Last August, a couple of our CHARMING ESRs had the chance to attend Gamescom 2019, one of the biggest game events of the year. For me personally, as a noob in the game industry, this was a great opportunity to experience the game industry atmosphere from up close, not only as a visitor, but also as an exhibitor and researcher. In this blog post I want to share this experience with you.
So, what is Gamescom exactly?
Gamescom is the biggest game event in Europe held yearly in Cologne, Germany, where visitors can see, experience and try the newest announced games. To give you a feeling of scale: In 2019, over 373.000 people visited the event and over 1000 exhibitors from 52 countries attended1.
All this takes place in the Koelnmesse building, where this year more than 11 big event halls were open to the public. Since I was only there for three days, I didn’t have time to explore everything. Therefore I will try to give some insight on the areas that I spent most time in: the business and the entertainment area.
The business area.
The business area is a closed part of Gamescom, where small and big companies meet to discuss and network.
The halls are set up in long hallways with booths left and right. Typically, these booths can be divided in two types: a group of companies representing a specific country and single booths belonging to a specific company.
The country-specific booths are generally very open. It is usually a collection of smaller spaces where companies showcase their newest products. Most of the time that is a game, but some also offer services or hardware. I enjoyed wandering around in this area. The exhibitors are accessible and very enthusiastic, which led to fun and interesting conversations. Many of the companies I spoke to were fairly new and attended Gamescom looking for contacts with publishers and/or investors, an important, but not directly visible part of the industry.
On the other hand, booths belonging to bigger companies are more closed. From the outside they basically look like big boxes. The meetings and networking happens inside. Access is quite restricted. You either need to set up an appointment well ahead of the event or have some kind of connection to the company in question.
The entertainment area.
And then you have the entertainment halls. This is the most exciting part of Gamescom. These halls are open for everybody and are the place where the bigger companies present their first playable demos. For example, there were some demos available for the highly expected Cyberpunk 2077, Watchdog: Legions (one of my personal favorites) and the Switch remake of Zelda : Link’s Awakening.
The atmosphere in these halls is completely different from the business area. Booths are big and spectacularly decorated. However, it is also a lot busier. Often, there are long lines for the popular games where the waiting time can go up to a couple of hours. Since pictures say more than words, I have added some images to help you grasp the feeling of such an experience.
What does my trip to Gamescom 2019 have to do with my research?
I am currently doing research on design guidelines for immersive technologies for children in the context of chemistry. We hope that these design guidelines will eventually be useful for game developers. This is the reason we wanted to know what is important for game developers when developing a game or a virtual environment. And what better place to do so than Gamescom, where the whole game industry comes together
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything yet about the results I collected during my visit. However, I can tell you which game shown at Gamescom most developers were looking forward to themselves: CYBERPUNK 2077! So, definitely give it a try when it is available.
Finally, I would like to give a shout-out to all the developers who helped me with the interviews and were willing to fit me into their busy schedule. Especially the friendly faces in the picture under neat, from the Belgium based company Cyborn, deserve a place in the spotlight for their noticeable enthusiasm and extended help. I awarded them “My most charming developer of Gamescom 2019” award.
Again next year?
Overall, Gamescom 2019 was a good and interesting experience. It gave me a better picture of the industry itself. I would definitely go again next year, if I have the opportunity. So, maybe I will meet you next year at Gamescom 2020!