As regular readers can tell, we’re already very excited to be heading over to London to cover Eurogamer Expo this year and so are a lot of our community by the looks of things! We thought it time then to get in touch with Tom Champion – one of the team behind organising the show – to talk to him about what gamers can expect from this year’s expo, why they aren’t trying to be the new E3 and what it takes to put together an event of this magnitude…
Xero: Can you explain to our readership who are you and what you do?
Tom Champion: Hi there! My name is Tom Champion and I’m the Community & Gaming Manager for the Eurogamer Expo. It’s a vague job title, but I’ll try and explain a bit further. Basically I look after the social media aspect of the expo. I man our Twitter and Facebook accounts, talk about the expo on the Eurogamer forum and other forums all over the internet and reply to the many enquiries we get. Additionally I help put together the floorplan, make sure we have the correct number and type of consoles and make sure nothing is on fire during the expo. If you want to locate me during the show, I’ll be the guy looking very tired and somewhat stressed. :) It’s all good fun.
X: Next, a question we ask everyone we speak to here at Midlife Gamer: What is your favourite biscuit and beverage?
TC: Favourite biscuit is easy. Chocolate caramel digestives – I can rip through a packet of these in an hour or two. Ask my waistline. Alcoholic or non? Rum if it’s the first, real lemonade if it’s the latter.
X: For those that haven’t been to it, what is Eurogamer Expo and what can gamers expect when they walk through the door?
TC: If you haven’t been before, where were you?! Expect games, a lot of them. The vast majority will be titles that haven’t yet been released so it’s a great opportunity to try out new stuff that very few people will have played before.
As well as the games we have the Developer Sessions where a number of high profile developers will be giving presentations about their games. We also have the GamesIndustry.biz Career Fair which will feature exhibitors from developers, publishers, universities and recruiters. It’s a great place to get some tips on joining the industry.
As well as all this we have the Indie Games Arcade. This is great for checking out some indie games on PCs. Last year we had some great stuff including Joe Danger. We’re also working on some additional bits and pieces including a tournament / challenge area where you’ll be able to win prizes for gaming feats. In short, there’s a lot to do.
X: What is the expo’s overall aim? Are you shooting to be an E3 for Europe, or are you focussing efforts on being a Gamescom for the UK?
TC: I don’t think we’re necessarily trying to be like either of those events. Both E3 and Gamescom are trade shows. They’re mostly aimed at the gaming press and industry as a whole rather than gamers. Our aim with the Eurogamer Expo is quite simple. Put the best games in front of gamers. With trade shows you tend to get a lot of very flashy set ups with publishers and platform holders trying to outdo each other with the size of their stands.
Our show is very different. We want to fill the space with more consoles rather than elaborate stages etc. That way more people get to try out more games while cutting down on the queue times. I’d say the closest event to what we’re trying to achieve is PAX in the US.
X: Being held at the beginning of Q4, many of the games for the lucrative holiday period shown here will already be available to the public or are just months away from release. Is this a help or a hindrance when attracting gamers and games press?
TC: The key thing for us is being able to secure the biggest games in a playable form. That means trying to strike a balance. If the show is put on too early in the year then the publishers won’t have any playable code to give us, too late and the games are already out and that limits interest.
I think our balance is spot on this year. We’ve moved the expo from the end of October to the beginning and that means more unreleased games for attendees to play. An example of this; we recently announced Sony’s lineup for the show and in fact it’s very likely that none of those core titles will be out by the time we kick off on the 1st October. 3 of them aren’t released until 2011. Sony are also bringing along some 3D games which the vast majority of people won’t have experienced 1st hand.
What we don’t want is to end up in a situation where we’re showing video of games rather than playable code. Videos are no good to us, you can get those on the internet, we want people playing the games.
X: You’re partnered with HMV for sponsorship, what do they bring to the show in real terms and why did you choose to go with them as opposed to dedicated games retailers, such as the Game group?
TC: On the day they’ll have a mini shop set up within the hall where you’ll be able to purchase games. I believe they’re also working on having special offers which will only be available to people attending the expo. In general I think HMV have demonstrated great commitment to games in the last few years. They’re now offering second hand titles to consumers and with things like Gamerbase I think they’re really keen to exceed the services that many specialists offer. They share our passion for games and I think that was key when we were looking for a partner.
X: The show always seems to attract some very big names in the industry, do you feel games companies take events like this as seriously as they should? In addition, are these sessions popular with the general public or are they more focussed on the journalists attending?
TC: I think publishers love the show, to be honest. It costs them a fraction of what it costs them to do a huge event like E3 and in return their games get played by thousands of genuine gamers rather than just press and industry folk. It’s brilliant for them to gather that feedback as well.
In terms of the Developer Sessions, as with the games these are aimed at everyone rather than just press. Anyone is free to join the queue and watch the presentation. It’s really the same ethos as the games – they’re there for everybody to enjoy. I think that’s important when attracting big names for the presentations. Developers enjoy being able to address gamers directly for a change, rather than press and their peers.
X: For you personally, what’s the most challenging part of organising EGX?
TC: All of it! But mostly the work we do actually on the day and in the couple of days leading up to the show.
Last year was really tough as we had two locations, Leeds and London, and had to travel up to Leeds, do the show and then go down to London and set up etc all with a 1 day gap. It was manic and I think I probably had about 10 hours sleep all week. My feet were a total mess!
I should also point out that it isn’t just me working on the show. Our Business Development Manager, David Lilley and our MD, Rupert Loman do a great job of securing the best games for our event. And once the event is underway most of the Eurogamer team (sales, tech and editorial) get involved on the show floor making sure that everything is running smoothly.
X: Europe – and especially Great Britain – is one of the biggest consumers of video games hardware and media in the world, yet Eurogamer Expo is one of just a handful of dedicated games shows. Why do you feel this is?
TC: Good question! Well, it’s a pretty tough gig putting on an event like this. The advantage we have at Eurogamer is that although this is just the 3rd year of the expo, we’ve been around as a website for over 10 years. During that time we’ve built up great relationships with all the publishers and platform holders and gained the respect of millions of readers. This puts us in a great position to be able to secure games for the show and actually have people want to attend it. I don’t think there are many other companies in the UK that can boast that kind of credibility amongst both the industry and gamers.
X: We’ve seen that Sony will be in attendance and bringing many of their marquee titles with them. Are there any hints as to who else we can expect to see exhibiting at the show? Any teases on the speakers who will be hosting their own sessions?
TC: Yep, it was great to be able to announce Sony’s lineup. They’ve always been great supporters of the expo and the games they’re bringing this year are truly remarkable. Gran Turismo 5 for gods’ sake!
Sorry, can’t give out any hints at the moment! The good thing is that you won’t have to wait too much longer to find out. We’re planning on making further announcements very soon. Rest assured we’re working hard to get the best games at the expo. Check out what’s due for release between October and the first half of 2011 and you’ll get a good idea about what we’re aiming for!
For more information on Eurogamer Expo, and to book tickets, visit expo.eurogamer.net