Not playing around: What was new at Gamescom 2019
By: Andrew Rogers
If you’re looking for a visual example of just how big the games industry is, look no further than Gamescom. Held in Cologne, Germany, Gamescom is Europe’s biggest video games conference and convention. It’s rivalled only by E3 in Los Angeles and has drawn brands and fans from around the world since 2010.
Gamescom blends business and fun, with a specified “business area” and “entertainment area.” On one side is a relatively traditional looking B2B trade show, while the other side hosts more than 350,000 passionate fans who have come to try out the latest and greatest games and upcoming releases.
As the industry has evolved, so too has Gamescom. Having attended this year’s conference, here are the main trends we saw (in-between playing the latest Pokémon and Zelda games).
Big tech is now big gaming
Big and recognisable brands are everywhere you look at Gamescom. Nintendo, Microsoft and PlayStation all had massive stands, both in the business- and consumer-focused areas of the show. Square Enix also had a noticeably big presence for its upcoming Avengers and Final Fantasy games, as did EA for FIFA 20.
More surprising was the greatly increased muscle of brands traditionally not in the world of gaming. Facebook and Google in particular really upped their footprint – with Google even bringing its own three-story slide!
Of course, this is all in anticipation of both companies launching brand new gaming platforms. In Facebook’s case, it’s the launch of Oculus Quest, which shrinks down powerful VR into a headset with no wired connection. For Google, it’s the launch of cloud-based virtual console Stadia. Big tech is now also big gaming.
And it’s not just new hardware. Both Facebook and Google heavily pushed their streaming and publishing platforms, looking to attract more high profile and aspiring game streamers to their sites and take a bite out of current market leader Twitch.
Missing in action
There were some notable absences from the show too, including the aforementioned Twitch. While in previous years they’ve had stands that dominate the show, this year Twitch’s booth was quite limited. But with so many brands and fans clearly streaming live on Twitch of their own accord anyway, perhaps Twitch doesn’t need a booth to win Gamescom?
Activision and its associated brands, Candy Crush-maker King and World of Warcraft’s Blizzard were also noticeably quiet at the show this year, and world-leading Fortnite barely showed up at all.
We’re ramping up for a much bigger 2020
While 2019’s Gamescom felt big up close and personal, it’s going to seem quiet compared with next year. For all major companies, perhaps with the exception of Nintendo, 2019 is the end of the current console lifecycle. And while there are some big games coming out, market analysts have pointed to a pretty thin line up of blockbuster games this Christmas.
Next year will see the launch of the new PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s new Xbox codenamed Project Scarlett, and the full public release of Google Stadia. The next generation will bring far more power to consoles, allowing for bigger games and deeper experiences. PlayStation may well also update its PlayStation VR kit to maintain its strong position against Facebook’s Oculus.
Even more fans will descend on Cologne to get the latest controllers in their hands and try games that up until now have not been possible without incredibly expensive gaming PCs.
Live content is key
Though not necessarily new for 2019, this year’s Gamescom did underline the importance of generating live content at the show. Almost all the big stands had either a booth for live streaming, or a full stage with presenters broadcasted across Twitch (or similar platforms).
Gamescom is not just a trade show – it’s also a live event, and one where your live content and reveals must compete with other brand attendees. The best stands hosted live competitions, audience participation and even competitive esports matches. It’s no longer enough to just offer a game demo. Brands also need to find the right presenters, activities and run their own week-long, multilingual TV channel.
From B2B stand management and press briefings, to massive consumer stands and live content, Gamescom has always challenged brands to perfect their events communications. Part B2B trade show, part gaming fan convention, Gamescom shows just how intertwined the B2B and B2C worlds are when it comes to video games. And while 2019 was a great year, the next console generation will force brands to take their comms strategy to the next level in 2020.
Andrew Rogers is an account director in Allison+Partners’ London office.