For passionate gamers, a visit to gamescom in Cologne is one of the absolute highlights of the year. Countless video games are waiting to be played and discussed by the fans - provided you have enough patience to survive the sometimes hours of waiting. Gamescom 2018 is mostly well received by fans, even if critical voices criticize overcrowded aisles or high prices in the trade fair catering.
Instead of a large number of individual articles, we have summarized our impressions of gamescom 2018 in a comprehensive article. As reading for all those gamers who could not be there and as a reminder for those who want to remember the 2018 edition of the largest video game fair in Europe.
370.000 fans from all over the world
The Gamescom week attracted around half a million visitors to the cathedral city. 370.000 of them roamed the well-filled halls of Koelnmesse alone. This year gamescom was noticeably more international: visitors came from 114 countries, with the strongest increases in visitor numbers coming from the neighboring countries of Austria, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
The newly designed opening event, at which world premieres were announced for the first time, showed that gamescom 2018 would be a spectacle. Publishers such as Bandai Namco, Koch Media, THQ Nordic or Ubisoft disclosed details of upcoming new releases in front of the assembled specialist audience - and for the first time some wildcard owners. This step not only made the opening event more entertaining, but also made it more attractive in terms of content.
How important internationality is for the global gaming industry is shown by the large foreign exhibition among exhibitors, which was around 2018 percent at gamescom 70. For its 10th anniversary, Gamescom has grown again: an increase in exhibitors of 13 percent and 15.000 more visitors than in the previous year are figures that underpin the relevance of the Cologne video games fair for the entire industry.
In addition to the visitors on site, countless fans from all over the world followed the Gamescom week via live streaming. Overall, the organizers were able to significantly expand the reach of the trade fair as a comprehensive 360 ° event.
Funding pots have to be filled: "Games are great"
Given the large number of international successes and the simultaneous dwindling of German game titles, the demand for funding for games is understandable. Felix Falk, managing director of the federal game association, confidently called for greater support for local game developers.
The representative of the federal government, Dorothee Bär, thinks games are great, but with a vague statement regarding the realization of possible funding pots, falls short of the expectations of the industry representatives. The Prime Minister of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, announced that he would double the funding through the Film- und Medienstiftung. In view of an economically strong industry, political representatives will not be able to avoid new regulations in the near future, especially since Germany has long since established itself as a development location.
For the first time, well-known publishers provided tangible information on upcoming new releases as part of the opening ceremony of Gamescom 2018. The highlights included the “Dark Pictures Anthology”, a new horror series from the makers of Until Dawn, With Man of Medan A storytelling first part appears, which should inspire fans of scary games. The German development studio Blue Byte, now part of Ubisoft, is celebrating the 25th birthday of a popular development strategy series and has surprisingly announced a new edition of The settlers on. The video game, which will be released for the PC in 2019, should not lose anything in terms of “hustle and bustle”. The fun, classic mechanics of the series are in the foreground in the new edition. For the first time since The settlers 3 the series inventor Volker Wertich is again involved in the development. Nothing stands in the way of the prerequisites for a masterful reboot of the series.
The rediscovery of the casual gamer
What was noticeable at many game stations: there is no longer one type of player. Spending your free time playing is a phenomenon that affects every age group, every social class and across all genders. In the ideal case, modern video games do not want to exclude a target group, but rather inspire with a mixture of beginner-friendliness and gradually increasing complexity. Good games take beginners by the hand in their first steps through virtual worlds without disappointing the expectations of experienced players.
This is often achieved through a focus on well-told stories, some of which turn modern games into interactive films. “Easy to learn, hard to master” is a principle that many game developers seem to be following this year.
When so-called silver gamers stand in line for family-friendly video games or stand smiling at the game stations with gamepad in hand, the true value of video games as a cultural asset becomes apparent. Games bring people together, offer cross-age touchpoints and common themes for different generations of players. This is especially so because, in view of the rapidly advancing digitization, “older semesters” have to fear being followed by the youth.
PES 19 vs FIFA 19: Which Football Match Wins?
It is the eternal duel between two football series: PES against FIFA. Gamers who have to decide which of the two titles have to choose will face a difficult choice this year, because the two video games have never been so close together. Konami and EA Sports have made significant improvements to the remakes of their popular soccer games. If the decision is made in autumn, only one title can go off the virtual green as the winner: Who will win the duel of the giants?
