After outgrowing the small German city of Leipzig and shifting focus to the cavernous halls of Cologne's Trade Fair Centre (Koelnmesse), the expanded and re-branded Gamescom took 2009 by storm. Attracting just shy of 250,000 attendees and more than 450 industry exhibitors during its inaugural year, Gamescom has subsequently established itself as the world's biggest videogame conference. Will Gamescom 2010 enjoy similar success or pale by comparison?
Last year's press conference highlights saw Sony officially whip the covers off its much talked about PS3 Slim - gaming's worst kept secret of 2009 - and announce the upcoming availability of downloadable 'minis' for the PlayStation Portable. Meanwhile, EA showcased its usual array of heavyweight titles while Lionhead boss Peter Molyneux formally announced Fable III during a Microsoft presentation that focused on scant little else. Nintendo, somewhat oddly, was conspicuous by its absence.
The press conference line-up for 2010 is once again devoid of Nintendo, the Japanese giant evidently keen to hold back any major announcements until safely back on home soil during September's Tokyo Game Show. EA will, of course, be sticking to its tried and testing approach of blinding the media hordes with copious amounts of eye candy. And, to that end, we're expecting a first proper look at Dragon Age 2 along with more on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, FIFA 11, and the Medal of Honor reboot. So much for EA's (largely abandoned) focus on new IPs.
Microsoft appears to be adopting a different tack this time around, not least because of its upcoming Kinect motion-sensing camera. Rather than just presenting the regular parade of suits-on-a-stage, Microsoft's three-hour conference will also include a special 'Play Day' event, which you'd be mad to think will contain anything more than an array of Kinect demo booths and the platform's official European release date. In terms of software highlights, there's an outside chance Microsoft could close its presentation with scene-stealing Gears of War 3 content, but it's more likely Halo: Reach and Fable III will take top billing and surprise absolutely no one. Somehow it seems inevitable that first-party Xbox 360 software will take an uncomfortable back seat to Kinect at Gamescom 2010 - whether we like it or not.
Having already used Gamescom to reveal the PS3 Slim in 2009, current chatter suggests Sony's press conference will culminate in the unveiling of a PSP-branded smartphone created in conjunction with Sony's industry partner Ericsson. Capable of downloading and playing PSP games, the rumoured handset is expected to carry a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Google's Android operating system (v3.0), and a 4.1-inch display. Leading up to that announcement, which doesn't quite qualify as a PSP2, Sony will sing the showfloor praises of Killzone 3, inFamous 2, Motorstorm: Apocalypse, LittleBigPlanet 2 and Gran Turismo 5. It may even shine a spotlight on Resistance 3, which would finally lend some weight to that giant billboard. And let's not forget an obvious focus on PlayStation Move, the distinctly Wii-esque motion-control system that continues to show an immense amount of promise - yes, we're looking at you, Microsoft.
When it comes to open showfloor content, Gamescom 2010 will be a tad shorthanded where publishers are concerned, namely because the likes of Capcom, Disney and Sega are not attending. Capcom's decision to stay away centres on the original 2006 banning of Dead Rising in Germany and also the country's continuing lack of certification for Blue Castle's upcoming sequel Dead Rising 2: Case Zero.
"As you are probably aware, the first Dead Rising was banned in Germany and as we are still awaiting a verdict from the USK (certification board) for Dead Rising 2 it would be remiss of us to promote the sequel to consumers in Germany," outlined Capcom Europe in an official blog post.
As for Sega, it chose to explain away its no-show back in early July by vaguely pinning its decision on "commercial" reasons. Subsequently, some of the major games missing from the showfloor will include Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Epic Mickey, Vanquish, Valkyria Chronicles 2, Shogun 2: Total War and, of course, Street Fighter X Tekken.
So who and what will be at this year's show?