Gamescom 2021 will take place from August 26th to 28th. KoelnMesse and the Federal Association of the Games Industry are currently asking fans in which format. In 2029 just over 370.000 visitors streamed into the Cologne exhibition halls, in 2020 it was suddenly zero. Corona. How Gamescom will present itself in 2021 is currently being worked on, according to the email. A lot is possible here, but really probably only a little.  

The associated e-mail mentions a “hybrid Gamescom”. That could mean many things: The number of visitors to Gamescom 2021 could be strictly limited and only as many fans allowed on the site as a protection and hygiene concept allows - everyone else would then watch from home via the Internet. "Hybrid" could also mean that only trade visitors are admitted and that fans follow the trade fair via online stream. Or: "Hybrid Gamescom" could mean that there is an on-site program, but without spectators or with streaming users as an audience. In any case, the term gives the organizers some leeway. The organizers would now like to get the opinions of the fans in a survey on how it should be used.

Gamescom 2021: Virtual queues and prizes

The central question and probably one of the most important for the Gamescom organizers: Would you take part in a Gamescom on site in Cologne this year if there were appropriate hygiene and safety standards? Much depends on the answers. Due to the pandemic situation, public life is largely paralyzed, and nothing is going on in the event industry. People have now come to terms with it, so that KoelnMesse's introductory question is entirely justified. Just because a Gamescom could take place on site in 2021, fans would not automatically flock to the exhibition halls en masse - especially not with the international orientation of Gamescom, which is likely to complicate the situation for the organizers significantly.

It should be clear: If Gamescom 2021, then not so ...

It should be clear: If Gamescom 2021, then not so ...

The following questions also revolve around safety standards. So what would the organizers have to do to ensure that fans visit one of the largest gaming events in the world as carefree as possible, but at least with a good feeling? Digital queues with fixed slots could straighten out what is happening at the stands, contact and tracing options should certainly be required and empty exhibition halls would also be very likely as a required security requirement.

Despite the pandemic, many fans would be happy if a Gamescom could take place in Cologne in 2021. The organizers also ask about the price limit. A wildcard for 147 euros? For 122,50 euros? 98 euros? 73,50 euros or less? The organizers want to know where fans draw their personal pain threshold when it comes to admission. At the last Gamescom, a weekend ticket was 22 euros.

The questions give a vague indication of a possible path: fewer visitors, fewer exhibitors, much more security - that could be significantly more expensive.

Overall, the organizers are keeping a low profile when it comes to the design of Gamescom 2021. For good reason, because it is not really foreseeable what will happen in summer and what the corona situation will look like. If vaccinations were to pick up speed from the second quarter of the year, that would at least be a ray of hope - even if vaccination coverage of the population by Gamescom seems unlikely. Are vaccinated fans allowed to participate on site and everyone else via stream, analogous to Eventim's ideas? For the organizers, the situation is currently more of a kind of game of chance, so one acts cautiously. In about a month you would normally be able to buy tickets for Gamescom. It remains to be seen whether that will also be the case this year, and if so, for which format of Gamescom 2021.

... and not like that either. Photos: André Volkmann

... and not like that either. Photos: André Volkmann

In the end, the decision for or against an on-site trade fair, hybrid event or online full format depends not only on KoelnMesse and the industry association, but on the official bodies that decide on containment measures or demand security guidelines. The question of corona tests then also hovers in the room: the test landscape is to be expanded. Do visitors to Gamescom 2021 then have to be tested in advance on site? How safe would that actually be? And much more: Could fans and organizers even bear the costs necessary for a strict hygiene concept?

And then there is a kind of logistical constraint: one of the exhibition halls is currently being used as a vaccination center. Operations will start on Monday. At best, vaccinations will then be carried out with the highest possible utilization in the future. This special “public traffic” must then probably also be taken into account when holding a physical trade fair event.