The world’s largest expo for video games, gamescom, officially kicked off yesterday for trade visitors, and today opened its doors to all fans. From August 21st to August 24th, more than 370,000 visitors are expected in Cologne. They are joining game publishers, developers, hardware companies and overall 1,100 exhibitors from more than 50 countries to celebrate what has become the world’s most popular form of entertainment.
On Monday evening, gamescom kicked off with a new pre-show event for the first time. During the Opening Night Live, the trade show gave publishers a stage to show exclusive previews of upcoming titles and featured a visit from industry legend Hideo Kojima.
Yesterday, Andreas Scheuer, Federal Minister for Digital Infrastructure, officially opened this year’s event. In his speech during the opening ceremony, Scheuer emphasized the importance of the games industry and linked it to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence. “That must be the message of this year’s gamescom: These are not just players, they are the innovators of tomorrow.”
Here is the first full edition of the gamescom daily news.
gamescom Opening Night Live – Is Cologne the New L.A.?
On Monday night, gamescom kicked off with a new pre-show event for the first time. While it was no rival to E3’s annual press conferences, where the big publishing companies typically announce upcoming releases, the opening event featured several world premieres of well-known gaming franchises as well as a visit from industry legend Hideo Kojima.
Typically, gamescom is perceived an “event for the people” where players connect with developers, while E3 is still considered the preferred place for publishers to announce new highly anticipated releases. However, with the new kick-off event, gamescom showed it could possibly outstrip E3 in terms of publisher focus soon – during a time where some say E3 is no longer what it used to be. An example for this trend are companies like Sony and Activision, which skipped E3 this year, but have come to Germany to make world premiere announcements at gamescom.
Innovators of Tomorrow
Yesterday, Andreas Scheuer, Federal Minister for Digital Infrastructure, officially opened this year’s gamescom. In his speech during the opening ceremony, Scheuer emphasized the importance of the industry in Germany, and although he gave no guarantees that developers in Germany will receive any state subsidies in the coming year, he and other politicians, including Digital State Minister Dorothee Baer, have continuously highlighted the relevance of the funding issue and promised to make it a top priority.
Germany is still left behind in terms of public funding
Compared to countries such as Canada, the UK or France, Germany has not been internationally competitive in games development, with no comparable support and funding at federal level. Most recently, the market share of computer and video games held by German companies fell to less than five percent on the domestic market. The share of public subsidies in video game development in Germany is only 2.6 percent, compared to 17 percent in the UK and 32 percent in Canada.
Can Google Stadia Become the Netflix of Gaming?
On Monday night, Google aired its second Stadia Connect broadcast, which gave a look at some titles coming to the company’s cloud gaming service. There is no doubt that cloud gaming is a game changer for the industry, and Google is at the forefront of this development, although it is by far the only competitor. Other companies who have announced a similar service are Microsoft, Sony, and even Deutsche Telekom.
Cloud gaming on a Netflix-like scale seemed too ambitious of a project just a few short years ago. Unlike streaming movies or music directly to your TV or phone, cloud gaming relies on the user sending inputs back to the cloud server while receiving video and audio simultaneously. Latency, low bandwidth and many other factors are major challenges. But it seems like these companies are all-in on eliminating those issues, so playing games via the cloud might soon be as good as playing on a high-end pc or console.
For hardware companies, this trend could prove to be challenging. With cloud gaming, users are no longer required to buy the latest console or upgrade their gaming PC. Using Google Stadia or similar services, gamers can play the latest titles that usually require top-notch hardware on any device – even older PCs or smartphones.
Exclusivity is key
Aside from technology, what will likely be the make or break of a cloud gaming service, is the selection of games. A broad offering of games that are exclusively available on a singular service will be a major appeal for users to sign up. While Google announced several new titles at gamescom coming to Stadia once the service launches in November, including popular franchises such as “Elder Scrolls”, “Doom” or “Destiny”, adding exclusive titles will make it much easier for gamers to decide to lose their consoles and jump to Google’s streaming service.
E-sports: What’s next for the billion-dollar industry
As always, gamescom is not only a highlight for gamers, but also for e-sports enthusiasts. The trade show features several tournaments, including events for some of the most popular e-sports titles “League of Legends”, “FIFA”, and “Counter-Strike”.
The e-sports industry is booming: Deloitte estimates that e-sports will be a global billion market with a turnover of almost 1.3 billion euros in the coming years. Sales of around 130 million euros are expected for the German market alone.
“We want to make e-sports the biggest sport in the world”, said Ralf Reichert, founder of the world’s largest e-sports company ESL at the sports business conference SPOBIS on Monday, just before gamescom. According to Reichert, the statement “gaming is the biggest of all entertainment media” has never been more true. And the numbers prove him right. An example: 205 million viewers watched the recent World Cup final of League of Legends, while only 163 million people tuned in to the soccer World Cup final.
At the same time, the borders between regular sports and e-sports are blurring. Rainer Koch, Interim President of the German Soccer Association (DFB), has just announced a digital version of the DFB cup – an e-sports event to be held alongside the major German soccer tournament. This marks a turnaround in the relationship of e-sports and organized soccer in Germany. Only in 2018, the head of DFB, Reinhard Grindel, had described e-sports as “absolute impoverishment”. Now, more and more clubs are using e-sports to address new target groups and lucrative sponsors.
A new perspective
And finally, there are still new perspectives and stories in e-sports that have yet to be told. On Monday, SAP showed a new documentary highlighting three world-class “Dota” observers – the “ingame cameramen of e-sports”. In the documentary, various personalities from the e-sports industry give their angle on “observing” and provide an exclusive look at what it means to excite the masses by always choosing the right perspective on competitive gaming.
Read our second gamescom daily news digest here.