Q&A: The games industry looks back on gamescom 2023

There were 320,000 people at this year’s gamescom. We pulled aside five of them to see what they thought of it.

  1. Indie Stone’s Will Porter (of Project Zomboid fame), took his first steps into a larger world by attending his first gamescom.
  2. Also travelling to gamescom for the first time, Eleanor Porter (no relation) was there as business development manager for MCV/DEVELOP sister mag PCR.
  3. After flitting about as a freelancer on his last visit, this year Henry Stockdale was representing UploadVR, where he is an engoggled staff writer.
  4. Jennifer Bigell is THQ Nordic’s global PR manager, and has extensive gamescom experience. Its escalators especially.
  5. Attending gamescom in his capacity as game director on Helskate (which we’re calling Tony Hawk’s Hades) was Steve Swink.

How did you get to gamescom?

Steve Swink: By train, from Amsterdam, with Kwebbelkop! Jordi van Den Bussche and I travelled a breezy four hours. We left around 7AM. I have a toddler, though, so I’d been up for ages.

Henry Stockdale: I travelled from Stansted to Köln Bonn Airport airport, making that initial journey from Bournemouth. I’m thankful getting to Köln was largely uneventful, just lengthy. I went on behalf of UploadVR and during Gamescom, I was joined by my Australian editor, Harry Baker.

Jennifer Bigell: I hopped on a plane from Vienna to Cologne-Bonn airport the weekend before gamescom, then I took the train from the airport to the city. The flight played a little game of “fashionably late,” but overall, the journey was as good as can be! I travelled alone, not counting all the other people on the plane.

Eleanor Porter: To get to Gamescom I flew from Heathrow to Dusseldorf and caught the train to Cologne, with the same return journey. I caught the slow train due to some cancellations. It meant that I got to see all the stops from Dusseldorf to Cologne. We will call it the ‘scenic route’.

Will Porter: Due to a mix of climate guilt and a love of big tunnels, I went on Eurostar. Took a while longer, yeah, but super smooth and the connection in Bruge meant that I got to poke about somewhere new for an hour and eat at a powerfully exotic local eatery called ‘Pret a Manger’.

What was your first meeting and how did it go?

Will Porter: A very pleasant catch-up with a guy from the Epic Store, talking about where each other’s companies were at. This was alongside the dawning realisation that we both worked on No Man’s Sky on different sides of the Atlantic, and an expression of our shared love of Bojangles chicken n’ biscuit outlets in North Carolina.

Steve Swink: It was with Matthew Phillips from Future Games Showcase. Went off a storm. He was keen to try a fresh take on the classic skating formula and that’s just what we brought. He commented that the feel and physics felt perfect, which was lovely. We heard that multiple times over the week.

Henry Stockdale: My first meeting was with nDreams for PowerWash Simulator VR. I’d previously gone hands-on with it in May and the meeting went well, me and Harry quickly got competitive over who could clean the most in a short space of time.

Jennifer Bigell: My colleague Florian and I had our first meeting on Wednesday with the PR agency Dead Good Media – absolutely lovely folks and a 10/10 at what they’re doing! We had a nice chat about various projects and shared a soda, so overall it was a great first meeting!

Eleanor Porter: My first meeting was with Be Quiet and it was amazing to catch up with them regarding plans for next year.

Wearing your industry hat, what was the highlight of the week?

Eleanor Porter: Tricky to pick a highlight of the week as I was only there for the day on Thursday and half a day Friday but the ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) included new ROG gaming products, ROG Talk, and ROG Party at its Never Stop Gaming event.

Henry Stockdale: We didn’t see many major game announcements during Gamescom, so my highlight would be the new Alan Wake 2 trailer. I’m very keen to see how Remedy’s new direction unfolds and how things have changed after such a long gap.

Will Porter: I have reached the stage in life where I don’t like meeting new people, who are often younger and more beautiful in any case, and prefer to see the same people I have seen for two decades. The Irish bar and weird robot bar in the square over by the river seemed to cater for this admirably.

Jennifer Bigell: Connecting with people face-to-face, meeting industry colleagues and friends – that part will always be my favourite! I was especially happy to see Stefanie Joosten and Marc Truijen as it’s been ages, thanks to both for taking the time to drop by! If we steer more in the direction of things to see, and games to play: there were so many exciting ones this year! Funnily enough, it was the Netflix booth which stuck with me as I got the Wednesday Adams makeup done there, right before our first meeting (sorry Dead Good Media)!

What was your inner gamer most excited by?

Henry Stockdale: Persona 3 Reload. I love the series and I went through Persona 3 FES on my PS3, so I cannot wait to see how Atlus has recreated it in the new engine.

