Gamescom is not only about sweaty Germans (even though there are a lot of them there). As the convention has grown in size, it has become increasingly important for publishers; we're finally reaching the point where some actually hold back their announcements for E3, saving them for Gamescom. More and more people go there to play games, stand in lines and have swag (literally) tossed at them - it's the biggest game-event happening in Europe, hands down, and with great power comes great responsibility. Or at least more games.
It's been interesting to see the convention grow, from its spiritual roots back in Leipzig to the juggernaut it is slowly becoming. It's putting Europe on the map; not only for our great developers we have here, but also as a place where it makes financial sense to announce projects.
The big three (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) come to Cologne with different agendas. If we start out with Microsoft, they are in the weird position of having their strongest year behind them, yet most fans were disappointed in their E3 showing and perhaps more importantly in the heavy focus Microsoft kept on Kinect. In Cologne, Microsoft will gather members of the press for an event the day before the show kicks off, but it won't be an outright press conference. We should therefore not expect any major announcements. We could see one or two new Kinect titles, and as always there could be announcements made regarding Xbox Live services. Microsoft are focusing on bringing this year home with Gears of War 3, Forza Motorsport 4, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary and a whole big bunch of Kinect software.
Things are very different at Nintendo where executives recently cut their pays in half after posting heavy losses. Nintendo 3DS has not taken off as expected, and the Wii is slowing down. Historically Nintendo have regarded Gamescom as something of a German affair, and have therefore not made any major announcements. Don't expect much here either, and the focus will be firmly on the strong line up of upcoming 3DS titles that Nintendo hopes will help boost the struggling platform. We might see more of Wii U, but our guess is that it will be a similar presentation to the one at E3 in that case.
Sony have put the PSN debacle behind them and are looking forward to launching PS Vita. Gamescom would be an ideal place to announce launch dates, especially if the plans to launch the handheld worldwide in 2011 are still in place. We are also curious about finding out more when it comes to third party titles. Will we see a lot of ports of PS3/Xbox 360 titles arriving on Vita, or has the power of the device been overstated? Sony are in a fairly comfortable position with Playstation 3 at the moment, especially in Europe where it has been doing well lately. We could possibly see some minor or major announcements from SCEE as they usually have something saved up for Gamescom. Last year saw announcements of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One and Resistance 3 in Cologne. With Killzone 3 released earlier this year, and a Killzone on the way for PS Vita from Sony Cambridge, this might be the time for Guerrilla Games to announce something non-Helghast.
But what about the rest? Third parties and odd German publishers? Well, as usual EA plans to hold a press conference before the start of Gamescom. Typically, a lot of time is spent explaining the new features of EA's most important European asset - FIFA, and Battlefield 3 is also likely to play a major part. Perhaps, after being cut from both GDC and E3 in the last moment, we will finally get to see Syndicate at the German show. Press has been allowed to see the game we hear so perhaps the worst kept secret of EA for years will finally see the light of day.
NCsoft and Carbine Studios have announced that their MMORPG will be shown in Cologne. Carbine is a studio made up by veterans and it will be very interesting to see what direction NCsoft will take with this game seeing as how the landscape of MMO's in changing more towards free-to-play and micro transactions.
Activision usually don't make major announcements in Cologne, and the company is probably fully focused on Modern Warfare 3 at the moment. Blizzard Entertainment, who have been a no-show at E3 for the last few years, typically have a major booth at Gamescom. Diablo III is likely to feature heavily, and perhaps there will be an announcement made as well, but Blizzard do like to make those at their own events.
It could be time for Sega to show off something new from The Creative Assembly. Rockstar have sometimes opted in on the German show, but given their rather empty slate for the remainder of the year, they will probably not show anything in the Take Two booth. Max Payne 3 you say? Well, we wouldn't bet on it. Warner's recently announced Lollipop Chainsaw may make an appearance behind closed doors.
When it comes to smaller players, well then Wargaming will show more of their next game - World of Warplanes - at the show after announcing it at E3. Project Postman from Paradox and Fatshark will be shown for the first time. In the past GDC Europe has also been used to announce projects (Dust 514 for instance), and we might see some announcements made there leading up to the show as well.
So, to sum it all up. Gamescom is for the most part a rerun of E3, but there will be some new games and for fans of the PC platform and MMO's there will probably be more news coming out of Cologne than there was from Los Angeles.