DICE 2013: The announcements, interviews and awards from the first big games show of the year

DICE 2013, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' annual gaming convention, kicks off Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. What will this year's show bring us: Peeks at next-gen announcements slated at E3? More Android-enabled standalone hardware? Embarrassing, drunken DICE Awards acceptance speeches?

Words with Friends creator believes Ouya will usher in a new era for living room gaming

Bettner started up Newtoy in 2008 with his brother, David, spurred by a love of chess and a lack of time to play it. Shortly thereafter the fledgling studio released Chess with Friends for iOS devices.

By 2010, Newtoy had released Words with Friends, been noticed by Zynga and had been purchased.

In the years with Zynga the small studio, rebranded Zynga with Friends, released four more title.

"We sold the company and told ourselves that we would be happy sharing our vision," Paul Bettner said.

But working for someone else never completely clicked for Paul Bettner.

"For whatever reason,...

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Star Trek's JJ Abrams' and Valve's Gabe Newell's full DICE Keynote Speech video

Valve co-founder and president Gabe Newell and Star Trek and Star Wars: Episode VII director J.J. Abrams joined forces to give the 2013 DICE Summit keynote — that keynote can now be viewed in its entirety.

Newell and Abrams revealed during the storytelling-focused keynote that they want to develop video games together and make movies based on Portal and Half-Life. Polygon spoke to Abrams post-keynote about his plans.

The keynote was intended to be livestreamed, but was recorded instead and recently uploaded. Thankfully, Polygon was there to live blog the keynote.

David Cage on what lies beyond Beyond: Two Souls for Quantic Dream

Quantic Dream's next PlayStation 3 game, Beyond: Two Souls, will be "quite different" from the studio's last, Heavy Rain, says founder and game director David Cage. And Cage's next project, whatever may come after Beyond, will also be "very different," he says.

"I make games because I want to discover. So [with] each game, I take risks," Cage told Polygon in an interview at last week's DICE Summit. "It would have been a very easy decision for me to make Heavy Rain 2; same game, different story, different characters and here you go. It probably would have sold more copies then than Heavy...

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World of Tanks developers talking with Day 1 about Reign of Thunder mech game

World of Tanks developer Wargaming.net hasn't quite decided yet what to do with Day 1 Studios' free-to-player mech combat game Reign of Thunder, the publisher's founder tells Polygon.

Free-to-play combat king Wargaming.net purchased Chicago-based Day 1 Studios last month for $20 million, renaming the studio Wargaming West. The official Reign of Thunder website powered down "for now," thanking supporters. At the time, the newly named studio said it would be focusing exclusively on the development of an "unannounced console title."

Speaking with Polygon during last week's DICE summit,...

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Mobile developers discuss the mobile game market at DICE

The rise of mobile gaming was a major point of discussion during the DICE Summit last week, including during a talk called "Secret Sauce — Disruption on the Mobile Frontier" given by representatives of three prominent mobile developers.

The panelists — Phil Larsen, chief marketing officer at Fruit Ninja developer Halfbrick Studios; David Edery, CEO of Steambirds studio Spry Fox; and Julian Farrior, CEO of Paper Toss Friends developer Backflip Studios — took part in a discussion of the mobile market that was moderated by Matt Lee Johnston, formerly a senior producer at PopCap Games.

Topics...

Star Wars Pinball hands-on: just the thing for crazy old pinball wizards

Zen Studios virtual pinball games Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2 will take their first steps into a larger world of licensing with the release of three Star Wars-inspired tables, coming soon.

Bound for PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Windows 8, Mac, Android and iOS, Star Wars Pinball taps deeply into Star Wars nostalgia with an initial trio of tables based on one film, one iconic bad guy and the animated Clone Wars series.

The table that may be its most popular, based on The Empire Strikes Back, is also designed to be its most accessible. The playfield is wide open, with ramps,...