Instead of relying on tons of innovations, both development teams have improved the details of their new editions. Each of the ranks had their individual strengths and weaknesses in the past. That changes noticeably in the 2019 edition, because both developers have sent their scouts to the opposing stadiums to learn from each other's strengths.
We played both titles extensively at Gamescom 2018 and can therefore compare PES 19 and Fifa 19 directly with each other. An all-clear for fans who have not yet made up their minds: You can't really make the wrong decision this year.
Fifa 19 clearly focuses on realism on the lawn. Fights for the ball feel much more intense than in the predecessor. What the developers simply call “50/50 Battles” actually looks like a physical duel on the virtual lawn. As in real football, opponents clash against each other, kick hard against pressed balls or run after a bouncing ball. EA Sports has improved the entire game physics to such an extent that the lead of competitor Pro Evolution Soccer has melted considerably in this regard. Both games are increasingly bringing realistic - and therefore surprising - game situations onto the screens.
Every year, critical voices rail against Fifa's Ultimate Team game mode, which many fans see as the heart of the series - especially in combination with the individual player styles. Top stars like Christiano Ronaldo or Neymar stand out on the pitch with their unique movements that are modeled on real players. It goes without saying that Konami had to follow suit on this point. PES 19 now also has these features inherent in the game, which distinguish well-known footballers from ordinary players. This impression is reinforced by the MyClub game mode, which will regularly bring updates to the hard drives for the “Player of the Week”. With the improvement of the trading card mode, Pro Evolution Soccer is catching up with its competitors.
Otherwise, the two titles are in top form. While Fifa 19 stands for fast, entertainment football (including timed finisher), PES 19 shines with its great ball physics, which makes the game appear more simulation-heavy overall.
In the end, it is up to the preferences of the fans which of the two games can decide the personal taste duel: both Fifa 19 and PES 19 are outstanding in terms of play.
Ubisoft, Nintendo and Co.: New products from well-known publishers
Well-known publishers such as Ubisoft, Square Enix, Electronic Arts and Nintendo used Gamescom 2018 to present the new releases for the coming months to fans from all over the world. The continuation of popular video game series is just as much a part of it as the introduction of new brands.
The conclusion of the modern trilogy about the eternally young archaeologist Lara Croft is getting mostly good opinions. The game Shadow of the Tomb Raider brings the story of the trigger-happy adventurer from a rich family to an end - and she doesn't have to do more than stop the end of the world once more. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is probably the hardest part of the trilogy that was re-launched in 2013. Lara Croft has to defend herself against enemy mercenaries, avoid falling boulders in a physically correct manner and avoid a fatal fall. Survival is anything but easy in the third part of the trilogy: but that is exactly what makes this game so interesting. When Shadow of the Tomb Raider by Square Enix on September 14, 2018, Croft fans will once again save the world.
The French publisher Ubisoft has many hot ones in the fire. In addition to the continuation of the popular Assassin's Creed series with the offshoot Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, which takes players on a trip to ancient Greece, is followed by a return to old virtues for other video game series. Ubisoft has taken the fans' criticism to heart for the new part of the Anno series. Instead of excursions into the distant future, players take part Year 1800 a trip back in time. On a website specially set up for player feedback, fans were able to vote on details parallel to development or submit their own ideas to the developers. Year 1800 will be released for the PC in spring 2019.
The second part is eagerly awaited Tom Clancy's - The Divisionthat plays a few months after the predecessor. Players fight together against marauding gangs in a devastated Washington DC. The atmospheric game environments are at least as intense as in the first part of the series, the opponents act similarly clever, the item spiral turns incessantly and again develops an enormous addictive factor. Tom Clancy's - The Division 2 relies on the playful framework of the first adventure, but can also make the same mistakes: constantly repeating firing caused a rapid loss of players, which Ubisoft was only able to convert into a renewed success over the course of the months through additional content. The adventure begins in March 2019.
