VG247 caught up with Eurogamer MD Rupert Loman ahead of the first Eurogamer Expo at the Old Truman Brewery on October 28 and 29, and asked him about the inspiration for the event itself, a bit of Eurogamer history and his views on the UK gaming industry as it stands today.
After the break.
By Mike Bowden
Videogaming247: In your opinion, has the industry changed much since EG started? If so, what do you think is the most striking difference?
Rupert Loman: It's changed a lot. It's obviously a much bigger business now and no longer widely regarded as just a geeky pastime. But the most noticeable things from a Eurogamer point of view is that when we started it was almost entirely PC-focused. We actually had separate websites called ConsoleGamer and PocketGamer before we merged them all together! And also the shift from magazines to websites as the primary source of game information has been pretty dramatic.
When you started out, was the plan, "World domination!" or did opportunities just come to you?
It's always been a case of making it up as we go along and just trying to do cool stuff. By having a reputation for producing quality, independent websites and being enthusiastic about games we've had a lot of opportunities present themselves. And in the case of the Expo, we've gone out there and put a lot of effort in to create the opportunity for ourselves.
Eurogamer has just won best games site at the second annual GMA awards. How much does that award mean to you?
It's obviously nice to win and to have the support of the industry. But at the same time I'm confident that our staff are among the best in the business and I know our site can hold its own. So it's a nice bonus but we weren't fretting about not winning beforehand!
You're now hosting the first Eurogamer Expo. Is hosting your own games show the realisation of an ambition?
I do remember attending my first ECTS with my brother Nick on the day we launched Eurogamer in 1999. We saw a big Gamespot banner in one of the halls and I said, "One day it would be really cool to have a big Eurogamer banner at an event like this". So we've come a lot further than we thought we were going to back then, as now we're running the actual event itself. There's going to be loads of Eurogamer signs all over the place!
I'm also really happy that we've been able to structure the event so that all the money generated from ticket sales goes to charity. We've already sold over £10,000 worth of tickets, so even if it all goes wrong on the day (which we're hoping it won't!), at least we did something worthwhile.
Do you think an exhibition like this was possible a few years ago, in terms of the UK games industry and its public being ready for it?
Absolutely. It's always been possible! But frankly, our predecessors cocked it up and now all the power has shifted to other countries. I think it's taken until now for new shows to appear because everyone still has such a bad taste in their mouth from the previous attempts. PlayStation Experience was probably the last decent effort at a large consumer show.
I'm not saying our event is going to be flawless first time around: there's sure to be some teething issues, but we're giving it our best shot. I don't know what people are expecting to see when they turn up but hopefully they will be pleasantly surprised!
If the Expo goes as expected, will it begin to be an annual event like E3, for example? Is that the plan?
Yes, the plan is to do this as an annual event, and we'd love to take it to other parts of the UK and Europe too. As long as it goes well and publishers want to continue supporting it then it will happen next year. But right now we're working extremely hard to make everything work for the first event rather than thinking too much about what's next.
Why do you think the UK has been without such an event for such a long time? When you consider the media attention that TGS, E3 and GC generates worldwide, surely its only natural to host such an event in such an avid gaming nation such as the UK? What do you think has held such an event back?
Well, for a start I wouldn't go putting us in the same league as the likes of TGS and GC just yet! Our biggest inspiration is probably the Penny Arcade Expo. This is our first ever event and we've deliberately capped available tickets to 4,000. We don't want people to experience five-hour queues to play a game. But without doubt, if this event works and we get continued support from publishers then we could make it much bigger and there could finally be a credible consumer show in the UK.
I think the thing that will make this event unique is that we have set out to make it a Eurogamer show - not a copycat of things that have come before us. Actually, that caused us a few problems at first as some publishers didn't know how to cater for what we were asking.
So instead of having publishers fighting to build the biggest stand, it's going to be more like a giant games arcade. We've gone to publishers and told them which games we'd like them to show. We've insisted that everything is playable. We've put a 15+ age restriction on the show - there's not much in the way of kids games at the event. And we're relying on the games to speak for themselves - so no so-called "celebrities" or indie rock bands here!
What game are you most looking forward to this year and why?
At the Expo I'm really looking forward to checking out Left 4 Dead - if I get any time!
Out of all your achievements thus far, what has meant the most to you and why?
I dunno! Probably getting Eurogamer to where it is now without having to lose our independence or compromise what we've wanted to do. And to keep it quite fun by doing it with such a great bunch of people.