It’s not easy to describe the sheer scale of Gamescom to anyone that hasn’t made the annual trip to the beautiful city of Cologne before. To put it in some kind of context, imagine a huge airport terminal – the kind of terminal where they estimate how many minutes it’ll take you to walk to each gate because it’s that massive – inflate it just a little bit in your mind, bolt on a few massive warehouses to the side and then times it by eight. Only then will you be close to getting a grip on just how mammoth an event Gamescom just is.
Running in the Koelnmesse year after year, Gamescom envelopes much of Cologne during its five day run (the venue alone is larger than many lesser cities, in truth), with 50,000 people a day flooding its halls and corridors creating the kind of crowd scenes typically only seen in a Where’s Wally book. They’re all there to see the biggest games rolling out on console and PC, of course, and on that score it’s fair to say Gamescom never disappoints: if playing the games you’ll be forking out for this Christmas months ahead of time is your goal, this is the place to be.
Just be prepared to queue, and to queue for hours. Gamescom makes even the most popular theme park on a hot summer’s day look positively barren in comparison.
Of course, Gamescom – combined with its tagged on sister event GDC Europe – is also the place to be for developers looking to make contacts, which is exactly why we were there. Ever since we launched Runway – our soft launch focused publishing program – we’ve been flooded with applications from studios keen to get their games on board, but nothing beats actually meeting developers in the flesh and trying out their titles in front of them.
So, heading to a major event for the first time since Runway was unleashed upon the world, Head of Publishing Tom Kinniburgh and I boarded planes to Cologne (or, in my case, Düsseldorf, given direct flights were unsurprisingly all booked up) and over the course of our visit, saw more games and met more developers than our schedules ever thought possible. While other attendees were merrily sipping ale in the Biergarten or munching in the venue’s brand new sushi restaurant, we were playing games. Lots of games.
What’s clear from our encounters is that, even if a developer isn’t fully au fait with just what a soft launch is, they’re entirely aware of what it has done for some of the industry’s major players like Supercell, King and Zynga, and they want a piece of the action. Indies are opening back up to the idea of what a publisher can do for them – no longer merely a logo slapped on the loading screen of their game, but a genuine partner that invests in their creativity and gives them the data they need to make their games better.
That’s part of the reason you might have noticed we haven’t been using the word ‘publisher’ in any of our promo material about Runway: That’s not how we see our role, even if many of the services we offer tick the boxes of a publisher. This is very much a partnership, and as many developers we spoke to on our tip around Gamescom’s halls wanted advice, wanted a bit of outside input on their business as those who already knew Runway was the right option for them.
As things stand, we have no concrete information about just what fruits will be born out of our trip to Gamescom (though my local pharmacy is surely grateful for all the blister plasters I’ve been forced to buy since I got back), but it’s certain that this won’t be a lone trip for Runway: We’re going to be popping up at other events, shaking hands and showing our faces in a bid to meet more potential partners face to face and spread the message about what Runway has to offer.
Keep your eye on this blog for details of what events to we’re headed to next. We’ll see you at the next one.