New games, new technology and a little nostalgia. At the Gamescom in Cologne, virtual reality goggles are the hottest trend. But new games and professional gamers are attracting visitors in the thousands too.
Video gaming in the future: Gamescom visitors scrambled for a chance to try on virtual reality goggles.
A new, virtual world for a few minutes. Virtual reality (VR) goggles are a hot ticket at this year’s Gamescom in Cologne. Many of these VR-models are only coming onto the market in the next months, some in 2016. But VR manufacturers are already trying to court customers and game developers as early as now.
Oculus Rift leads the pack. It was the first model to simulate three-dimensional reality by offering more than a 100 degree perspective.
VR producer Oculus was acquired by Facebook in 2014, but it’s hardly a newcomer to the Gamescom. Oculus has long made a name for itself on the market.
It’s all about VR
The line to try on the VR goggles is long - the majority of slots are already reserved.
“We just have the best technology,” said Palmer Lucky, the Oculus’ founder. Bigger companies like Sony, HTC, or the German optics company Zeiss have also brought their own models to the Gamescom.
But Luckey isn’t afraid of the competition, for him, it’s a form of acknowledgement of Oculus’ relevance.
“It’s good to see more actors getting into the industry. If only Oculus existed, it would mean that others aren’t taking VR seriously.”
Apart from the developers and companies, the end users are an important pillar of the Gamescom. When it comes to products like the VR goggles, they’re looking at the price above all.
That’s why David Weigel came to the Gamescom. He said he thinks Sony will be able to come out with an affordable product the fastest.
“I wanted to test it, without having to pay a four-digit price right away,” he said.
New games rope in the crowds
As Europe’s biggest trade fair for interactive entertainment, the Gamescom is the perfect stage to measure interest.
Last year, the Gamescom had 335,000 visitors in five days. The sector itself is booming with two-digit growth, according to Germany’s games trade union, the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software.
Aside from the new technology, the games are especially important for the masses of visitors. This year, game developers presented Fallout 4, Anno 2205, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, to eager gamers prepared to wait hours in line to try out the games for 15 minutes at the huge gaming stands erected on the exhibition grounds.
Gamers expect improved graphics and exciting story arcs from the new editions. Some games put forward entirely new improvements – Fifa 16, the newest edition of the popular football game from EA Sports, included female teams for the first time in the game.
Testing games and professional gaming have turned into their own industries. Some gamers, who upload videos of themselves playing and commenting on games, have become celebrities in their own right. Video community platforms such as Twitch are helpful in that regard.
Aside from episodes of “Let’s Play”, where celebrity gamers test new games, Twitch also airs competitions or game presentations from the Gamescom. With its 100 million users, the platform is the world’s leading video game broadcaster.
Fans use video community platforms like Twitch to watch all their favorite celebrity gamers in action.
But the competition is hardly sleeping on the job: Google is represented at this year’s Gamescom, via its video platform YouTube. Many “Let’s Players” first established themselves with their own YouTube channels, garnering a fan base.
Apart from digital games and trends, the Gamescom has also tried to dispel the cliché of the unathletic gamer. Visitors can take skateboard lessons, or practice playing a bizarre sport called Headis, a form of table tennis where players use their heads to hit the ball.
Retro is in
Innovations are everywhere at the Gamescom, but don’t always appear as such. At the retro games exhibit, visitors can play on old Atari consoles. But not all the games available are as old as the consoles. Out of Order Softworks produces new games for the Commodore 64, a home computer first released in 1982.
Riad Djemili was also inspired by simple effects as he developed Curious Expedition. The low pixel count is reminiscent of the look of cult adventure pirate game Monkey Island.
“It’s an homage to the games of our childhood,” said Riad Djemili. “They leave more room for imagination.”
Djemili is one half of games developing duo Maschinen-Mensch from Berlin. He presented the expedition game in the Indie Arena of the Gamescom. He didn’t need more than two tables, two computers, two developers to showcase his product.
Even if it’s the big games producers and companies who make the most noise at the Gamescom, there’s enough to cater to the tastes of any gamer.