Monday, 6 June 2016

UK Games Expo 2016 - Summary Thoughts

Summary

I had fun, met some great people, played some great games, bought some games, drank beer (some good, some not) and all in all had a great time.

Highlights

  • Travel there and back went smoothly. No real delays and we made good time despite some crazy drivers on the road at times!
  • RPGLifeUK TweetUp - Will cover that in a separate post, both the tweetup(s) themselves and the outcomes I am considering, but all in all it was fantastic to be able to meet up with folks.
  • Seminar on Games in Education - Also a separate post but at a high level the seminar was a) overly focussed on those who want to work in the industry (negative) and b) great at providing an insight into the Game Jam process (positive).
  • Using the NEC really gave the con a feeling of scale and of course fantastic presence with general public.  What it also enabled was a fantastic amount of game space in the Hilton which removed the need for what must have been an expensive marquee from last year.  There are niggles with the split site (see below) but overall the UK Games Expo team delivered.
  • Trade presence. Good balance between small press <=> publisher <=> retailer and but still some notable absentees. Someone needs to kick people like Wizards Of The Coast to make sure they know how big a deal this convention is becoming. 12,500 unique attendees (current estimates) is a huge deal.  Last year the Origins convention in Columbus Ohio reached 15,938 unique attendees with a turnstile attendance of 43,791 over 5 days (versus an estimated 25,000 over 3 days at UKGExpo).  This isn't to be sniffed at as Origins is a flagship event for the hobby.
  • Food trucks were fantastic serving some fantastic food at great prices.  I can't compliment them enough.
  • General ambiance of “comfortable happy” with added sprinkles of fun. It was a more relaxed experience compared to last year where the whole con felt rushed and compressed.  There was room to breathe this year.

Lowlights

  • Split site…  Ok so I always knew that this was going to be a grumble topic. 2 perspectives of the split site arrangement between the NEC and the Hilton.
    • The NEC set up - Hall 1 is pretty big. What that meant was that on the Friday the hall felt bigger than the con needed, on the Saturday that was less the case though as the masses turned up. Is that emptiness a bad thing?  Well no but it sends a signal (to me at least) that the event wasn’t necessarily getting the industry support that it requires.
      Now to be fair(er) the leap in space from single site is significant but at the same time there were areas of non-use in the hall and areas of “poor” use in the hall.  By non-use I mean there were cordoned off areas that were actually empty.  Devoid of content.  Not small areas either. Unsure if this was a necessary evil or something else was at play...
      Poor use elements would include the seminars being in a cordoned off area that struggled to cope with the background noise of the wider hall - or at least they did in the case of the 1 seminar I attended.  Not exactly a representative sample I know.  I would have thought that seminars would have been better served in the Hilton OR if they'd used / created an actual room in the NEC for them...
    • The dual site nature - It’s a short walk which is absolutely fine. I’d almost go so far as to say it was a good thing to encourage attendees to take in some fresh air and move (other than round the trade hall) as the temptation is to sit and play games all day.  The kicker is though that by having the con split it breaks the ambiance and atmosphere a little. It also breaks the attendees into 2 distinct groups.  Those who are there “just to shop” and those who are there to game throughout the con.  If I’d been playing in RPGs all weekend or even the Heroclix events I wouldn’t have done as much browsing in the trade hall never mind any actual shopping.  Plus given that 99% of all the ticketed events were at the Hilton I don't really understand why the ticketing was at the NEC...

      Obviously this is all a learning curve for the organisers as the inclusion of the NEC has added some extra funkiness.
  • Bring Buy - I think this has become too big to be something that can be adequately managed. It's almost become one of those "big cons don't do it" things.  To give it the space that it would need to make it work better & smoother and avoid it being disruptive to surrounding traders I think the con would reach or breach that point where it made sense financially.  Yeah it raises a fantastic amount of money for charity, truly a fantastic amount but there must be a tipping point where the square feet it would need would cost more than the money involved.
    Or an alternative is found... 

So there are more bullets under Highlights than Lowlights and in reality the Lowlights are more about the challenges that scale brings to any event.

There are other things I still want the con to do that it isn't and other things that I'd change / seek to improve on but those aren't Lowlights per se...  I may re-visit my evolutionary steps post from last year to look at what I’d change for future years but in reality there's very little wrong with UK Games Expo and that is something to celebrate.