Games Convention 2007 Preview
Despite E3 being far better than the total wash-out many predicted, the summer's yet to really get the gaming party it so richly deserves and with a major UK show once again conspicuously absent it falls to Leipzig, Germany's Games Convention 2007 to deliver the mass appeal, public expo event we can really get our teeth into. The question is, can it deliver?
Early signs look promising, the show is certainly far larger than last year with every gaming firm worth their salt putting in an appearance in some shape, or indeed form. It all begins with a press day on Wednesday August 22nd, before the public doors swing wide open on Thursday August 23rd, closing on August 26th.
We'll be in attendance every day, delivering news and commentary direct from the show floor - not only the public areas of the Leipzig Messe, but also in the secret business zones that you can only get to with a press pass and an iron will. We'll be meeting with the movers and shakers of the games industry, making them ply us with mineral water (and hopefully something stronger) as we gather the very best coverage from what could be the gaming calendar's new landmark event.
Beyond the press screenings, PR schmoozings and media conference yawnings, we'll also be checking out what Leipzig has to offer those attending the public events. As well as the Games Convention itself, those who are really hardcore might wish to grab a GC Freestyle pass which includes access to the show with festival-style camping nearby. As well the obvious appeal of playing all the biggest games in the exhibition halls, a Freestyle pass (130 Euro) offers camping, open air concerts, sports activities, a swimming pool and other special bits 'n' bobs.
Those of you hoping to negate this Glastonbury-like experience can of course still buy access purely to the expo, on a daily basis (12 Euro) or for the duration of the show (29.50 Euro). Concessions are also available.
Down to business
While the public goodies will no doubt offer plenty of glimpses at games looming on the horizon, particularly some of the major Christmas debutants, some of the biggest Games Convention news will no doubt emerge from the conferences, screenings and other events being planned for the industry alone.
A Sony press conference on the Wednesday evening, for example, could hopefully throw up more permanent news about the PS3's pricing in PAL regions, as well as detailing how Sony are going to win us all round with a compelling line-up of original games that you won't also be able to get on the Xbox 360. Sony might also fill us in further on the PSP's redesign, the rumoured PSP Store and of course on the long-hinted movie/TV on-demand service that must surely be en route to the PS3.
Not that Microsoft will be sitting on their laurels. We're expecting word on a modest price cut for the Xbox 360 in Europe (the price having already been shaved in the USA and Australia), while MS might also seize the moment to lift the lid on some new games given the absence of an X07 from this year's calendar. Who knows, maybe the firm will even announce they've bought someone, or added yet another service to Xbox Live. Alternatively, Redmond might just hold up BioShock as conclusive proof that the Xbox 360 is very good. And they'd be right.
Microsoft are planning a media breakfast towards the end of the week, at which some new tittle-tattle might emerge, though we also hear speculation that the focus of this may be on Windows Gaming, leaving us to wonder what the Redmond giant are plotting. Live Arcade for the PC, perhaps? We'll be sure to bring you all the latest, whatever emerges.
Nintendo, perhaps continuing their rebellious, "we do things our way" approach, aren't planning any traditional media events, but will instead be offering tours to industry representatives, offering the media and friends hands-on time with new games - of which we're hoping to see a few. Perhaps no bombshells from the Big N, then - who could instead be waiting for Nintendo's Tokyo Game Show to let fly with the big announcements. Or perhaps a few revelations will still creep out of Germany, who knows. We'll keep our noses to the ground. That's for sure.
Keeping up appearances
What of the third-parties, then? Well, Activision appear to be going to town at GC in a fairly big way, holding a press conference, indulging us in hefty tours and also drawing particular focus onto Call of Duty 4 - which could be one of the major games of Leipzig. EA aren't likely to be left in the dark, either, and we'll be looking forward to going face-to-face with games like Rock Band, Army of Two and even Spore - which has been rather quiet of late.
THQ are also planning a press conference on day one, addressing the future of games development, at which we're hopeful of some new next-gen announcements, possibly covering a new Red Faction and some general nuggets on the publisher's desire to become a "creative hub". Ubisoft are also displaying their forthcoming releases en masse, and we're looking forward to finally getting to play Assassin's Creed, as well as taking an early gander at Far Cry 2, EndWar, Haze, et al. No doubt the French publisher will be looking to convince that they have the strongest line-up entering the festive season, and they could just be right, too.
New game announcements are expected from Sega at the expo, the publisher's line-up looking just that little bit spartan of late, while we're hopeful of news on Rockstar's future releases - beyond the inevitable drooling over whatever they present on GTA IV. Take-Two might also be able to impress us with their line-up, games like The Darkness and BioShock leaving us enthused by the firm's outlook (Borderland, perhaps?). Metal Gear Solid 4 and Pro Evolution Soccer 08 look likely to give Konami something to talk about, and we'd also love to see something of Capcom's big franchises. If at all possible.
Lest we forget, Vivendi are also going to be on-site, and who knows what they'll deliver, but given the stock piles of gold being derived from World of Warcraft whatever they offer better involve champagne and chocolates, or we'll be left feeling decidedly under-whelmed.
Of course, while we're hopeful of a few pleasant surprises, it could be left to the old guard to keep us entertained. Just as well, then, that we'll be going hands-on with Halo 3 at the end of the week, not to mention a number of other big name sequels that'll no doubt be benefitting from hefty marketing budgets, if not the wand of originality.
As ever, we'll be on the look out for any and all new game announcements, especially from the platform holders, and we'll also be looking to be convinced that their game line-ups have got what it takes to lead the next-gen charge (I'm looking at you, Sony). If E3 was a nourishing starter, we're hopeful that Games Convention 2007 will be the bloating main course it surely promises to be. See you in Germany for beer and sausages.