There have been so many digital events this year that we've lost count. It feels like only yesterday we were covering E3, but that was June! Flash forward a few weeks and here we are at Gamescom with some new showcases to capture our attention. The main two have been Xbox's Gamescom stream, and of course, Gamescom Opening Night Live. Both delivered a ton of news, but were their formats entirely up to scratch? We're not so sure.
Let's start with the Xbox show. We'll be honest - it wasn't the best. In a year when Xbox has been fantastic in the delivery of its messaging and bringing the best E3 presentation in years, it felt like a bit of a misfire. Yes, the expectations were laid out for news on previously announced titles coming this year, but the daily countdowns on their social media channels for the event perhaps indicated it would be bigger than it actually was.
An entire five minutes was spent telling us the historical importance of trebuchets... trebuchets! Even Forza Horizon 5, which closed the presentation, was just another gameplay demonstration, albeit an impressive one. Do people really need to be sold on the game by now? We'd argue many know what they're getting in for.
There were surprises too, though. The Humble Games titles announced for Xbox Game Pass were a highlight, we got a new look at The Gunk, and it had a welcome reveal for a racing expansion in Microsoft Flight Simulator. There were some other interesting unveilings (Crusader Kings 3, anyone?), but the rest just fell a bit flat and were the sort of announcements that wouldn't elicit that much excitement even if shared independently. Maybe the hope was that bundling them all together would increase viewers' hype levels, and of course, give them a bit more attention.
The omission of Halo Infinite was also a strange oversight. The viewer levels sat around 40,000 to 50,000 during the 90-minute show, compared to Gamescom Opening Night Live which weighed in at around 40,000 to 45,000. Clearly, some form of hype had been built, perhaps unintentionally. But it was also proof fans would be drawn to the event just to hear what Xbox has in store from them for the remainder of the year. The company has worked hard to build up its fanbase again after the disastrous Xbox One launch, it just needs to realise it doesn't need constant communication in this format to keep people interested.
We then had Gamescom Opening Night Live. Within the first hour, the pace was pretty relentless. We had the huge Halo Infinite dump of news (which really should have been during Xbox's presentation, but never mind), Saints Row got announced with a tiny bit of gameplay, the Marvel XCOM style game was finally revealed and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga rose again for another viewing. After that, the pace fell dramatically.
While the second half did have some cool announcements, especially for PlayStation fans, you could feel the show dragging its heels to extend that two hours of run time. By the end, you could probably count on one hand the announcements that stuck in your mind. This brings us to our central point - we're not sure everything needs a digital showcase, at least not such a lengthy one. Understandably, the industry has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, but this insistent need to put everything behind extensive presentations and streams is slowly wearing us down.
There was a time when E3 would be the one place to be and that was it. You'd get other reveals throughout the year, such as at Gamescom, but the big stuff was mainly relegated to that June period. Now we have all sorts of events taking place every few months - it's impossible to keep up. They're each having a harder time justifying their existence. Many have criticised PlayStation's radio silence this year, and while we're definitely not saying we want Xbox and other events in general to follow the same path, it might be worth tinkering with the strategy going forward.