German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced today that the country's ban on large public gatherings will be extended through August 31st, which seems to mean that Gamescom 2020 can no longer take place (at least physically) as planned in Cologne the last week of August.
This would be a significant blow for the event itself and the European game industry at large, as Gamescom has become (at least in terms of sheer attendees) one of the largest game industry events of the year.
However, Gamescom organizers have been operating under the threat of an unfolding coronavirus pandemic for some time, and made it clear in press releases earlier this year that Gamescom 2020 has expanded digital components and will "definitely take place online" regardless of whether the physical event is allowed.
Organizers also promised to refund attendee tickets and exhibitor payments if the event was prohibited by official order, which now seems to have happened.
As of this writing no official announcement has been made about the future of Gamescom 2020's physical event, though Gamescom organizers did take to Twitter today to acknowledge that while today's extension of Germany's ban on large events through August does affect planning, "gamescom 2020 will definitely take place digitally" and they expect to announce more details shortly.
Update: A statement shared today by the Gamecom team reaffirms that Gamescom 2020 is now on track to be a digital event during the end of August, and notes that planning on that front is moving ahead at full speed.
“Just like many of you, we are disappointed, because, as the gamescom team, we have been working on a wonderful gamescom 2020 for months, just like the many exhibitors," reads a portion of that full statement. "However, it is also quite clear to us that, in the face of the corona pandemic, we must stand united. This means that we must all be considerate of each other and reduce the risk of infection.”
More details on the form that digital event will take are due out in the next few weeks, though organizers note that all paid tickets for the now-canceled on-location event will be automatically refunded shortly.