More, more, more…

From one fading star, to two revamps and one new kid on the block, the UK (and Europe) is gaining more video game shows and exhibitions than you can shake a stick at.

In its 14 year history, ECTS has become the highlight of Europe's gaming calendar, drawing industry bods from around the world. However, last year's shambolic effort caused more than a few grumbles of complaint. The gaming grapevine is working well and there's talk of a pretender to the crown"

Early April sees a meeting of minds in Brussels to discuss the creation of a brand spanking new trade show to rival ECTS. Not that there was much to rival last year. None of the big publishers turned up and when it came to console manufacturers, they all had bigger fish to fry.

At the head of the revolution is pan-Euro games trade body ISFE (Interactive Software Federation Europe). ISFE is the umbrella trade body for local associations, including the UK's own ELSPA, who ironically has traditionally endorsed ECTS. ISFE has an impressive membership that reads like a who's who and includes Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Konami and Take 2, to name but a scant few. So whatever gets decided as they pass the Belgian chocolates round the table, it's going to have some serious clout.

I think it'll be a shame if London loses its trade show, just down to being lame. On the other hand, every gaming bod in the UK is crying, "Yeah, Europe and make it somewhere hot, with lots of beer!" As I see it, one sweaty conference centre is much like another, regardless of setting, but I do love the teeny weenie bottles of vodka you get on planes.

Meanwhile, at a secret location in London, at ECTS HQ"

ECTS organiser type guy: Right, I sent you out to do some research. What's the situation?

ECTS minion: Basically, ECTS sucks big style, sir.

ECTS organiser type guy: Okay, so we change venue. Let's go modern, expensive floor space, natural light, they'll love it.

ECTS minion: We did that last year, sir. They hated it. Word on the street is that we're scaling the heights of sucking.

ECTS organiser type guy: This calls for some serious action if we're going to pull this one out of the bag. Quick, to the Bat Cave!

ECTS minion: Sir?

So, what exactly did CMP, organisers of ECTS, pull out of the bag? It's now open to consumers. Ooooh! That's a bit of a joke, considering the number of 16 year olds seen every year, who are apparently CEO's of lesser known developers and retail outlets.

But, wait, that's not all. There will be more food outlets. What, more than the one bagel bar? Then there's all the marketing tosh about developers' ‘village' and media ‘suites'. Er"whatever.

To allay any fears I must add that the consumers will have their own areas, thus keeping spotty teenagers to a minimum, apart from the industry ones, of course.

Consumers could be just what this show needs, but only if it brings the big guys back. I'm sorry to be a party pooper, but I'm not convinced. Of course, the consumers could skip ECTS altogether and just head for the dedicated consumer show down the road.

Yes, folks we've gone from none to two consumer shows in the blink of an eye. ECTS must be gutted. Future Publishing, of Edge magazine fame and other leading game titles, has hooked up with Haymarket Exhibitions to launch a major consumer event. The Games Matrix will take place in London between 3rd and 6th October. When I spoke to Haymarket Exhibitions, both Big Ben Sega and Ubi Soft were confirmed and they had interest from Sony, Nintendo and Blitz, which is more than ECTS has got I bet. Basically it's an opportunity for gamers to get their clammy paws on the latest products, which is what it's all about after all.

It's all getting fraught on the frontline, as the battle of the shows commences. And it all makes for interesting viewing if nothing else, but I'm just hoping that I'll have a host of good events to attend. At the moment ECTS just isn't doing the job. To be fair, being the show after TGS and E3 is an unenviable task. I mean what can there be left to say by the time ECTS rolls around? What's worth saying will be hollered through the frenetic halls of E3 and sung by a man in a Pikachu outfit at TGS.

I guess it's all just a question of "watch this huge European-shaped space." One thing's certain, if ECTS doesn't do a good job this year, it'll be time to take the old dame to the glue factory.

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