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This is what you look, and sound like when you play the end of The Walking Dead

Dan Connors, CEO and founder of The Walking Dead developer Telltale Games, came to his DICE summit speech armed with some pretty amazing evidence of how powerful a narratively-driven, episodic game can be.

It's spoiler-filled, but it's powerful.

In the last third of the video, Connors plays picture-in-picture videos that show how people reacted to some of the more powerful moments of The Walking Dead game. Be warned, they're SUPER spoilers.

World of Tanks founder warns console makers of the risk of ignoring free-to-play

By 2015 the free-to-play market is expected to be $9.25 billion ... in the U.S. alone.

Wargaming founder Victor Kislyi's speech at the DICE summit this week centered on how to carve a little space out of that blossoming game space. He also took a moment to warn current console manufacturers that they ignore the trend at their own peril.

"They keep their own prejudice and they keep to their old ways," he said. "If they keep holding to their old way, single player box ideas they may pretty well drop.

"I hope they are wise and smart people and will have a chance to come back. I believe in...

Ouya's plans to curate great game content in a crowded online store

Ouya founder Julie Uhrman says she doesn't devote much time thinking about what her company's competitors are doing. Ouya, she says, is trying to find its own niche, separate from what traditional video game consoles and mobile devices can offer.

"We are really just trying to carve out our own niche in the marketplace," Uhrman told Polygon at DICE, "and offer something unique and creative that you can't get anywhere else. I don't believe that gamers define themselves by platform anymore. You want to play Call of Duty with 10,000 of your closest friends on Xbox; that is the best place to...

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thatgamecompany's heart remains unchanged after post-Journey exodus

Last year's launch of Journey saw the exodus of several key thatgamecompany members, but co-founder Jenova Chen says the heart of the studio remains unchanged.

The studio is "definitely different, but a majority of the people who worked on Journey are still in the company," he said. "And we have some new blood coming. We are back up to 12 people and soon we might be 13."

Thatgamecompany won eight of its 11 categories, including game of the year, at the DICE awards for Journey at this week's DICE summit. In a talk earlier this week, Chen said that while the game was a critical success it...

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Gearbox's Randy Pitchford: video games, like magicians, reward players for following rules

In a talk at the 2013 DICE Summit this week, Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford compared the relationship between a video game and its players to that of a magician and his audience, in that both are rewarded in a way for following a set of rules.

"[Developers] make a deal with our audience," Pitchford said. "In the case of magic and in the case of video games, it is the same deal, and the deal is this: come with me. Come into my world, follow my line of logic, understand and follow my rules, abide by the constraints that I am bringing you towards."

Pitchford said that while...

Watch the DICE Awards intro that everyone has been talking about

One of the most striking moments of the DICE awards happened before anyone took the stage. This introduction video manages to deliver a tip of the hat to many of the nominees through a bit of fanciful fiction and some wonderful live-action moments.

I'm told that most if not all of the weapons on the wall behind the counter came from the prop rooms of game studios. If you're up for it, see which ones you can identify.

Puzzle Clubhouse creator talks industry trends and false positives in DICE keynote

Jesse Schell, creator of collaborative game development community Puzzle Clubhouse and author of The Art of Game Design, gave a keynote speech at DICE 2013 touching on some of the false industry trends that developers should turn away from.

Schell began his talk by analyzing his predictions from his 2010 keynote speech, during which he said Zynga should enter the gambling business (which it did) and predicted the recently launched iPad would be unsuccessful (which it wasn't). In this year's keynote, posted above, Schell provides more design tips to viewers to help them "find their utopia."...

Trion Worlds' VP and SyFy president talk developing Defiance as a game and TV show

In a conversation at DICE this week, Nick Beliaeff, vice president of production at Trion Worlds, and Mark Stern, president of SyFy, discussed the history, trials and successes behind their upcoming Defiance collaboration.

"We wanted to get into a more expansive place for our content. It's a natural extension for our company, already," Stern said at the beginning of the talk. Check out the video above to see the half-hour discussion.

