So as a developer and someone who was worked in the game industry for around eight years, I have been to a lot of expos and conventions in my time. I have exhibited in three different states in my home, Australia and been to many more events than I can count. One of the quirks about being a professional game developer is that the general public are interested in your knowledge and opinions, in much the same way as they are with authors or film industry types.
However, the one thing I have always personally missed out on has been going to events overseas. The world’s largest events usually take place in the US and China, being things like GDC, PAXs (Outside of PAX Aus) and Chinajoy. And of course, the juggernaut that is Gamescom, in Cologne, Germany. I have always been tied up with other work or it has been more economical to send other staff for events. We have had staff attend BitSummit in Japan and of course GDC in California, but in the end, I have always missed out.
This time I did not miss out. I went to Gamescom with a group of representatives of Australian developers, which helped a lot as when in an unfamiliar environment, having a few other people who are also figuring out how everything works as well means you inevitably share findings.
Being from a country like Australia, even our largest show is still quite small on a world stage and I was expecting to see a large event, but when I arrived at the Koelnmesse (the large exhibition centre where Gamescom is held), I was completely unprepared for the scale. I visited the B2B area first and made it around my first few appointments and then then went for a walk down to the consumer area, in the hope that it would be much quieter on the first day of the expo- a Tuesday and business-only day.
The event is huge and compared to what I had seen previously in Australia. I am used to exhibitors such as Riot Games bringing their own stadium seating for League of Legends live-tournaments, but even so, when vendors like PlayStation and UbiSoft are taking up a fair proportion of one of the Koelnmesse’s vast bays by themselves, then it is completely mind-blowing if you have not experienced anything on that scale before. The other thing that surprised me was the verticality of it all. The gargantuan screens and displays with FIFA or the latest racing game were so very present. Even as a seasoned expo-goer, I found it challenging to get used to the level of scensory input going on.
Gamescom offers an amazing B2B experience. I have not seen such an accessible and well-presented forum of developers, publishers, vendors, hardware suppliers, distributors and related industry elsewhere. I would recommend it to any smaller developer to make the trip, but make sure you get some contacts first and book your appointments- trying to do things at the last minute ahead of busy schedules does present a significant additional challenge. I would also recommend scouting for a convenient meeting area if one is available, even booking in a hotel (several are literally across the road from the venue) if necessary, although this would provide an additional expense.
Lastly, if you have decided to go, book as early as possible. The businesses and consumers going to the event will snap up just about every hotel room and book out restaurants and clubs near the Koelmesse. Plan early and be prepared to invest in your attendance at the event.
My experience at Gamescom was certainly eye-opening and I am sure I would run the experience differently next time. I made a lot of new business contacts and have opened up the dialogue which now gives my business some significant new options as we grow. If I was to go again, I now know where to go and what to do and look forward to an increased Australian presence at the event.
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