The big annual Game Developers Conference returned to San Francisco with its Monday morning opening, and it runs through Thursday at the Moscone Center, with twice as many attendees expected compared to last year’s scaled-down version.

Big conferences returned to San Francisco in 2022, they just weren’t nearly as big. But the conference industry is hoping to pump things up back to normal size this year. And on Monday morning, the 37th annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), which bills itself as “the world’s largest event for professionals dedicated to the art and science of making games,” returned in almost-full force to the Moscone Center. After a 2022 iteration that capped at about 10,000 attendees, this year’s organizers tell the Bay Area News Group that “attendance is predicted to surpass 24,000” for this conference that runs through Thursday.

We do have some reports from on the ground, and lines appeared robustly long enough that attendance might indeed hit that figure. Hope those guys are wearing deodorant!

Image: Official GDC via Flickr

Images from the official GDC Flickr page indicate pretty good sized crowds, albeit with very few masks to be seen except for on paid staff. And the speaker lineup does not show any big crossover-hit personalities (last year they had the Wordle guy), but director of event production Stephenie Hawkins tells the Bay Area News Group “We have over 330 exhibitors and over 700 sessions.”

Last year’s big topics were Web 3, crypto, and NFTs, all of which are now mostly in the toilet. But Artificial Intelligence will be this year’s conference darling. “The new technology drawing the most buzz has been artificial intelligence thanks to the success seen with OpenAI’s ChatGPT,” according to the Bay Area News Group. “One panel will look at how industry experts see AI impacting the future of gaming in terms of design as well [as] integrating AI into existing games. Another session will look at AI’s immediate impact in the real world with a focus on the relationship between generative AI and artists.”

The conference runs through Thursday, and passes are $293-$2,204. That’s probably a little steep unless your work is paying for it. But it’s surely great for South of Market to have those hungry, thirst, and afterparty-attending visitors in the area, and it’s nice to welcome back a conference that doesn’t bitch about San Francisco and threaten to move to Las Vegas or Austin.

Related: Big Conferences are Back, as Game Developers Conference Returns to Moscone Center [SFist]

Image: @Official_GDC via Twitter