The U.K. Video Games Industry Draws Thousands to London

U.K. game consumers get first-plays on new season line-ups

Oct. 7, 2010 — -- The U.K. video game industry set out to showcase itself as a prominent world competitor as it celebrated the trade with its fourth annual London Games Festival.

The month-long festival began last week and will feature more than 20 events, including the MCM Expo that runs Oct. 29-31. The huge convention, considered by some the U.K.'s version of Comic Con, expects about 45,000 people to attend.

"We are the future of entertainment," Andy Payne, Chairman of the Association for UK Intetractive Entertainment -- the U.K.'s gaming trade body, declared during his opening festival address. Payne touted the industry's positive effect on the U.K. economy. The U.K.'s game sector is expected to grow 7.5 percent between 2009 and 2012.

The U.K. gaming industry ranks first in Europe and third in the world, behind Japan and the No. 1-ranked U.S., and the the U.K. game sector is expected to grow 7.5 percent between 2009 and 2012, according to UKIE.

The festival kicked off Oct. 1 with a 20,000-strong, sold-out crowd for the Eurogamer Expo where the industry rolled out its Christmas season line-up. U.K. consumers got first-plays on Sony's racing sensation "Gran Turismo 5" and Electronic Arts' controversial new "Medal of Honor" Afghanistan war game, which lets players shoot U.S. troops. Also on display was Microsoft's new motion detecting system Kinect, a control-free competitor to Wii that will be released in November.

Noticeably absent from the expo was Nintendo's 3DS handheld game machine. Last week, the company announced it would delay the release, crushing hopes of big Christmas sales. 3DS will go on sale in Japan in February and arrive in the U.S. and U.K. in March. The highly anticipated system will feature groundbreaking 3D technology that works without the use of glasses.

Hopes of seeing the 3DS lured Ben Iwuchukwu, 28, to the festival, and he was among many fans disappointed when it became clear 3DS wasn't showing. But Iwuchukwu said he wasn't surprised.

"Nintendo likes to hold things back," he said, saying the company is leery of competitors stealing technology and has an outdated publicity plan that tries to build hype by keeping things secret. "They're very overprotective."

One example was Nintendo's dramatic display of the new "Zelda" game. It was the only game on the floor protected from crowds and cameras by curtains. The black drapes rose 10 feet high and shielded a private playing area.

Nintendo's U.K. Head of Communications Robert Sanders said an internal decision was made a few weeks ago not to show 3DS.

"We want to excite people about what they can play right now rather than a product that is five months away," Sanders said in an e-mail. 3DS has only been shown in June at E3, a major gaming trade show in the U.S., and at private press events.

Nintendo Fans to Play 'Wii Party' at Amusement Park

Despite the initial letdown, Nintendo plans to reward fans in a big way on Saturday, when it takes over a Southwest London theme park for an invite-only event for several thousand loyal Wii fans. The lucky gamers will get the chance to play the new "Wii Party" and other Nintendo releases, and will also have full access to the park's roller coasters and zoo animal exhibits.

David Dacombe, who attended the opening weekend of the festival to meet three friends that he met over Xbox LIVE, said gaming brings people together, and can be a way to overcome obstacles in the real world.

"You come away feeling better about yourself," said Dacombe, 39. "It's an escape from reality."

The festival culminates Nov. 4 with the London Games Conference, an industry event on the future of gaming.