The simple answer here is not a lot. My schedule is stacked full of games and appointments to see, but if you’re expecting big announcements and surprises, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The reason is that, where Gamescom has historically had a handful of press conferences in the past and some notable reveals, that’s not the case this year, for a number of reasons.
The big reason for Microsoft is E3, where they pulled the covers off the Xbox One S – which has now just been released at the start of August – announced that ‘Scorpio’ was in the works, and showcased a wide variety of games that would be coming in the rest of this year and the start of next. Similarly, Sony didn’t dawdle during their E3 conference, revealing a large number of their longer term projects, the likes of which might previously have been held back for Gamescom.
In terms of games, Sony have plenty of other opportunities to show their wares in the next few months, with Tokyo Game Show in the middle of September letting them focus almost exclusively on their Japanese market, and a potential third running of their home grown PlayStation Experience event at the end of the year.
Of course, Sony’s presence at these shows is being defined and shaped by the PlayStation Meeting on 7th September, which is expected to be where they reveal the PlayStation 4 ‘Neo’. It’s been an awfully long time coming, since it was first leaked toward the start of the year, and that it is to receive its very own event shows the importance that Sony are placing upon it.
Gamescom played host to the PlayStation 3 Slim reveal, back in 2009, but the Neo is on a whole other level, not just featuring an external redesign, but a major upgrade to the internal hardware as well. Similar to Nintendo’s eventual NX reveal – also mooted for a full reveal and press conference in September – Neo is being treated like a whole new console.
A lot of rumours point toward Neo releasing this year, and while the PlayStation 4 will work fairly well with PlayStation VR, it’s not really powerful enough to let VR reach its potential, and the Neo ought to help with that. Let’s not overlook the hardware codenames, with a simultaneous Neo and Morpheus launch making an awful lot of sense.
You have to remember that, while Gamescom has had these press conferences in the past, it’s raison d’être has always been to bring consumers in to play games. Even in its first year in 2009, 245,000 people flocked to the huge halls of the Koelnmesse, a number that has steadily risen until 345,000 attended last year’s show. It’s the largest consumer show of its kind in the world, and despite the vast queues, one of the best ways for companies to get their games into the hands of players ahead of release and build up hype.
It’s also timed well to act as a trade show, with large parts of the conference centre kept locked away from the public and dedicated to business meetings and press – it’s here, in the less crowded spaces that I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time, flitting from one scheduled appointment to the next.
Gamescom will perform both jobs admirably, as it always does, but perhaps we’re seeing its relevance for press conferences fading into the background. E3 was just coming out of a poorly judged downsizing when the first Gamescom was held, and it was in many ways a viable alternative to that lingering uncertainty. However, it feels like manufacturers and publishers alike are coming to realise that they don’t necessarily need these fixed points in their calendars.
Yes, Gamescom and E3 are very useful and necessary vehicles for building hype for the next big thing, but let’s not forget that neither the PlayStation 4 nor Xbox One were announced at E3, EA splintered off to host their own EA Play show, Activision are reserving their Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer reveal until COD XP in September, and Sony have their burgeoning new PlayStation Experience event.
There will be plenty to play and see at Gamescom, and I’ll be writing dozens of previews over the next few weeks, but this year’s show doesn’t seem to be the place for big announcements and surprises.