For more on Defiance in all of its forms, be sure to check out our feature where we went behind the scenes of the television show's production and our...

Qualcomm talks about the future of mobile gaming during DICE

As the world's largest producer of mobile processors, Qualcomm knows a lot about where the industry is going. A senior company official took the stage at DICE this week to discuss the technology that's coming in the next few years and how it will change mobile gaming.

Raj Talluri, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm, took the audience through the rapid pace of innovation in the mobile space over the last 15 years, from Snake to Infinity Blade 2. He went on to discuss what's on the horizon, including phones stuffed with sensors and cameras that can provide developers...

Supergiant Games' Amir Rao talks about the challenges of porting Bastion

Bastion developer Supergiant Games faced a number of technical and design challenges when porting its award-winning action-RPG between three different platforms, according to a DICE keynote from studio director Amir Rao.

Bastion was ported from its initial home on Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade platform to PCs, then to smartphones and tablets later — a decision that was primarily made to get Supergiant's feet wet with different types of gaming interfaces. The jump to PCs, a platform which many Supergiant employees are very familiar with, was less tricky than the move to touch-based devices....

Building a studio and creating a game in the shadow of Halo

Microsoft Games' and 343 Industries executive producer Kiki Wolfkill and franchise development director Frank O'Connor took to the stage at this week's DICE summit to talk about the challenges of starting a new studio and taking over the Halo franchise.

Watch the video to gain some insight into that process that the new studio perceives as a ten year journey that kicked off with Halo 4.

Journey and The Walking Dead win big at the 16th annual DICE awards

At tonight's 16th annual DICE Awards, PlayStation exclusive Journey won eight of its eleven category nominations, including Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction and Outstanding Innovation in Gaming.

The Walking Dead won four of its eight nominations, including Adventure Game of the Year, Downloadable Game of the Year and Outstanding Character Performance of protagonist Lee Everett (voiced by Dave Fennoy). Halo 4 won two of six nominated categories, including Outstanding Achievement in Connectivity and Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering.

The Academy's Peer...

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Connectivity to other devices 'key to the success' of next-gen consoles, says Ubisoft managing director

Forthcoming consoles from Microsoft and Sony must interact with mobile devices and other internet-connected platforms, says Ubisoft's Xavier Poix, saying that connectivity to non-console hardware is key to the success of the next generation.

"Last generation was really impressive in terms of power and connection to online, but that was almost seven years ago," Ubisoft managing director Xavier Poix tells Polygon. Since then, the rise of mobile devices and motion-sensing and touchscreens have changed the way we interact with video games. "The challenge will be how they will succeed in...

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Watch the 16th annual DICE Awards live

Watch the livestream of the 16th Annual DICE Awards hosted by Nerdist-founder Chris Hardwick here.

Machnima Live also has a "Fan Cam" livestream here.

Held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the awards ceremony celebrates 63 games up for nominations across mobile, web-based and console.

Journey is up 11 nominations, including Game of the Year, competing against Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3, The Walking Dead and XCOM: Enemy Unknown for the award. The Walking Dead received eight nominations, Far Cry 3 with seven, Halo 4 with six and Borderlands 2 and Dishonored both receiving five...

Daylight is Unreal Engine 4's first, frightening game

The first game for Epic's Unreal Engine 4 game engine might be a procedurally generated horror game designed to feel more like a sort of interactive haunted house than a traditional video game.

In Daylight, players will take on the role of a woman who wakes up in the middle of the night to find herself in the heart of an abandoned insane asylum with no memory of how she got there. The asylum writhes with the terrible past experiences that took place there over the centuries and the spirits of those mistreated within its walls.

There are no weapons. No way to fight back. In this game, the...

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Journey and the search for emotional gaming

Journey is a game of catharsis, a hero's journey. A game that spurred emotional emails from fans and nearly destroyed the company that made it.

Speaking at the 2013 DICE summit, thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen said that Journey started out as a simple idea in 2006: catharsis.

