gamescom - Entering the matrix

Gamescom – Entering the matrix

The gamescom is the biggest videogame convention in the world. Now a digital revolution is looking likely.

Photo credit: dronepicr/wikimedia /Koelnmesse Image database

It is the event. The event so many videogame enthusiasts seek to visit. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people travel across the country or from abroad to see the first glances of the most anticipated games. gamescom is the world’s biggest gaming convention. With almost every AAA title present and developers queuing up to show what they have – it is easily one OF the most influential.

But that’s not enough. 2020 marks the first year of the digital gamescom. Due to the limitations of COVID-19, no event could be planned this year. This leaves open doors for new opportunities and especially a way to combat the supremacy of E3 when it comes to world premieres and exciting announcements. But where did it all start?

Humble beginnings

2002 marks the birth of gamescom. At that time, the Games Convention had its maiden event at Leipziger Messe in Germany, with a total of 80,000 visitors.

Only four years later, these numbers more than doubled. The venue started getting too small. In 2009, the newly founded gamescom took place for the first time. On the grounds of Koelnmesse, in Cologne, over 260,000 visitors exceeded all expectations. Ever since then, numbers have only ever gone up. But as mentioned, this year poses a different challenge.

A digital takeover

The world is turning more and more virtual by the minute. This carries implications for significant events like gamescom as well. The importance of a digital image is undeniable.

Koelnmesse Image database

Felix Falk is the CEO of ‘das Game’ – the German video game association. They organize gamescom and are therefore responsible for its digital development. Falk explains:

“There is an increased interest in the event every year. The grounds of the Koelnmesse are eventually filled up, and this way, we can reach millions of people that are certainly interested in what we have to offer.”

Since gamescom started building up their online products, two formats have been extraordinarily successful. First, the interactive “gamescom now” a ContentHub, which began in 2019. It features everything around the realm of gamescom, including news, games and world premieres. It is tremendously helpful to overview the often overwhelming structure of a gaming convention with its vast number of announcements comprised in one space. This is especially helpful this year as the digital gamescom has a lot going on simultainously.

But it was its rivalry with E3 that took gamescom as a digital platform to the next level.

Taking the fight to E3

In previous years, the American video and computer game convention E3 has been notorious for occupying the pole position in terms of hot announcements. If a developer had a bullet in their barrel, they often brought it to E3 to show it to the world. Due to the increased interest in gamescom’s online presence, a new concept was born—a direct challenge to the supremacy of the American convention.

Opening Night Live hosted by Geoff Keighley, first aired last year. It features interviews with developers, announcements concerning the future of gamescom and, most importantly, trailers and gameplay from upcoming games. This ensures that gamescom is on the pulse when it comes to breaking news.

Koelnmesse Image database

This could mean a significant uptake in interest for what is already the biggest gaming convention. Last year, Hideo Kojima introduced his then-new game Death Stranding on Opening Night Live. It was a success and the main reason so many people tuned in to watch.

“It is an absolute highlight,” Felix Falk says. “More than 500,000 people have watched the premiere live and millions re-watched it later. It catapulted us to the top of the all-time streamed events.”

In terms of what we can expect from gamescom now this year, Geoff Keighley has posted on Twitter:

Felix Falk also teases: “There will be announcements and world premieres waiting on Opening Night Live.”

This obviously leaves space for speculation, but in the end of August, we will know how big Opening Night Live will be.

Innovative formats

Over the years, ever-changing circumstances have forced the gamescom to change. Bigger crowds forced the convention to move to a larger venue. The higher number of requests from exhibitors have given us many new chances to see new games. Now the global interest in the phenomenon of videogame conventions started a digital revolution. With this year’s adaptations, the gamescom could reach the next level of it’s evolution.

“The most challenging thing was the short time-frame in which we had to create our concept. At the beginning of the year, nobody doubted that gamescom would just take place the same way as every year. But due to COVID-19, it was clear that no major events would take place until the end of August. That forced us to rethink everything.”

Koelnmesse Image database

This process of revaluation brought forward some exciting new ideas.

The so-called ‘gamescom: Awesome Indies’ is going to be an exciting highlight. The concept is to showcase the hottest commodities of the Indie scene in a dynamic show. gamescom has always thrived on its representation of Indie talent in the scene. This will, without a doubt, be something to look out for.

While casual viewers might be familiar with the AAA titles of the scene, there are various arcade racers presented at gamescom every year. An example of this is last year’s over-head racer Circuit Superstars. The virtual gamescom could mean that a lot more attention is directed towards those games.

According to Felix Falk, indie developers’ interest is “especially high” due to the creation of ‘gamescom: Awesome Indies,’ which can only be positive.

Other new formats will be the Daily and Best-of show. Both will feature targeted placements of partners and a chance to reconnect if you previously missed any of the action.

A virtual age awaits

It would be sad if gamescom used the digital basis for a single gamescom this year, only to abandon it again next year. The virtual path offers so much more than just momentary relief for a problematic situation. As the numbers show, even with millions of people in attendance, there is a major interest in digital content. One can only imagine how big the shows this year will be.

Furthermore, the Opening Night Live offers a real competition to E3, which is crucial in the gaming world. With an increase in numbers, developers might soon have the privilege to choose where they want to present their game.

Besides, the new concepts could carry significant implications as well. In a world where sim racing has seen its most notable success yet with every event going virtual, it is not implausible for a purely digital gamescom to include racing. It could be the opportunity sim racing needs to stay relevant if they are able to partner permanently with the digital concept of gamescom.

Liveticker sunday: Racing game news from gamescom 2020
Koelnmesse Image database

It is their chance to get to the next level. Felix Falk commented on the future of the gamescom:

“We are planning on continuing a lot of what happens this year. Because the goal is to create something gamers across the world can look forward to. No matter where they are in the world. That’s why we will continue to invest in our digital presence and develop it in the future.”