brief hop to “streaming Xbox games to Android, iOS, and Switch.” We’ll see what occurs subsequent week, and the way a lot of this Microsoft saves for E3.
The increasing Xbox household
There’s extra, although. Microsoft is swarming with rumors these days, and whereas none of those are essentially exhibiting up at GDC, it’s at the least value mentioning them.
First up, an Xbox One S sans-optical drive. A Windows Central rumor says Microsoft will launch the “Xbox One S All-Digital Edition” in May, with preorders kicking off in April. There are solely two trade reveals between from time to time, GDC and PAX East, so whereas none of Microsoft’s panels appear to be an apparent place to announce a console the chances are nonetheless fairly good.
Even extra of a long-shot: Native Xbox One video games on PC. This rumor stems from some work at Thurrott final month, which noticed the newest Windows Insider construct downloading State of Decay from the Xbox servers and seemingly working the Xbox model natively on Windows 10. Extend that out a bit, and maybe all Xbox One video games will quickly run on PC as an alternative of simply the present crop of common Windows app ports. But will we get that information at GDC? Probably not. That appears rather more fitted to an E3 reveal.
Okay, so what else do we have now at GDC? Epic and Valve.
It’s the competitors that can outline 2019, with the upstart Epic Games Store doing its damnedest to dethrone Steam. Already we’ve seen Metro Exodus and The Division 2 go Epic-exclusive, with extra video games more likely to observe because the yr goes on—which makes Epic’s regular Wednesday-morning “State of Unreal” keynote an attention-grabbing prospect. While Epic tends to maintain that speech comparatively developer-centric, there are often one or two broader items of reports included.
The extra pertinent session takes place Thursday morning, although, when Epic hosts “Epic Games Store: An Update and Q&A.” Announcements of upcoming exclusives? Maybe. But I’d be extra concerned about seeing a highway map for added options—cloud saves, for example.
Epic had higher hope it has some strong information to ship, as a result of actually 15 minutes after the Epic Games Store session we’ll have the “Steam Business Update.” Again, it’s onerous to know what Valve will discuss right here, however given the smattering of interface updates just lately I’m hoping we’ll get our first all-encompassing have a look at the long-awaited Steam overhaul, or some thought how Valve plans to handle the discoverability issues that now plague the shop. And that is along with some dialogue of the brand new Steam Link Anywhere streaming capabilities introduced this week, in fact.
There’s extra, in fact. GDC’s been an unofficial VR present for years, and that streak will proceed this yr I’m positive. Oculus’s standalone Quest headset is just some months off now, so I anticipate we’ll see some extra demos on that. HTC revealed two new Vive headsets at CES in January, so these additionally may very well be probably candidates to point out up right here. I’m excited to strive the brand new Vive Pro with built-in eye-tracking, given how properly our Tobii demo went final yr.
Unity’s additionally internet hosting a keynote on Monday. I don’t anticipate that’ll be too consumer-oriented, however now that we dwell in a post-Epic Games Store world I don’t know what to suppose. It may merely be engine updates, new instruments for builders—or Unity may additionally be launching a storefront. Who is aware of?
And then there would be the regular smattering of video games, in fact. GDC isn’t actually identified for recreation bulletins or demos, however there are all the time rumors, and this yr’s rumors are pretty exciting.
All in all, it’s set to be essentially the most jam-packed GDC in latest reminiscence. Stay tuned subsequent week, as we’ll be bringing you updates from the present as fast as we are able to. Don’t anticipate any Atari VCS information although—I already requested, and it gained’t be there. Quelle shock.