Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cautionary Notes from Gamescom

I visited Cologne, Germany last week for Gamescom, and had more than 140 characters worth to say about the show…. funny, I used to have a blog for that sort of thing.  Overall, it is an interesting show but I hesitate to recommend it to people who aren't already in Europe due to a number of quirks.

  1. What you read is not what you get: Gamescom is technically a trade fair and maintains a separate area for press, exhibitors, and other "trade" visitors.  The new Skylanders game was based in the trade area. Neither SWTOR nor GW2 were on the floor.  Marvel Heroes was not on the floor either, though David Brevik personally made up for that by hosting a fan gathering at the end of three straight days of interviews.  Point being, you can show up and not get any closer to the real news than you would have been from home.  
  2. Entrance at the cost of experience: Gamescom claims over 300,000 attendees annually.  They do this by selling tickets to the limit of what German fire code permits, and then re-selling the spots of people who leave the show as space-available afternoon tickets.  As a result, there isn't really quiet time at the end of the day when you can avoid the worst of the lines.  Instead, most lines have matter-of-fact markers indicating that you will be waiting 3 hours from this point.  I'm sure it's lucrative for the organizers but it's not a positive experience to walk the floor at 1:30 PM and feel like you have to line up for something now because if you wait any longer the show might close before you can get to the front of a line.  
  3. German is the primary language: You won't have trouble ordering food, as most signage is also in English, most employees speak English, and English is definitely the second most common language.  The Assassin's Creed demo had English voice acting and German subtitles/instructions. The WoW expansion trailer had German voiceover, but many of the Heroes of the Storm character trailers were in English. Lego Dimensions apparently flew in a developer from America, who would hand off the mike to the German community guy periodically.  Just be aware that you will probably miss out on understanding some of the content  if you don't speak the language. 
  4. German Public Transit, Also German: (Also, I found the public transit system hard to use because you need to identify the right stop to know what to pay and then find the right train and not stay on too long and end up on the other side of the country.)  
I don't mean to be too negative on the show - in some ways US shows like PAX suffer from the same crowding issues.  You do get a very large crowd with all the requisite cosplayers (note: unlike in the US, German cosplayers can use realistic looking guns without running afoul of law enforcement), merchandise, and access to the top games for the fall if you were prepared to wait.  I was coming from England, and tacking this onto a family vacation, so I'm mostly okay with the effort and expense.  I would not have been happy with the effort and expense if I'd flown in from the U.S.  Your mileage may vary.  


  1. I think I'd like to go just for the experience sometime, subpar or not ;) For me it's not that far, I can take the train and take some friends - if it's very disappointing, we'll buy more booze lol. I have heard that it depends on the year/lineup a lot, some years people gush about Gamescom and some seem to be rather bleh.

  2. I live about 45 minutes from Cologne's Trade Fair by train, and have yet to go to Gamescom even once. On the news we get to see shots of massive crowds attending, and information that it had been sold out for weeks. Since the Loveparade 2010 when 21 people died in a mass panic, I can't deal with crowds like that anymore. Also, it's in August, and usually quite the sweaty event. How fun is it to stand in a crowd and having to wait 3 hours to briefly play a demo?

    I go to RPC Cologne instead, which is a role-playing convention featuring some MMOs (mostly FFXIV this year), table-top and boardgames and LARPing, with a huge segment for cosplaying which was really absolutely amazing. Much smaller, but I really like it that way.

  3. Trade shows for the game industry are surprisingly mundane affairs. Most of them are focused on the business side of things, and having normal people wander in and out tends to be more of a distraction than a help. Press is invited along because game companies might as well get some press coverage as well.

    One tip: find a website and write them to see if they need any freelance writers for a show. Often you can get press credentials and greater access, but you'll have to write some articles. And the pay is guaranteed to suck. ;)


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