This week, as anyone who is a fan of video games knows, Gamescom 2013 is taking place in Cologne, Germany. Irish gaming industry expert Jamie McCormick has just returned from the convention, which continues until Sunday, and is encouraged by a growing Irish presence.
Over 275,000 people are expected to pass through the vast halls of Koelnmesse over the four public days of Gamescom 2013, running from 22 to 25 August. That’s about eight times the capacity of Dublin’s RDS Arena.
There is a music festival-esque spirit among the crowd, all there to celebrate their shared passion: video games. It is a thriving mish-mash of colour, tattoos, hairstyles, outfits, booth babes, cosplayers and gamers from across the world. They have travelled far and wide to check out the games that will be available to buy later this year. Gamescom also allows them to check out the next-generation consoles in the flesh, and suffer the eternal gamer dilemma: do I get one console, or all of them?
The serious business of play
In a country that has over 1m PlayStations across 1.6m houses, many families are planning to spend hundreds of euro based on what they see exhibited at Gamescom. Just where their hard-earned cash will be spent will be decided by the articles and videos that will flood the internet in the coming days, weeks and months.
Back in Ireland, I’m sure many people will be happy that HMV is re-opening four branches across Dublin and Limerick. And I’m sure part of the reason for making this happen is to see if there is a replication of the pattern seen over the last two generations of consoles, where several hundred millions of euro were spent within their first two years.
But, for the 3,000-strong Irish games industry and Government agencies supporting its growth, there is a different motive for being in Cologne. Early in the week, GDC Europe brought the best of the international games industry together to network, teach each other how to avoid pitfalls, and share knowledge, best practice and know-how. Wednesday to Friday are the main business days for Gamescom, where tens of millions of euro worth of deals are struck among over 400 exhibitors and thousands of companies in attendance.
A growing Irish contingent
This week, over a dozen companies from the 160-plus in the Irish games development industry flew over 100 people to Germany. This cohort comprised a mix of developers, publishers, technology companies and service providers, backed by Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and Games Ireland. Having worked in the industry for 13 years, and attended the last four out of five conferences, I can honestly say there has never been such a diverse mix or greater number attending from Ireland.
The industry is spawning new companies and teams at an accelerating pace that is clearly visible in the timeline of the Irish games industry (just scroll and see the increasing frequency of dots). It is also growing in confidence and experience. For many of the people attending, this is their second or third time going to Cologne and there are plenty of friendly people to talk to about all aspects of the games industry.
Hundreds of new email, LinkedIn and Skype contacts have been made this week from business card swaps, and existing relationships have been strengthened by meeting in person, instead of the usual phone, IM or email.
Where will it lead?
It’s a fortunate coincidence that the first Ceol agus Craic @ Gamescom, taking place at The Corkonian pub, overlapped with Rovio’s party (yes, them of the Angry Birds phenomenon). Massive amounts of networking happened over pints and chats throughout the evening, with over 40 people working in the Irish industry coming along.
Across the week, people attending Gamescom can continue this conversation, on the floor during the show, or afterward in bars, nightclubs and restaurants along the waterfront, in the squares and on the streets surrounding the magnificent Cologne Cathedral.
This week has seen many new friendships beginning and it is perhaps the first opportunity the international industry has had to meet a representative sample of the Irish games industry in 2013. The next 12 months will be an interesting time, as these meetings, deals, and knowledge-exchanges evolve and blossom. Some will lead to new games, others will lead to financial deals, media coverage, new contacts, information or know-how.
Could a developer or publisher set up in Ireland, resulting from the dozens of meetings conducted by the IDA? Could an Irish company get a deal with a publisher for their game, or secure funding for the growth of their company? Or will some of Enterprise Ireland’s introductions result in their contingent getting a deal in their respective areas? Who knows what could transpire in the coming year, but watch this space.
Jamie McCormick has worked in the Irish games industry since 2000 across companies including Gamesworld, DemonWare, Xbox Live Gaming Centre, Jolt and Gala Networks Europe. He works as marketing manager for Shankill, Dublin-based Flashpoint and, in his spare time, he is researching the Irish games industry for the Games Industry in Ireland 2014 Report. He also lectures and works with Irish game and app developers to help bring their games to international markets.