Gamescom stats: 4 days of games. 355,000 visitors from 106 countries. 919 exhibitors in 201,000 square metres. 1 visit from the German Chancellor. 

Sea of Thieves at Gamescom stats: 12 Xbox One S. 12 PCs. 1 custom Mixer lounge. 5 musicians in our pirate band. 10,000 pieces of swag. 22 Sea of Thieves crew members.

Day 0.5

The third Rare Crew are due to fly out of Birmingham on Sunday evening but get caught up in a mess of delayed flights and non-functioning aeroplanes. We relocate to the terminal pub to try and catch the Xbox @Gamescom Mixer stream. However the 3G on our phones isn’t up to the task. After relocating to a second plane we reach our hotels at 1.30am on Monday morning.

Day 1

Set up day. I ditch breakfast in favour of a slightly longer sleep in this morning after the late night. We’re leaving the hotel at 7.30 to get to the convention centre (the Köelnmesse) at 8 to get the booth set up. I get to practise my very limited German whilst hopping in a cab to head over the river. I’m pretty sure I had the same cab driver last year. My linguistic skills however do not enable me to ask him.

Once again we’re located in Hall 8 with Wargaming and Farming Simulator amongst our neighbours. You can’t miss the Xbox booth, it takes up the whole of the back of the hall. The booth is bigger than last year with 60% more games! The Sea of Thieves ship (aka the booth) is in prime real estate, unmissable due to the tall branded sail. The morning is spent sneaking round the rest of the Xbox area to see what’s on show this year and unpacking keyboards and mice for the Engineers. Sadly, my technical expertise doesn’t cover setting up the kit so I head back to the hotel with a few of the others to grab some food before an NVIDIA event.

Our friends at NVIDIA are holding an event in an old warehouse building towards the outskirts of Cologne and have kindly invited us along. The whole place is decked out in PCs with a whole host of games, with all the latest kit. We lose Paul for a while to Destiny 2.

After chatting with a few content creators we head back to the hotel to grab dinner. Tomorrow is the first day of the show (though it’s just for press and invited guests) so we’re all keen to eat and get to bed. I revisit a pizza place we liked last year to eat something other than sandwiches and chips (German convention food isn’t very veggie friendly).

Day 2

Press day at Gamescom! We arrive at the booth at 8am to find that it’s being occupied by sniffer dogs (and one sniffer puppy). They’re all adorable but could probably take our arms off so we admire them from afar. Each game on the Xbox booth has its own security guard. All because we’ll be receiving a very special guest… (more on that later).

We quickly grab a team photo before the physical challenge of Gamescom kicks in and we all begin to look a little haggard. At least throughout the week our shiny gold t-shirts will distract from that!

We fill barrels full of swag: this time we brought fans (very handy in the Gamescom heat) and tattoo sleeves (a Sea of Thieves staple). A very cool Gamescom exclusive is that every player who comes through the booth will leave with a Sea of Thieves USB stick with footage of their session, as well as some art assets to help with creating videos!

Tuesday is mainly for press so the team gets to ease into the chaos of a busy booth with a slightly lighter day. Perhaps the strangest thing I see today? Windows 10 Design Lead Ted Timmins conducting an interview from inside our photo op wall.

Things are put on pause for a short while after lunch as German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes by the Xbox booth to learn about Minecraft: Education Edition. Whilst we’re cordoned off, I get to spend some time with the pirate band who entertain us. They play 99 Luftballons (the only German song we can think of in a hurry) for Ms Merkel who’s somewhere in the distance, they play Radiohead for Adam and Taylor Swift for me.

We’re also kicking off streaming today! Mixer have kindly built us a specially designed streaming lounge within their booth. We have four PCs set up and we kick off our schedule with some of our Insiders! Being at shows gives us a great opportunity to meet Sea of Thieves Insiders in person and we wanted them to be a big part of our streams for the week. We round out the day with TwoAngryGamers, Tommy T999 and a developer stream.

