Amid increased security and heightened expectations, the Gamescom video game trade fair takes over Cologne this week. A major theme will be virtual reality gaming, with Sony planning to preview a new toy.
Cologne is expecting nearly half a million gamers - not to mention fantastically costumed cosplayers - as the Gamescom trade fair gets underway this week.
The annual event will include more than 800 exhibitors from dozens of countries, all eager to show off their latest games and gaming consoles.
"Gamescom is the world's biggest event for the computer and video game industry, and Europe's leading platform for the gaming business," said Katharina Hamma, director for the Koelnmesse convention center.
Virtual gaming is expected to take the spotlight this year, and a number of the major industry players are planning to unveil new gaming systems taking advantage of the trend.
Sony will showcase it new headset, the PlayStation VR, which is expected to hit the market in October. Microsoft, though not expected to introduce any new hardware, will nonetheless give fans the chance to experience a 3-D "Minecraft" via its Oculus Rift headset.
Microsoft, Electronic Arts and other software giants also plan to premiere new games before their general release later this year.
"Gamescom is the only expo where we put our bestsellers in the hands of fans before going on the market," said Xbox manager Aaron Greenberg.
Gamescom isn't just restricted to the convention center on the banks of the Rhine, with related events generally taking place throughout the city. But in the wake of the recent attacks in Europe, security will be tight.
Participants, especially those planning to come disguised as their favorite video game characters, have been told to leave simulated weapons at home. Bags and backpacks will also be restricted.
Though the event had been sold out for weeks, Koelnmesse said Wednesday that due to some cancellations a few hundred tickets were still available online.
After a press sneak peak on Wednesday, Gamescom will throw open the gates to the public on Thursday. The trade fair runs through Sunday.
cmk/kbm (AFP, dpa)