European games convention Gamescom shows that the games industry is thriving and healthy

A wholly accurate representation of the average visitor

AS FAR as trade fairs in the world of video games go, Gamescom is by far the largest. As Europe’s answer to the E3 games convention in the US, Gamescom attracts over 250,000 visitors each year over its brief opening time, including members of the press and games exhibitors from around the globe, and acts as a major platform for developers of video game wares to show their product to the world before release.

Held in Cologne, Germany, this annual event showcases the latest games being brought to the market and allows fans and trade alike to get up close with the technology being shown, whether this includes new game releases, or that of a new type of console. Coupled with onsite entertainments ranging from live music acts, to video game tournaments of some of the world’s most popular games, the event shows that the video games industry is much more than the casual observer might be led to think.

Of the myriad of events that take place at Gamescom the main function is to allow games developers to show their newest developments, normally some time before the games themselves are published. This year was no exception with attendance by some of the largest developers in the industry including Sony and EA as well as some of the smaller players in the market, allowing an unbiased view into the upcoming releases of the next year. The real surprise was the absence of two of the biggest names in the business, Nintendo and Microsoft. With Christmas just around the corner, the fact that these two have not shown any new releases (or even attended to show some already known releases) is a puzzling turn of events.

In terms of coming game releases, Sony stole the majority of attention with the announcement of a number of games for its newest handheld console, the PlayStation Vita. These include a new horror title, “Until Dawn”, and an Assassin’s Creed title that is exclusive for the Vita: which should hopefully turn around Sony’s currently struggling console sales. Keeping on the topic of Sony, their most recently unveiled innovation is the Cross Buy, a feature that will give a free version of certain games purchased on the PS3 for the Vita. Whether this feature proves to be popular in the long term, and how many people feel that having two copies of a game is worthwhile, will have to be seen.

This year’s Gamescom also saw a large presence of ‘free-to-play’ developers.  Continued development in the free-to-play market over that of the boxed game market is likely- probably as much due to the poor world-wide economic situation as the popularity of the genre itself. Often these games also have aspects that require real world money to unlock, giving rise to the title ‘freemium’. These developers were much more apparent this year, with Microsoft and Nintendo being absent, allowing these games to fill the gap created.

Gamescom also plays host to a number of game tournaments, with a number of competition finals normally being held at the event. Among these games, Blizzard’s ‘ StarCraft II’ made a heavy appearance with some of Europe’s best players taking part in the competition. Riot Games’ popular free online game ‘League of Legends’ was also a much watched competition, with the European regionals being held. Other games of which tournaments were held included Tekken and Tribes: Ascend. Such is the level of interest in these “e-sports” tournaments that online streams were set up allowing fans watch.

Overall, Gamescom showed the world that the video games industry is thriving and healthy, with new innovations still being presented. It also means that with Christmas approaching, the games showcased at this years Gamescom will likely be on many people’s shopping lists.