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Games Convention - The new E3?

Article: Gaming spotlight moves to Europe

At Game Convention's humble beginning in 2002, the only thing worth getting excited about (or not) was the chance to play a few third-party GameCube games, vague German RTS titles and the occasional N-Gage offering. Five years later and the Leipzig-based bash has become one of the biggest events in the gaming calendar, shockingly now three times bigger than E3 ever was. From tiny acorns do great oaks grow, as they say.

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Traditionally held in the last week of August, the conference takes place in the sprawling space-age exhibit halls of the Leipziger Messe. The East German town - still recovering from years behind the Iron Curtain - is best described as Racoon City with a convention centre; the signs of life (empty trams, gently swaying shop sings) are there, but there's never usually anyone about... until now.

This year Games Convention rivals Tokyo Games Show as the world's biggest game event. More high profile games, developers and publishers than ever before are set to appear at the Leipziger Messe on August 22 - a completely different picture to the early days when Pippa Funnel's 3D racing was the star attraction. With Los Angeles no longer the centrepiece of the gaming calendar, is this European event about to become the new E3?

All your sausages...
Here's the science bit; In 2002 166 exhibitors and 80,00 visitors turned up to Games Convention, numbers that were dwarfed last year when the punter count - over 180,000 - exceeded even the organisation's own expectations. Games Convention is growing - fast.

Most of the visitor numbers can be accredited to the fact that - unlike E3 - Games Convention is open to the smelly old general public as well. Thanks to attention from the German (and further out) public, exhibitor space has tripled and many high profile publishers have decided to use Games Convention to host their announcements, outside of the US and Japan.

Last year Sony and Nintendo chose GC as the platform to showcase their next-gen consoles in Europe for the very first time, the later of the two announcing a pair of new Wii games (Mario Strikes Charged and a Battalion Wars sequel) - something that never happened before outside of E3 or the Far East.

Equal enthusiasm was shown by the other big players. Electronic Arts, Microsoft Game Studios, 2K Games, Activision and more had a full-on E3-calibre presence at Leipzig, and spared no punches in wooing the public masses as well.

What? Why? When?
How did it happen so quickly then? You could put Game Convention's sudden rise down to two things. First of all, as we know from the end year downscaling announcement, the expense and inefficiency of E3 as a platform was never more apparent than last year.

E3 had got to the point where publisher's had to spend millions on booths, demos and indeed, babes just to get noticed in the immense noise of the show. Games Convention was an obvious alternative to the hustle and bustle of LA, and a way to bring the best of E3 to the European press at the same time.

The time of the year is also a factor; as we'll no-doubt see again this year, August is the perfect time of year for games companies to open up on their plans going into the new year, where as this year's E3 focused almost exclusively on the Christmas and 2007 line-up. Late Auguest is a little too late to solely concentrate on games launching before Christmas.

Gifts from Eastern Europe
2007 is a different story. The E3 Media and Business Summit, although later in the year, was a much smaller event and probably promised a lot more than it actually delivered. Tokyo Game Show as well seems to have lost a lot of the sparkle it once had in the gaming calendar - especially as the industry focus moves ever further to the West.

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