There are many that think E3 is the biggest videogames show in the world, but that's because they've never experienced Gamescom.
The German games convention is massive. And it's open to the public, which adds an all-new dynamic to the event. E3 is a strictly trade-only affair, but you're just as likely to bump into a fan dressed as Pikachu as an industry type at Gamescom.
Its closer proximity to the holiday season also makes the show a better place to get hands-on with the triple-A titles coming out for Christmas. They have been in development longer, so those that you could only observe at E3 have a better chance of being playable now.
So here's our guide to the games and hardware announcements that we saw and experienced at Gamescom 2016.
- Best games coming in 2016: All the latest PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC and PS VR trailers
- Xbox One S review: Best console and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player out there
- 37 best PS4 games every gamer should own
- 37 best Xbox One games every gamer should own
What is Gamescom?
Gamescom started in 2009 and is held annually at the Koelnmesse convention centre in Cologne, Germany. It generally runs in mid-August.
The first day this year (Wednesday 17 August) was for trade and media only, the show then opened to the public from Thursday 18 August and ran until Sunday 21 August.
Some companies held press conferences and showcases on the Tuesday ahead of the show opening, although these have shrunk in number over the years.
Gamescom 2016: The big companies and games at the show
Microsoft/Xbox at Gamescom 2016
Although it traditionally held a Gamescom press conference each year, Microsoft decided against hosting a streamed Xbox Media Briefing in Cologne in 2016. Instead, it opened its stand ahead of the show for hands-on previews and ran an Xbox FanFest throughout the show.
On the stand we predominantly played Sea of Thieves, which we missed at E3, and FIFA 17. The latter was a major part of the company's Gamescom announcements, with two Xbox One S bundles coming that include the game. There will be versions of the 500GB and 1TB console that come with a FIFA 17 download code.
In addition, it was announced that EA's footy game will be available on Xbox One first, through EA Access. It'll be available from 22 September, with the full release starting a week later, on 29 September.
Sea of Thieves is an excellent co-operative multiplayer game coming in 2017 that focuses on teamwork. You get to play as a pirate and, when working with friends online, you can man a massive pirate ship and take on individual roles in order to take down rivals. There will be much more to the game on release next year, but we've already seen enough to know it has great promise.
Other game highlights on the Xbox stand included Dead Rising 4, ReCore, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2 and Forza Horizon 3. We're looking forward to the latter especially - it looks stunning on a HDR TV.
Sony/PlayStation at Gamescom 2016
Sony pulled out of hosting a press conference last year and decided against reinstating it for 2016. Instead, it is hosting a PlayStation media event in New York on 7 September, where it is widely expected to reveal new details on the enigmatic, mid-generation PlayStation Neo console.
The company's presence at Gamescom is sited mainly on the show floor and dominated to PS VR for the public to try. Anything particularly exciting is more than likely being held for New York.
Electronic Arts at Gamescom 2016
Another company that also usually hosts a press conference at Gamescom is Electronic Arts, although it too decided to do something different. It streamed a "Grand Opening" event on the day preceding the show, but it focused more on giving visitors hands-on access to Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 and FIFA 17.
We played quite a bit of the new map for Battlefield 1 and can safely say that it is likely to be a contender for game of the year. For a start, you can ride horses in the desert level we played. Horses. You don't get that in first-person shooters very often.
Activision at Gamescom 2016
While it had a low key E3 for once, Activision had a large presence at Gamescom. It showed three major games, with one technically DLC but still a massive release. There was a significant amount of content available for each.
We got to play a couple of new multiplayer maps in Destiny: Rise of Iron, using a new competitive game mode: Supremacy. It is similar to a team death match mode but after downing an opponent you must collect their token to register points - fragging them is not enough. The team with the most points wins. We also played an all-new strike, which was excellent. Thankfully we played it as part of a trio with two of the dev team, so completed it in the time allotted.
Skylanders Imaginators was also playable, with an entire level based on Crash Bandicoot on offer. Crash is the guest star in this year's game and it was announced at Gamescom that his nemesis, Dr Neo Cortex, has been added as a playable Skylander too. We also created our very own Skylander, to give us an idea of how simple yet varied that process is. We can see kids young and old loving the new feature.
