#42: The wurst

Despite spending ten years in the videogame media, I have never been to Gamescom. Early in my career, my employer didn’t consider it big enough to bother sending anyone to. (One former colleague used to pay his own way out there, then make thousands writing up what he’d seen for every magazine and website in the building.) Once the bosses started to see value in it and began asking us who we’d like to send, I consistently turned it down. The email typically arrived the week after I got back from E3, when I’d rather have stuck hot needles in my eyes than get on another plane.

Besides, I’d heard enough about Gamescom over the years to put me off. It sounded too busy, and a bit boring, and life off the show floor meant drinking in an Irish pub every night and eating too many sausages. I love E3 because I love Los Angeles, because the weather is good, because the show is busy and exciting even in a bad year, and because all of my press, PR and industry pals — from the UK, Europe, the US, Japan, wherever — are also there. Gamescom sounded like a week of bratwurst and Guinness and too many strategy games. I happily stayed at my desk.

I will, of course, be doing that again this week for not-Gamescom, because so will everybody else. But the schedule actually looks pretty good. Sure, there’s no sign of Sony or Nintendo — barring any last-minute surprises, anyway — and Microsoft has tamped down expectations by saying it only intends to show games that have already been announced. But there’s also none of the filler that blighted the not-E3 schedule back in June. First up tomorrow is Destiny 2. I may not play it too much these days, but will always keep an eye on what Bungie is up to — and if cross-platform play is as imminent as it appears to be, then I will have a very compelling reason to jump back in, since I’m on Xbox these days while my old raid gang are all on PC.

Beyond that, there’s the aforementioned showing from Microsoft; an Opening Night Live broadcast from Everywhere’s Geoff Keighley that will no doubt feature Hideo Kojima somehow; and the Awesome Indies Showcase, which continues the pleasing not-E3 theme of putting games from smaller studios on the main stage. Rounding things out is the Future Games Show, put together by my former employer — the one that ten years ago saw no value in Gamescom, but has had a change of heart now it has realised how lucrative a heavily sponsored stage show can be. I probably won’t watch this one because it’ll be a two-hour-long PTSD trigger, but we’ll see.

A quiet week by normal standards, then, but the last 18 months have been anything but normal — and after the round-the-clock onslaught of mediocrity at not-E3, I like that not-Gamescom appears to be a little more respectful of my time. To reciprocate that respect, I have ordered in some sausages, and will devote this week’s Hit Points to reports from the not-show. Fingers crossed it’s a good one.


  • I enjoyed Game Informer’s interview with PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios boss Hermen Hulst, chiefly because it seems as interested in who Hulst is as a person as it is in teasing headlines out of him, and that is very much Hit Points’ jam. There is news here too, of course — most outlets have picked up on his pledge that Japan still matters to Sony despite the winding up of Japan Studio, but I was struck by his nuanced comments on crunch. “Just not doing crunches is not enough for the well-being of our developers. We have to do a hell of a lot more, and it’s a very important topic.”
  • Activision has confirmed that every single one of its internal studios is now working on Call Of Duty in some capacity. Not particularly surprising, given it’s pretty much all it’s got left.
  • Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai has sounded fed up for years, and continued to do so in a podcast discussion with Bandai Namco’s Katsuhiro Harada. “I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought that I want to quit,” he sobbed. “Games are more fun to play than they are to make.” I’m very tempted to make a Smash Bros joke here but it’d be in poor taste. Sakurai seems a good egg, and the Smash community seems like a nightmare. If I were him I’d be off into the sunset like a shot.
  • Back in 2012, Curt Schilling — former baseball player, failed game developer and these days a full-time scumbag by the sounds of it — abruptly shut down his company 38 Studios, developer of EA’s quickly forgotten MMO Kingdoms Of Amalur, without giving staff their final paychecks. Nine years on, people are finally getting paid, sort of, after a court ruling insisted staff be paid up to 20% of what they are owed.

You’re all caught up. I am not exactly at the races today, something I hope is only temporary, and merely the result of a weekend too robustly enjoyed. Hopefully this not-Gamescom week brings us all something to get excited about. Catch you Wednesday — hopefully with much to discuss.