Battle to save trade show

By Stuart Dinsey
Game Zone Live, which debuted at ExCeL in London Docklands as Game Stars Live last August, was due to take place on September 1st and 2nd.

Alongside EGN, which last year beat rival trade show ECTS into submission, it was pitched as a high profile showcase for the UK and Euro industry.

Key protagonist and trade body ELSPA had responded to demands from many larger publisher members for a consumer-driven event delivering the widest possible audience and media coverage.

But support from the biggest format of all, PlayStation, never came. Sony prefers its own events. Microsoft, meanwhile, recently announced Xbox support for a new event called State of Play (MCV 11/3) and Electronic Arts refused to match the £1m spent at ExCeL last year. Key companies like RockStar and Sega had also never been convinced.

“Game Zone Live and EGN were in great shape compared to last year. But the tragic and heart-breaking thing is that the critical mass we needed wasn’t going to be there,” LEC boss Rob McKenzie told MCV.

“We had to be sure we could run an event that is creditable and sustainable in the market.”
The challenge now is to see whether the UK industry can hold onto any kind of trade show at all but, crucially, the ELSPA-controlled EGN has not yet been cancelled.

“Whilst EGN will not take place at ExCeL our options for a show this year are very much being discussed,” said ELSPA director general Roger Bennett.

Clearly disappointed by the lack of support from members, Bennett refused to be drawn any further. But EGN could return in a new venue and LEC has promised to co-operate with any attempt at continuation – even if it has to step aside as organiser.

Whether CMP, organiser of ECTS, will return remains to be seen. VNU Exhibitions, which has successfully built up the Computer Trade Show and Technology Retailer Show at the NEC, may also enter the fray.

EGN attracted 90 companies last year and, whilst smaller than any ECTS, had generally been considered to have built good foundations and brand strength.

“We have enormous regrets,” added McKenzie. “When we launched this we did it in partnership with the industry. The concept of a public and trade event was a sound one and very well received last year.

“But fashion changes in terms of marketing directions and the largescale public gaming extravaganza doesn’t seem to fit the bill any more. We hope that EGN can continue though. And whilst we feel badly about the fate of ECTS as a result of EGN’s arrival last year, that was a pretty sick patient to begin with.”

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