Last week, Gamer Network CEO Rupert Loman declared his disappointment in GAME.
He was referring to the retailer's new GAMEFest event, a consumer expo that will take place four weeks before his own EGX show... and at the same venue (Birmingham NEC).
Upon making some allusions to the fact the retailer has not always been on safe financial footing – referencing the firm's 2012 fall into administration – he concluded by saying that, ultimately, his publisher partners remain committed to EGX.
You can't blame him for feeling frustrated with GAME. EGX is comfortably the UK's No.1 consumer games expo and has endured numerous challenges to reach this status – including the closure of its original home at Earls Court in London.
And GAME is a real competitor. GAMEFest is going to form part of Insomnia, which is a gaming festival run by the now GAME-owned Multiplay, and it also ties-in with the retailer's widely attended Store Manager's Conference.
Yet GAME's marketing and insight director Fred Prego plays down the rivalry with EGX, as well as the firm's aggression in launching GAMEFest so close to it.
Insomnia has always happened in the Bank Holiday weekend in August,” he tells us. It is the right time because gamers want to play for more than just a weekend, and we have always taken that message. The event has always been there.
As a company, GAME has been very supportive of all gaming events – including EGX. I am sure there is room for everyone in there. Insomnia is very special for us, and we are very keen to support it as it continues growing.”
Yet there is a risk here. Publishers will need to make the politically sensitive choice of backing one show or both of them, and even if they all do decide to splash out and attend the pair of them, what about the consumers? GAMEFest and EGX will be both trying to attract attendees from the same Birmingham catchment area.
At the end of the day, the gaming market in the UK is huge,” insists Prego. We are talking millions and millions and millions, but for Insomnia, our goal is to bring in 100,000 visitors... that's the tip of the iceberg really.
All we want to do is celebrate the passion for gaming that we have in this country, and it's an enormous contributor to the UK economy – we know that.
And, as you said already, the other reason for us to do GAMEFest alongside Insomnia is because, just after Insomnia finishes, we have our annual GAME Store Managers Conference. That is a key retail moment for the UK and for publishers. So it is important that we link thetwo together.
He continues: I believe there is space for more events in the UK. Definitely. In fact, in a few weeks time we are having our first Insomnia event in Scotland... so what we are saying is that yes, there is space for more.
GAME as a retailer will consider every single event and we will work with every event organiser. I understand we need to make sure that there is a key message for consumers about why they should go to every event. In our case, we want them to come because we think that it is the first time for people to play games that have been announced at E3 and Gamescom in the UK.”
GAME wants to bring in 100,000 visitors to Insomnia58, which is a huge target when you consider the Easter Insomnia event was attended by 34,441 consumers.
The beauty of us moving to the Birmingham NEC has always been that we wanted to make Insomnia events huge,” continues Prego. We are scaling up very, very quickly to make sure we make it a memorable event. We are confident we will get 100,000 visitors, and there will be plenty for them to do. And not just at GAMEFest, but also we have confirmed two eSports pro tournments, which we will announce very, very soon. We are about to announce that we have world famous YouTubers with over 60m subscribers confirmed for the event. And we are not stopping there, there is more to come, we are really building a huge event and we have planned with the NEC to make sure that we have the space to make it this big.
For this one we really want to demonstrate that Insomnia can be the leading gaming festival event in the UK.”
"The gaming market in the UK is huge. Our goal is to bring in 100,000 visitors... that's the tip of the iceberg."
Fred Prego, GAME
GAME's marketing line for Insomnia58 and GAMEFest is ‘the Glastonbury of video games', although it actually has a bit more in common with Gamescom's consumer element. Gamescom has multiple halls dedicated to the triple-A titles, PC games, indie projects, there's a retro zone, an entire hall dedicated to buying and selling merchandise, plus eSports tournaments, concerts and other ancillary events.
GAME hopes to attract all this over time, and it is already highlighting the show's retail component – the GAME Galleon store will be taking up 300 square meters of floor space in August.
Yet to have any chance of competing with EGX, GAME really needs to sell it. Insomnia is popular and has
been built up through over 20 years of events, but it remains a show targeted at the PC audience (it started as a ‘bring your own computer' event at a race course), with eSports and Minecraft amongst its more popular elements. It has yet to truly break into that more mainstream console space. GAMEFest, it hopes, is its ticket to doing so.
It won't be easy. EGX has long proven itself a master of putting on a good show for the mainstream gaming community – it just did it again in London with EGX Rezzed. GAMEFest may have the store manager's conference, it may be the first big UK show after Gamescom, and it may have the bank holiday weekend, but success is far from guaranteed.
We will definitely be supporting it via the GAME stores, but we are planning to put behind it Insomnia58 our biggest marketing campaign ever,” insists Prego. There will be more to come about that, I can't reveal all yet. But we are ready to invest to make sure that this is definitely the biggest UK gaming event of this year.”
GAMEFEST VS EGX: THE FACTS
Insomnia58 and GAMEFest
When: August 26th – August 29th
Where: Birmingham NEC
Price: 25 (day), 60 (weekend), 99 (Bring Your Own Computer)
Previous Attendance: 34,441 (Easter)
When: September 22nd – September 25th
Where: Birmingham NEC
Price: 12 (Afternoon tickets), 18 - 22 (Day ticket), 65 (Weekend Ticket)
Previous Attendance: 75,000 (2015)