Gamescom 2021 will take place as a hybrid event - at least possibly, because the organizers cannot ultimately decide that. Politicians and authorities take over at this point. Gamescom in Cologne - planned as a two-pronged event with streaming part and on-site entertainment for around 100.000 visitors - is currently a wish. At least one with a plan behind it. No, several: It's about Gamescom for at home, about the exhibition hall as a contact point for hardcore fans, about e-sports, cosplay and shows - and also about safety and hygiene concepts. The latter will tip the scales. And they are at the same time those two factors that you don't really want to decide about, but which you have to. 

A comment by André Volkmann

Can that work well with a Gamescom 2021 with on-site elements? Nobody dares to prophesy that. Of course, the trade fair is “big business”, and the organizers in particular do not want to do without it, who want to offer a safe trade fair experience with the “B-SAFE4business” concept. The concept sounds good, sensible, well thought out:

With monitoring of visitor numbers and flows, control systems, individually designed nodes, contact tracking or disinfectant dispensers, you don't want the coronavirus to penetrate the exhibition halls. The only stupid thing is that people have to pay attention to the regulations. Anyone who has ever been to Gamescom and in one of the toilets there knows immediately: If you fail to wash your hands after peeing, you will probably also punish disinfectant dispensers with ignorance. And whoever disregards such problem-free measures as hand disinfection will hardly be of any interest to control systems and organizational rules.

At the end of the day, hybrid Gamescom is like everyday life: it is the ignoramuses who ruin the day for the cautious.

Barrels full of vaccines

Barrels full of vaccines in the camps, a vaccination station every ten kilometers, free FFP2 masks for everyone - that's not the reality (yet) at the moment. That would be an ideal image for planning trade fair events. Instead: increasing numbers of infections, exploding incidence values, an R value that stubbornly stays above the 1 mark - at the moment, the signs are more towards closing everything than opening anything.

And in the middle of the third wave, the Gamescom makers shout their fair, which around half a million people take part in in peak years - on site. For the hybrid trade fair, it was immediately recognized that, given the current situation, it would be difficult to squeeze these figures into the exhibition halls. So a two-pronged, hybrid event concept was developed. The aim is to lure “gaming super fans” to Cologne, to an entertainment area where games can be tried out – with queue management. And if Gamescom can do one thing, it's queues: there are queues every year - except for 2020 - in different formats. From long to longer to "from here it's a three-hour wait".

The organizers of Gamescom and those in charge of KoelnMesse are ready for the video game super show. It's not the visitors, as the nagging about small queues in supermarkets or shops shows. As much as one wishes for an on-site half for Gamescom, in the end it is the visitors themselves who let the dream fall apart.

Gamescom 2021: This is what it could look like on site - empty, lots of space, regulated flow of visitors. Only the masks are missing from the picture. Photo: Volkmann

Gamescom 2021: This is what it could look like on site - empty, lots of space, regulated flow of visitors. Only the masks are missing from the picture. Almost prophetic: some visitors turn their eyes to their cell phones to read up on the current safety regulations! Photo: Volkmann

Recent scientific findings also speak against an on-site Gamescom. Young people are infected much more frequently than before - and they make up a large part of the trade fair visitors. Their behavior is not always understandable: you meet like-minded people, contrary to the Corona rules in a crowd. Operations by law enforcement officers throughout Germany regularly uncover "corona parties". And then you want to get the young gamers to behave appropriately and according to the rules? This will not work. And so that the impression doesn't arise that the young are to blame: the adults don't do it any better. As of now: with around 100.000 visitors in an on-site entertainment area, Gamescom will be a super-superspreader event. The bitter realization would be that concepts only work if people stick to them. And that's where it fails. Unfortunately. And to the chagrin of those who dream up detailed schedules.

To cram around 25 students at the same time, pandemic-friendly and protected in a classroom, that currently seems like a Herculean task. To cram around 100.000 schoolchildren and adults into an exhibition hall, that seems completely impossible against this background. At least for the moment. But there are still five months left.

But: If we look back on what has been done in Germany in the past five months to successfully contain the pandemic, then holding Gamescom should be a piece of cake!

What if: This is how Gamescom should run in 2021

Now imagine for a moment that all visitors meticulously healed themselves by the rules, not only disinfecting but even washing their hands after using the toilet - then Gamescom 2021 as a hybrid event could look like this, according to information from the trade fair organizers:

  • an entertainment area specially designed for the gaming super fans for a reduced number of visitors on site and with a focus on trying out new game titles live on site including digital queue management
  • a further developed Gamescom now as a central contact point for gaming fans from all over the world online
  • Gamescom shows known from previous years such as Gamescom: Opening Night Live or the Gamescom studio
  • an event arena that offers space for special program items such as e-sports tournaments or cosplay shows
  • a business area expanded by Hall 11 in order to offer as many trade visitors as possible the best possible networking conditions in 2021
    For the first time an online B2B platform called "Gamescom biz", which is based on the already tried and tested DMEXCO @home concept and, in addition to company and product presentations, also offers lead tracking and extensive networking and matchmaking functions

Restrictions remain: As a result of the security concept and the associated focus on sample opportunities, not all previous exhibitors can participate. In addition, the ticket contingent for Gamescom 2021 will be significantly reduced. Ticket sales are scheduled to start in May 2021.

Gamescom already demonstrated last year - with some drawbacks - that the pure online part can work. What would happen this year was not foreseeable for a long time. The organizers had meanwhile asked the fans about security requirements, price limits, the basic motivation for a visit in Corona times. The results show one thing above all: The fans want to go back to the exhibition halls, back to Gamescom. For example, 88 percent of those surveyed stated that they could “feel safe with good protection and hygiene measures at a Gamescom in Cologne”.

Queue management is not new at Gamescom - in the past, without Corona, it looked like this. Photo: Volkmann

Queue management is not new at Gamescom - in the past, without Corona, it looked like this. Photo: Volkmann

For 76 percent of those surveyed, “trying out new games is simply best done at Gamescom on site”. Tragic: 50 percent of the 76 percent of those surveyed will probably never exceed the one-hour waiting mark at the on-site trade fair. So hope has always played a role in Gamescom.

And: 92 percent of those surveyed can “hardly wait to see Gamescom again on site”. This is without a time specification, so it could not happen until 2025.

Nevertheless, Gamescom is initially planned as a hybrid event from August 25th to 29th. The organizers leave one back door open, however: If the pandemic development makes it impossible to implement it on site, Gamescom will again take place digitally. This is good news for fans, because it means that Gamescom 2021 will definitely take place in whatever format.

We wish KoelnMesse, the Bundesverband Game, all exhibitors, developers and publishers, trade fair employees, stand builders and fans that things can really get going on site in Cologne - if not with 100.000 visitors in the entertainment area, then at least with 1.000 - or for two. With an appointment – ​​“Click and gamble”. The main thing is fair. You're starving. there is hope. desires and dreams as well. Unfortunately, so is reality.