This year's scheduling for Gamescom, coming in the thick of conference season and less than two months after the all-consuming power circus of E3, furrowed more than a few brows. Whether this was a bristling challenge to the perceived dominance of the LA show or not, the shift of the Koelnmesse event meant that exhibitor's schedules were suddenly compressed, that press had less time to clear the decks before filling their dictaphones once more and that consumers knew they were a little less likely to see any big announcements coming out of the event.
Nintendo decided against a press event, which is not unusual, but Sony's eschewing of Cologne in favour of the Paris Games Week in October was a big change, leaving Microsoft to take the stage in Germany unopposed. With Windows 10 rolling out and on a high after an excellent performance at E3, the US platform had an excellent opportunity to gain ground in both column inches and hearts and minds.
According to the most recent analysis from Thomas Bidaux at ICO Partners, Microsoft capitalised on this advantage brilliantly, securing a 50 per cent rise in press coverage from last year - actually equalling the exposure they gained from 2014's E3. In fact, despite an understandable downturn in coverage of Sony platforms, Bidaux's numbers indicate that Gamescom 2015 secured 25 per cent more press coverage than 2014's show.
However, whilst the change of schedules for platform holder events didn't diminish the overall volume of content, it did shift the coverage to different days, making Wednesday this year's most crowded.
One of the most interesting aspects of Bidaux's analysis is the language aspect. Whilst English, French and Spanish article numbers rose steadily, German and Italian language coverage was boosted hugely, with German pieces, already the most common, increasing by over 25 per cent. Italian coverage grew by more than half, from 1739 unique articles in 2014 to 2910 this year. However, this isn't down to an influx of small blogs covering the show, says Bidaux, it's the same outlets writing more.
"Looking purely at the number of unique websites covering the event, it is interesting to see that there is almost no growth - the increase in the number of articles is coming from a generally bigger output by the media attending rather than more media attending the event. This is particularly striking when considering the Italian media, where fewer sites covered gamescom, but still had close to 67 per cent more articles than last year."
Sony's lack of a dedicated conference damaged its exposure a little, but a strong showfloor presence meant that the PS4 was still well represented in coverage, despite coming in second place to the Xbox One. Nintendo platforms struggled to garner much attention once more, whilst Windows 10 was a surprisingly strong contender for third place.
"With no Sony media brief this year, the results for the platform with the largest media coverage shouldn't be very surprising. What is quite striking is how the Playstation 4 performance is still strong in regards to its main competitor. A lot was happening for Sony at gamescom, their booth was large and busy, but it also speaks for the strength of the brand (especially in Europe) to keep such a strong media presence.
"Compared to last year, where they were holding a press conference, Sony didn't seem to lose much media presence. It is good to bear in mind that this year was a very strong year in terms of the media output though. Less media coverage, during a year that saw a significant growth, could well hide a much bigger missed opportunity for Sony.
"In the case of Microsoft, the net gain is incontestable, with almost +50 per cent articles on Xbox One from last year's event. Also notable for them, is the very strong showing of Windows 10 in the media, even though this is across kind of articles and a number of them might just be related to the release of the OS and not be connected to gamescom. By our metrics, it is still a very strong week in terms of media presence. Nintendo's consoles performed better than last year as well, following the general growth of the event in term of media.
"Unsurprisingly, Microsoft having free reign at gamescom has paid off - but I think it is important to highlight that it didn't happen purely because of the absence of serious contenders," concludes Bidaux.
"This year's gamescom conference was, to me, the best Microsoft has organised in years, across the different E3s and gamescoms. If you ignore the incredibly cringey esport moment with the commentators going on about a pre-recorded match, the line was very strong, quite varied, and had a surprising number of first announcements, without too much of the forced-down-your-throat 'we are awesome' lines that are usual for Microsoft (and that I believe is not as well received in Europe as it is in the US). It is a welcome strong performance and sets up for an interesting gamescom next year, when it will be at the more usual dates."