Sea of Thieves von Rare has shown that pirate games can be quite successful. Instead of relying on brightly colored comic graphics, Ubisoft also delivers Skull & Bones graphically much more complex naval battles. In the Indian Ocean, players spread fear and terror as privateers, rob trade ships or plunder other players' storerooms after successful PvP battles. With their individually adapted ships, fans throw themselves into impressive sea battles and earn their time in various game modes. If Ubisoft can install Skull & Bones in the scene according to the principle of “a game as a service”, players can expect a long-term motivating, tactical action game with a relatively fresh setting. In 2019, players will be allowed to set sail.
Electronic Arts is also continuing the popular sports game series such as Fifa, Madden NFL, NHL and NBA Live this year. With targeted improvements to details, fans should replay significantly more realistic, but still comparatively fast and entertaining matches. So far, so well known.
Much more exciting is the question of whether new brands can establish themselves in the industry. The action game is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Electronic Arts Anthem. In a varied world, players can move freely thanks to a jetpack. At the same time, the spacesuit defines the character class: as Ranger, Storm, Interceptor or Colossus, players hover over atmospheric planetary surfaces or explore cave systems. The visually impressive surroundings arouse the urge to explore and make you want to do some exciting shooting. Similarities to titles like Destiny are obvious, also in terms of playful motivation. If Anthem Fans can actually be tied to the screens in the long term remains to be seen. In spring 2019 you can slip into your spacesuits. In addition, will also Anthem be available via the new subscription service EA Origins Premiere.
Battlefield 5 also shoots. The new offshoot of the series offers more of the familiar and focuses more on playful detail improvements. Above all, this includes being able to react more flexibly to game situations by changing combat roles. The basic structure remains untouched in Battlefield 5. Fans of the series will have the freedom to experiment, so that the sequel title will also offer enough potential for long-term motivating gaming sessions. The open beta of the tactical shooter starts on September 06th.
No secrets were revealed at the Microsoft Xbox booth, but many game stations where fans were able to play the highlights of the next few months in great detail. Forza Horizon 4 has proven to be a real gem. The game system with changing seasons is simply ingenious: despite the same route, the driving experience changes noticeably. On servers with up to 72 players, the seasons change weekly and thus offer fans a high level of replayability. In addition, Great Britain is a great setting for a racing game that lives from its variety of tracks, among other things.
Otherwise Microsoft is breaking new ground in terms of controlling games for people with disabilities. In view of the constant development of new target groups, this step is to be welcomed: finally, players can indulge their passion even when physical impairments have made it difficult or even impossible to control digital alter-egos. It remains to be seen how the so-called adaptive controller will ultimately arrive on the market. The introduction of this hardware alone is a step in the right direction; one that other hardware manufacturers should definitely join.
As expected, there were few surprises at Nintendo. Perhaps with the exception of the announcement of an adaptation of Saints Row: The Third by the label Deep Silver Fishtank.
Otherwise, the Japanese console and game manufacturer put previously announced titles at the center of the booth presentations. Tennis was played, karting and soccer were played. Nintendo fans are comparatively easy to inspire, which is not least due to the fact that fans greet the implementation of every major brand for the Nintendo Switch with cheers. With the expansion of the portfolio for the innovative console, Nintendo is slowly working its way back to the Olympus of console manufacturers - especially since the launch of the online service in September and the continuation of the Nintendo Labo series should open up new target groups. Combining games like Mario Kart with the innovative handicraft series is not only clever, but also a real unique selling point in the area of family-friendly game content.
Retro games as an integral part of Gamescom
The popularity of the so-called retro games continues. At Gamescom 2018, too, numerous exhibitors are vying for the attention of visitors with their “old machines”. Most of them do not take long and spontaneously reach for the joystick: Whether Ghostbusters, Space Invaders or World Soccer: the pixelated titles from the past are still fun today.
Retro gaming has almost become a countermovement to increasingly photo-realistic computer graphics. The classics - sometimes more, sometimes less known - are all about pure entertainment. Appearances are of secondary importance, although die-hard retro fans in particular find the charming 8-bit game environments aesthetic.
Retro games are seldom easier than modern video games: perfect timing and responsiveness are essential in progressing levels. If you don't have these skills, you need a lot of tolerance for frustration so that the joystick doesn't end up on the next wall.
For many older gamers, playing retro games feels like traveling back to childhood. Gamers who started their gaming careers before the mid-1990s fondly remember video games where 3D was not yet an issue.
