While E3 has started experimenting with letting consumers onto its show floor, with inevitable teething problems around the most popular stands, Gamescom has long had a model that works well – giving trade a dedicated space to strike deals, while allowing game creators to really get to grips with their communities of fans.
Gamescom’s success as a consumer event is undoubted, though, with record numbers packing the cavernous consumer halls and patiently queuing for hours at a time to get their hands on their favourite games – often for just a few minutes. Such queues are great for publishers, who love to shoot footage of adoring fans lining up. But surely a more efficient system could be devised, so that more consumers are seeing more games, and spending more money on merchandise, rather than simply queuing half their day away? That said it doesn't seem to deter them at all.
GETTING IN EARLY
Almost everyone we talked to at the show was keen on getting closer to their community – to see how they react to their new game, or new content, first hand. Chris Roberts, CEO at Roberts Space Industries, was using the event for the fifth year to connect to his Star Citizen backers.
We’re focused on events where we can interact with the community ... going direct to the gamers and interacting with them, with no middle people at all
Chris Roberts, Roberts Space Industries
“We’re focused on events where we can interact with the community. That’s one of the reasons we come here, or to PAX, instead of going to E3. It’s much more gaming-driven, which suits our model – going direct to the gamers and interacting with them, with no middle people at all,” he told us.
“It’s nice to have feedback in person – people tend to be nicer in person than they are online. And the problem online is a small number of people over-amplify their voice, which can distort the feedback, as they trample over other people’s opinions.”
Also at the show, Ubisoft took the opportunity to launch new strategy title Anno 1800 – an announcement that’s come a year earlier than usual, in order to garner the maximum community feedback. Nils Ehlert, international product manager at developer Blue Byte, told us that Gamescom was a great place to launch and to “get our fans into the game, give them the chance to play the game early, and give them the chance to actually change something. Otherwise, the game launches a few months after the announcement, and some balancing stuff can change, but nothing major.”
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
One of the great successes of Gamescom is its strong international flavour, with attendees and exhibitors from all over Europe and all over the world. The trade halls have national stands from most of the big European countries and beyond.
Our team, naturally, spent a lot of its time on the pub-themed Ukie stand. For while Gamescom is a great place to meet those from around Europe, it’s also a great place to catch up with the UK contingent, too. Though, we admit to regular visits to the Italian stand after hours – they did have free wine, after all.