Games fair gamescom: new ideas from the north

At Gamescom in Cologne, the video games industry shows what it has to offer for the Christmas business. Sony is leading the way with new game consoles.

It’s time to play again: Gamers at Gamescom. Picture: reuters

At Gamescom in Cologne, Germany’s largest trade fair for digital games, manufacturers are wooing their fans as well as new target groups. The focus, however, remains on the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony. One day before the official start of the trade show, the console manufacturers presented new game titles for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Until Sunday, the games can be tried out in the exhibition halls.

Microsoft and Sony announced a series of games that will be released exclusively for the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Microsoft showed titles like "Ori and the Blind Forrest" or the new adventure of the pixel icon Lara Croft, "The Rise of The Tomb Raider". "The Order 1886", "Bloodborne" or "Rime", on the other hand, will only be released for the Playstation 4, but some titles will only be released after the Christmas quarter.

The games publisher Electronic Arts has also announced EA Access, a subscription service that gives users access to a selection of the company’s games for about 3.99 euros a month via the Xbox One.

It’s all about exclusivity and new ideas, Microsoft manager Gregor Bieler told the dpa news agency. In this way, the manufacturers are trying to make their console particularly palatable to gamers. However, the large developer studios often have naturally less interest in artificially limiting the target group of their games. In some cases, the exclusivity is therefore limited to a limited period of time or a few additional features.

New consoles sell well

Many of the titles that will be presented in Cologne from Wednesday onwards were already on show at the E3 games fair in Los Angeles in June. In Cologne, however, trade fair visitors will now be able to play them for the first time. While E3 is purely a trade show, Gamescom is aimed at users. "For us, Gamescom is first and foremost a promotional event," said Uwe Bassendowski, head of Germany for Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEE).

Sony’s and Microsoft’s stationary consoles have been on the market for just over six months. Sony’s Playstation 4 has sold 10 million units since its market launch, reported Jim Ryan, president and chief executive of SCEE in Cologne. This puts the Japanese company far ahead in the competition between consoles: Microsoft said it sold a good five million of its Xbox One in roughly the same period.

The industry is expecting new momentum for the business from the consoles. In the first half of 2014, the new devices sold 23 percent better than the previous generation, according to industry association BIU. Games for consoles traditionally account for the bulk of the revenue generated by the industry. "We don’t see any slowdown in the console business," Electronic Arts manager Peter Moore said.

Nordic region as "partner country"

But the industry is also benefiting from new gaming apps for smartphones and tablets. Such casual games have steadily grown the target group for games manufacturers in recent years. According to figures from the German Interactive Entertainment Software Association BIU, the business segment grew by 133 percent to 114 million euros in the first half of this year. Sales of digital games as a whole increased by 6 percent to 798 million euros.

At Gamescom, from 13 to 17 May, the company will be presenting its latest products and services. According to Koelnmesse, around 650 exhibitors will be presenting their new products on 140,000 square meters of exhibition space. This time, with Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland, an entire region is "partner country" of the fair. The Nordic Region is considered a role model in the industry when it comes to young developer studios and new ideas and game concepts.

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