INTERVIEW: The future of Gamescom

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Gamescom has firmly established itself as a major date in the games industry calendar.

And not just for the console giants, but eSports firms, mobile specialists and online games giants, too.

We speak to Dr. Maximilian Schenk, MD of Gamescom co-organiser BIU, to discuss the future of the world's biggest games show.

It's been five years of Gamescom. How do you evaluate its first half a decade?

It is a success story. The amount of visitors has grown from 245,000 in 2009 to 340,000 in 2013. If you include side events in the city, such as the Gamescom city festival, We moved half a million people to Cologne in 2013. This was a new record and a growth of 23 per cent compared with 2012.

635 exhibitors used Gamescom as a platform last year. The number of professional visitors has grown by 74 per cent, from 17,000 in 2009 to 29,600 in 2013.

The majority of the professional visitors come from foreign countries. Last year, we welcomed professional visitors from around 80 different territories, which is a good indicator for the international relevance of Gamescom. It has also successfully integrated new platforms such as online, mobile and Smart TV during the last few years.

You've signed a new deal to keep Gamescom in Cologne for the next five years. Why stick with the city?

Today, Gamescom is seen not as a German event but as a European one. The record number of 340,000 visitors from all over the world in 2013 has reinforced the commitment of the international video games industry to Gamescom in Germany.

Another positive aspect is the population of about 18 million inhabitants in the greater area of Cologne, while France and the Benelux countries nearby also guarantee a big stream of visitors.

Partnering with GDC Europe has also been an important aspect of Gamescom's success, as has the dense media infrastructure in Cologne. Many big players in gaming and television have their offices in the surrounding areasof Cologne.

Did you consider any other locations?

It would have been negligent not to. Other cities in Germany and Europe were interested. But in the end we closed a new contract with Koelnmesse in Cologne.

What can we expect this year?

Gamescom reflects all relevant issues and trends of the industry, but, of course, this year the games for the new hardware will be very important.

We are expecting the first arrivals on the market that will take the new consoles to a new level. And Gamescom is the place where gamers have the opportunity to play these new titles for the very first time. Accordingly, the main theme of this year's Gamescom is ‘ready to play – discover new worlds'. With this, we mean to allude to the industry's mega-trends that we couch as ‘experience fantastic worlds individually and together' and ‘game and gamer become one'.

As in 2011 with the UK, we have a very interesting partner country this year in the Nordic Region, consisting of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Island and Norway. Having the whole region as a partner is a novelty for Gamescom.

Gamescom 2013 was a huge show, but some of that success may have been due to the two new consoles coming to market. Are you expecting it to be quieter this year?

Not quieter, but 2013 was an exceptional year. For 2014, we expect growth in terms of exhibitors, but not necessarily in terms of visitors. Altogether, we think this year's show will be very strong.

How is Gamescom 2014 currently tracking versus last year?

In relation to every KPI, we are tracking very well. We have sold 50 per cent more tickets at this point in 2014 than we had by the same time in 2013, and are expecting more than 640 exhibitors.

Moreover, we have the Gamescom congress as an international well-known format. It deals with every gaming topic required to reach the next level. This year you can expect a wider range of themes from media literacy to media politics, and a lot of very interesting speakers.

We also want to push GDC Europe on a new level. The goal for 2014 is to continue to attract first-class and relevant content and highly rated speakers to the conference.

What's your long-term aim for Gamescom?

We want Gamescom to be the best B2B and B2C platform for the European gaming industry.

We want to improve the benefits and services for exhibitors and visitors every year. We want to picture all the relevant aspects of gaming: should they concern entertainment, business or society.

We also want to reach more national and international media coverage for Gamescom every year.

Statistics show that we are on the right track; every year more people of all ages and from every part of society are playing games and coming to Gamescom.

What are your plans for Gamescom relating to categories like mobile, online, eSports and other emerging areas?

We are fully aware of these trends and already integrated them into Gamescom years ago.

As the games industry changes constantly, so do we. Therefore, we constantly try to improve the show with all these new aspects in mind. For example, we are currently working on our concepts for the mobile industry, family entertainment, Let's Plays and other forms of user-generated content.