The Game Developers Conference for 2014 has been interesting so far. The first impression is that the show is much busier these first two days than previous years. While there’s no official announcement yet, seasoned attendees agreed that Monday seemed like the usual Wednesday crowd for GDC. It’s possible that putting in more sessions and tracks is attracting more attendees, but there were plenty of people both in sessions and outside the sessions.

Attendance was strong at business sessions, of course, as people wanted to here the latest tips on user acquisition and free-to-play games. Sessions on narration and story were packed, and so were sessions on teaching game design. There was much more going on than the sessions, though — there was plenty of marketing going on in the areas outside of the sessions, and the [a]list daily was there to cover it.

Marketing opportunities were offered by the GDC in the form of spots in the lobby areas, and a number of clever companies took advantage of this.

Ubisoft set up a lounge area at the top of the escalators in Moscone West, offering free coffee in the mornings, and a number of monitors and places to sit. Why So developers could meet Ubisoft employees, see the tools that Ubisoft works with, and listen to key Ubisoft employees discussing techniques. It’s a subtle way to get people interested in working at Ubisoft, and it’s been getting excellent traffic according to the personnel manning the booth. It’s a clever way to stand out for potential employees, even before the official Career Center opens up.

Wacom found a clever way to put their Cintiq artist’s workstations in front of customers, by setting up a couple of workstations for anyone to use next to the escalators. Artists who are used to drawing with pencils or brushes would find these very easy to work with, and there’s nothing like going hands-on to be convinced of the utility of the product. That direct experience is good marketing, and it’s important when you’re trying to sell tablets that can run up to $3000. You don’t have to sell very many to make that both an effective marketing spend.

Moga used the space to advertise their mobile controller with a gigantic controller. Sadly, it wasn’t functional, merely a large piece to attract the eye. There were some flyers arranged on the bottom, but there was no one handy to explain what was going on. Perhaps next time the screen can be a real one, with a looping video talking about the benefits of including Moga support with your games.

The display area on the second floor had a number of booths, occupied by a variety of companies. They reported excellent traffic the first two days, and were happy with being able to capture the attention of showgoers before the Expo opens today. Booths included analytics firm Upsight (the new brand formed from the merger of Playhaven and Kontagent), advertising services vendors like Rocketfuel and Ad Colony, mobile industry powerhouse ARM, and tech firm Sensus offering development kits for its touch-sensitive mobile phone case.

While small, these booths had heavy traffic with sessions happening right next door, and those manning the booths were pleased with the responses they were getting from showgoers. While almost all the vendors had literature to provide, they usually had some tchotchke to generate additional interest and branding, from candy and energy drinks to Upsight’s aluminum water bottle.