First-person shooters, racing simulations and role-playing games, all of which cost millions and are supposed to bring in several times. Although these pictures are reminiscent of the past years. But on the first day of the fair, which is reserved for trade visitors and the press, it was clear that the industry is undergoing a fundamental upheaval. Computer games are becoming more networked, social and mobile.
Gamescom once again recorded an exhibitor record. More than 600 companies show software, devices and accessories for interactive entertainment in Cologne. Prominent cancellations - Microsoft, Nintendo and THQ are not coming to Cologne - have not damaged the fair this year, the visit should turn out to be record breaking with more than 250, 000 guests. It will be really full from this Thursday, when the fair opens for the general public.
The industry is focusing its attention on mobile games this year, for the first time the fair is dedicating its own area. Given the rapid proliferation of smartphones, there is a chance to reach two billion users worldwide in the next five years, said Frank Gibeau, top manager at gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA). "This is a big growth driver for our business." EA as well as competitor Activision are now developing apps for mobile devices, as a supplement for console titles, but also independent games.
Sony is also relying on the smartphones: From the autumn on the service "Playstation Mobile" classic games for certain Android devices are offered. Hardware partners include HTC, Asus and the game tablet maker Wikipad. Talking to other vendors, Jim Ryan, European Head of Sony Computer Entertainment, said. "There are many Android games, but many are not very good." With the Playstation titles, the company offers the users a "robust quality".
Great growth is expected from online gaming companies. Ubisoft announced that its simulation classic "Anno" will also be offered free of charge in the browser - users only have to pay for extras and premium features. Free-to-play is what the industry calls the business model, which, according to EA manager Gibeau, "becomes more important by the end of the decade than traditional software sales."
For console fans, 2012 is a transitional year. Nintendo has already announced a new platform with the Wii U, but canceled the trade fair visit in Cologne. Microsoft and Sony are not yet commenting on the successors of their devices. Instead, the Japanese group announced several in-house developments and an edition of cheap classics in Cologne, in order to keep the players happy. Targeting kids and families is the "Wonderbook" - an add-on to the PS3 designed to bring books to life with animated and on-screen content. The Playstation 3 has never been as accessible to as many users as it is today, Sony manager Jim Ryan said.
More than 2, 000 developers have been discussing the Games Developers Conference since Monday. "The industry is in a state of radical change: more and more people are playing smartphones and tablet computers, or on the Internet, in the browser or on Facebook, " said Frank Sliwka, head of Europe at the conference, the news agency dpa. Here, the conference also sets its priorities. Some participants may also find a new job - developers are currently in great demand.
However, the economic prospects of the industry are currently mixed. The IT industry association Bitkom expects sales to drop to 2.5 billion euros this year, a drop of 100 million euros. This has something to do with the age of the current generation of consoles: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii have been on the market for several years, and additional devices such as motion controllers can not stop the decline according to Bitkom. On the other hand, the association sees pressure on software prices, mainly because cheap apps for mobile devices and free online games are booming. (Dpa / tc)