I came back from my first GDC. I've been dreaming about going there since my university years. My first impression? It's huge! It runs for so many days (Monday to Friday). There are so many talks, more than a dozen at same time, that you really need to choose carefully what is most interesting to you (and stand in a queue before the room, because if you come too late and the talk is very popular, there may be no free seats left).
As the world's largest event of this kind in the industry, it attracts best professionals and offers quality talks. This time there were sponsored talks from Amazon (about their engine Lumberyard), Facebook, Khronos, Google, NVIDIA, Unity, Intel, Microsoft, Oculus, AMD, Epic, ARM, Sony and others - basically every big company that deals with graphics, plus many other talks presented by individual developers. I was interested mostly in graphics programming, but of course there were many other topics covered, like artistic or business aspect of game development.
Expo was also big, with over 100 companies presenting their products, services and technologies. Big difference from Polish Poznań Game Arena is that GDC is targeted to professionals only, which means there aren't such big crowds of people standing in long queues to be able to play any game. I've never played so much VR as on this expo :)
There were other attractions too, like indie game developers presenting their productions or retro zone with working computers from previous decades. So many things to do there! In addition to that, I've met many friends there, who either live in US or came from Poland just like me.
Entrance fee is high, with pass for main conference starting at $1000 up to $2400 (on-site for all access), aside from plane ticket to San Franscisco and hotel there, so it's hard to go there on your own, unless your company pays for it. But if only you have the opportunity, I think GDC is definitely worth visiting.
By the way, gamedev conferences planned for this year in Poland are:
I hope to visit them all :)
Gallery of my photos (mostly from San Francisco):