Chen had grown disenchanted with how emotionally simplistic and repetitive most games were. Games often served to fulfill the emotional needs of a younger male audience, giving them a sense of empowerment and freedom. But Chen said thatgamecompany was created to deliver emotional experiences, specifically to...

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Warren Spector: 'I'm not ready to retire yet'

Game designer Warren Spector spoke at the DICE Summit today, one week after the closure of his Disney-owned studio, Junction Point, telling attendees that he's "not ready to retire yet" and still has games he wants to make.

Spector opened his speech by clarifying that he wouldn't be talking about "the elephant in the room," the closure of Junction Point, Disney Interactive or the last eight years, "other than to say I worked with an amazing team on some amazing projects."

"It's all good," he said, before launching into his talk, "The Graying of Gaming," in which Spector spoke about the...

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Live: Valve's Gabe Newell speaks about 'A View on Next Steps' at DICE

Valve co-founder and president Gabe Newell opens the second day of the 2013 DICE Summit with his keynote talk, "A View on Next Steps," in which he's expected to touch on the future of Steam, PC gaming and the company's push into the living room with "Steam Box."

Newell's keynote will be livestreamed from the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and we'll be liveblogging his keynote right here.

Earlier this week, Newell spoke with Star Trek and Star Wars: Episode VII director J.J. Abrams, revealing plans that the two creators will work together on future video games and movies based on Portal and...

Telltale CEO talks possibilities for The Walking Dead season two: 'Anything is possible'

Now, with a full season behind them and an impressive list of Game of the Year awards earned, developers Telltale Games are carefully considering how to both continue the game's story and draw from the television experience to better engage their audience.

"We can't say a lot about (season two) other than we are working on it and trying to figure out how to continue the story," Telltale Games co-founder and CEO Dan Connors told Polygon. "That's the main point. From there everything else will make sense."

In terms of the story, moving from the emotionally-charged ending of season one to a...

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Heavy Rain designer David Cage says video games need to grow up

The video game industry suffers from a "Peter Pan syndrome" and a lack of innovation that is holding it back from maturing and reaching a wider audience, Heavy Rain designer and Quantic Dream founder David Cage said in a talk at the 2013 DICE Summit yesterday.

According to Cage, a majority of video games are either for children, casual titles or violent action games. He says the industry needs to stop creating games with the same pattern-mastering objectives and build titles that are not as disconnected with the real world.

"[Games] have not changed much," he said, comparing the 1992 W...

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Double Fine Adventure and The Cave coming to Ouya

Developer Double Fine Productions will bring two of its adventure games, Ron Gilbert's The Cave and Kickstarter-funded Double Fine Adventure, to the Android-powered Ouya console.

Ouya founder Julie Uhrman announced that Tim Schafer and company would bring Double Fine Adventure, codenamed Reds, to the Kickstarter-funded console during her DICE talk "The Revenge of the TV." She also announced that Words With Friends creator Paul Bettner would develop titles for the Ouya platform. Uhrman claims more than 450 titles are currently in development for Ouya.

Double Fine producer Greg Rice later...

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J.J. Abrams drops clues about his completely new game with Valve

J.J. Abrams isn't making Half-Life 3.

Sitting down with Polygon shortly after the on-stage conversation he had with Valve president Gabe Newell, Abrams said that the game he's in talks with Valve about making will be a completely new entity, with no links to existing Valve properties like Half-Life, Portal or Team Fortress or existing Bad Robot properties.

"We are at early enough stages that I can't talk about it now, but I can't wait to talk about it," Abrams told Polygon. "The opportunity to work with Valve is something I couldn't be more excited about."

While Abrams declined to talk...

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Half-Life and Portal movies in early idea stages, J.J. Abrams says

"It's as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets," Abrams said of the just-announced plans to develop movies based on Portal and Half-Life. "Which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas."

