Transparency: Why Gamescom had that "meh" feeling

Gamescom seemed kind of weak for news this year, and we have a couple of theories why.

As many of you are aware, my primary focus in the gaming industry is on MMOs. So understand that my perspective is a bit focused on that area of gaming. I don’t mean to say that the other parts of gaming aren’t legitimate: I spend a lot of time playing single-player RPGs, and I’m clearly a sucker for Star Wars games. Despite this -- or perhaps because of this -- this year’s Gamescom really left me wondering why sites even covered this event. But then I remember that Gamescom is the biggest gaming convention in the world.

In the US, we usually look at E3 or PAX Prime as the biggest gaming conventions, but in truth these two conferences pale in comparison to the giant that is Gamescom. This year, 50,000 people attended the press-focused Electronic Entertainment Expo, which isn’t too shabby. But last year, PAX Prime beat that number by about 20,000 - hosting over 70,000 attendees.

Of course, many gamers also look for news to come out of San Diego Comic-Con, too. Although it’s definitely geek-focused and I watch for news from it every year, the gaming news is a bit light. And the 130,000 con-goers is a lot of nerdy in one place. However, that still doesn’t match Gamescom. We don’t yet have the exact stats on this year, but last year, Gamescom boasted 335,000 attendees.

With over 335,000 people in one location, you’d think that this would be the perfect place to really give your fans some of the best that you have to offer as a gaming company. Yet some of my favorites seemed to sit on their hands, without any real explanation from the companies as to why. Unfortunately, that leads to a lot of speculation: Why have many games kept their hype to a mild roar? I’m not above speculation, but after I’ve made my points, I’d like to hear yours.

World of Warcraft: Legion

The issues I have with Blizzard are really not that much different from the issues that I have with studios whose games I actually play. The only real issues I have with World of Warcraft are directed at the game itself: It’s just not a game I enjoy playing. Many of its parts are great, and I’d be idiotic not to recognize the trends that it set. And this particular time, Blizzard did nothing wrong. This time the problem was other studios reacting to Blizzard.

I remember a discussion with some of the people I work with about Blizzard’s announcement of its announcement. Besides the continued hilarity of announcing an announcement, many commented on how the announcement seemed rushed. And in hindsight, it probably was a bit rushed. I have a theory as to why.

My theory was that Blizzard was going to keep the expansion announcement kind of low key. Of course, it’s Blizzard, so “low key” is relative. Regardless, the idea was to not say much about what was going to be at the announcement, until it actually happened. But close to crunchtime for getting things together, the marketing team realized that the announcement was so huge that if they let people know what was going to be announced, it could shut out the competing announcements in the genre. And that’s exactly what it did. Did anyone who’s not a Star Wars: The Old Republic enthusiast even notice that BioWare talked about its new expansion, too? Yeah, I didn't think so.

The way I see it, when Blizzard said that it was going to announce its next expansion at Gamescom, the other MMO-type games decided that it would likely be best to not try to compete. Points go to Blizzard for doing that, but I have to give negative points to other MMOs for baulking.



Compared to many reporters who focus on MMOs, I believe that I spend enough time in the mainstream to have a basic understanding of what the gaming atmosphere feels like. And currently, MMO gaming is becoming niche again. Of course, I like to think that MMOs will hit another stride soon like single-player RPGs did recently, but right now, I understand that their popularity is waning slightly.

This means when you have a large crowd, it's likely that your MMO may be lost in the shuffle. You might have the most super MMO experience in existence, but everyone’s MMO is the most super experience in existence according to them. And as Syndrome from the Incredibles said: “When everyone’s super… no one will be.” You kind of have to be super-duper to stand out in that crowd.

However, I do believe there is merit for sticking to your guns and giving a good show, even when the odds seem to be stacked against you.

Smaller games can make an impact on attendees, too. I attended PAX South earlier this year, and I remember hearing about Life is Feudal (which I mentioned last week for having cool business cards) when there were bigger multiplayer games stealing the spotlight, like Evolve and Elite: Dangerous. Life is Feudal stood out to me because of the gameplay and the developers that I talked to. It was a genuine multiplayer sandbox, and the developers were passionate about creating a deep and interesting game.

Those are my theories. I like to consider them educated theories, but I could be completely wrong. Let me know how I’m wrong in the comments. But I might be completely right, too. Let me know why your agree with me in the comments. Or maybe you fall somewhere in between. I’d like to read about your theories, and the comment section is the perfect place to express your ideas and own theories. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next week.

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Published Aug. 7th 2015

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