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News Opinions 03 September 2023, 14:32

author: Darius Matusiak

How Was Gamescom 2023? This Year's Fair Marks a Huge Change in the Video Games Industry

For media outlets, gamescom means a tight schedule full of presentations, a lot of walking, and that comfort of not having to wait in a queue to play a new game. However, many of the awaited games didn't appear on this year's fair.

Source: CD Projekt RED, GSC World Publishing, Epic Games

The upcoming fall and winter promise to be truly record-breaking in terms of hit game releases. We'll receive those long-awaited, repeatedly postponed productions and a couple of really strong, iconic titles. At least that's what the calendar suggests, because visiting Europe's largest interactive entertainment fair, Gamescom in Cologne, gives a completely different feeling.

Many of the most talked-about games announced only symbolically their presence, in the form of a banner, the possibility to watch a short video, or there was no sign of them at all. However, those also popular, but slightly smaller productions and independent games dominated. Their exhibitions often impressed with their scale or ingenious design and attention to detail. The presence of Netflix, which was advertising its most popular series with huge decorations, was also something new for me.

It was this big leap in terms of who was exhibiting and with what that struck me the most, as my reference point was the 2015 Gamescom fair. Back then it looked completely the other way around.

Long absence list

I recall playing quite a few Ubisoft and Electronic Arts productions at the fair eight years ago, including a playable demo of Star Wars: Battlefront II. Microsoft, in turn, bragged about its "exclusive" - Quantum Break. Today, the Xbox stand was still present, but its main attraction was the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. I was very surprised by the lack of opportunity to play Forza Motorsport. The demo of this game with its iconic track was always available earlier, and in the meantime, just moments before the release, the developers only showed another video. A similar situation was with the new Hellblade and Starfield. However, there wasn't a shortage of indie games intended for Game Pass and older productions such as Sea of Thieves and Flight Simulator.

Ubisoft was also cautious in promoting its games. Only The Crew: Motorfest actually dominated the zone, with the upcoming Prince of Persia available exclusively from Nintendo. For some reason, the publisher didn't want to show Avatar, which after all is one step away from being released, nor Star Wars, although we saw gameplay from that game. The lack of Skull & Bones isn't even worth mentioning. A great opportunity to promote anything left of this arguably curse-laden game was missed.

Electronic Arts has long avoided events like this as well, yet this was also a chance to convince the masses, of those less demanding players, to their recently released Immortals of Aveum. Enabling people to play a production that received such different ratings would probably be a good idea. The Sony giant has similar tactics to EA. It's a shame, because visiting this year's Gamescom, you could get the impression that PlayStation generally doesn't exist on the market. There was a definite lack of the "blue," especially as the competition did their best. The largest area, marked with red, was taken up by Nintendo, with countless stands to play Zelda, the new Pikmin 4 and a couple of "classics." I have already mentioned the Xbox stand with green decorations. The color blue ran out in Europe.

Then who was at the fair and let themselves be remembered? In addition to the vast Nintendo zone, the most impressive and greatest decorations were provided for titles such as Path of Exile and Little Nightmares 3. The developers of titles like PayDay 3, Black Myth: Wukong, Armored Core 6, Lords of the Fallen 2, Tekken 8, Mortal Kombat 1, and Invincible weren't afraid to make their games accessible.

Polish developers were generally very keen and accurate in showcasing their work. It's been a long time since I saw such exemplary presentations without marketing hype. I can already say that the new Ghostrunner 2 thrilled me, and in a little while you will read what the intriguing The Alters from 11 bit studios is going to be and what new awaits us in Frostpunk 2. Independent game developers also put a lot of effort into presenting their games. Pizza Possum, for instance, stuck in my memory. You just wanted to stop and spend some time at their stands.

For me, the big surprise wasn't so much Netlix's presence at the fair as the panache of preparing its stand. There was a pizzeria from Stranger Things, a play area with the iconic staircase from Squid Game, a Wednesday zone where you could recreate her famous dance at the ball and listen to a concert, plus, in the winter setting of the Witcher section, buy cotton candy on a stick and take photos with statues of various beasts from Geralt universe. Pop culture and electronic entertainment are intertwining - the biggest European fairs dedicated to games are a good example of that.

Will the fair dominate AA games?

This year's Gamescom is a return to action without any pandemic restrictions. On Thursday morning, the first day open to all visitors, vast crowds appeared. Pyrkon and PGA seem like small events when you compare how many visitors can be seen in one place. But the fairgrounds area itself is larger than the one in Poznan. Despite the vast passageways connecting the halls, one had to be prepared to stand in queues caused by visitors and the significantly increased walking time from one end of the fair to the other. I can't imagine what happens there at the weekend when you can get in for free without buying a ticket.

In general, my impressions of Gamescom 2023 are divided in half - the positive part and the disappointing part. I am very happy with what I got to see and play. At the same time, I was severely disappointed by the absence of many upcoming releases and no playable versions, even in closed press sessions, of the new Forza, Avatar, Call of Duty, Alan Wake 2 and many others. Nowadays, when the prices of games on release make you think hard about what to buy, with what to wait for a discount, such opportunities to check for yourself or read others' impressions become particularly valuable and necessary. It's a bit of a bummer that the industry of these major publishers is taking a turn towards hiding their games. I wonder if this will be even more apparent at the already announced Gamescom 2024.

Darius Matusiak

Darius Matusiak

Graduate of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Journalism. He started writing about games in 2013 on his blog on, from where he quickly moved to the Reviews and Editorials department of Gamepressure. Sometimes he also writes about movies and technology. A gamer since the heyday of Amiga. Always a fan of races, realistic simulators and military shooters, as well as games with an engaging plot or exceptional artistic style. In his free time, he teaches how to fly in modern combat fighter simulators on his own page called Szkola Latania. A huge fan of arranging his workstation in the "minimal desk setup" style, hardware novelties and cats.