Ich liebe Gamescom
Or, in case you hadn't guessed, "I love Gamescom". It is best-described as the European version of E3, which means massive halls full of wondrous new games and thousands of people--both public and press--attending throughout the week. However, seeing as it takes place in Cologne, Germany, its likely most people reading this article won't be attending. And thats where I come in. Jarnimalism time.
Ill be navigating the halls packed with sweet-smelling (cough) people to bring you the finest coverage of the hottest new games. And gladly too, for Gamescom is one of the highlights of the gaming calendar. So let me explain why its so great from my personal viewpoint and why that means youre about to get a whole load of awesome coverage heading your way.
E3 games have had a few more months of development time
Coming a few months after E3, its not merely a chance for European gamers and journalists to play the games that were unreachable on a different continent a few months ago. It often gets new demos of its own.
The bugs in said unfinished games are often hilarious, mind. If I had a pound for each time a developer at Gamescom squirmed in his seat and rebooted a debug unit saying that wont happen in the final game, Id have about 5 by now. That didn't happen with Borderlands 2, incidentally. That was just amazing. Though it was hotter than the sun inside that fun bus.
Behind-closed-doors demos are an eye-opener
But not for the reasons you might think. Sure, you get to see and even play new games months ahead of release, which is, of course, 'the dream', but the chats are often incredibly candid. It probably helps that the PR reps in question are tired, hot, stressed and sick of saying the same thing over and over again each hour, on the hour, for three days solid. Much more vulnerable than the succinct delivery of a one-off press event.
And because these talks are so candid and frank, secrets are shared that help shape GamesRadar for the rest of the year. So when youre reading something in October, it might well be as a direct result of Gamescom. And when youre not reading about a game, the same might be true. I could name at least one game that was described by its own PR rep off-the-record as shit during a Gamescom appointment. He wasnt wrong. That sort of thing saves a lot of time.
There's game-related awesomeness everywhere you look
By the time the doors are open to the public, it's a hive of game-themed enthusiasm and wonderful geekiness. There are people cosplaying everything from Kitana to the guy from Dead Space, awkward teenaged males taking pictures of people cosplaying Kitana (not so much the guy from Dead Space), stage events with people singing four-part Beatles Rock Band harmonies (guess which year I first went), people on rollerblades and MCs giving away prizes to eager people.
I even saw an Atari bag with the katakana for 'a-ta-ri' underneath the famous logo. Do want. But there are also cabinets full of game merchandise you can buy, like Sonic The Hedgehog-themed chess sets and Final Fantasy figurines. Its like that geeky dream everyone has where theyre in a shop full of awesome game stuff. Whats that? Just me? Oh...
It's big without being overwhelming
E3 is traditionally a massive, energy-sapping clusterf*** of an experience. Gamescom is still all of those things, but slightly less extreme. Like the edges have been rounded off. The floors are wide and theres plenty of room for everybody (except the main thoroughfare when the public gets let in, but more on that later).
It's a physically large event, too. Not just a few rooms and a conference hall. The Klnmesse is a massive conference building with several aircraft hangar-sized halls full of game booths and displays. Sure, it's hard finding a tiny compartmentalised temporary office in the labyrinth of the business section, but it's OK. Dave says he killed the minotaur last year so this year should be a doddle.
Gamescom gets some pretty big announcements
I was actually in the room when actual Sony actually announced the actual PS3 Slim. I know, I couldn't believe it either (cough). OK, that's not quite as cool as actually being in the actual room when actual Vernon actual Kaye proclaimed he was "SO ADDICTED TO GAMES! YEAH!", but Im not sure anything in my career will ever quite top that moment.
Still, Fable 3, Tearaway, Resistance 3 and the release date of PS4 were all announced at Gamescom. Its also getting a reputation for 'the show where price drops get announced'. The probability of an entirely new console being announced this year is approximately 0, but some nice price cut news? A near-certainty.
Games often have amusing equipment to try them on
Everyone wants their game to stand out, which means the demo pods are almost universally top-end tech. Farming Simulator 3D's demo featured a real tractor (bloody handsome it was, too) and iRacing had a full-size, sit-in single-seater simulator that was totally uncompromising in terms of its difficulty setting (perfect).
Even the slightly-crap-if-you-ask-me LittleBigPlanet Karting had little wooden sit-in karts to play the game in. With cushions. Any additional comfort to make the experience of playing that game nicer is highly welcome in my book. This is all good news for you because it means... (clutches for straws) er... you get opinion and insight of the experience the true enthusiast will be experiencing a few months down the line. Yep. Let's move on.
There's a business section that's always stampede-free
The Wednesday of GC is only open to journalists, but then the doors are thrown open to the public on the Thursday and all hell breaks loose. The massive hallways are instantly crammed with people and for a while, it's impossible to walk anywhere. Literally impossible. Mind you, some guy with a food trolley decided he was just going to keep moving through the crowd shouting something in German (Ein Frosch? In welche bidet?), and drove said trolley into the back of my foot. Wasn't even sorry. Don't worry, I killed him until he was dead, which made me feel much better.
Oh, but to return to the point, the business section is still open and press-only, which means your lovely flow of game information can continue unabated. Because Gamescom is awesome.
There are genuine, game-shaped surprises on the show floor
One annoying aspect of having a packed appointment schedule is that you only see glimpses of the showfloor as you run between appointments each hour. By comparison, the public get to take their time and eat ice cream sandwiches between demo pods. But it is worth poking around the various booths, where you can still uncover a few previously-unseen exclusives just lying around, waiting to be seen.
This does make the first few moments a bit of a dash, though. You know those flagship shop openings where everyone rushes in and tries to find the mega-cheap opening day sale TV for 50 instead of 1,500? It's like that, but instead of a TV, it's Assassin's Creed on Vita. No, really, that was a big deal at the time! Oh, suit yourself
Some of the people are cool people
I met Final Fantasy's Naoki Yoshida, for instance. He gave every journalist a small handheld electrical fan that lights up with the words 'Final Fantasy' on the spinning blades, which is obviously one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life. But then the batteries leaked so I had to throw it away. But that wasn't Gamescom's fault. It was Yoshida's. I think it's quite telling that we haven't spoken since.
This year I am scheduled to interview Peter Molyneux. He'll probably give me an acorn or something. And a small hammer with which to strike it. If I give him 10,000.
There was a bat in the building
I couldn't get a picture of it (this one is fake, sorry) because it flapped into a corner, but there was a real, live bat flapping around in the rafters one year. It wasn't even a Batman PR stunt or anything, just a wayward bat.
I *highly* doubt E3 has a bat.
Essen sie Ja gern?
Gamescom may not have the aura of E3, but its by no means inferior. Its the highlight of the gaming calendar in Europe, used for more in-depth showings of fantastic new games after brief announcement trailers at E3 and a chance for your truly to practice his GCSE German in the real world. Eine tasse orangensaft mit ein meerschweinchen, bitte. So get excited and keep watching for some amazing coverage from the show right here on GamesRadar. Ja? Ja!
And if you're looking for more, check out The 33 absolute WORST photos from Gamescom 2012 and Why Microsoft should (and will) go big at Gamescom 2014.