2009 In Review: The Shows That Were

I always like to think of the video game industry as being more like the car business than any other creative medium. There's art, yes, and business, but also functionality to consider. Oh, and shows. Big, loud shows.

Just like the automotive industry revels in glitzy trade shows and product reveals, so too do gaming companies. And 2009 saw some major changes in the way the video game industry showed itself off to the world/its customers, with movements in Germany, depression in Tokyo and the return of a dear, expensive friend in Los Angeles.

And that's before we even get to the other shows, like the Game Developer's Conference (which got back to being a conference for game developers), PAX (proving people power wins out over marketing power) and BlizzCon (which shows Blizzard are masters of preaching to the converted).

These shows serve many important functions. Those open to the public, like TGS and GamesCom, let hundreds of thousands of people get their hands on games sometimes not due out for months. Those like PAX and BlizzCon are invaluable for hardcore fans, allowing large groups of gamers to converge and share a passion for a pastime that in many cases still exists on the periphery on popular culture.

And E3, well... it was just nice to have the old girl back.

Electronic Entertainment Expo [June] Having reduced both its size and scope in recent years, 2009's E3 saw a return to the bombastic days of old, with big stands, big screens and big money everywhere you looked. And while it may have lacked the sheer raw thrills of previous shows - with actual announcements thin on the ground - it was still hands-down the media highlight of 2009.

Here's hoping next year some companies other than Microsoft decide to show something both new and exciting.

Want to relive the memories? You can check out our complete E3 2009 coverage here.

GamesCom [August] Having "stolen" the honour of being Germany's biggest games show late in 2008, GamesCom made good on its promise of improving on the experience Leipzig had boasted in previous years, attracting over 200,000 members of the public and helping establish the show as a major event on the global circuit.

With the European market increasing in both size and importance, and just about every major publisher (Nintendo aside) committed to attending, GamesCom should be even bigger in 2010.

History fans can read up on our complete GamesCom 09 coverage right here.

Tokyo Game Show [September] Poor TGS. Once a vibrant and exciting event, showcasing the latest and greatest coming out of Japan, the Tokyo Game Show has declined in both pizzazz and importance in recent years. 2009's show was particularly disappointing, with announcements few and far between, though with the Japanese development scene largely in a similar decline, the show itself can't be blamed for that.

Of course, it doesn't help that the country's largest and most successful developer, publisher and hardware manufacturer (Nintendo) continually refuses to exhibit there.

Here's where you can find our complete coverage of TGS 2009.

BlizzCon [August] Strange show, BlizzCon. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger. But every year, it's appeal remains limited solely to those who slavishly follow all things Blizzard. Which, granted, is a lot of people, but then, for many more, the week goes by without incident.

Like I said, strange show. There's nothing else so laser-focused out there. This year's was marked by things like an appearance by Ozzy Osbourne, the reveal of a new WoW expansion, and lots of cosplay. Lots.

Blizzard fans can read up on everything that went down during BlizzCon 09 right here.

Penny Arcade Expo [September] The future of game shows. The Penny Arcade Expo, held every year in Seattle, attracts tens of thousands of gamers purely so they can just... hang out. Immerse themselves in a weekend of gaming culture, from demos to panels to concerts to art exhibitions. Attendees aren't there to be sold something, they're there to have fun. A rare thing in this industry.

Over 60,000 people attended PAX in 2009, and with the organisers holding two events in 2010 - one in Seattle, one in Boston - it looks set to become the biggest game show in the US after E3.

We, of course, were there, and you can catch up on our complete coverage of PAX 09 right here.

Game Developers Conference [March] There was a while there - 2007 especially - where the Game Developers Conference was in trouble. It had become less about developers hanging out and sharing ideas and more about the big sell, as publishers took over the show and made it a mini-E3.

Thankfully, perhaps thanks to the emergence of other shows to take the weight off (GamesCom, PAX), GDC could return to a semblance of normality, a place where the interesting news came from interesting people having a chat, not a publisher taking to a stage to announce a consumer product (though there was still no shortage of announcements).

Forgot how it all went down? Our GDC 09 coverage can be found right here.

Comic-Con [July] Comic Con. It's for comics, right? Nope. It's grown over the past few years into a nerd extravaganza, covering everything from movies to toys to... video games. And in 2009, there were plenty of games on show, Kotaku's lone correspondent run off his feet while trying to get his hands on them all.

As games get bigger and louder, and the money to be made from them grows more lucrative, they should form an increasingly important part of Comic-Con. Which, considering the amount of non-comic stuff on show, might be due for a name change in the near future.

Here's everything Mike saw, and did, at Comic Con 2009.

That's what we thought. But what about you guys? What did you think of the shows of 2009?


    I remember having only 2 hours sleep because I stayed up the whole night streaming Sony's E3 conference. At least I could tell my friends that FF14 was coming, to which they didn't care.

    I thought PAX and Comic-Con were the standouts of the year, but I didn't hear much about the others.

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