Trepidation” would accurately describe my state of mind as I prepared to head out to the Games Convention in Leipzig. The town's charms are conspicuously lacking (unless you're mad-keen on Absinthe), and I was booked into a hotel (which turned out to resemble a Gothic Travel Tavern, although even Alan Partridge would have been unimpressed by the absence of pay-TV) over 25 miles away from the show in Halle.
Nevertheless, I felt obliged to attend, as since E3 rendered itself irrelevant, the GC has clearly become the top games show in the world.
And my trepidation turned out to be relatively unfounded – once on the ground, I managed to blag accommodation in Leipzig itself (sorry EA – didn't mean to seem ungrateful), and actually managed to have a fun time, thanks to the agreeably sociable nature of the games industry. But one's over-riding impression of the Games Convention is that it could be a great show – if it took place anywhere other than Leipzig. Let's hope the persistent rumours of a move to Berlin prove substantial.
Perhaps it's the lack of enthusiasm for Leipzig that discourages publishers from developing the necessary confidence to make big news announcements at the show. It was less news-free than last year, but only just, and Microsoft's decision to announce its Xbox 360 price-cut two days before the show started was telling. As far as taking over from E3 is concerned, it has a long way to go before it provides the industry-wide news focus that E3 once did.
The Games Convention, as far as I'm concerned, is good for one thing: getting hands-on time with games, which is not to be sniffed at. Stand-outs for me included Fallout 3 (the future of RPGs and the game of the show), Stranglehold (it may not be sophisticated, but it provides pure gaming pleasure), FIFA 08 (with its intriguing ‘Be A Pro' mode), Valve's Orange Box, and in particular Team Fortress 2 (which is bound to take Xbox Live by storm) and the insanely intense Call of Duty 4, back at its rightful development home, Infinity Ward.
Sony showed how adept it has become at grabbing the limelight when others can't be bothered to with its Play TV announcement, although did the company really need to spend half an hour telling us that the FIFA Interactive World Cup will be fought out on the PS3 rather than the Xbox 360 this year? Mind you, it did provide a super-rare chance to actually see someone from FIFA in the flesh. Not to mention confirming our, shall we say, misgivings about that most shadowy of organisations. Was that CONCACAF guy the one who said that England should never stage the World Cup, or was it one of his colleagues?
That's an interviewee I would have paid to grill, but I often find it difficult to set up interviews at the GC – could it be that all the slots are taken up by spotty teenagers from PlayStation Spunky magazine in Lithuania, who got their towels down first with the local PRs?
Leipzig is still far from ideal. But, in Europe, it's the only show big enough to let developers and publishers meet and do their dealings. But come on, guys: why not move it to somewhere we all want to visit, like Berlin, and see if that can turn it into the show that makes us forget E3 ever existed.