Last month, I went to my first ever GamesCom - the massive gaming event that happens in Cologne Germany. I have never been to Germany, nor have I attended such a gigantic gaming event before, so all of this was pretty new to me. I am used to going to other events like EGX and Insomnia, both in England. GamesCom is also over 5 days, instead of the typically 3 day events I usually attend. Compounding that, it also has significantly longer days (11 hours) than most other gaming events
Now, without really understanding what I was getting myself into, I made the decision to not book too many appointments for an event I had no previous experience of. That way, I could go to meetings and explore the event without feeling rushed. GamesCom, at least from the point of view from an individual who is press, is quite different to someone who is showing off a game or attending for leisure. The event is divided into many different sections; Retro, Indie, and business are the areas that I spent most of my time in, but there was also a consumer area, an AAA area, and a general food court area.
With that said, this event was tremendously gargantuan. The layout was very maze-like with floors above floors and expanding over a huge building. After a few days, areas were guarded off to “improve” traffic flow, requiring you to go outside, around the building, and eventually down stairs before re-entering inside and proceeding to the room you wanted to be in. Needless to say, long legs would be a benefit here - walking from one end to the other can take upwards off 20 minutes! I didn’t get a chance to see everything, there was simply too much, but I did focus mainly on indie games - especially the plethora of games I had not seen before at events in the UK. The first day of GamesCom 2017, a sunny Tuesday, was trade and accredited press only, so the event isn’t jam packed with people. I spent this day in the business area, which has a distinctly different feel to any other gaming area of the event.
As you might expect, the business area was very professional - people having a string of meetings and showing off games to people who seem very important. Notably though, some people didn’t actually have games and instead were pitching concepts to publishers and people who could provide funding. Other booths were there to help you with figuring out payment plans and debt management. There were also booths by specific game engines that had talks in them, and highlighted the games made using that engine. On top of that, there were also a lot of booths labeled by country, showing you games that were produced in that specific country. It was an exceedingly unusual mix of games and business stuff.
The games produced in different countries, predominantly from europe, was something I was really interested in. As someone who primarily went to events in England, I had not seen large quantities of games from Sweden, Spain, and Belgium, and that’s just for a start. I was able to check out games exclusively by developers not from the UK - which opened up a world of new games, and provided an opportunity to meet some fantastic people. With that said, the business area seemed like more of an area for games that either need backing, publishers, employees, or are actively looking for someone to contribute to it. The lines here were short when it came to looking at games, as not everyone was allowed to enter this area. I found that if you are an indie developer attempting to show off your game specifically to an audience of business people and press, this was a wonderful way to do so. The business area of the event also wasn’t around for as many days as the other areas, and was packed up halfway through the week.
Another huge highlight for me, was the Indie Arena Booth, a frankly wonderful 1000m2 booth packed with over 80 high quality indie games from 26 countries! This was located in hall 10.1, with the .1 denoting the floor it was on, and made up one of the many entertainment areas of the event. This area was packed! Lines were long, the wait for some games were comparable to mental trials of patience and sheer will, but all of the games were absolutely wonderful. The people who put on the Indie Arena Booth had even created a booklet with all of the games, where to find them, and the contact info of each developer all listed inside of it. Naturally, this was of course more aimed at consumers and reminded me of other events I had previously attended. There were tons of awesome indie games, sometimes with their developers nearby, eager to watch you play them through, if they aren’t resting from the exhausting days. Something that was different to other events - none of the booths had much in terms of chairs or places to sit, so by the end of the week, everyone’s feet were blistered, numb and tired. The Indie Arena Booth, as far as I am aware, is a cheaper booth for indies to book for their game. It’s a very good place to display your game to both consumers and press, drum up interest and increase the number of people following your game, as well as playtest and receive feedback from a diverse audience of people hailing from all over the world.
Indie games were also sprinkled in other areas of the event - including the Retro area. Newer indie games that fit the ‘retro’ style were sprinkled among old classics, a display of consoles, and new additions to the retro genre. This area was less frantic than the main entertainment room, but still full of people enjoying classics and newer remakes/inspired games. I found it very interesting that the event itself had decided to put so many indie games everywhere!
Another key aspect of GamesCom that would be a tragedy to miss, are the after parties. On the Tuesday, there were some really wonderful parties to attend. I went to the Big Indie Pitch @ Gamescom event (where I judged the games entered) as well as the Unity Party afterwards. Parties at events are an excellent chance to network with people, who are no longer busy trying to get to meetings, waiting in line for your game, and who are much more relaxed. The parties on the first day, for me, were definitely the best - but that might be because I became increasingly exhausted as the days went on. I also attended the Nordic Party and Amazon Party, just to name a few more. Attending parties is really a must (and bring business cards) when it comes to attending such big events. You will get the face to face time you need, with lots more people in the industry, and you can make more contacts in the process, which is always a plus. And if you still aren’t convinced, then there’s usually free drinks too.
I can’t stress enough how big GamesCom is. It’s huge! Bigger than anything I have ever attended, ever. So many people attend this event - over 350,000 people in 2017! So if you are looking to promote your game to an enormous and diverse group of people from all over the world, this is the place to be. Having the business area semi-restricted as an optional place to show off your game and network is also a fantastic idea, depending on what you want to get out of the event. I really enjoyed GamesCom overall and found plenty of new games that I have since been recommending and following after seeing them. I also got to meet so many developers who had seen my work, and were an absolute pleasure to meet in person. After GamesCom, I feel like I want to attend more events! However, I also came home with so much sleep desperately needing to be recouped and a backlog of work to do, that the recovery time, for me at least, has taken ages. Was it worth it though? Yes, of course it was worth it. I hope to continue to widen the amount of events I am able to attend so I can see more and more of what the industry has to offer, from all over the globe.