Germany’s Gamescom and Devcom are stepping out of E3’s shadow

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Gamescom has always been one of the biggest trade shows on the planet, drawing more than 265,000 people to Cologne, Germany in August 2022. But in a way, the big fan expo was in the shadow of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

E3 was where the biggest companies in the world held their press conference as the entire world awaited their announcements. But that’s not true anymore. E3 failed to make its comeback in the post-pandemic return to business and was canceled this year instead. Gamescom and its sister event Devcom are coming out of the shadows and enjoying considerable growth.

With more tourism and added exhibitors this year, it seems likely that Gamescom is going to when the show gets its latest run from August 22 to August 27. And its business-to-business event, Devcom (August 20 to August 22), is also expected to see strong growth from its previous high last year of 3,500 game industry attendees, said Nico Balleta, head of program at Devcom, in an interview with GamesBeat.

Nico Balleta is head of program at Devcom.

I’m planning to go, and I’ll moderate a couple of sessions, including a panel on generative AI dubbed Surviving the AI Tsunami and another one dubbed Breaking the Walls: Redefining Gaming Platforms for a Limitless Future. They’re both on August 22 at Devcom.

Both Microsoft and Nintendo said they were going to be at the show. It’s not clear yet what kind of news they’re going to make. Companies like China’s NetEase said they will have their biggest Gamescom presence to date.

Geoff Keighley will kick off Gamescom with Opening Night Live on August 23, and that show will likely have a lot of game announcements. Last year, the show got 13 million views and it was co-streamed across 1,600 channels. I joined it live last year and it was a smaller crowd than usual, but it still featured thousands of cheering fans. The entire Gamescom show got 130 million views.

The Germans take this very seriously. About 270 German politicians attended last year. Gamescom is jointly organized by Koelnmesse and Game. For the first time, the organizers of Gamescom, Koelnmesse and Game – Association of the German Games Industry, together with PIRATEx and supported by KölnBusiness, are organizing the first Gamescom Invest Circle on August 23, where startups can pitch investors. And Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck will attend the official opening of Gamescom on August 23.


Devcoms opening VIP dinner in 2022.

The business-to-business event, Devcom, also hopes to score a big increase in attendees. Last year, Devcom drew 3,500 attendees for 150 sessions. There were 220 speakers across 14 topics and 13 stages. As noted, ticket sales are running about 40% above where they were this time a year ago, Balleta said.

Yesterday, Devcom announced it had upgraded its Safer Space Measures to protect attendees from any potential bad actors. The group will have a specially-briefed Awareness Team, who will offer an additional level of safety by acting as a direct contact for attendees, as well as free anti-spike kits. During the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, there were a number of reports of drink spiking at offsite events.

Devcom hasn’t experience drink-spiking at its events in the past, but it is being cautious. And Devcom plans to do a Safer Space Summit as well in the fall with a focus on event safety.

That prompted more caution and upgrade in the protective measures, said Robin Hartmann, communications and partnership manager at Devcom, in an interview with GamesBeat. The goal of Devcom is to be a welcoming, oppression- and harassment-free experience for everyone attending their digital and IRL activities and events.

Robin Hartmann is communications and partnership manager at Devcom.

The Devcom 2023 event will feature more than 220 speakers and 160 sessions on 14 industry topics. The latest additions are Kenji Matsubara, president of SNK, talking about IP Creation & Brand Awareness,
and Sharon Fisher, Head of Safety at Keywords Studios, who will be explaining to attendees how
to build a game community with a health-first mindset.

Audiophile participants can look forward to a session by composer Inon Zur who will take them into the creation process of scores from Starfield, Fallout and Outriders, while John Johanas, game director at Tango Gameworks, will cover their approach to combining music and action game genres in Hi-Fi Rush.

The event kicks off on Sunday August 20 with a VIP dinner, speaker experience tours, and an indie awards program at the networking dinner. The aim is to make indies more visible at the event. The event will likely have hundreds of people.

Devcom drew 3,500 people in person in 2022.

“Last year, many people were going back to events after the coronavirus, and the No. 1 reason people attended was for networking, even before listening to great talks,” Balleta said.

As for topics, AI is going to be a hot one, Balleta said. A year ago, lots of would-be speakers wanted to talk about blockchain games and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse.

“The metaverse stuff is still sticking around and I’m not surprised about that,” Balleta said. “Of course, last year’s crypto is this year’s AI. Everyone has to say something about AI, and I see that in the submissions.”

There are about nine different talks on AI. (I’ll be moderating a closing talk on Surviving the AI Tsunami at 4 p.m. Cologne time on August 22). And I’m looking forward to a session on generative AI and the law.

“One of the more difficult things was to not create this AI overkill,” Balleta said. “So, we have some specific AI-related talks.”

Still, the AI track is just one among 14 and there will be other popular tracks like the career track for students and interns. There is a mental health in games track as well, and an audio track that features the Starfield composer.

“If you want to have the rock stars of tomorrow, you got to give them a stage today,” Balleta said.

About 40% of the speakers come from diverse backgrounds or are women, and they come from 31 countries.

There will be speakers from big studios like Respawn, Insomniac and more. There aren’t as many talks on unions in gaming as in the past, but Balleta noted that Europeans have a different view of unions than Americans in gaming do these days. The conference will also sell a pass for virtual attendees, as it recognizes that a lot of people can’t make it to in-person events. Devcom gave 160 free virtual event passes to game developers in Ukraine, as many aren’t allowed to travel.

Overall, Hartmann said, “This year we’re really growing. It’s amazing to get that feedback.” See you folks there.

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