Gamescom was bigger than it has ever been this year, but in terms of big reveals things were a little quieter. Christopher Dring and Alex Calvin delve behind the headlines to bring you six key takeaways from the world's largest games event
Quantum Break is shaping up to be the most ambitious new Xbox IP in years
Xbox kicked-off Gamescom with Quantum Break, a game that could very well be the most ambitious project Microsoft has ever commissioned.
Created by the developer behind Alan Wake and Max Payne, Quantum Break is a sci-fi action game where time is collapsing. In-between each chapter, an optional 22-minute live-action TV episode will begin. There are four of these episodes, which boast an all-star cast including Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings), Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire), Sean Ashmore (The Following, X-Men) and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire).
Microsoft has provided us with the opportunity to create something like this, and having an absolutely phenomenal cast of actors... it does cost money,” Sam Lake, creative director for the game, told MCV. But we are Fins, so we are pretty frugal.”
Lake added that this investment should pay off in the long-term, as it looks to turn Quantum Break into a franchise.
There is a lot of effort when you build a new thing in getting just the right tools and technology to create a game like this,” he said.
What we have with things like our time powers, our stutters in time... all of that has been custom-made for just this, to make it as good as possible and to get this unique vibe. And then with the storyline – with time-travel there is a whole history you need to figure out and you need to build that world, those characters and their back-stories... a lot of effort goes into building the foundation.
In some ways, you can never get everything into that first experience. There is a lot more where that came from. We do this work always thinking that there will be more games."
Halo and Street Fighter in multi-million eSports push
eSports has always been a big part of Gamescom, and this year major publishers announced they would be spending millions of dollars to turn their games into the next pro-gaming hit.
During its Gamescom conference, Xbox detailed plans to transform Halo 5: Guardians into a competitive gaming staple. The firm announced the first-ever Halo World Championship, which features a $1m prize pool. Halo developer 343 Industries also demonstrated dedicated eSports-friendly modes for the upcoming sci-fi shooter.
Meanwhile. Capcom wants to make its upcoming Street Fighter V the biggest player in fighting game eSports, and is aiming to have a presence at many top events to make this happen.
A big direction for us is the eSports aspect of Street Fighter V,” UK marketing boss Antoine Molant said.
We know that eSports is booming at the moment and want to make sure that Street Fighter is at the forefront of that.
Right now – in terms of fighting games – we're not at the level of League of Legends, but that's where we want to be. We want to be the headline name in fighting eSports games”
We have the Capcom Pro Tour - a yearly tournament we introduced last year. There are also two UK events, which are EGX and Versus Fighting. We'll look to integrate Street Fighter V with them.”
The team behind Alien: Isolation is making the new Halo Wars
The biggest bombshell dropped at Xbox's Gamescom press conference was the reveal of Halo Wars 2.
The strategy title is being made by UK developers Creative Assembly, the team behind the Total War series and Alien: Isolation. In fact, many of the creators of the latter title are the ones working on the new Halo.
We've crafted the Halo Wars team, but primarily we are able to use the Alien: Isolation developers,” said studio director Tim Heaton. They're our console-ready team. It's the perfect combination: we have great strategy knowledge, we have great PC knowledge and now we have great console knowledge because of Alien.”
Indeed, Heaton is keen to distance Halo Wars 2 from its Total War franchise, insisting that the game is not just going to be a sci-fi version of its popular PC series.
We are absolutely using the original Halo Wars as a starting point,” he said. This isn't going to be a Total War: Halo kind of game, this is Halo Wars taken to the next stage.
We really rated Halo Wars. We think it's something we can add to and build on. And as we're learning about the universe, we've been working closely with [Halo developer] 343 Industries and that's been a really interesting learning experience.”
Publishers call time on early game announcements
Long periods between a game being announced and released could come to an end.
There were multiple titles announced at E3 in June that would be released in a matter of months: Rare Replay, Fallout 4 and Hitman amongst them. This follows an increase in digital games being announced and launched immediately.
To have such a long protracted period... can you maintain the excitement over that? To shorten that period is great,” said Phil Rogers, Europe and America CEO of Square Enix, who announced a new Hitman game less than six months before its due date.
You will see more of that. First-parties are making announcements of games you can play that night. People are starting to expect short-term, or even instant, launches. People are focusing on launch as being just the start, whereas ten years ago, launch was the end of a long cycle. Now, that first big beat with gamers is the start of a multi-month or multi-year relationship.”
On Fallout 4's shorter release window, Bethesda's marketing and PR VP Pete Hines said: We felt like if we shortened the campaign, put less of a strain on the team, the game would be much further along before we started taking about stuff, so we could show a lot more stuff rather than just vaguely referencing it. Fallout Shelter [the mobile game it unveiled and launched at E3] was the ultimate example of that. If [Fallout 4 creator] Todd Howard had his way, that is how he would do Fallout 4; he would go up on stage and say: Here is Fallout 4 and it's out next week.” Because every time he has to show the game, he has to put this video together or whatever. He hates all that.”
The hunt for the next Minecraft is on
Ubisoft and Wargaming are the latest companies looking to find the next Minecraft.
But both publishers are going about it in different ways.
Wargaming has launched WG Labs, a publishing service designed to help larger independent creators get their games to market. Wargaming is even looking for titles that fall outside of its usual strategy genre.
We have launched a website where you can submit your game idea, and we would prefer to have some playable prototypes or a vertical slice, because a paper concept... there are millions of those flying around,” said Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming.
If there is an indie team, a small company or a mid-size company with an idea and playable stuff, there is a high possibility we can add value to that. Maybe it will be