Gamescom 2019 “The Heart of Gaming” once again opened its gates in Cologne from 21 to 24 August. The world’s largest event for not only for the computer and video games but every domain in the horizontal slice of the gaming sector from hardware providers to game publishers, streamers, indies, e-sport professionals, cosplays, retros, universities, XR and many more. The fair was literally the heart of gaming community fans from around the world whether you are a teenager or retro veteran gamer.
In this article, I would like to point out how I get myself in, how I managed to make it alive, how poorly I was prepared in some ways, what could have gone better, what could have gone worse, why you shall come and see the convention even you are not the gaming enthusiast. I know there are lots of mainstream game review channels out there, so for those who expect to see game reviews, I kindly direct them to these channels, as the core content of this article is not related to that. Without further due, let’s jump into how my Gamescom journey started. Bear with me, for a while as it’s going to be one of my long-reads.
A Dream Come True
Since I was a kid, I have been following the conventions through the online media channels like IGN, Gamespot, Polygon and so on. It has always been one of my dreams to breathe the air of the event area, showcases, bump into creators, watch world premieres, try out new games. So, this time, I was burning with the passion to make that dream come true so I take the topic to Oyunder which is Turkey’s one of the biggest NGO game industry network and Gamfed Turkey, Gamification Community, asking for assistance to finance my travel. It’s always reasonable to approach an NGO, offering a faithful contribution in line with their vision. As already been for a member of these communities, that’s what I did. Lately, I was being invited to universities to talk, reaching out crowds blogging about gamification and games and most importantly, I am in the organizing team of GameX 2019 which is Turkey’s biggest gaming convention. Therefore, in exchange, I offered I would distill every bit of information I get from the convention and share it with Turkey’s gaming and gamification communities (apparently this article is one of those) and utilize the learning to better prepare for the convention I am organizing. That’s the first and most concrete step, I took the leap and luckily landed off in a mutually fruitful ground. As saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.
As soon as, the flight tickets are covered, I reached out the people visited the conference to get advice. The main points were,
- Schedule your meetings in advance.
- Don’t spend much too time outside the business area, as you could be overloaded with the bustling crowd.
- All the cool parties are already fully booked probably. If you haven’t booked any you’re going to have to hang out in your hotel.
There had been already a conversation building up in the social channels, so my advice is to keep yourself updated with what’s happening and establish a genuine connection with people in social channels, in my case it was Linkedin. Before the convention, I have already started a conversation so, my humble advice would get to know who is joining and what’s better is to reach out to them so that I feel more comfortable and focused during your visit.
Opening Night Live
This year, Gamescom kicked off with Opening Night Live on Monday, August 19. It’s where XBOX, PS4, Nintendo, and Stadia announces anticipated news and showcases new trailer for blockbuster games. With this show, Gamescom, for the first time took a decisive step in the direction of becoming an international platform for new products. The host Geoff Keighley inspired more than 1,500 visitors on-site, 500,000 spectators watched simultaneously in the live stream. The brand new show programme featured announcements from major publishers and independent developers, world premieres with new trailers, as well as guest appearances by stars from the international games industry. Hideo Kojima, was there too, so as Death Stranding. However, to watch the show stage, you have to visit Devcom, developer conference, which covers two days before the Gamescom goes public.
Talking about ticket types, there are mainly two varieties of tickets,
- Private Visitor Ticket
- Trade Visitor Ticket
Private visitor ticket which entitles to one-time access to the entertainment area. Trade visitor ticket grant access both business and entertainment area. So if you are looking for meeting with publishers, hire a developer for your company, in general, business development perspective, trade visitor ticket is the right choice. I bought private visitor tickets for 3 days.
Official schedule for Gamescom
For those who are of a camping spirit, for accommodation, I definitely recommend staying at Gamescom Camp which is a peaceful spot in contrast to the hectic fairground only far by 15 minutes walking distance. The isn’t only a convenient and inexpensive place to sleep for visitors of the Gamescom but also Europe’s largest camping for gaming fans, a meeting point for like-minded people to meet in real life. In walking distance from the fairground Kölnmesse (where Gamescom takes place), the Jugendpark is located directly at the Rhine River.
Whether you prefer to hang out at the campfire, the free wifi, table tennis, meet with new people, attend game tournaments or just chill at comfy sunbeds by the river, in short, everything a traveler is looking for.
