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3 months of planning, $15,000 spent, 6 days standing for more than 12 hours, only to end the whole thing with COVID. Is attending Gamescom as an exhibitor worth it? That remains difficult to answer now that the dust has completely settled on the yearly event.
As one of the largest gaming events in the calendar, Gamescom is enormous in every sense. Tens of thousands of people descend on Koelnmesse to build contacts, play games, see shows and grab merch. It’s incredible to experience and, whether you’re exhibiting or simply attending to play some new games, it quickly becomes apparent why it’s so popular.
Despite this, committing to exhibit at Gamescom is a huge undertaking. From deciding your booth and location, to securing your furniture, printing your banners, ordering your equipment and setting it all up on time is incredibly stressful. Combined with a rush on hotels and flights (which you’ll pay eye-watering sums for) choosing to attend isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s an enormous commitment for a studio of any size, and is all consuming until it’s over.
Having attended Gamescom earlier this year on behalf of Gleamer Studio, attendance was based on two intentions. The first was to exhibit at Gamescom as a thank you to all the German players who have made Settlement Survival such a huge success. They make up a huge part of the game’s playerbase and being on their home turf was something the development team were keen to do. The second was to make the major announcement that the game would be launching into 1.0 this year. We had the goal of announcing this via a Tier 1 outlet and, in this instance, we managed to secure IGN.
For both of those goals, Gamescom was undoubtedly a success. Our reception within the indie area was incredibly warm and we met thousands of fans who came to the booth to give their feedback and share their affection for the game. Our announcement trailer also did well, resulting in over 40,000 views on our YouTube video and some wider media coverage.
Outside of meeting fans and utilizing IGN’s weight to leverage a significant announcement, did Gamescom yield a sizable return of wishlists? Sort of. As you’ll note in the graph below, it did result in a spike to our page and a greater daily intake of wishlists than the days pre and post Gamescom. From a typical gain of around 450 per day, Settlement Survival obtained around 1449 on August 24th and roughly 800 wishlists per day until August 27th, where it fell to just above 600. Eventually, and by September 1st, wishlists had returned to normal.
What’s problematic about assessing the rise in wishlists is whether it was a direct result of attending Gamescom or simply the announcement we made via IGN on August 26th. It’s impossible to separate the two. When you consider the time and effort spent on attending, is a short sharp shock of wishlists – only several hundred per day above average – worth it for $15,000?
Let’s say I take $15,000 and hand it to some key influencers within the city building genre. I’m fairly certain, based on my recent projects (Clanfolk, Farthest Frontier, Wandering Village, Aquatico), that I’d get a return infinitely higher than anything obtained at Gamescom. A recent organic video released by Splattercat for Aquatico saw wishlist gains of over 4,000 in a single day. And a paid campaign for Foxhole with MisterMV saw tens of thousands of wishlists earned.
Based on that alone, it’s fair to say that Gamescom as a wishlist generator, certainly for indies, is fairly poor. No doubt the Goat Simulator’s of this world fare better due to their enormous stands and renown, but even then I doubt their wishlist return is anywhere close to the eye watering costs of their booths.
The average gamer
If wishlists aren’t what Gamescom returns to developers, why bother spending all that time and money to get there?
Besides the opportunities it brings for making amazing relationships with publishers, other developers and PR companies (this is worth every cent of attendance), it really is just about meeting gamers and showing them your game. There’s no metrics or data here to quantify the value of this and if you’ve never manned a booth and dealt with the average gamer, there’s simply nothing quite like it.
Seeing a ten year old play your game every day because he loves it so much, or having a fan want a picture with the development team because they adore your game is an amazing feeling. Having a parent tell you how much the game has meant to their kids, or to have an obvious issue pointed out about your game that has never once been noticed is remarkable. Personally interacting with fans on this level is unquantifiable. It’s priceless and probably one of the most enjoyable things you can possibly do as a developer.
So is Gamescom worth it?
If you’ve some money to spare, would like a small wishlist boost but place meeting fans and making contacts above anything else, then absolutely yes. If you’re after just wishlists? You’re better served working with influencers and print media. Regardless of what you decide next year, I’m so glad it’s back.
Vicarious PR is an international video game PR and marketing agency run by former game journalists. They publish a series of columns on informative industry insights full of tips and tricks to grow your game business exclusively on PreMortem.Games.