It's felt a bit like I've had a phone plastered to my ear this past fortnight, I'm surrounded by Excel spreadsheets and colour-coded timetables, I've started dreaming about closed-door interviews, and that can only mean one thing in August: we're gearing up for Gamescom.
The world's largest gaming event - during a week that will see over a quarter of a million members of the public cram themselves into the Koelnmesse convention centre - has risen to become something of a European equivalent to E3. Expect some new reveals, Sony in particular have taken to making Cologne their preferred location for dropping big news, plenty of things to shout about, one or two surprises, and reams of content for the next couple of weeks.
But unlike E3, Gamescom provides an opportunity to put one's upcoming wares in the hands of the most important people: the consumers.
It's for this reason that one might raise an eyebrow at some of this year's absentees. Microsoft won't be at the show, aside from Major Nelson and Acey Bongos on hand at Activision's stand to help deliver the world's first Black Ops II multiplayer opportunity. Now, Microsoft don't have the largest cupboard of exclusive, but with Master Chief returning this year, one might have thought that giving the public a taste would have been a good idea. Halo is an immensely strong brand, but with a new studio at the helm there have been many questions asked of this latest instalment, and a strong Gamescom showing would have done much to answer those.
To be honest, that can be solved with a multiplayer beta later in the year, should Microsoft opt for it. But such a fix is less easy for Nintendo, whose absence is frankly baffling. Having specifically stated that the Wii U must be played to be understood, not turning up to the world's biggest public gaming event seems almost unfathomably backwards. It falls once again to the likes of Ubisoft - who will be bringing Rayman Legends and ZombieU to the party - to show it off. Nintendo wouldn't necessarily have needed to do a press conference, but the lack of a booth on the floor is somewhat worrying.
Although two of the big three are missing, there's so very much to be excited for with this show:
There are four main press conferences to be getting along with. Capcom are kicking things off with a little gathering at 11:00 next Tuesday, followed by EA at 15:00, and then Sony rounding the day off at 18:00. Ubisoft are putting a little something together as well, though that will be taking place during the limited entry day on the Wednesday, after Gamescom properly kicks off.
Capcom will want a good showing, but with the likes of DmC, Lost Planet 3, and Resident Evil 6 in their arsenal, that shouldn't be too hard at all. Three games over the course of an hour, though? We could expect one or two surprises too. It's been a good past year for Capcom, with profits up, and a solid Western hit in the form of Dragon's Dogma, so the talk will be of consolidating that and kicking on to greater things.
We rather expect EA's affair to much like its showing at E3: a double-figures roster of titles, presented in swift, no-nonsense fashion. It'll be solid, dependable, and pretty predictable too. Battlefield 3's DLC will feature heavily (don't expect anything on Battlefield 4), as will FIFA 13, Crysis 3, and Sim City. We've got our fingers crossed for Overstrike, but we've been burned before. Hopefully this presser won't be a carbon copy of the one they did two months ago, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was...albeit with new trailers. Maybe.
Sony's is the one to watch, really. The lack of a showing from their chief competitors means the stage is clear for Sony to deliver whatever they want. Although unassuming in parts, their E3 presser showed off depth in IP and developer talent. The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, and PSASBR will all be in Germany next week, and no doubt there'll be a smattering of more local media news to come out as well. But, in all honesty, we have to hope that Sony make this show all about the Vita. With Sound Shapes having just dropped, and LittleBigPlanet on the way, it's imperative that Sony start getting excited again for their own console. After all, if they can't manage to do that, how on earth are we supposed to?
Ubisoft's presser is shaping up to be all business too, but then they've arguably got one of the best rosters of any publisher this year. Two Assassin's Creed titles, Rocksmith, Far Cry 3, Rayman: Legends, ZombieU, and Ghost Recon Online. Sadly, no word on Watch Dogs, though there will be a demo of Splinter Cell Blacklist on the show floor.
In spite of some umm-ing and ahh-ing earlier in the year, SEGA and THQ will be in attendance, and both have a point to prove. Rome: Total War 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines will be the big hitters for the former, whilst a reborn THQ under Jason Rubin should have a few surprises in store alongside the likes of WWE 13 and Darksiders II.
Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown will make a splash, although once again we'll have to find someone else to give the Bioshock Infinite award for blowing our minds to this year as Irrational are not in attendance. Square Enix are doing another August release - this time it's Sleeping Dogs - and we'll be getting to grips with Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider at the show this year, as well as poking around Final Fantasy 7 PC and the FInal Fantasy XIV reboot.
It's going to be a busy few days, and there'll be so much more to come too, with Wargaming delivering a bunch of fresh news, Bohemia talking ArmA 3 and DayZ, CD Projekt have been quite cagey but we'll be chatting to them, as well as joining up with Trion Worlds for a spot of End of Nations, grabbing a look at Crytek's Warface, and speaking to CCP about Dust 514.
There'll be another preview of Dishonored too, and a look at Doom 3: BFG, and we'll be checking in with Disney and Warner Bros., the latter of which has already announced that it'll be bringing something new to the show this year.
Our Gamescom 2012 hub will go live this weekend, but make sure you're subscribed to our Twitter feed for by-the-minute updates, bookmark the Gamescom 2012 tag stream, and keep checking the site. There's so much more to come, and we absolutely can't wait!