The best thing with the camp is, I met wonderful group people, where I enjoyed my time apart from the convention. The funny thing is, in the camp, there is an annual Mario smash contest in traditional Gamecube console and winners are awarded next year’s stay. To my surprise, two of the guys at the group I met are practicing for a long time and playing the finals for years. So yes, there are still Gamecube players around the world, and they are taking it very seriously. A bit of life-saving camp advice, bring something very think for the night, or you may wake up in the middle of the night freezing to death.
The First Day
I arrived at Cologne in the morning by the night bus from Stuttgart, built up my tent. Equipped with my portable camp chair (which I brought upon advice) brimming with of excitement, my heart started beating after seeing the bewildering mass of people gathered at the entrance. Music is playing, announcements telling that all tickets are sold, cosplayers all around me, apartment scale Cyberpunk poster hanging, I knew I was marching for the ultimate glory of experiencing the gaming exhibit at its best. Exhilarating. Took about 30 minutes, never felt like waiting, yet a parade.
Before the hall gate, you got to have age wristband. The age wristbands have different colors for the respective ages so that the stand personnel can immediately determine whether a trade fair visitor may enter the respective stand area;
- Up to 12 years = no wristband
- As of 12 years = green
- As of 16 years = blue
- As of 18 years = red
These wristbands are issued in the entrance areas and in each exhibition hall on presentation of valid photo ID.
Navigating Inside the Convention
As squeaking sound of the rotation of the turnstile at the gates to the hall heard, I felt a shiver down my spine as I was officially in. The dream came true. Feeling utterly excited, I quickly got the floor plan day’s event schedule. At Gamescom, there are daily magazines, explaining what is going around, when and where which I benefited a lot. There are different regions (halls), consists of different areas. There is surmount of activities are going around, so there is literally no chance to witness every activity. So, embrace the fact that you will skip some of the shows and activities, in this way you can enjoy the whole experience with a focus in your mind.
Meanwhile, for the first time, the new Gamescom Now service was there to provide digital access to all events and shows. Thanks to the successful combination of a unique gaming offering on the grounds, supplemental formats and the extension to the online world, you may sit back and follow up the things you skipped on the ground, anytime later. The collaboration with IGN and Gamescom Now yielded a total of far more than 28 hours of live streams.
I would like to talk about some of the areas I spend most of my time.
The area, I spent the most time and had enjoyed the greatest. The indie area booth was packed with an incredible amount of total of 109 authentic games represented by 40 countries in one massive area. It’s worth mentioning nearly 3/4 of the games were developed in Unity. At each game, one of the developers accompanies you, giving under the surface insights about game design decisions. There was a brand new accessibility area, where the handicapped gamers can enjoy all indie games with an adaptive controller which was really nice. From the perspective of an indie developer, it’s a pretty fruitful environment of showing their games not only to gamers but also the publishers around. Great ecosystem. For those indie game lovers, I would recommend you to check out the games demonstrated at Gamescom and take on them on your wishlist on Steam. There was also streaming studio for content creators and passionate evangelists to kindle the bonfire in the heart developers to achieve more.
Gamers took pride in and have respect for retro games. Over 200 retro game consoles, home computers, handhelds from the ’80s were still playable. I even saw people playing Pong, with original controllers. I am very young for these old classic games, however, it was nice to see people appreciate these antiques.
This is where the bustling crowd is cheering. At these massive stages of AAA game companies, studios showcase their newest titles, make stage shows (Just Dance 2020), throwing giveaways, speeches, panels everything gamers love to make this convention festival-like. There is a constant conflux of people moving around. Every time I moved from one hall to the other, I felt amazed by the size of the constructions. Had never happened to be standing still and nothing to do. The spirit of the conflux of people navigates you though the blazing halls, and believe me that’s unintentional. Of course, there are some people seem to be in direction and control, however, that’s not I was, at least not on the first day. At times you get overwhelmed by the people moving around especially at main corridors, the better way is to find your way among connection between halls.
