Every year, Gamescom gets bigger. Not only does its 345,000 public attendees make E3’s 15,000 punters look positively paltry, but this year the show will also be accommodating over 900 exhibitors, marking a 20 per cent increase year-on-year. That’s over three times the number of exhibitors at E3 2016.
That’s great from a numbers perspective, but with more voices competing for the same amount of attention, it can be increasingly difficult to make your game stand out from the crowd.
However, after speaking to a number of this year’s exhibitors, it’s clear that Gamescom remains as crucial as ever. Whether it’s networking, announcing new titles or placing orders with key partners, Gamescom’s ever-swelling numbers only reflect its growing importance on the world stage.
Here’s what our exhibitors have to say about the show, and why it continues to be such a critical date on the worldwide gaming calendar.
E3 may generate the most headlines, but it’s Gamescom that offers the biggest commercial opportunities, our exhibitors tell us.
“While E3 is the big one as far as new announcements go, Gamescom is better for us as a business,” says Stu Taylor, owner and director of PR firm Dead Good Media. “It’s also more condensed than E3, in the sense that you don’t find yourself having to grab a taxi from one conference to the next.”
Soedesco’s executive manager Hans van Brakel agrees, saying “it’s the only event where we can speak to so many people at once. [Without it] we would need to hire a lot more people to do the same amount of work.”
Soedesco’s new IP Real Farm Sim is one of the publisher’s big titles being showcased this year, with van Brakel saying its 4K graphics are so immersive that “it gives players the real farming experience.”
Similarly, Badland Games UK’s brand manager Andrew Hoyal tells us that “without Gamescom, we wouldn’t have met [director of Nosebleed Interactive] Andreas Firnig, and got to play his awesome game [Vostok Inc]. He signed with us and just recently published his game onto multiple formats.”
Badland Games UK’s country manager, Ben Stevens, adds that “not all our partners travel to E3,” making Gamescom “hugely important [for meeting] almost all of our business partners from across the globe. For me, it’s easily the number one show in the video games industry.”
There’s still room for making big announcements too, says Dingit.tv’s brand and community manager Claire Sharkey: “Gamescom allows Dingit.tv to further share our story and unveil exciting plans while also supporting developers and meeting content creators and fans. It ticks off passion and business, which is a positive and fortunate combo.”
Dingit.tv is the official gold sponsor for the Indie Arena Booth this year, and Sharkey tells us it will feature over 80 indie titles, as well as tournaments and an award for the best indie title on show.
“Teaming up with Indie Arena has been a solid process with a lot of communication and support and has really been integral to us setting up a presence at the event,” she says.
For Steve Powell, managing director of Maximum Games, Gamescom plays a key role in laying down the groundwork in the run up to Christmas: “It’s become a very important show as it allows us to meet with our partners and distributors from EMEA in the build up to Q4 and discuss how we might be able to help launch their products to a global audience.”
This year, Maximum will be showing off its new action IP Extinction, which sees players taking on huge ogres as they fight to save their homeland. Developed by Iron Galaxy, it releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC in Q1 2018.
“It’s challenging to manage both a business and consumer stand,” says Powell. “But we’re on the Ukie stand this year, which has been easy to organise and provides an effective way to have some presence at the show.”
The Ukie stand is becoming increasingly important for UK studios, with CEO Dr Jo Twist OBE telling us that “over £21m worth of business was completed on the stand in just three days” last year, making it “a focal point for trade.”
She continues: “There is no better B2B trade show in Europe. Gamescom is the place to find international partners. [The Ukie stand] attracts leading games publishers, developers, investors and media from around the world and showcases the outstanding creative output of UK companies. 2017 will feature a record 80 companies.”
The Ukie stand isn’t just a great place for UK development talent, however, as it’s also become an important contact point for PR firms, Renaissance PR founder Stefano Petrullo says:
“Having a base of operations at the Ukie stand means I can run the business remotely while meeting all the people that count in a single location. It’s better than E3 as you can actually do business and close deals.”
