Gamescom Kicks Off with Record Attendance
COLOGNE, Germany – Europe’s largest video game conference, kicked off Wednesday with a new record as 600 gaming firms from around the world descend on Cologne for the four day gamescom event. Organizers expect at least 250,000 visitors over the next four days as the gaming industry and ordinary fans fill the halls checking out the latest tech and titles.
The numbers are impressive but they hide deeper problems within the gaming industry, which is going through major changes as consumers shift from buying and playing expensive packaged games on home consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox to getting their gaming fix online, often via cheap or free-to-play games on platforms including iTunes and iTunes.
The change is evident at gamescom where Microsoft and Nintendo – two of the biggest players in the console market – both cancelled plans to attend. Two other giants in the packaged games business -- Sega and THQ – will present some of their new titles at the conference but will not have stands of their own.
Meanwhile, mobile games - ones designed to be played on smart phones or tablets -- are the fastest growing segment of the market and for the first time have their own stand-alone section of gamescom.
The old guard is trying to shift their business model to adjust to the change. At a press conference on eve of gamescom, Electronic Arts announced that it will release the latest version of its hit strategy game Command & Conquer as a free-to-play title.
But while there are fewer big blockbuster titles on offer at gamescom this year, they are still the games generating all the buzz. Among the highlights are the reboot of the Tomb Raider gaming franchise from developer/publisher Square Enix; the interactive thriller Beyond: Two Souls from developer Quantic Dream, which stars a virtual Ellen Page; and Naughty Dog’s survival horror title The Last of Us. Beyond and Last of Us were developed using the old gaming business model: both were designed exclusively for release on Sony’s PlayStation 3.