The Gamescom video game convention is the largest gaming event anywhere in the world, and a brand that is remarkably recent in its founding. Inaugurated in 2009, Gamescom has in less than a decade become a global event brand that is attended by 350,000 people a year.
The Gamescom exhibition was founded and still based in Cologne, Germany. Many people don’t know this, but Germany is actually the world’s 3rd largest exhibitions market, just behind the US and China. Germany is also home to several of the world’s largest convention centers. Here in America, McCormick Place in Chicago is considered the largest convention center at about 2.5 million square feet of prime exhibition space. In the scheme of the world however, McCormick ranks a mere #7 in size. The largest convention center in the world is nearly twice the size of McCormick Place: the 4.7 million square feet Hannover Messegelande in Germany. In fact, of the 6 convention centers in the world larger than McCormick Place, 4 of them are based in various cities in Germany.
Like any major convention, Gamescom is attended by people from all over the world who are relevant players in the industry being served. In this case, that industry is video games. The exhibitors represent production companies like Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Konami, and over 700 others. There are about 6,000 attendees who are journalists, bloggers, and reviewers in the gaming industry. Other attendees range anywhere from developers to enthusiasts to just locals who are stopping by.
I’ve always held a unique fascination for exhibitions as a genre of events, believing that it is a conceptual representation of people’s need to come together in business. From the perspective of forming industries, exhibitions represent the intersection between space and information. In this digital age we live in, technology enables us access to information from all over the world, theoretically replacing our need to gather in physical space. Aside from the few industries tied to real estate (like restaurants, hotels, and etc.), there is no inherent need for the concept of “an industry” to be tied to space, so long as the people who make up the industry have means of sharing information. But as an event professional, it is my responsibility to think about the needs for people to gather in physical space, to come together for reasons beyond the information that can be shared digitally. Corporate events come in all sizes. From a categorical standpoint, the largest of these events are exhibitions.
Take the example of Gamescom. Exhibitors attend each year to show off its new releases of the year. New games, new consoles in some years. Attendees came come test the demos of these games, the exhibitors hire people to give commentaries on innovations and such. It’s a model that’s consistent with almost every exhibition from every industry.
One would think though, that without such a platform, video game companies can still very much continue to make their games year after year. They can still release their games for sale in online and brick and mortar stores. They can still promote their games through advertisements and PR campaigns on television and sponsorships and so forth. And they can still certainly get reviewed and played by their customer base.
See, in historical times — in the thousands of years that human civilization has lived before the internet was invented — business and industry literally could not exist without marketplaces like these exhibitions provided. Some in the events industry even argue that the predecessors to exhibitions were the street fairs that happened in the earliest of human civilizations, all the way back when farmers took their crops and handiworks to the town center and put them on display.
Today though, exhibitions like Gamescom serve an elusive but seemingly critical purpose, because exhibitions like Gamescom exist in virtually every industry, and the business model of exhibitions across the board are very similar in terms of how they function within their industries. In fact, in the same way you can count on a company being powerful once they make it into the Fortune 500, you can also count on an industry being relevant once they have an exhibition for themselves. Just look at how the marijuana industry developed in this country over these last 5 years.
Most event professionals know the methodologies behind how to create an exhibition. Those of us who studied it took production courses in college. Others go even further and attend workshops and get certifications on best practices. But nobody in the events industry that I’ve talked to are really considering the question of why human gatherings are still relevant in the world. Whether it’s exhibitions, or conferences, or symposiums or launch parties or any other kind of event, the anthropological need for live human gatherings are for the first time in history being challenged by potential alternatives. For the first time ever, human beings have to separate our notions of “coordinating space” and “coordinating information”, because for the first time ever the latter is no longer tied to the former. It’s a really interesting time to be in the events industry, and think about the world through the lens of event management.
See you at the next exploration!