Finally, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare wasn't playable, but the demo we saw featured a new single-player mission set on a mining asteroid. It is spinning out of control and so quickly that the normal day/night cycle has been reduced to a minute. And as it is so close to the sun, you cannot survive when you are exposed to the one minute of daylight, hence you have to take environmental danger into account alongside that presented by enemies.
Activision also announced Zombies in Spaceland, a new COD co-op experience set in the 1980s and starring David Hasslehoff and Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman). It looks a load of fun.
Ubisoft at Gamescom 2016
Of all the big publishers at Gamescom this year, Ubisoft arguably had the most games on show.
We finally got to play Steep, which is starting to look more promising after a lukewarm E3 outing. You can ski, snowboard, or fly through the air using a wingsuit or paraglider. The maps are massive and we suspect you'll be kept very busy with the many challenges that await.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole was available in a very early alpha build form. Combat has been changed dramatically over The Stick of Truth and we need more time with it to have a distinct impression of whether it is better.
Ubisoft also had For Honor, Watch Dogs 2, Star Trek Bridge Crew, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands and a few other titles in its private, trade only booth. Star Trek Bridge Crew especially impressed.
Gamescom 2016: Exhibitors
Apart from the big boys above, there were 100s of other exhibitors at Gamescom. Here are some of the bigger names of those that had games and accessories available to play with at the show.
- 1C Company
- 505 games
- Bandai Namco
- CD Projekt
- Deep Silver
- Focus Home Interactive
- Nordic Games
- Oculus VR
- Square Enix
- Team 17
- Turtle Beach
Gamescom 2016: Games
There were, of course, plenty of games to play and see at Gamescom. Here are a few of the highlights that we've not talked about above.
One or two of them are even out soon after the show finishes.
- Batman: Arkham VR (PS VR)
- Civilization VI (PC)
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- Dishonored 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)
- Far Point (PS VR)
- Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One, PS4)
- God of War (PS4)
- Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)
- Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (Xbox One, PC)
- Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)
- Mafia III (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- PES 2017 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- Planet Coaster (PC)
- Pokemon Sun and Moon (3DS)
- Resident Evil 7 (Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS VR)
- Rock Band: Rivals (Xbox One, PS4)
- The Elder Scrolls: Legends (PC, iOS, Android)
- The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Special Edition (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- The Last Guardian (PS4)
- Worms W.M.D. (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- WWE 2K17 (Xbox One, PS4)
Gamescom 2016: Consoles and hardware
As you will see below, we did not expect any next generation consoles to appear at Gamescom, from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, and we were right. Instead, all hardware stories centred around virtual reality and gaming PCs.
With the official release date getting close, the PlayStation VR headset clearly had a strong presence at Gamescom this year - much like it did at E3 in June.
Oculus mainly focused on its new games and specifically the ones with Oculus Touch support. The motion controllers that work with the Rift headset will be released before the end of 2016, so it was great to use them with some of the forthcoming titles.
Xbox One S
Microsoft finally announced that the 500GB and 1TB Xbox One S consoles will be available from 22 September. A FIFA 17 bundle for both will also be available.
HP gaming and VR PCs
HP showed its all-new gaming portfolio at this year's Gamescom, including the Omen X VR PC that comes in a backpack.
Gamescom 2016: Notable absentees
Sadly, although there was plenty to see at the show, there wasn't even a sniff of a new console launch. Here are some of the things we'd hoped to see but remained elusive.
Microsoft had already said that it will be launching its next generation console - one that's far superior to the existing Xbox One, even the Xbox One S - in 2017. But it was always unlikely we'd hear more about it at Gamesom.
Although PlayStation boss Andrew House confirmed ahead of E3 that a new, 4K capable console was coming, he also revealed that it wouldn't make an appearance in LA. It wasn't at Gamescom either. Instead, Sony has sent out invites to a special PlayStation event to be held in New York on 7 September.
Nintendo always has a reduced presence at Gamescom in comparison to E3 and this year was the same. It also previously revealed that while it will give details of its next generation console at some point this year, it is almost certainly going to do so in a pre-recorded Nintendo Direct video online in the coming weeks or months.