He adds: “Just try to keep shoptalk out of the bars. Networking is good in and out of the show, but the Irish pub, well… You know, right?”
Forming new business acquaintances is just one part of Gamescom’s appeal, though, as it’s also a great opportunity for publishers and distributors to strike up new sales partnerships for the coming year.
“It’s great for us trade exhibitors,” says Link Distribution’s sales director Fraser Blakemore. “It gives us a great presence, plus a forum for business meetings. A lot of prep goes in so we maximise our time there.”
Boxed specialist Sold Out tells a similar story, with CEO Garry Williams calling Gamescom a great “selling show” where he can drum up new deals.
“You know you’re coming back with orders,” says Williams. “All our European partners are focused on the seasonal run-in, and this is the point where orders are placed, stock is topped up and forward planning turns into invoice generation, shipping and sales. Gamescom is a fantastic opportunity to get the orders and re-orders in writing. This year, we will be taking floor space outside the trade halls to showcase our new digital and retail releases.”
“Over £21m worth of business was completed on the Ukie stand in just three days last year.”
Dr Jo Twist, Ukie
The same goes for online retailer Green Man Gaming: “We meet our partners at the show every year to update each other on any new games and further opportunities to work together,” CEO and founder Paul Sulyok tells us.
“The show has served GMG very well for years. The setup of separating the business and consumer areas allows us to discuss business in a dedicated area while enjoying the overall funfair of the gaming world within the consumer area. We also make it a point to make new friends and meet new publishers and developers that we can encourage to sell their games on GMG.”
Of course, with so many members of the public attending Gamescom, it provides valuable feedback for smaller publishers who don’t often get a chance to showcase their games at other times of the year.
“We usually don’t have the budget to do major events for our games or fly people around to see us,” says PQube’s senior PR executive Peter Fury. “Gamescom is our best opportunity to see our friends from all over Europe and meet new people we would normally not cross paths with.”
THQ Nordic’s global PR manager Florian Emmerich echoes this statement: “It’s the best chance to show our games to the players before they are in stores, as well as a great way to interact with literally hundreds of key press members and influencers.”
THQ Nordic has a jam-packed line-up this year, too, with open world RPG Elex on show, along with underwater shooter Aquanox: Deep Descent, a multiplayer beta of RTS title Spellforce 3, the Switch version of RPG Battle Chasers: Nightwar, racing game Wreckfest, plus historical sim The Guild 3 among others.
“Gamescom is easily the number one show in the video games industry.”
Ben Stevens, Badland Games UK
Likewise, Milestone’s CEO Luisa Bixio says the show’s “perfect” for her studio and comes along at “just the right time” for showing off new titles. “It’s a unique opportunity to feel the status of the market and have prompt feedback about new products.”
The sheer size of the show still presents a few problems for some exhibitors though, with PQube’s Fury saying “you can wander the show for a day and miss entire halls’ worth of goodness.” However, managing partner and owner of merchandise firm Rubber Road, Ben Grant, who will be featuring his new official Destiny 2 range this year, argues the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages:
“It’s a logistical challenge each year, especially organising to have your stand there, but it’s well worth it in the end. It’s the best games show on the planet for our business.”
For others, the size of the show simply reflects its growing importance as a worldwide gaming event: “It helps put Europe on the map,” says Dan Long, head of communications at merchandise firm Insert Coin. “We’d certainly love to bring an Insert Coin store there one day, too.”
Daedalic’s COO Stephan Harms agrees: “It’s a great event that demonstrates how big and important the gaming industry is for Germany – and globally. It’s really important for us, not only because we are a German developer and publisher, but also as it’s the biggest gaming event in the world. Every year it feels like a
Frontier Developments’ PR and communications Micheal Gapper concurs, calling Gamescom “everything a modern gaming convention should be – a public show at a colossal venue in a beautiful city, great opportunities to see and play new titles for gamers, with a dedicated industry day and separate business halls. It gets all the pieces right, with great access for everyone.”