For 28 years the Golden Joysticks has been the best industry social event of every Q4.
It’s that one chance – ahead of the manic Christmas period – to kick back and consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol. Oh, and celebrate the biggest games of the last 12 months, of course.
But this year’s ceremony is taking on a slightly different look and feel.
Gone is the Park Lane Hilton and in its place is the Westminster Bridge Park Plaza – a location that allows for more room, more partying and more tables.
Future has also cut categories. There are no individual prizes for best Xbox, Wii or PlayStation games anymore, and the retailer award has also gone. Instead the publisher is focusing on individual genres.
Best of all, for publishers wanting to spend a bit of their Q4 budget, there’s a host of new sponsorship opportunities to get involved with, too.
“We have a new plan to drive the Joysticks forward,” says group publisher for games Simon Maxwell.
“The Joysticks is one of the only opportunities where the entire games industry gets together. Joysticks comes at an opportune moment and is a chance to celebrate with your peers.”
Event organiser Emma Parkinson adds: “The Awards had to evolve to meet the needs of today’s gamers. Our new categories will better reflect the way people are playing games.
“The new venue was because we needed room for growth. The Westminster Bridge Park Plaza is a beautiful hotel with a bespoke ballroom, which enables us to fit in more tables in the space and have a lot more fun with the after-show party as well.”
Indeed, the Joystick’s after-show party is the stuff of legend. The event kicks off at 11:15am so there’s plenty of time for the industry to get a little tipsy.
Parkinson continues: “We took the after-show party up another gear last year with DJ Shadow, courtesy of our partnership with Activision. This year we are working to secure talent. There’s been some huge names thrown about.”
And what about the oft-criticised drink prices?
“We’ve made sure that bar prices are reasonable. That way everyone can celebrate in grand scale,” says Parkinson.
The new venue also lets Future separate itself further from BAFTA, which also housed its event at Park Lane Hilton. But Parkinson says the two events couldn’t be more different.
“BAFTA is a more artistic awards and is based more on technical merit,” she says. “It doesn’t reflect what gamers want to buy. I think both events play a really valuable role in talking to both sides of the audience.”
Once again Future is calling on the industry to partner with them for the Joysticks. And not just commercially, but by drumming up votes for their nominated titles. The Golden Joysticks last year secured an incredible 1.2 million votes, and the organisers want to hit the magic 1.5 million mark this year.
“From a community point of view we need publishers to support their games and get their communities voting for their titles,” continues Parkinson.
In terms of commercial opportunities, Future is looking beyond the games sector. The firm has hired Chris Shepperson – the former head of entertainment of Bauer Media – to help secure sponsorship from alternative brands.
Maxwell adds: “There’s a lot of wider, entertainment lifestyle brands that want access to the gaming audience. Gamers are an incredibly attractive high spending audience.”
Future has also looked beyond the games media for promoting the event. The firm has signed MSN as one of its media partners and enjoys a good relationship with the BBC as well.
Of course the core games market is still important. A six-month long ad campaign will take place in Future’s magazines, and the firm has developed special initiatives for bloggers.
AND THE WINNERS ARE…
Joysticks will once again take place at the end of October on Friday 29th, and voting is already underway.
And with still over three months until the ceremony kicks off, Future is promising plenty more surprises.
“The games industry has evolved and we have been at the forefront changing with it,” says Maxwell. “Table sales are ahead of the curve. This is lookingS to be the best Joysticks yet.”
To book tables contact Pauline Ambrose on 0207 042 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A table of ten costs £2,800 plus VAT and includes a three course lunch and champagne reception.