Gamescom is set to draw more than 300,000 enthusiastic gamers to Cologne. The convention is one of the world’s largest, featuring the latest game consoles and smartphone apps for users, young and old.
Anyone can game anytime, anywhere. One only needs to sit in a train to see the sight of children, adolescents and adults, who barely look up from their digital devices. Instead of communicating with each other, they would rather play computer games and stay in their own little worlds.
The following figures then should hardly come as a surprise: 84 percent of young people in Germany between the ages of 14 and 29 play games on smartphones, tablets, PCs or consoles. Among 30 to 49 year-olds, every second person is a "gamer." Altogether, this amounts to about 29 million citizens, according to the IT industry association Bitkom.
Game consoles, like Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's Xbox, still bring in the largest revenue for the gaming industry
This is welcome news for the gaming industry. The interest group BIU, or the German Trade Association of Interactive Entertainment Software, reported sales of 798 million euros ($1.06 billion) in this year's first half - an increase of 6 percent compared to the same period last year.
After the convention, the gaming industry hopes to receive a further boost for the year's second half. Hundreds of thousands of computer game fans are expected to show in Cologne Wednesday for Gamescom, one of the largest gaming events in the world and now in its sixth year.
In the weeks leading up to its opening, more than 300,000 online tickets had been sold, said Gerald Böse, CEO of Kölnmesse, Cologne's Exhibition Center. Tens of thousands of more fans are expected at the ticket office.
New consoles, new worlds
Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One went on sale on Christmas. The makers had already shown off their latest video game consoles in June at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, but these devices will be open to the public for the first time at Gamescom in Cologne.
"That makes the show for private visitors particularly attractive," explained BIU's Managing Director Maximilian Schenk.
84 percent of young people under the age of 30 play games on digital devices, like smartphones, tablets, PCs or consoles
"Ready to play - discover new worlds" is the motto of this year's convention. In most games, it's about exploring and inventing new worlds, said Schenk.
The latest consoles have a greater computing power and enable the user to design and shape game worlds as they see fit in real time. They also tell more complex stories "that move us and those we have only known so far from books or movies."
Another new detail is apparent in the games.
Everything is "so intense and so real like never before," said Schenk, "even individually-animated blades of grass." With this new technology, the new game consoles sell 23 percent better than the previous generation, which came on the market between 2005 and 2007.
More and more games for smartphones
Video game consoles still bring in the largest revenue for the gaming industry, but sales of game apps and paid extra options increased in the first half of 2014 by a whopping 133 percent to 114 million euros. Digital games on smartphones and tablets are particularly popular in the German market. They are much cheaper than console games and can be easily downloaded from the Internet at any time. Free apps, which are often trial versions, can also be upgraded with additional features for a price at any time.
This has affected some groups, who had hardly or never played any games. In Germany 41 percent of game apps buyers are older than 40 years of age, according to the BIU. In this group, every second person lives in a household with a net income of over 3,000 euros a month.
Bitkom also reported the biggest increase in the number of gamers among the 50 to 64-year age group. Now nearly one in four people plays video and computer games. Last year, it was one in eight.
At Gamescom the latest products will be prominently featured in the game apps section. In addition to simple games, visitors will be introduced to more sophisticated games for mobile devices. The industry also hopes that in the future "more families will visit the fair," said Schenk. The game makers aim to increasingly adapt their products to the interests of their clients, whatever age they may be.
Up until now, Germany has served as an important market for video games, but never as a top manufacturing base
Even Germany should become a manufacturer
Around 650 exhibitors from over 45 countries are expected at this year's Gamescom. Among them are the partners from the so-called "Nordic region," which includes Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.
With the success of games like "Angry Birds" by Rovio or "Duel Quiz" by Feo Media, the Nordic Game Institute (NGI) network has become a model for mainland Europe. NGI supports 700 companies in the Nordic region and earns altogether 1.5 billion euros from sales.
Germany's recipe for success now includes learning by watching.
So far, the Federal Republic has served as an important market, but never as a top manufacturing base, said Schenk. One could learn lots from the Nordic region partners "to make Germany a successful location for the development of computer and video games."
In addition, the current government supports the development of the video game world in its coalition agreement. From a policy perspective, it may be then worthwhile to strengthen the computer game industry in Germany.