GDC 2014: our top 5 moments from this year's gaming conference

Sony's big, big plans

The PlayStation 4 has proven to be a huge hit but what's Sony got up its sleeves now? Well, earlier in January Tony Clark, director of business development at Sony, tweeted, "This is such a MASSIVE year coming up! Lots on for #PS4 #PS3 #PSVita at #GDC #E3 #Gamescom and so much more! Exciting!"

The PS Vita Slim will naturally be a big talking point. Already out in other parts of the world, the Vita Slim is seeing a spring 2014 US release, so it's obvious Sony will want a lot of buzz around the smaller - but still powerful - beauty.

PS Vita Slim

In case you didn't know, Sony also has its own virtual reality headset in the works. Well, it's rumored to have one, but really it's not surprising since the company already has the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, a device that has stayed in the shadows because of it's huge price tag and lackluster abilities.

With the advent of more virtual reality headsets, Sony is definitely looking to improve and get in the game (pun intended) with a better head mounted display, and here's hoping we'll see something more solid at GDC.

Update: It looks like we actually will see a PS4 specific VR headset from Sony. We were tipped recently from a source who claims they've seen and even tried out the device - and were duly impressed. Exciting!

The recently announced Sony panels, "innovation at PlayStation" and "the future of gaming" on March 18 suggest the company might just have a thing or two to tell us, don't you think?

With other sources coming forward, it's looking more and more like the VR set will pop up during GDC. Word of a prototype headset from Sony seems to be the latest in the mix.

The future of free to play games on Sony's PS platforms will also be discussed - plus expect to hear more about new features for the PS4, PS3 and definitely more demos of PlayStation Now.

Microsoft looking to expand Live, and more

Like Sony, Microsoft already has its Xbox One out in the world. The question is, what's next?

Judging from the panels Microsoft will be presenting, SmartGlass and cross-screen applications will be a major talking point.

Similarly, it seems the expansion of Xbox Live is in the books with Microsoft hoping devs will be able to better see Live's capabilities and the "exciting opportunities" it affords.

DirectX 12

Update: It looks like Microsoft is looking to update it's DirectX API to DirectX 12 during one of its sessions.

DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform is probably where we'll hear more info - though the panel description details how the company plans on delivering better tools to increase performance from "PC, tablet, phone and console."

The panel will take place March 20.

Nintendo still alive and kickin'

Aside from an Animal Crossing presentation, Nintendo has a few interesting tidbits to share at GDC.

Though we probably won't hear anything about the health platform initiative announced awhile ago, there will be a booth presentation by Manager of Business Development Dan Adelman.

The Wii U seems to be the main focus for Nintendo. The company will be touting eShop games for the device that were built with Unity, and the Nintendo Web Framework to draw in more developers to create games for the platform.

Tech conferences are meccas for start ups, and it's no different for indie devs. With the meteoric rise of many lesser-known gaming titles over the years, GDC 2014 will be a popular stomping ground for said developers as they try to woo and win over the crowd.

The Independent Games Festival awards is in its sixteenth year and will take place right before the GDC Choice Awards. The IGF has given away tons of money in support and recognition of the latest fantastic displays of indie game development.

Among the eight summits, Peter Molyneux is a big name attached to the Independent Summit. He ventured back to indie gaming in 2012 and will be giving a talk called "From Indie to AAA to Indie: The Rebirth of Design" on March 18 - where he will discuss his experiences in both types of studios.