[As my colleagues ramp up for GDC Austin this September - I'm helping out with the Indie and iPhone Summits there - they're also adding a bunch of neat content for the main, online-centric Conference. Here's the first fruits...]

Announcing its initial set of lectures, the online game-focused GDC Austin 2009 event has revealed free-to-play centric lectures from Sony Online (Free Realms), Gaia Online and Rebel Monkey (CampFu) for the September conference.

The first set of lectures announced for GDC Austin span the gamut of 'connected games', from traditional high-profile subscription MMOs through free-to-play online games, social network games, and even online components to console games.

The event, to be held September 15th-18th, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center in Texas, now includes six online-centric 'tracks' for the Main Conference, which takes place Wednesday 16th to Friday 18th.

These tracks, which span design, business & marketing, social networking & community, services, programming and production, have some lectures specially focused on free-to-play, microtransaction-powered games. Initial highlights from these include:

- Craig Sherman, CEO of popular micro-transaction powered site/game Gaia Online, will be discussing this model, in which "consumers play web-based, platform agnostic games for free, while developers attain revenue through microtransactions", with examples from his own company.

- Sony Online's Rosie Rappaport and Sebastian Strzalkowski are discussing the importance of a unified art style for the hit SOE free-to-play title Free Realms, which has already racked up 3 million registered users, noting the importance of a "distinct [art] style that players will associate with the title even when viewed outside the game world."

- Former Disney and current Hangout Industries exec Mike Goslin will take examples from products that he's worked on such as Pixie Hollow, Pirates Of The Caribbean and Toontown Online to detail and describe "10 techniques for engaging teens, drawn from the state of the art of social gaming."

- Rebel Monkey CTO Jeffrey Kesselman will be discussing how the CampFu free-to-play game developer "combined open source technologies to build an industrial strength platform for unified multi-player casual game-play and social web experiences", in a talk called 'The Monkey Wrench: Design and Architecture of an Online Environment'.

Further announcements and details on 'core' subscription MMO-centric lectures for this September's GDC Austin, as well as multiple keynote addresses, will be debuting over the next few weeks.

In addition, GDC Austin will also include its long-running Game Audio and Game Writer Summits, alongside an iteration of the breakout successful Independent Games Summit and the newly introduced iPhone Game Summit, all debuting on September 15-16, 2009 at the same venue.

Full listings of announced lectures, registration information, and other specifics are now available at the official GDC Austin website (part of Think Services, as is this website.)