"And both a Portal and Half-Life movie are things I want to see," Abrams said. "We're also aware of the cautionary tales of movies that became games and vice versa. Our goal here to is to treat the world Valve has created in both these properties like anyone would a book or some great story that comes from a pitch or...

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J.J. Abrams, Valve in talks for game and Half-Life or Portal film

Update: Polygon spoke with J.J. Abrams following his on-stage discussion with Newell. "It's as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets," Abrams said of the just-announced plans to develop movies based on Portal and Half-Life. "Which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas." Read more on the movie project here.

In discussing the game project, Abrams said, "We've had so many meetings and finally got to a point where we said, 'We need to start making stuff.' And so the ideas that we've had for games, the ideas...

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Live blog: Star Wars director and Half-Life creator discuss storytelling

J.J. Abrams, the recently crowned Star Wars director, and Valve president and co-founder Gabe Newell take the stage to talk about storytelling across platforms in the kick-off keynote for the 2013 DICE summit.

While Abrams is best known for his work in television and movies, he has also tried his hand at game development through Bad Robot Interactive, which co-created a Super 8 app and created the Action Movie FX app.

Newell, who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame at this year's summit, will also give a presentation on his own later in the week entitled "A View on Next Steps," which...

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GameStop kicks off new indie mobile game initiative, hires Zynga GM to run it

GameStop today unveiled a multi-prong program to help promote indie game development of free-to-play mobile games. The initiative includes a $10 million fund to support struggling developers, a reworked GameStop app designed to help promote the titles and a consultation program.

The Kongregate Mobile Developers program will be overseen by former Zynga general manager Panayoti Haritatos. Haritatos was the founder and CEO of Urbansquall, which was purchased by Zynga in 2009.

"Developers are increasingly finding it harder to get their games discovered through the different app stores," said...

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Star Wars' J.J. Abrams to discuss storytelling at DICE with Gabe Newell

J.J. Abrams, director of the recently announced new Star Wars series of movies, will join Valve president and co-founder Gabe Newell on stage next month at the 2013 DICE summit to talk about storytelling across platforms.

"From TV to film and now award-winning mobile apps, there's no question that J.J. has his finger on the pulse of the entertainment industry, and we're thrilled to welcome him and our 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, Gabe Newell, to the D.I.C.E. stage," Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, wrote in a prepared statement. "J.J. thoughtfully...

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StarCraft 2's top four players to face off in first ever DICE IPL Showdown event

The IGN Pro League is partnering with the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences to host the first DICE IPL Showdown event, a face-off between four of the world's best StarCraft 2 players to be held at the DICE Summit next month, AIAS announced today.

The four contestants will compete for the title of Fight Club champion and a $10,000 prize pool. Participants include 2012 StarCraft 2 World Championship Series winner in the Spanish division Pedro "LucifroN" Moreno Duran, Battle.net North American and Canadian Championships and Playhem "Sponsor Me!" Tournament winner Sasha "Scarlett"...

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DICE Awards host Chris Hardwick on whether gaming has (or even needs) its Oscars

The gaming industry has no shortage of formal awards ceremonies to honor the people and organizations that create the games we play. None, however, carry the wide-reaching audience and internally acknowledged legitimacy of awards presentations of other entertainment industries; namely, the Golden Globes, Emmys and Oscars.

Indeed, it seems when considering those two attributes, gaming awards shows must settle for one or the other. Accolades from the Game Developers Choice Awards, IGF Awards and DICE Awards (formerly the Annual Interactive Achievement Awards) are typically recognized for...

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DICE adds more speakers from Telltale Games, Ouya and Sledgehammer Games

Four more industry speakers have been added to the line-up of talks scheduled for the 2013 DICE Summit, including founders from The Walking Dead developer Telltale Games, Android console maker Ouya and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 co-developer Sledgehammer Games, The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences announced today.

Telltale Games CEO and co-founder Dan Connors will speak about the company's philosophy regarding interactive storytelling for multi-platform digital media, titled "Appointment Gaming: How Telltale's Episodic Model is Changing the Way People Play." Glen Schofield,...

