Now to be fair to me (!) I wasn't doing it to downplay what UK Games Expo had achieved, it was mostly coming from a "If they had this then it would be better." type of perspective.
So what are those evolutionary steps that UK Games Expo could take?
Honestly some of them they have taken already -
- Bigger venue - With the move of the trade halls and some of the tournaments out of the Hilton and into the NEC from next year the con will have more space to grow into.
- Better range of food - Now this was my first time at UK Games Expo but from what I heard the inclusion of the food trucks (and beer bus!) made a big difference to the choices and prices available.
- Hilton better prepared - Again I've not been before but most of the complaints (if you can call them that) of previous years were down to the Hilton underestimating the demand and as such not having enough facilities available. They fixed that by putting on lots of mini-bars throughout the hotel to distribute the traffic. Even if they couldn't get their pricing consistent between them this made a difference. They could've done with more staff / locations for coffee though...
So what other steps can they take? Keep in mind that these are "in my opinion" suggestions only and are all likely things that the organisers already have on their to-do lists.
More event diversity at registration
Now I'm not talking about RPGs or tournaments here. The key difference between what Gen Con's event catalogue had to what UK Games Expo had was the array of events available.
Where were the "Introductory" events?
UKGE had lots of tournaments for board games, card games, miniature games and war games alongside a great selection of RPGs. Where were the "Learn to play Battletech / Warhammer / Carcassonne / Magic: The Gathering etc" events? I know they had a Yu-Gi-Oh zone and Asmodee/Esdevium and other manufacturers had demo space but it wasn't enough (due to space mostly) and also it couldn't be planned in (well I dunno about the Yu-Gi-Oh as I didn't go near that).
I'd like to see more events (not necessarily publisher/retailer driven) that could be booked for a nominal fee that enabled guaranteed "play" time. Some of this stems from my frustrations at there being no game space but it also meant that as I wasn't RPGing or indeed Clixing or Wargaming I largely had no plan of what to do when there. This was absolutely fine as I did enjoy that but I would have liked to see (and sign up for) more things.
More publishers / manufacturers
This is bit of a challenge I suspect given the relatively small contingent of UK based publishers that we have compared to Gen Con. It isn't however about scale it's about market recognition.
UKGE had 7,000 unique people at it this year, that's one eighth the size of Gen Con last year. As such it deserves to be better recognised as a global event for the hobby and should be reaching out to manufacturers across the world to attend.
With those comes a greater size of demo space required. If nothing else I'd like to see more space for publishers to demonstrate their games.
That's it really.
If the con is able to grow organically as it seems to have done over the past few years and provide greater access to the hobby as part of that growth through more options of things to do then I can see it becoming ever more important to the hobby.
I've written several other posts about Conventions and what they should do.
If you want to read them here they are in a list. Feedback appreciated!
Conventions: What do you want? Written from an organiser's perspective.
Conventioneering. What people want from a convention in general terms.
Conpulsion 2014 - The negatives. Where it went wrong and what is needed to move forward.
The Scottish Tabletop Games Convention Scene. Current status and why that is.
Building a Tabletop Games Convention. What's involved in creating a convention.