Gamescom Needs A Date Change.

 


So, Microsoft and EA tried to have Gamescom Events. And oh man, were they TERRIBLE.

Okay, presentation styles and personalities will always be subjective. To me, both the Microsoft and EA presentations were pretty cringe-inducing but I can see elements that might appeal to others, even if I personally wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with those people (or with anyone, for that matter). What I realised during the last day or so has little to do with the style of the event in question – rather, it’s the content in which I find myself stumbling over.

The Microsoft presentation has been soundly criticised enough today so I’m not even going to bother, and EA will probably get an equal amount of criticism tomorrow. But it’s that here, at a major games show, there was so little that was new. Much of what we saw, we already saw at E3. Sure, we have had a couple of new teasers, like an Age of Empires 4 and a new Jurassic Park Sim (the last one, as I recall, was on the Game Boy Advance and I wrote a guide for that OH MY GOD I’M OLD!), but other than that… nothing. Nothing fresh, new or even that daring, nothing exciting and building up effectively to a non-conclusion that just makes you sigh and facepalm (Microsoft ended on an XBox One X STAND and EA ended on twenty minutes of a new Battlefield 1 mode).

Let’s be reasonable here, however; the issue isn’t Gamescom itself. It’s an event sandwiched betwixt two bigger events – E3 in June, and Tokyo Game Show in September. Since E3 is pitched at a Western angle and Tokyo Game Show tends to be pitched, surprise surprise chuck, at a Japanese angle (I know, pick your jaws up off the floor after that revelation!), Gamescom finds itself in an awkward position of being a second-rate E3. It’s big enough that you can’t ignore it, but not as big as the other two shows. So what you get is in essence what we got the last day or so; reheated leftovers from E3.

At least for me, I couldn’t fathom why EA or Microsoft wanted big stream events during Gamescom. I mean sure, it’s nice to have a conference season that doesn’t run on US or Japan Time, but if you’ve got nothing to showcase that is really fresh or exciting at the event… what’s the point? You pay lip service but we can all see you with your pants down behind the bushes. It’s like staring at a Ken doll. There is literally nothing there worth looking at!

But perhaps the point isn’t that – it’s to give Europe at least its own token “event”.

The problem there, of course, is that it feels more and more like Gamescom is the wrong show at the wrong time. In a given year, we have now three major events for big game reveals – you’ve got the big American show that is E3 in June. Then you’ve got Tokyo Game Show in September. And then you finish up the year of sorts with The Game Awards (as much as we wish they didn’t at this point) in December. These events are conveniently and wisely spaced three months apart; enough time that new announcements can come through the pipeline, and projects can crystallise somewhat. Gamescom is just sandwiched between two already-established events and it’s starting to come off as something surplus to requirements.

If anything, it might be prudent to move something like Gamescom to something like March.

And that’s not a joke either – the industry has shown that many interesting games and releases can happen outside of the traditional Holiday window. The Switch released in March and is selling very well – last month selling more than the PS4 sorry not sorry about that – alongside other games like of course Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata and even in the weeks beforehand you got Nioh and Resident Evil 7. March has become an important month for the games industry – it’s the final push to sell stuff before the end of the fiscal year, after all. There’s no big game show in March, except maybe PAX East, but that’s not as big as Gamescom. So you’ve got a month which has become crucial, and even critical, for the games industry… and there’s no big show in that month to drive any excitement or hype before the fiscal year is out.

I don’t know much about the costs that would be involved with a date switch like that, but what I do know is that if the critical reaction to the current Gamescom situation is anything to go by, people are generally just going to stop caring. If the news they get at Gamescom is just the same thing they saw during the previous couple of months from E3, why bother tuning in? Heck, a lot of people who did tune in the last couple days (myself included) have wondered why we were even watching it; it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t interesting, the presentations made us cringe and we didn’t really learn anything new or exciting that couldn’t have been done much better in a simple press release. If we’re not happy, then chances are good companies won’t give much attention to Gamescom in future, and considering it’s meant to be our big show here in Europe – a huge market for video games, by the way – that would be quite sad.

Gamescom as it stands just sits in an awkward position. It’s entirely the wrong date for this to be anything meaningful or exciting in the gaming calendar. And coming so soon off the back of E3, what else do companies have to show anyway? The big guns like Sega and Nintendo and even Capcom and Square-Enix to an extent are all going to wait the few extra weeks to show their stuff off back in their home country, at TGS. Which isn’t unreasonable. It’s their home turf, they’ll be more comfortable and we’ll be watching with interest.

If Europe is to have its own big showcase, it would be much more viable with a March date. Companies can publicise DLC packs for games already out, largely to squeeze the last drops of cash out of the market and kill it some more. Games like Nioh, Nier and Zelda could be showcased more readily with an eye on them having just been released, effectively making it good marketing for them. And anything else interesting can be shown off before the fiscal year is out, with an aim to push share prices up a notch or two before these companies have to face their shareholders. It’s unquestionably a good time for a new show, to complete the set – March, June, September, December. Three months apart each. Enough space. One for each territory – and one end-of-year collective celebration (preferably with Geoff Keighley surgically removed from it this time, please).

Gamescom isn’t itself the problem. It’s the wrong show at the wrong time. And if it wants to be a key date in the calendar and really be Europe’s big, big gaming showreel – it’s going to have to realise that it can’t survive sandwiched between two very long-running events which have far more presence and importance.

So yeah, Gamescom people. March.

Think about it, before someone else realises this is a good idea and beats you to the punch.

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