Suddenly Day 1 is over! I stop by the booth to steal some swag for the week’s #WinWednesday giveaway before heading back to the hotel. (Post show note: I’m still finding eye patches at the bottom of my bag!). The dinner plans for the group seem to be in flux so I use it as an excuse to grab some room service and an early night before the first public day of the show hits us.

Day 3

Gamescom is open to the public! Having worked the show last year I know the Hall will quickly be packed full of excited games fans so we get to the booth early to prepare. Yesterday gave us some time to practise our queue system for the booth. These things always need a system, if not a complex spreadsheet.

And so Gamescom gets going! The Xbox stage is blasting music, people are pouring in and very quickly we have to extend our queue. Then again. And once more. We’ve gone as far as we can go without angering the fire wardens and yet, we’re full! People know they’ll have to queue for three or more hours to play but queue anyway. That’s a great motivator for our team, knowing people are so excited to get their hands on the game we’re building!

My day is split once again between the booth and our Mixer lounge. We kick off the day’s streams with Aaron Greenberg, two Xbox fans and Lauran from Xbox UK. We even have a guest appearance from superstar DJ Steve Aoki as he pops in to say hi to Aaron!

The rest of the streams let us see old friends like Xbox On and Yogscast’s Vadact, as well as meet Insiders and content creators Azzyland and Kwebbelkop for the first time. The 50 minute streams fly by. Whenever Jon McFarlane is playing, I text him questions from the Mixer chat so our team can answer them. This is slyly done whilst sitting on the floor and trying to stay out of shot. Unfortunately, people walking by the lounge can see in and I find several photos of me holding down the fort from the floor on Twitter!

The show floor is open for 11 hours today so I’m glad I packed comfy shoes. Today there’s time to pop back to the hotel and grab a bite to eat before a contingent of us head to the Xbox FanFest! Myself, Joe, Ted and Craig head over to the Gürzenich, a 15th century building (very cool) to hang out with 300 Xbox fans. The building’s been filled with Xbox Ones with a whole host of games, there’s a Rock Band area nestled amongst some of the mammoth bone props from Monday’s Age of Empires party and – of course – tasting glasses of German beer. I run into Cortana and several Spartans in the basement… only at an Xbox event! Several of Rare’s biggest Gamescom fans are there so we get a chance to chat in the (slightly) quieter environment. Whilst I’d love to stay all night, my voice has almost completely disappeared, and I bow out early to try and regain some energy for the next day.

Day 4

Today is only Thursday but it’s also the day I fly home. The helpers that the local Xbox team provide are amazing and we know they can handle the booth with a slightly reduced team. We have an evening flight so, after checking out, it’s back to the Köelnmesse for the last time!

I reached out to some of the Life is Strange: Before the Storm Community Managers on Twitter and they’ve very kindly allowed me onto their booth before the show starts to try out their demo. As Chloe would say, “it’s hella good!”. It’s eerie to walk back through a mostly empty convention centre, it is indeed the calm before the storm (yes, I know I’m not funny).

Within 20-30 minutes of the doors being open our queue is full. Lots of people have brought folding chairs and entertainment so they’re really committing to waiting it out! Thankfully on one side of the booth we have screens set up showing live feeds of the players currently in session so our waiting fans can see what’s in store!

I pop away from the booth for a little while to attend YouTube Gaming’s Women in Games brunch. It’s a great opportunity to meet other women in the industry as well as to bump into familiar faces who I’ve worked with at Xbox in the past who are now elsewhere. Best part? The ball pit!

Before I head back to the hotel to grab my bag I check in with our crew who are manning our Mixer lounge. Jon and Adam will be handling the streams from now on so we make sure they have everything they need before we head off. I also get the chance to say goodbye to my Xbox friends Josh Stein and Lauran Carter, always so good to see them and catch up!

And, before I know it, I’m heading back to the airport to come home! Whilst the rest of the team still have two more days of the show to go, it’ll fly by just as fast as the last few have! Those of us heading off grab some food and raise a toast at the airport to a massively successful show.

Thanks to every single person who came by to play the game, chat to the team and stream with us. You made the show for us! I know we’re all heading back to the studio massively motivated to make Sea of Thieves the best it can be.

Dankeschön Köln. Tschüss!