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Journey takes over this year's D.I.C.E. awards with 11 nominations

thatgamecompany's meditative PS3 game Journey received 11 nominations in this year's 16th annual D.I.C.E. awards, leading the nominations for the upcoming event, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences announced today.

This year's awards ceremony honors 63 games across console, web-based platforms and mobile devices. Alongside Journey, The Walking Dead received eight nominations, Far Cry 3 received seven nominations, Halo 4 received six, while both Borderlands 2 and Dishonored received five nominations each. Categories include game of the year, outstanding achievement in game...

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DICE Summit adds Warren Spector, Rovio and Wargaming executives to speaker line-up

Five more industry luminaries have joined the lineup of speakers for the 2013 DICE Summit, including executives from Rovio and Wargaming.net and Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences announced today.

Warren Spector, current designer and producer at Junction Point Studios, will talk about the impact of aging on gamers, developers and the medium in which they work. Spector will discuss "the graying of gaming" and how it affects player commitment, design philosophy, and mainstream media interactions, as well as what this could mean for the future of...

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Text adventure developer Infocom's co-founders to receive 2013 AIAS Pioneer Award

Co-founders Dave Lebling and Marc Blank of Infocom, developer of text-based adventures Zork and Enchanter, will be honored with the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) Pioneer Award at the 2013 DICE Summit for their contributions to interactive fiction, the organization announced today.

The Pioneer Award is given to individuals who have helped to shape the interactive entertainment industry with their creative work.

"Great storytelling with a healthy dose of wit is the foundation of everything we create in the interactive entertainment industry," said AIAS president Martin Rae is...

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DICE remains committed to indie games despite Indie Game Challenge cancellation

The cancellation of this year's Indie Game Challenge, an annual event at the DICE conference since 2009, is not a reflection of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' support of indie game, the academy tells Polygon.

Yesterday, GameStop confirmed to Polygon that the retailer wouldn't be hosting the challenge this year and that the award was on temporary hold. The "hiatus" will allow the company to "take time to analyze ways to promote and celebrate the independent game movement," an official said.

Reached for comment, an academy spokeswoman said they are addressing the lack of indie...

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David Cage, Kiki Wolfkill, Frank O'Connor and more confirmed as speakers at DICE Summit

Developers from Quantic Dream, 343 Industries, Supergiant Games, Halfbrick and Ubisoft will be speaking at the 2013 DICE Summit next February, it was confirmed today.

The Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain Summit will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from Feb. 5-8, 2013 and a growing list of prominent developers has already been confirmed for the event.

The new confirmed speakers include Quantic Dream's David Cage, former senior producer on Peggle, Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled Matt Lee Johnson, Halfbrick's Phil Larsen, 343 Industries' Kiki Wolfkill and...

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Valve's Gabe Newell to be inducted into AIAS Hall of Fame, give DICE keynote

Gabe Newell, president and co-founder of Valve Software, will become the 17th inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame at the 2013 DICE Summit, the AIAS announced today.

Newell will also give the keynote speech at the summit's Thursday conference.

"Gabe's vision for the interactive industry has created lasting effects that have completely reshaped this generation's digital distribution model, paving the way for independent developers and creating an invaluable service for consumers," said AIAS president Martin Rae. "It is a great honor to have Gabe inducted...

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DICE Summit 2013 coming to Hard Rock Las Vegas with new format, keynote speakers announced

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences announced plans today for the 12th annual DICE Summit to be held Feb. 5, 2013 with a new venue, name for its awards and a format featuring daily keynotes from industry figures.

The summit's format will begin each day with a keynote from speakers like Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software, Jenova Chen of thatgamecompany and Jessee Schell of Schell Games and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Sessions based on DICE's pillars — Design, Innovate, Communicate and Entertain — will follow. The summit's awards, which will be presented...

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