Did Gamescom miss Nintendo and Microsoft?
The reason why both platform holders were absent remains somewhat of a mystery. Microsoft has billed this Christmas as one of its biggest, with many of its biggest brands due. Nintendo has a new console to launch. So it's a little perplexing that neither showcased their wares at the biggest consumer video games show on the planet.
Regardless, their decision to stay away didn't exactly harm Gamescom. 275,000 visitors still descended upon Koelnmesse and there were more exhibitors than ever, with over 300 video game premieres.
But their absence certainly made for a different vibe on the show floor. Boxed games appeared to make way for the free ones.
In the hall vacated by Nintendo stood large stands for free-to-play firms Trion Worlds and Gameforge. The hottest party of the week was thrown by Wargaming. Even the big reveals from EA and Ubisoft centred on freemium titles. Meanwhile, the term ‘year zero' was bandied around in almost every interview MCV sat in.
Whereas E3 felt a touch out-of-date and little too focused on the ‘old world', Gamescom was the opposite. Wii U wasn't the star of the show here and was instead sidelined – quite literally – down one side of Ubisoft's booth.
But Gamescom didn't just feel different. It also felt, more than ever before, very German.
There is no denying that free-to-play, mobile and PC are now big parts of our industry. But the phenomenon has yet to take the UK market by storm like it has across Germany, Korea and other big European markets.
In fact, the UK has become a bit of an enigma to several of the ‘new world' publishers MCV?spoke to. Consumers on our shores appear to have resisted the rise of free-to-play to some degree, at a time when they aren't buying boxed games, either. And as a result, the new vibe experienced at Gamescom wasn't reflective of the UK games industry.
There was even a distinct lack of British companies showing their wares at Gamescom. The major free-to-play companies and digital firms were all from Europe or Japan or Korea, companies such as Bohemia Interactive, Crytek, Nexon, Gameforge, Trion Worlds, Wargaming, Bigpoint, CCP, GREE and so on.
In fact, the strongest UK showing came during Sony's press conference, with new games from UK developers Media Molecule, SCE London Studio and Supermassive Games revealed on stage.
In fact, Sony did a very good job at Gamescom. And the platform holder was part of another trend that could be seen on the show floor in Cologne – the rise of new IP.
There were four new properties unveiled during Sony's press conference. A horror title built for PlayStation Move entitled Until Dawn, two quirky projects from Sony Japan in the form of Rain and Puppeteer, plus new Vita IP Tearaway from Media Molecule.
Capcom, too, had something new to show with next-gen action adventure title: Remember Me.
The idea that new IP shouldn't be launched late in a console cycle has been widely accepted. Yet as this generation drags on, and sales begin to slide, publishers are increasingly turned to new concepts in a bid to generate some much-needed excitement in the console space. Sony even suggested it could extend the lifecycle of PS3.
It followed an E3 where the firms that ‘won' the show were those that dared to reveal new things, including Ubisoft's Watch Dogs and ZombiU and Sony's Beyond.
Indeed, whilst the rising digital giants and free-to-play specialists were taking more of the limelight at Gamescom this year, the boxed world was still making plenty of noise, as well. Activision effectively kicked the show off with a grand Call of Duty:?Black Ops II multiplayer reveal, Capcom and Square Enix held special press conferences of their own, while Sony's pre-show event was the typical headline stealer. In many ways, this year's show was more diverse than it has ever been and a true reflection of the market as it is today.
Did Gamescom miss Nintendo and Microsoft this year? No. Not really. But it was certainly a different event without them