The first all-digital Gamescom is over. What remains are mixed feelings about a mass that, now that it could not take place, has shown that it has to take place. While the Gamescom makers draw a positive conclusion, the conclusions of the fans are not that clear. In the end, somehow everyone is right - and hopes that we will be able to meet again in Cologne next year.

- a comment by André Volkmann


Over two million viewers at the same time Gamescom: Opening Night Live, the opening show of the digital games fair, reports Koelnmesse GmbH as co-organizer: record. Viewers from over 180 countries: a record. The response from gaming fans is far less satisfied. That special "feeling" that Gamescom stands for every year was not even present in a record-breaking amount. If the digital Gamescom has proven one thing particularly impressively this year, it is the fact that the industry urgently needs the trade fair event - as a physical event on site.

Trailer assembly line instead of a show event

It wasn't even the technical inadequacies that bothered us on the opening day. As much as Geoff Keighley chatted, the spark wouldn't jump. It was different last year, possibly because you knew that the next day you could stroll through the sacred halls of the Cologne exhibition center and experience the new products up close. As if on an assembly line, trailers rushed across the screen, interrupted by micro-interviews and a moderation sidekick, which presented the Game Awards with a rather lackluster and unimportant presentation than it was thrilling. Nevertheless: What was shown was entertaining, even if well known - every now and then there was a little surprise.

Fighting your way through the halls with hundreds of other fans: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

Fighting your way through the halls with hundreds of other fans: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

And when Gamescom celebrated its end with the opening show, you couldn't get rid of the feeling that it might have been that with the trade fair this year. Watching live streams for hours or watching Youtubers while gambling in the following days? From the games that actually didn't have any surprises in store? At most tolerable for a short period of time. There was no real alternative: Instead of watching streams and trailers, you could have hopelessly lost yourself in the flood of information on the “Gamescom now” portal, but you didn't want it to.

As a media person, what do you start with digital Gamescom, where media wholesalers have already processed all the content and you could hardly have gotten good information in a timely manner that did not come from the flood of press releases? Exactly, nothing. And so the tension quickly fled, as did the motivation. That was it with Gamescom for 2020. Don't get me wrong: The fair also had its right to exist in a purely digital manner, it just showed impressively how much more Gamescom actually is and what really makes the fair so special.

Experience games up close: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

Experience games up close: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

After a ten kilometer march in the Electronic Arts business area, for example, drink a caffe latte, or play dozen indie games while being supplied with sandwiches and beer, chatting with players who are visibly in front of the monitor with a previously unknown title Have fun, just stroll through the overcrowded halls, let yourself drift - that's the Gamescom feeling. There have probably been thousands of players this year who would willingly and would have happily queued for hours if Gamescom could somehow have taken place. On site. In Cologne.

Digital Gamescom 2020: real highlights? Nothing!

And then the highlights were also missing. "Official partners" or not: Gamescom also lives from its glossy content. And there was just too little of that. Simply providing a flood of digital formats is not enough, there is an abundance of that every day on Youtube, Twitch and Co. And what is sometimes annoying there was a central element at digital Gamescom.

Waiting for hours to be able to play ten minutes: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

Waiting for hours to be able to play ten minutes: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

The publishers didn't seem to be completely enthusiastic about the idea either, at least this assumption came up quickly in view of the content presented. Some marketing from Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft - there wasn't much more from the big players in the industry. Only a few publishers even allowed themselves to be carried away to establish their own format in the mass of content at Gamescom digital.

Other publishers have decided not to appear, such as Nintendo or Konami. But what should have been presented, apart from videos that may have already been shown? The giants could have cut a thick slice of the Indie Arena Booth once again: there was actually passion to be felt, even through purely digital channels. The same applies to smaller publishers who saw digital Gamescom as the opportunity that it should have been for everyone.

Blame the makers of Gamescom for a supposedly unsuccessful trade fair event, that would be too easy. The corona pandemic has had a noticeable impact on the entire industry. Marketing plans, releases, productions, all of this has been postponed, sometimes discarded, in many companies. This could now be felt at the digital Gamescom. While publishers were able to bring their sparse information to the people in bits and pieces in the past few months, there was not enough cool information in the masses that inspires. In addition, there is already a short preparation time - and the trade fair was again a successful project.

Talking to other players and developers: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

Talking to other players and developers: that's Gamescom. Photo: Volkmann

Just shake a mega trade fair out of your sleeve and then meet all your expectations? Hardly anyone thought that was possible. In the end it was digital Gamescom also an experiment that didn't quite work out, a plan that didn't quite work out. The Internet fair was always better than doing without, but competitive? No.

And yet this year's Gamescom must serve as the basis for next year's fair, also with regard to the negotiations that the organizers will have to conduct in the run-up to the event. It is impossible to imagine what would happen if the games fair had to take place again in the digital space due to the corona situation. With every month of uncertainty - just think of forbidden major events until the end of the year - the preparation time for the next Gamescom is getting shorter.

In any case, one thing is certain: on the first Gamescom evening, there was already anticipation, not for the next day or the next live stream, but for the next year.


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