Sean Kelly is a long-time collector and gamer, andpart-time dealer. He's well known for his multi-carts and excellent deals oncollectibles. You can visit Sean's Home Page at http://www.xnet.com/~skelly/
OK, so what's the deal with all these shows? It seems everyone and their dog is putting on some sort of classic gaming event these days so I thought I'd give a quick run-down of what the hell has been and is going on.
Being one of the organizers of Classic Gaming Expo, obviously I'll be quite a bit more well-versed about our show, but I've attended several others and will be able to offer a different persepctive on those shows. Before I go any further, however, I'd like to make it clear up-front that it is not my intention to belittle any show other than CGE. I'd simply like to pose a few questions and explore the possibility that having too many shows MIGHT be detrimental to the hobby as a whole.
As I recall, the very first show held with a classic videogame theme was held in Philadelphia in 1996 and was called Electronicon. Roughly 30-40 people were in attendance, the show didn't do very well, and was never hosted again.
World of Atari
In 1998, World of Atari was put on in Las Vegas and was run by the same gentleman who ran the World of Atari shows back in the early 80's - Rich Tsukiji. John Hardie and Keita Iida helped organize the event but, according to Mr. Tsikiji, the show lost tens of thousands of dollars and he was not very eager to run it again in 1999.
As the time drew near to make the decision to have a show or not, Rich was nowhere to be found. Emails to him went ignored and rumor had it, he was not in the best of health. The decision was made by John and Keita to form CGE Services and put on what would be a more well-rounded Classic Gaming show called Classic Gaming Expo. Yours truly was brought on-board to help organize things and the first Classic Gaming Expo was born in 1999.
Classic Gaming Expo
CGE '99 was mildly successful at least in the sense that it didn't lose the "tens of thousands" that Rich Tsukiji claimed to have lost at World of Atari '98. There was certainly a loss incurred, but not even half of what was supposedly lost in 1998. The response to CGE '99 was great and despite the loss, and objections from our wives, CGE 2000 was announced.
As plans were being made for the 2000 show, Ketia Iida decided to step- down but John and I forged ahead. As the show's date drew near, two things happened. We took-on Joe Santulli of this very rag to help out with public relations and the media and just before the show opened it's doors, PhillyClassic was announced.
CGE 2000 was bigger and better than the 1999 show and we saw roughly 750 people make their way out to Las Vegas to attend. The guest list was more impressive and despite the fact that our initial plan was to skip 2001 and come back in 2002, popular opinion forced us to make the announcement that CGE 2001 would, in fact, be held.
Classic Gaming Expo 2001 was held in Las Vegas in August and was the biggest of them all. Over 1000 people attended and nearly 100 former industry people were on-hand. Nearly a dozen new games were released at CGE 2001 and even a modern game was debuted in Dragon's Lair 3D with the entire crew who developed the original Dragon's Lair 20 years prior there signing autographs and mingling with the crowd.
CGE 2002 will take place on August 10 & 11 again, in Las Vegas. Our expectations are to see nearly 1300 people in attendance this year!
In the Spring of 2000, PhillyClassic took place in Philadelphia. Accounts put about 50-60 people in attendance with about twelve vendors albeit smaller more flea market-type vendors. According to the reports I read after the show, most people had a good time.
PhillyClassic 2001 was held, again, in Philadelphia and the the show saw explosive growth over the previous year. Nearly 200 people attended including myself, John Hardie, and Joe Santulli. Digital Press lauched our tenth anniversay festivities at PhillyClassic 2001. Due to the unexpected growth rate, the show floor was JAM PACKED. You literally could not move inside the main show room. The only refuge was outside in the bar or in the second show room that held the arcade machines. Even the second room was a bit too crowded for my liking at times. The show was a huge success and plans for PhillyClassic 2002 were announced immediately.
There are a number of localized shows held throughout the country as well as overseas. The first CinciClassic, I believe, was held in June of 2000. The setting was a vacant store in a mall (ironically, it looked like a former Radio Shack) and according to reports, roughly 60-70 people were in attendance. It had very much a flea market look to it, but the trading action was reportedly hot and heavy.
The Europeans, naturally, have a difficult time attending the shows here in the US, so in October of 2000, they held their own show in England. Around 30 people were in attendance coming from all over Europe to attend.
In addition to the shows I've mentioned here, there are also numerous smaller gatherings or meetings or parties or whatever you want to call them. There has been talk of a several other shows under consideration including one in Texas someplace and another in New York possibly being held in a school. My question is...at what point do all these shows become detrimental to the hobby or perhaps the idea of attending ANY of the shows being hosted? I'm not sitting here attempting to mandate who should or shouldn't put on a show, but what I would like the people who run them or are thinking about running one to take a few points into consideration before you do.