Games have no age. Whatever entertains comes onto the screen - graphics or not. In any case, the average age of a video player in Germany is around 36 years. This shows that it's never too late to get excited about games. Women and men like to gamble - and take it easy. While a more youthful video game culture prevails in the USA or Japan - which is also the reason for the boom in eSport - German players like the typical “sofa feeling” in mostly cooperative games or solo games. Competitive titles are fun, but are too hectic, especially for the so-called “silver gamers”.
And so retro games and modern entry-level titles will remain successful in the years to come. Sold out retro consoles or new editions of the “old bones” underline the trend, which simply cannot be broken.
Small developers, gigantic games
There was also a lot to discover apart from the gigantic exhibition stands of the major publishers. Pathos Interactive throws in Bannermen a new real-time strategy game on the market that not only reminds of Age of Empires, but also plays similarly. Tactical slaughter with cleverly assembled task forces lead to success as well as escalating mass battles. Everything is set in a medieval world, which get fans of Game of Thrones should make you happy. Troop management is refined by deployable hero units who use strong, but by no means overpowering, special abilities to let close battles end in their favor. Because only two resources (wood and gold) are needed to train the troops and to build the base, the focus shifts to Bannermen thankfully in the direction of combat optimization.
The adventurous puzzle game My memory of us, which focuses on the story of two children in World War II, is especially worth mentioning because Patrick Steward (Captain Picard in Star Trek) acts as the narrator of the background story.
Sable is, on the other hand, a peaceful open-world exploration game that is intended to appeal to experienced players and beginners alike. The renunciation of fighting or screen deaths shows that the story and the social interaction within the virtual clans are the real stars of the video game. The main concern of the developers is to give players all the freedom they need to explore the world.
Indie games, popular niche games or small projects are now just as much a part of gamescom as well-known million-dollar sellers.
Virtual Reality is alive. still.
Gamescom 2018 showed: Virtual Reality is still alive!
The technology somehow whistles out of the last hole in view of the high acquisition costs. Nevertheless, developers cannot be denied the opportunity to present new design ideas to visitors. Once at home, most gamers will ignore VR content again in order to devote themselves to less strenuous gaming sessions. Yes, virtual reality is innovative, and sometimes even entertaining. But no, it doesn't create that special feeling of cozy sofa gaming. VR games are hard work, demand top performance from many a sense of balance - and lack real innovations with all the complex control mechanisms. Many players do not get really warm with VR content, even beyond understandable price discussions: the games seem too fake, the events are often too confusing.
It is not yet apparent that virtual reality will establish itself in the games scene. VR is more of a system for other technology sectors, such as medical technology or as part of manufacturing processes.
Just in time for Gamescom, developers tried to talk up the topic of virtual reality without success - which was also shown by the comparatively short waiting times at the booths with VR content. Although visitors were not completely disinterested in virtual reality, the topic generally appeals to technology freaks. The average gamer will continue to want to sit down and just move his fingers.
Semi-Analog Gaming: Trading Card Games
They flashed at some tables: the analog game titles, primarily in the form of trading cards such as the Final Fantasy TCG or Yu-Gi-Oh. The full gaming tables were not islands of calm, but somehow they were especially in the middle of the world with a digital focus.
Players just love to play, whether on screen or with cards. Especially since new technologies or game ideas allow the worlds to merge. The codes enclosed with the card packages mix physical cards into virtual decks, trading cards with NFC could replace traditional cards and purely digital adaptations of card games are increasingly appearing at the exhibition stands.
Asmodee Digital is a pioneer in the adaptation of classic board games for PC and consoles. The French publisher is currently working on many projects at the same time, including the implementation of a living card game in the Lord of the Rings universe for PC. The LCG Lord of the Rings will shortly start in the early access phase and will place the playful emphasis on cooperative card battles and an exciting background story based on the license of Tolkien's books.
The fast gameplay of the LCG is already convincing in this early phase of the game. Community Manager Luke Walaszek from Fantasy Flight Interactive was enthusiastic about his project, which is a specialty within the segment of digital card games with a strong focus on co-op battles. Fans, on the other hand, are happy about the ongoing campaigns and the bits of story hidden behind them, the texts of which have been professionally set to music. Particularly exciting: completely new characters were even created for the living card game.