Will Porter: It wasn’t what was on show, actually, it was the buzz about Baldur’s Gate 3 you heard from practically everyone you met. I was lucky enough to spend a fair bit of time with members of the Larian team while I was out in Germany and their success was intoxicating, and likewise the reaction they seemed to get wherever they roamed.

Steve Swink: I’m keen to play more Arco. Low key innovative take on turn based physics. Still waiting on a wave of Toribash-likes, though.

Eleanor Porter: I absolutely loved seeing attendees dressed as May and Cody from It Takes Two, which was the last thing I played before gamescom!

Jennifer Bigell: Seeing all those beautifully designed booths! I would have loved to check some of them out, though I didn’t have enough time.

What was the best freebie or bit of tat/merch you came away with?

Jennifer Bigell: Easy pick: the straw hat from the Farming Simulator stage! Best protection against sunstroke in summer!

Steve Swink: Got an excellent sticker from my friends at Coal Supper.

Eleanor Porter: My best freebies both came from Be Quiet, a speaker and a flask. I used both on the trip!

Henry Stockdale: Nothing will ever top the frankly wild Goat Simulator 3 merch from last year, but I did enjoy the Venetian Mask I received during a Vampire the Masquerade – Justice party.

What did you not get around to that you wish you had?

Will Porter: Many people were there who I wanted to bump into, but did not – mainly PRs and journalists with far busier schedules than mine. My biggest regret is that I saw the bearded ‘Hide the pain’ meme guy, but didn’t ask for a selfie. In retrospect, the selfies were probably why he was there.

Steve Swink: I never did manage to do a full walk of the show floor. Too many meetings!

Eleanor Porter: I wish I had gotten round to see the team from Corsair, we were meant to meet but kept missing one another.

Henry Stockdale: Working for a VR focused outlet, I didn’t have much time for traditional games. As someone who’s played every entry so far, I wish I could have tried Like a Dragon: The Man Who Erased His Name. At least there isn’t too long to wait before it releases.

Did gamescom 2023 live up to expectations?

Will Porter: It was my first Cologne Gamescom, and it was as big as they say – and as crowded as they say. I have never stood amongst so many simultaneous meetings before. In the UK games industry you sometimes get the feeling that things are small and close-knit, but attending this just blows that all out of the water. I couldn’t shake the feeling that so many people and companies were there fighting for the same air, but then again maybe that’s half the point of events like this.

Steve Swink: I did enjoy doing a smaller, chiller, press-facing set of meetings. Gamescom is a bit overwhelming, though less an assault on the senses than E3 was.

Jennifer Bigell: Gamescom has always been a great experience for me, both as a consumer and as an exhibitor. It has a bit (or a lot?) of everything! With the vast range of booths the convention offers every year, Gamescom never ceases to amaze me. If I compare it to an event like PAX East for example, it takes much longer to get from point A to point B due to the sheer size of the convention. Makes it harder to have a look around during breaks!

Eleanor Porter: Gamescom did live up to expectations, in comparison to other industry events I have attended it was huge, this is because our publication is heavily channel based and we cover mostly vendors, distributors and resellers in a B2B setting.

Henry Stockdale: I’d say Gamescom lived up to my expectations in a good way. It’s a much larger event than something like EGX and I think that surprises people who’ve never been before, but I knew it would keep me busy. Thankfully, I found it manageable and with so many interesting games to try out, I didn’t mind.

If it was in your power, what would you change or include for next year?

Steve Swink: It needs a full scale Helskate booth, bigger than Truck Simulator. Still featuring a life size big rig, though.

Eleanor Porter: Next year I would definitely go for longer and therefore be able to see much more.

Henry Stockdale: If there was one thing I could change, I’d love to see Sony at Gamescom next year. With Xbox and Nintendo both attending, it felt strange not seeing them too and I’d love to see them better promote PlayStation VR2.

Will Porter: More signage. Increased numbers of bowls of crisps/nuts at each different stand to help you top up energy levels. Smaller queues (or, better: no queues) of farting men in the toilets from around midday on the Thursday onwards.

Jennifer Bigell: This one section right before the escalators, where they navigate people to take the route outside and sometimes they don’t? THAT. I’m not a logistics expert, so I’m not sure what else to suggest — all I can say is: the chaos there is real!

About Richie Shoemaker

Prior to taking the editorial helm of MCV/DEVELOP Richie spent 20 years shovelling word-coal into the engines of numerous gaming magazines and websites, many of which are now lost beneath the churning waves of progress. If not already obvious, he is partial to the odd nautical metaphor.

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