First of all, are you looking to attract a local audience or a national audience? I have hosted a party or meeting at my house for the past five Summers. As a general rule, I don't invite people more than an hour or so driving distance from my place. I consider my "gathering" to be a party. I don't advertise it publicly and would never even think about trying to attract a larger, national audience. There is plenty of "room" for as many of these types of gatherings or parties as folks can stand. The problem arises when folks start inviting the whole country and pass their party off as something it's not.
For the most part, if someone is going to travel to a "show", they will likely only attend one per year if that. Let's say this year they have a few bucks set aside and start looking around the net for a show they believe they would enjoy the most. The find info on CGE, Philly, and a couple admittedly smaller shows, but then they come across one being held in Los Angeles being advertised as hundreds of people in attendance. They choose the LA show, make their way out there, and find 25 people in some guy's backyard. Maybe if this LA moron had told people what his show was intended to be up-front, this poor sap wouldn't have wasted his hard-earned dough to fly out to LA!
Now this was a hypothetical situation, there isn't a show anywhere in LA that I'm aware of, but the point I was trying to make is that most people will only travel to one show per year. Are there enough collector's to divy-up between four or five shows attempting to be "major" shows? In my opinion, absolutely not! Is there room for two or maybe three shows that cooperate between themselves in an effort to ensure nobody is competing with each other as much as possible? That's a distinct possibility.
Here are a couple more examples of folks attempting to be something they're not and potentially hurting the whole show concept.
In 2002, the first Amiga Expo will be held. Initially, the person running this show advertised it as an Amiga computer show which sounded interesting. He had a few vendors lined-up and even a sponsor or two. A few weeks after announcing the show, another announcement came that they were now incorporating classic videogames into their festivities. Now what possible good is that going to serve?! Now we have some guy who probably has very little knowledge of classic games running around soliciting classic game vendors, sponsors, and attendees to come to his Amiga computer show. Maybe he'll get a classic game vendor or two to show up and maybe a dozen or two classic gaming enthusiasts, but essentially he has deceived classic gamers into supporting a show they probably otherwise wouldn't have. Even if he has considerable knowledge of classic games, his show is directly competing with both PhillyClassic and CGE, and he is seemingly thinking of nothing but himself and his show.
Another show that has been around for a while, JagFest, which is held in support of the Atari Jaguar has said they will incorporate ALL classic games into their show. Jagfest is a traveling show and is held in changing locations each year. In years past, roughly 20-25 people have attended Jagfest. OK, the Jaguar was made by Atari and was very short- lived so I guess some people might make the argument that it's a classic system. Fine....it's classic - I'll even give you that. But here again, we have yet another show trying to sway classic gamers across the country into attending their show.
The question I have to ask myself when I read about these shows suddenly incorporating classic gaming into the mix is why? Is it because they think they can fill a gap in what people are looking for in a videogame show? Do the Amiga Expo people think they have something to offer that folks won't find at CGE or Philly or some of the other established shows? It seems to me they are just trying to better their show. We've run the Jag show for a few years now, it doesn't seem to be growing at the same rate some of the classic game shows are, so let's bring in some classic gamers. What about the Amiga guy? He sets up show as an Amiga show, things are going along decently with a few vendors and sponsors signing-on early but it doesn't look like he's going to see anywhere near the number of people that CGE or even PhillyClassic does. So, here again, let's add classic games to the mix and try and swipe some of their patrons and make the Amiga show a little better.
I don't know about you, but I just can't find the best interests of the people who attend these shows as being considered anywhere here. Sure, I'm one of the people who runs CGE so call me biased all you want. Keep in mind, however, I am also one of the people who attends these shows and one who would attend whether or not I had anything to do with putting the show together.
Have your shows, parties, get-togethers, or whatever, but don't try and be something you're not. If you're running a localized show, invite just that - locals. If your area of expertise is one thing and it's not happening the way you thought it would, maybe it's just not meant to be. Is it really neccessary to try and damage other shows because you couldn't possibly have had a bad idea? If you think there's room for another national show, why not have the best interests of the folks who would attend in mind and try and get some input before making your plans? Perhaps contact the organizers of the other larger shows and try to cooperate with everyone in such a way so as to keep from thinning things out so much that no show can survive. Like I said, I'm a classic gamer and I have a great time attending the shows I am able to sneak away to. I don't want ANYONE to screw that up for me as a COLLECTOR!
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