If there were ever any doubts as to whether Gamescom and Cologne could take over as Europe's most important gaming event from Games Convention and Leipzig - last week's performance put them all to rest. If anything Cologne holds a promise of an even brighter future, with plenty of space to grow into and far better communications. But what was really encouraging to see was that a lot of publishers saw it fit to make important announcements in Cologne, and that is what truly makes it relevant for the press instead of just a "poor man's E3" (or poor European's E3).
Seen in this light the PS3 slim announcement from Sony was important. They also had some smaller "bit-sized" announcements including the almost stealthy confirmation of Little Big Planet on PSP and Housemarque's next PSN project Dead Nation. Perhaps some people were expecting more from Sony, but given that Games Convention usually got announcements such as a new Buzz or Singstar this signals a new direction and sense of importance for the show.
Microsoft used their press conference to announce Fable III. CCP Games announced their first console title Dust 514 at a GDC Europe keynote, an event that preceeded Gamescom in Köln Messe. Sega announced Napoleon: Total War from The Creative Assembly, while fellow Japanese publisher Namco Bandai announced Majin: The Fallen Empire from the folks at Game Republic and perhaps even more interesting Namco Bandai will publish the next title from Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword).
Funcom announced the first expansion of Age of Conan, while NCsoft finally gave us some concrete information on Guild Wars 2 two years after it was announced. Paradox confirmed that the next project from their internal team would be Victoria 2 and Ubisoft announced the next installation of U-boat sim Silent Hunter. There were also plenty of announcements of new casual titles mostly on Nintendo DS and Wii.
For many of the Gamescom visitors trying out Diablo III and Starcraft II was the highlight of the show. The long lines were at times ridiculous, during the trade day the media line to play Diablo III was four hours (!). Long lines for popular titles are hard to avoid and the same thing is true of the most popular titles at E3 and Tokyo Game Show. Some of the biggest titles this fall such as Halo 3: ODST, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Assassin's Creed II also had a big presence at Gamescom, while most major MMO games also had big displays in the public areas. Star Wars: The Old Republic was shown in a special theatre, while there was an opportunity to go hands-on with another Bioware title Mass Effect 2.
The new location will hopefully help make Gamescom more of an event for all European gamers as travel to and from Cologne as well as living accomodations are better. The lines for the most popular games are likely to be insane no matter what measures are taken, but hopefully they can be a little less severe in the coming years. The footrace when the gates opened to reach the Blizzard booth was a bit scary to behold as some of the people making a dash for Diablo III looked like they had never ran before, arms and limbs flailing all over the place. Gamescom will return to Cologne next year 18-22 August. Gamereactor will be there!