This year a total of 373,000 visitors from more than 100 countries, 31,300 of them are trade visitors. So, these numbers translate into long waiting lines in front of anticipated AAA games. Do you remember the portable camp chair I’ve mentioned before? That’s for surviving these snaky long lines. Some roaster of games like Cyberpunk, Death Stranding, Borderlands 3, Ghost Recon had waiting time more than two hours at peak hours. Personally, I am not a waiting fan, so I skipped all these AAA games. If you are not dying to play these games from the first hand, I would recommend you to stay away. There are lots of interesting things to do, watch and socialize on. Even so, you are, you better go for trade visitor ticket which costs considerably more than private visitor ticket so that you can play these games one day before the convention goes public with a little-to-no queue. There are two more ways to skip the waiting lines. If you are the press and would like to make some report out of the game, you may beforehand schedule a time slot. Secondly, if you are not a press, there is an application called Linistry. At the exhibitors Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Nintendo and Deep Silver you have the possibility to book a Linistry Fast Lane Ticket during Gamescom. I repeat you can’t do it in advance, you have to make a reservation only during the day. Because the wifi was not very consistent all around the convention, I could not manage to use this service.
While mingling with new friends, attending shows, speaking with developers you may not realize how much you have spent without drinking water and get dehydrated. As a remedy for that, I brought my flask, there was a water filling station in the convention, so I took advantage of it. That’s a definite winning strategy over waiting for huge lines for getting water in exchange for your money.
One of the notable presence that I am particularly interested in is Google’s Stadia. Google offered visitors the ability to test out Stadia right from the show floor. That’s where I tried Doom Eternal and the result was a captivating, seamless and very stable gameplay. I have been following other people’s reviews on Stadia and so far so true. No lag, no delay. The huge Stadia booth was filled with the platform’s branding with a YouTube Gaming logo set clearly on a point of interest. That gives us a solid idea where Google’s products will be capitalized on.
I was interested when I heard the newly opened event arena. Watched a League of Legends match which was very competitive, though. The best thing is, there was an e-sport agency booth at the entrance of the arena. While the e-sport fans celebrated the match, the ones who dream to be a professional e-sport player were able to visit the agency booth after the match. Always fond of fruitful environments.
Facebook Gaming was there with minor gamification activities. There were 4 games and a leaderboard. That’s it, I couldn’t figure it out the core reason behind their presence. There was an invitation-only reserved zone for some streamers and celebrities behind the booth.
Here is an anecdote “When Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is asked who is the main competitor? He replied, sleep and well anything related to entertainment” So, am I surprised to see Netflix at the convention? The answer is no, but let’s not go ahead of ourselves. Here is the catch. Netflix was there at Gamescom with two games of the original series: Dark Crystal & Stranger Things. Question is, are we going to see the mass-adopted Netflix series being complemented with the games of the series more and more? I would assert we are. It may also enhance the overall experience. However, every gamer would quickly remember what type of taste the movie games leave. So far, Netflix hasn’t fallen into that pitfall. Keep it that way Netflix.
Let’s not forget cosplay too. There is an area namely cosplay village that has its own distinctive decoration gives you an opportunity to relax and linger. Cosplayers were all around the convention, however during cosplay contest at the village, it’s the right moment to be there.
The veterans from Turkish Game industry and Academia were also at the convention. It’s always nice to see some of the promising games developed by the organizations you are familiar with. Mount & Blade and Stygian were examples of such. Little bit chit-chat and more, I came to realize that everyone in Gamescom has something different in their mind, from establishing fruitful connections with the universities to finding their publisher for the next game. Having said that, there was Gamescom campus area where you expect advice on jobs and careers in the games sector, as well as various universities, presented interesting, gaming and IT-related educational offers and many exciting student projects.
Nintendo awarded me with a Luigi Mansion notebook for following their post on Linkedin and dropping a visit. Very kind of them.
When I am visiting the conventions, I am looking for gamification that working like magnets to make people do desired activities. As all the booths were battling against each other for engaging with the crowd and attract visitors attention, I would like to share some of my favorite designs.
Cologne City Festival
The last 3 days of the convention the city of Cologne witnesses Gamescom city festival. At the evening the crowd moves on into the center of the city to take the entertainment to the next level. Streets were cleared out of the cars and filled with snack shops, cocktail bars and DJ cabins to boost the happiness of the atmosphere even more. I would recommend grabbing your drinks at the nearest Rewe (supermarket) with some snacks and chill with your friends and wind down with the music. You may also mingle with new friends from around the world.
All in all, the convention is all about fun. I should make most of your time, keep reminding yourself of going to Gamescom having so much fun. Visiting with friends definitely adds up to the overall experience and increase the excitement. With a myriad of things Gamescom generously has to offer will make you come back, again and again, years after, bringing more of your friends. There has been pretty much it. See you at the next Gamescom.