Road to Gamescom 2012

Next week marks the start of Europe's most important gaming event - Gamescom - and we're taking a closer look at what's going on.

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Back in June there was a report in German tabloid Bild that this would be the last Gamescom - at least held in the city of Cologne. How can it be that the world's biggest games show is not a commercial success for the organisers? And with both Microsoft and Nintendo not in attendance this year, will this last year end up being a massive disappointment?

Gamescom was first held in 2009 as the German trade organisation (BIU) decided to part ways with Leipzig and Games Convention. Cologne, sounded like a better option, given its more central location in Europe and better communications and accomodations. It was the perfect location to cement the status of the annual German gaming event as Europe's biggest and an unmisable stop on the international gaming calendar.

Having first visited Leipzig and Games Convention back in 2006, a lot has changed - from what was clearly a German event with some international visitors to what is more of an international event albeit with a lot of German flavour. Some major publishers have opted to make major announcements during the show and this year won't be any different. We're far removed from the weird press conferences held on the showfloor in Leipzig by German brand managers in German, with absolutely no trace of any interesting tidbits for the international press unfortunate enough to get trapped inside of the booth.

This year's event at Kölner Messe will be bigger than ever, perhaps a bit surprising given that Nintendo, Microsoft, and THQ (they are showing off Company of Heroes 2 over at their German distributor Koch Media, but it's almost like they're not there) - are missing from this year's list of exhibitors. Apart from the four public halls and the two business halls there will also be an "entertainment area" and the games festival located in the actual city of Cologne will be expanded. What will then fill the large gaping holes where Microsoft and Nintendo used to have their stands? It's hard to say, but expect larger representations from the mobile, online and PC segments, the e-sport area was incredibly crowded last year so they can do with a bit more space as well. It's difficult to tell how this will effect the general opinion of visitors coming to the show, but from casual fans I'm sure it will be very disheartening to lose out on seeing first party Nintendo and Microsoft titles, even if Blizzard probably have far more pull on the average German youngster in attendance than the afore mentioned companies.

The organiser boasts 600 exhibitors and 140,000 square metres of exhibits (new records), but gamers and games journalists are looking for quality at a show like this and in this regard we have yet to see if Gamescom 2012 delivers.

Road to Gamescom 2012
Activision's Walking Dead game will be shown to press during Gamescom.
Road to Gamescom 2012
Crytek's Crysis 3 is one of the bigger German titles on display in Cologne.

Compared to last year a few more publishers to hold their own press events before the doors open to Kölner Messe. Activision have invited a horde of press to their Call of Duty: Black Ops II multiplayer event on Monday (13/08), while the next day will see press conferences held by the likes of Capcom, EA, and Sony. There is also an event for Hitman: Absolution on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Ubisoft have lined up a press conference where their free-to-play strategy will be outlined. We can expect new game announcements from Capcom, EA, and Sony, but other publishers like Warner Bros., NCsoft, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive and Paradox Interactive will also be making announcement at the time of the show.

There will likely be more announcements from independent developers - Firefly Studios, CD Projekt, have flagged announcements to name a couple. Given that GDC Europe is held during the same week in Kölner Messe it is reasonable to expect a number of smaller developers to make announcements during the week.

We've heard indications that the costs of exhibiting at Kölner Messe may be part of the problem for Gamescom, and publishers may be unwilling to tie up a large percentage of their marketing budget for the event. The dynamics of this being an event where some companies leave it up to the German branch to organise proceedings result in it weighing more heavily on some than others. Surely, attendance numbers cannot be expected to be much higher than last year - it was so crowded that the entrances closed early on Saturday not allowing any more visitors in.

Road to Gamescom 2012
Capcom are banking on Resident Evil 6 this fall, and it is likely to have a large presence in Cologne (with guards checking your age outside the booth naturally).
Road to Gamescom 2012
Sega were first reported as not attending Gamescom, but they will be there with their German distribution partner to show off Total War: Rome II and Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed.

The switch from Leipzig to Cologne was really orchestrated by the German industry and ultimately it's up to them to decide where they want Germany's biggest gaming event to be held. There's plenty of major convention centers in German cities like Hamburg, Hannover, Frankfurt, and so on to choose from, and surely Leipzig would be happy to welcome the big show back. Fingers crossed there will be one major German gaming event next year as the European gaming industry needs to have a major annual event to rally around.

Gamescom is a celebration of gaming culture, and it's represents a week were truly all aspects of gaming come together in one place. There is the developer side, with GDC Europe, there are major news and announcements making it a must for journalists to attend, and it allows players hands-on with some of the biggest upcoming titles as well as e-sport, music and performances. It's truly a complete festival of gaming, and afterwards we will have had our fill of sweaty German teenagers, currywursts, and techno to last us twelve months.

Gamescom Predictions:

*Journalists will be shocked to see gamers lining up to play Diablo III at Gamescom - three months after its release.

*There will be lots of talk of Ouya and Oculus Rift - and the former will gain a number of new games for its upcoming launch, while the second will intrigue game developers and get them talking.

*Gamescom will set new attendance records, but its future will remain in doubt even if the dates for next year's event will be announced.

*Wargaming will have a ridiculously large booth showing off World of Tanks and World of Warplanes. Perhaps we'll even see a Messerschmidt on the showfloor.

*Nintendo cosplayers will carry protest signs saying "It's not a video game show without Nintendo". In German.

*Gillen will try and get developers to reveal the secrets in the "Bier Garten", while try and sneak off for a quick "Bratwurst", whenever there's a chance.

*The Gamereactor crew will cry "never again" about the distant hotel that we've been staying at four years straight.

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