UK: #gamescom 2018 In Review

Last Updated: 20 September 2018
Article by Max Nicolaides

Over 370,000 public visitors and 31,200 trade visitors from 56 countries descended upon Cologne during the August bank holiday weekend for the 10th anniversary of gamescom, making it their biggest year yet.

Mishcon de Reya's video game and esports team were on the ground for the second year running and look back on their experience of gamescom 2018.

Video Game Bar Association at gamescom congress – loot boxes and 'gambling' in video games remains a concern

The "Law in Games" section of the gamescom congress, hosted in collaboration with the Video Game Bar Association, saw the top legal experts in Europe come together for a collection of keynote talks and panel discussions on legal topics affecting the video game industry in 2018.

With the industry still coming to terms with how best to respond to the "loot box scandal" that attracted so much mainstream media attention earlier this year, the panel discussion did well to set out the inconsistent international response by regulators over the monetisation of video games.

The move by some regulators to look beyond strict interpretations of gambling laws, and instead focus their attention on "gambling like mechanics" or "how addictive is the game/mechanic and who is it aimed at" is particularly poignant given the World Health Organisations inclusion of Gaming Disorder was listed within the draft 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

The lack of international cohesion from regulators and governments on how they intend to regulate in-game monetisation has left publishers in a precarious position. Given that microtransactions, in-game purchases and "live services" are now vital to the financial success of many video games, publishers and developers should seek advice from local counsel at the outset whenever there is any uncertainty over the legality and regulation of their plans to monetise a video game.

Esports is more than just top level competitive play

This year's PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) gamescom Charity Challenge was hosted by ESL. 64 of the top content creators, streamers and professional esports players took to Sanhok to win their share of $500,000 for their chosen charity. With comedic costumes in-game and out and custom game modes, the focus was shifted from playing to win to who was able to complete the ludicrous and entertaining challenges for their share of the prize money on offer.

The result was a fantastic viewer experience that was fast paced and entertaining, at the expense of the highest quality of competitive play. Not only did this address some of the criticisms that Battle Royal games have faced from viewers, but it also proved that esports is as much about providing entertainment as it is about showcasing competitive play.

It's about more than just the latest upcoming games

Beyond the usual plethora of soon-to-be-released and highly anticipated video games being showcased, getting hands on with officially licensed merchandise is a big part of the gamescom experience.

A notable addition to the merchandise hall this year was the London based esports organisation Fnatic. With gaming PCs running League of Legends equipped with the latest professional esports "Fnatic Gear",  consumers got a chance to get hands on (and purchase) the same equipment used by their favourite professional players.

Broadcasting in video games and esports

Broadcasting video game content is big business. Facebook Gaming, Twitch and YouTube all had impressive displays in the battle to win viewers to their platforms.

But this year has also been a trying year for rights holders and content creators.

The "adpocalypse", combined with an increasingly aggressive fight between rights holders and content creators over copyright, "fair use" and "transformative works" has hampered some high profile content creators, social media influencers and streamers.

Being able to enforce intellectual property rights through an online broadcasting platform such as Facebook, Twitch or YouTube is arguably more important than being able to do so through the courts.

Rights holders need to be properly advised by those who understand the video game content ecosystem and web of intellectual property rights that underpin it on how and when they can (and should) take down infringing content. Equally, content creators and their representatives need to be properly equipped to dispute frivolous take down requests or to reach an amicable compromise.

The UK is still very much open for business

In the air-conditioned retreat within the business area at gamescom, the UKIE exhibit hosted over 75 companies from all over the UK looking to do business.

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit seemed to do little to hamper the endless back to back meetings or the networking during the evening drinks sponsored by Jagex and ESL. The message from exhibitors was that the UK Interactive Entertainment industry, is, and will remain, very much open for business post-Brexit.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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