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GDC 2023 Session Guide for Free-to-Play Games, Studios, and Creators

It's fun, accessible, and a unique way to engage new players. F2P developers heading to the Game Developers Conference: This Session Guide and Walkthrough will help you make the most of your GDC 2023

In our Free-to-Play track, learn the nuts and bolts of great Free-to-Play game design and successful business strategies across all genres, audiences, platforms, and stages of the lifecycle of a game.

The track exclusively includes sessions from: Free-to-Play Summit

Sign Up For GDC 2023 Here

The 2023 Game Developers Conference features hundreds of sessions—covering nearly every discipline, topic, and focus that matters to game developers today. It can be hard to choose! That's why we've created this helpful guide. Head here to view all previous GDC 2023 session guides.

It features some standout sessions, panels, and events dedicated to helping your career and company growth efforts. In addition, we've got tips on making the most of your GDC, and links to GDC Vault videos and Game Developer articles that will help you get pumped for GDC 2023.

Be sure to visit our Session Viewer for a full list of Free-to-Play talks at GDC 2023 and get started on prepping that schedule. For those wanting the option to experience every session at GDC 2023, be sure to register for an All-Access Pass

Summits Session Picks for: Free-to-Play

Free-to-Play Summit: The Year in Free-to-Play Games
Dave Rohrl (Founder & CEO, Visible Entertainment)
Scott Hartsman (Advisor & Director, Multiple Companies)
Steve Meretzky (VP of Design, PeopleFun)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "The traditional kickoff session of the Free-to-Play Summit covers the latest trends and the most interesting developments in free-to-play games, across mobile, PC and console. This year, long-time presenters Dave Rohrl and Steve Meretzky are joined by Scott Hartsman. Come hear what they have to say about the eventful year behind us, and their predictions for the year ahead."

Free-to-Play Summit: Sugary Statistics: 'Candy Crush' Lessons After 10 Years and 10,000 Levels
Xavier Guardiola (Data Science Director, King)
Jan Wedekind (VP Central Insights, King)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 10:50 am - 11:50 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "Jan Wedekind, VP of Central Insights, and Xavier Guardiola, Director of Data Science, will introduce what King has learned about content in Candy Crush Saga after 10 years and shipping over 10,000 levels."

Free-to-Play Summit: Playtesting your Game Economy on 'Marvel Strike Force'
Haider CW (Director of Economy, Scopely)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 3:50 pm - 4:20 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "Learn why they designed a framework to help playtest their game economy by breaking it down into meaningful milestones with measurable goals. Learn how they correlate these goals to player retention & make them more actionable."

Free-to-Play Summit: Game Designer's Notebook
Kenny Shea Dinkin (Senior Creative Director, Head of Narrative Design, Story Development, King)
Kent-Erik Hagman (Associate Design Director of Marvel Snap, Second Dinner Studios)
Jason Mai (VP of Creative for Studios , Big Fish Games)
Madhumitha Venkatesh (Game Design Director, King)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "There are many game design topics that don't require an hour to discuss, but can be useful, especially for experienced game designers, as quick deep dives or punchy bits of food for thought. The Game Designer’s Notebook asks seasoned game designers to open up a few pages from their notebook, and share insights and explorations into contemporary design issues in the F2P game design arena."

Free-to-Play Summit: 'Roblox' Economics: A Fireside Chat with Gamefam CEO Joe Ferencz
Ethan Levy (Chief Product Officer, Any Wonder)
Joe Ferencz (CEO, Gamefam)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 1:20 pm - 1:50 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "In this session, Deconstructor of Fun host Ethan Levy interviews Joe Ferencz, CEO of the #1 game developer on the Roblox platform, about his experience running Gamefam. Ethan and Joe discuss what it's like running a massively scaled business, with over 25MM players daily players and 30 live games, on Roblox."

Free-to-Play Summit: Meaningful Marketability Testing: Avoiding Pitfalls and Preventing Costly Mistakes
Diana Maher (Marketing Leader, Independent Contractor; ex-Dots(T2); ex-Melsoft)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 2:10 pm - 2:40 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "Diana Maher spent several years studying ways of running reliable and practical early marketability tests and will share insights to equip you with the knowledge and understanding you need to design early tests and use the results to make sound decisions. This talk will walk through sample marketability tests and analyze their KPIs and pitfalls, and offer recommendations on how to effectively use marketability testing."

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your GDC

1. Join a speed networking session: Our talks and panels are amazing, but be sure to bookmark at least one speed networking session during your time at GDC. They're a great way to network with like-minded professionals and industry colleagues. More info on these sessions to come. 

2. Meet up in the Connect Lounge: The GDC 2023 Expo Floor features hundreds of booths and exhibitors—along with a dedicated networking space where attendees can schedule meetings (through Swapcard, once available) with prospective clients or employers.

3. Plan your Expo tour... then wing it: The GDC 2023 Expo Floor features many booths and exhibitors, showcasing some of the latest games, technologies, and career opportunities. Be sure to visit our interactive Floor Plan so you can map out the booths you want to visit. But don't forget to set aside some time for an unstructured lap around the Expo Floor. You might be surprised by what you find—one time I discovered a popcorn machine! A vital snack in the afternoon.

4. Get food recs from an SF ambassador: Trying to find something to eat in between sessions? Keep an eye out for the city’s official Welcome Ambassadors–in their signature bright orange jackets, with the words “Welcome Ambassador” written on the back. They'll be hanging around GDC and may have recommendations on interesting spots to grab breakfast or lunch.

5. Attend the GDCA and IGF Awards: On Wednesday, March 22 at 6:30pm PT, the GDC Main Stage hosts the Independent Games Festival Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards—two prestigious ceremonies that celebrate the game industry and standout games and developers of the past year. Best part: It's free for attendees of all pass levels.

Watch and Read

(VIDEO) Free-to-Play Summit: Don't Pass on Battle Pass: Best Practices for F2P Design: David Fox (GDC Vault)

(VIDEO) Free-to-Play Summit: The Year in Free-To-Play Mobile Games: 2022 Edition: Steve Meretzky, Dave Rohrl (GDC Vault)

(ARTICLE) Defining Free to Play Ethics: Josh Bycer (Game Developer)

(ARTICLE) Free mobile games are helping juice podcast listening numbers: Justin Carter (Game Developer)

Watch more Free-to-Play talks on GDC Vault here

This is the latest in our series of Session Guides for GDC 2023, with recommendations for sessions, events, networking opportunities, and more. Head here to view all previous GDC 2023 session guides.

Of course, the only way to see these sessions, and so much more, is to sign up for GDC! 

Register for GDC 2023 Here

We can’t wait to see you at GDC 2023, taking place March 20-24, 2023 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Head here for information on booking a hotel and other travel inquiries, and follow the #GDC23 hashtag for the latest news and updates for this year’s exciting event.

GDC returns to San Francisco this March 20-24, 2023, and registration is now open! For more information, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDC23 hashtag on social media.

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