Game Fair to Draw Record Visitors With Microsoft, Sony Ware

Aug 13, 2014 6:22 am ET

(Updates visitor numbers, starting in second paragraph.)

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The world’s largest video-game fair is set to draw a record attendance as visitors seek out titles for new consoles from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp.

Gamescom, which starts today in Cologne, Germany, is set to exceed last year’s 340,000 visitors, with 300,000 presale tickets already sold out, organizers said. Sony is tapping veteran developer Hideo Kojima for the event, promoting the latest installment of Metal Gear Solid, one of the best-selling series in history, for its PlayStation 4.

Microsoft is showing footage of Quantum Break, an Xbox One- exclusive action adventure. Among games publishers, Ubisoft Entertainment will compete with Activision Blizzard Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. in getting a head start before the holiday season and benefit from surging sales of the latest machines.

“The next-generation consoles are selling better than expected, but there is a dearth of games tailored to what they’re capable of,” Todd Mitchell, an analyst at Brean Capital LLC in New York, said in a phone interview. “We’re finally looking at a much more robust lineup for the fall, and there will start to be winners and losers.”

Worldwide sales of games for consoles are forecast to grow 7 percent to $27 billion this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, fueled by demand for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Unlike the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Gamescom, which has been held since 2009, is open to the public on four out of five days, making it more important to create resonance on social media such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc.

Tent Village

Early tickets were sold by the beginning of August, prompting the organizers to introduce afternoon tickets that let latecomers take the place of visitors that leave after the morning, spokeswoman Kathrin Muenker said by e-mail. A tent village has sprung up in the city to house thousands of enthusiasts not willing or able to get a hotel room.

To win new customers, games makers are trying out new business models, such as the sort of monthly subscriptions used by Netflix Inc., instead of the traditional pay-per-game model. At the same time, the bigger makers need to keep an eye on smaller publishers winning users over with free-to-play games that generate revenue through payments for in-game content such as upgrades to weapons.

Sales Lead

Sony’s new console has sold 10 million units worldwide, the Tokyo-based company said at a news conference yesterday. The machine has been leading Microsoft’s Xbox One since the two devices started selling in late 2013. That’s prompted Microsoft to offer its console unbundled from the Kinect motion-sensing device to lower its sales price.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. will be at Gamescom “in a big way,” Alan Lewis, vice president of corporate communications, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The New York-based company is letting users play planned releases, including NBA 2K15 and WWE 2K15 that will be on sale in October for new-generation consoles and PCs. Professional wrestler Big Show will appear on behalf of the company, to deliver a “special announcement” about WWE 2K15, Lewis said.

Electronic Arts, the largest maker of games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is presenting playable versions of its sports titles FIFA 15 and NHL 15, and will also show role- playing game Dragon Age Inquisition along with mobile titles, Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore said in an interview.

“This really is the show for the global gaming community,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson said on stage today. The EA news conference was being followed by more than 2 million people online, he said.