My re-intro to video games after 12 years –
The computer and video gaming industry explosion on display for 345,000
The last time I got really excited about a video game was in college when I zoned out on HALO, only to emerge from my apartment three weeks later like a frail ghostly prisoner freed from a medieval dungeon. It was then that I realized my personality type was not a good fit for gaming and I haven’t been more than an occasional ‘user’ ever since.
That said, in early August I attended an event in Cologne (Köhn) Germany called gamescom. gamescom is a video game tradeshow and it’s the largest tradeshow I’ve ever attended. It also seemed to have the largest average booth budgets.
To help you picture the size of the event and numbers it attracted – 345,000 is more than the population of St. Louis, Missouri. At times, it felt like that whole population was crammed into one hall.
What was I doing there?
I was invited to assist at a booth run by my stepfather for his organization One Redmond, and their sub-organization called the Washington Interactive Network. The booth was shared with an economic development organization from neighboring Bellevue, and the booth hosted six indie gaming companies from the Bellevue/Redmond, Washington area that opened up their consoles to the hordes of kids (and adults) that passed by each day. One Redmond’s overarching goal was to attract European gaming companies to the city of Redmond by demonstrating its extensive local indie gaming industry, local talent and quality of life. Hosting businesses like Microsoft, Nintendo and SpaceX doesn’t hurt their cause either. I’ll vouch for the area.
Gaming revenue greater than Hollywood
gamescom opened my eyes to the size and extent of the industry – one that had somehow remained on the periphery of my day to day thought despite its commanding presence in the media. One insider casually mentioned to me that the gaming industry raked in more money in the first 8 months of this year than the film industry in all of last year. A quick internet search shows experts predict gaming to be a $100 billion dollar industry within three years.
I saw mammoth companies I’d never heard of – including wargaming.net, Bethesda Softworks, Ubisoft, crytek, Blizzard. My childhood self would have loved to happen upon a Sierra Entertainment booth. They were the makers of a mainstay of my adolescence – Kings Quest. Alas, I was unable to find them in the ten halls of the show and through the hordes of gamers.
Booths at gamescom were enormous and many featured stages occupied by their own tee shirt tossing MC’s. You may expect a popular and wildly interactive company like Rockstar Games to garner a cheering crowd, but I was surprised when even a farming simulator had throngs of kids cheering and screaming for projectiles tossed by a dirndl-clad German gal.
wargaming.net also had a large stage flanked by screaming throngs of kids (and adults) as serious-looking synchronized dancers dressed in military garb moved their hips or twisted LED lit swords to inspired movements.
Many of the more violent games had completely enclosed booths with marketing-plastered walls stretching towards the ceiling and preventing younger kids from catching a glimpse of the more graphic content inside (or maybe just keeping the crowd moving along in an orderly fashion?).
Kids waited in line for hours to simply watch trailers for upcoming video game releases. Unfortunately, I did not partake in said activity, so I do not have a detailed report for you.
YouTube is the SportsCenter of gaming
Don’t believe me? Feast your eyes upon this link: https://gaming.youtube.com
I got my first look at YouTube’s influence on gaming last summer when I noticed my 11-year-old cousin was spending much of his vacation time at Yellowstone National Park watching YouTube videos… of other kids… playing video games.
I had a surreal moment while standing at the YouTube booth when I realized I was watching an entire horde of kids (sprinkled with those wearing “free hug” signs – what is up with that trend???) whose eyes were transfixed on giant screens where they watched other kids playing video games.
I’ve since learned there are professional video game players who pull in over a million dollars per year. For a good cry, check out this list of top earners.
For another good cry, check out this story from KING 5 News in Seattle about a guy named Bacon Donut (@bacondonutTV), working for a company called n3rdfusion who plays a game called Minecraft all day – FOR A LIVING!
And, here I thought Joey Chestnut had the best job in the world.
For a good laugh, check out this segment of Jimmy Kimmel being educated by kids on gaming.
Gaming trade delegations
Of the many halls at the event (I believe there were 10 total) one of the more interesting halls (due to interesting conversation) had trade delegations representing gaming regions, including: China, Britain, France, Iran, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Canada, South Korea, Italy, etc. I met people from Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Switzerland and Japan. Oregon was not represented…
Interesting marketing campaigns
The organization representing Belgium were perhaps the most savvy marketers of their region. They combined information about their gaming industry while bribing people to linger using their other most popular export – beer (well, most popular after waffles, of course). It was hard to compete with free beer, and it might be a good idea to file away for future businesses representing the Pacific NW at trade shows, as Northwest IPA’s seem to have captured the imagination of the Euro pals I’d met.
One of my favorite marketing campaigns was for a game I’ve never played, nor ever even heard of – Fallout 4. The game is a violent post-apocalyptic romp around a world after a nuclear holocaust, but their logo is a smiling winking blonde-haired kid flashing a thumbs up hand sign. His little face was displayed on billboards all over the city of Cologne throughout the week I was there. At one Fallout booth fans could get their hair dyed yellow to mimic the cartoon kid. I saw many full-grown adult men have their head, beards and mustaches colored yellow – and they didn’t even seem to be embarrassed to walk around the town as such.
New avenues for revenue
While it was fun to see kids dressed in favorite costumes, it was equally fun exploring booths in the business hall. Supplemental supporting companies exist for every facet of production. For example, I met one man from China whose studio designed artwork for gaming companies.
An interesting challenge I learned of – the transfer of money isn’t as fluid in Europe as it is in the United States (as evidenced in the numerous businesses in Germany including restaurants and grocery stores that did not accept my Visa credit or debit cards).
Several European companies offer services to North American indie gaming companies who need help navigating European rules and regulations for commerce. These companies also find clients new revenue streams in different mediums (apps, websites, ads, etc) in each of the different European countries and on different online platforms.
As the week at gamescom wrapped up, I marveled at how fun it was getting a sneak peek into an industry with so much creative talent working together to create new and unique forms of entertainment – from the games on down to the booths that promote them.
I hope you enjoy the photos and videos!