We have just returned from the UK Games Expo in Birmingham … UK (obviously) a trip of 4000 km (2500 miles) and so many adventures we could make a fine RPG out of it. The fair was a big success – we have met many important distributors, publishers and manufacturers. And we have sold many copies of Walk to Jesus and 27: Five Elements. We have interviewed Lara Croft and Ben Miles the author of Lugu (find the videos in the second halve of the post).
It was Wednesday, May 27th 2015 at 9:30 am when we set for the road from Rogaska Slatina, Slovenia and it took us about 6 hours to reach Munich, Germany where we had our first meeting with a prominent priest about Walk to Jesus and how to promote it via Slovenian priest network in the world. We gave him a present of “slivovka”, a genuine Slovene plum spirit. Er … it’s good for the health. We had to shop for some tools to finish the prototypes for our new big title the Fire Brigade.
This would be fine if I would not get sick like a rocket just a few days ago from working all nights to get everything ready for the fairs and not getting more than five hours of sleep for about two weeks. Luckily Andrejs (yes, i had two guys called Andrej with me) were driving and I could sleep-ish during the trip. We got to Calais, France at about 4 am, got the ticket and boarded in about one hour for the 5:25 ferry for Dover, UK.
We did not drown in the Channel and landed after one hour at Dover just like the first soldiers saved from Dunkirk precisely 75 years ago. It was a beautiful late spring sunny morning … for about 20 minutes. After that the lovely British weather caught up with us and we have driven for the next four hours in about 7 different kinds of rain, intermittent by the patches of the suicidaly dull cloudiness, spiced by a few rays of sun just to prevent us from turning back. And in only 28 hours on the road we have reached Birmingham.
I guess there should be a law against complaining about a three-bed room for four nights at 150 euro in UK, but until there is one … the room was really tiny and it had a shower with a glass door (yes, a see though glass) inside the room which does make it a bit weird if you stay there with two other guys. And we only got two blankets and two towels, but they did change them every day. The toilet was not much bigger than my suitcase and the beds were not comfortable, but the rest was good … I am not quite sure what is the rest. Well, the stuff was really friendly and after all we did not go to Birmingham to admire the cheap hotel rooms.
Not to forget – on the second night the fire alarms started going off in all the rooms. Maybe 20 or 30 times. According to the rumors, they did not know where is the source, but there was no fire, only a drunken or stoned Dutchman running around the hotel and switching them on. I guess the show was included in the price, but they kept it a secret to make a bigger impact. Btw, if you fancy this kind of experience it was the Ibis Budget Hotel, and i would rate it 9/10 in efficiency per buck – it would be 10/10 if beds were better because I really don’t care about the rest at this price. At a comfort scale 3/10 would be a very good rating, awarded only because i like Ibis Hotels.
The fair was at the National Exhibition Center near the airport in the Hilton hotels complex. The organization was very good, everything was running really smoothly even the set up procedures. We were there really early to meet Alex Green, the Chief Buyer for the Esdevium Games – the largest hobby distributor on the island, and – as they claim – in the entire Europe. It turned out later that he did not come to the con at all … maybe it was the weather. There was one more funny thing at UK Games Expo 2015 – they did not place the trash bins – according to one of the staff members because people were throwing garbage in them in the previous years! Must be some weird kind of a British humor i don’t understand.
I was quite surprised – for a relatively new and relatively small con (UK Games Expo 2015 had only 15K visitors, compared to 100K+ at main German fairs) the names attending were impressive. And there was a lot of small indie developers like us. Compared to last Essen we actually had a better turn over rate per day, and an insane almost 100% conversion rate from testers to buyers for the Five Elements. In fact on the last day Eddie Turner from Esdevium Games bought all of our stock! Also Walk to Jesus was selling well and we got amazingly many mail addresses for the release of the Fire Brigade. Maybe it was because there was less competition as elsewhere or just because the Brits are so nice and can’t say: “No” if being offered something.
By the end of the fair we have had meetings with Esdevium, Bergsala Enigma, WinGo Company, Spiele Smiede (Spiele Ofensive), many retailers and bloggers and Frank Jaeger from the Ludo Fact who bought me a beer for 5 pounds. It was a tasty British brew, but for that money i could get seriously wasted in Slovenia … if I would be in the wasting business (just for the record – i was not seriously wasted since i was 21).
But not to forget we also had an interview with the one and only Lara Croft (does it sound lame if I have to say it was cosplay?) – she got a copy of Walk to Jesus for her parents – and we also donated a copy of the Black Diamond for her charity – The Galactic Knights. She told us that she had always wanted to be a firefighter and much more … check out at the video if you want to know what. (We were filming in a very loud hall at the fair time, so please excuse poor sound – we have included subtitles – if you do not see them, click on the CC icon in the bottom row of the video.)
Also Ben Miles, the author of the award winning card game Lugu was at our booth. He also got hooked on the Five Elements mania and bought one – I am so proud of myself :p . See why he believes his game is successful and why he likes our Five Elements – and why thinks it is a perfect travel game. (Again sorry for the poor sound, but also here we have included the subtitles.)
We did not have much time for the sight seeing (we did drive past the Aston Villa stadium though) because UK Games Expo 2015 and meetings connected to it took most of our time. But our hotel was in Chinatown so we were only 10 minutes away from the Bullring (the town’s commercial center since the middle ages) and we went there every evening, but as the name suggest – the prices are very …”central”. And there is not much to see other than shopping centers, restaurants and the St. Martin’s Church.
Eating is definitely one of the most adventurous endeavours you can engage yourself into in the Great Britain. I was in England for the third time (those interested in the difference between UK, GB, England and much more should check this video) and I have never had fish and chips so i decided to right this injustice. The chips are bigger than the french fries and i liked them a lot, but the fish was dripping with oil and was really not something I would want to eat more than once per three visit to the UK. On the last day i took my guys out on a dinner to the real traditional pub, and they took something called “beef steak with liver pudding” but when they got it served it did not look anything like a steak … it was much closer to a blob that ate and started digesting the steak when the chef hit it on the head and put it on the plate (and yes, I am very sorry i forgot to take a picture). As a vegetarian (i do eat fish) I really felt discriminated in UK – the only veggies they know are apparently peas and of course potatoes. So I had breaded shrimps … with peas and chips. It tasted well and even Andrejs liked their alien looking dish … a sort of. But they still decided to stay on a healthy diet of the fast food restaurants for the rest of the trip.
A few photos from the UK Games Expo 2015 are bellow, but you can see more of them at the Value Ad Games facebook profile: www.facebook.com/valueadgames
At 3:30 am the next morning the alarms went off and even though we were satisfied with the UK Games Expo 2015 we were all happy to go back to the civilisation where human beings drive at the right side of the road, steaks look flat, brown and juicy (not that i really care about it) and where the phrase: “What a lovely day we have today” means that there is sun on the sky on a day with a moderate temperature, perhaps with a gentle breeze. Even at this hour the roads got jammed up near London and I began to understand Jeremy Clarkson’s bitching over the british highways – speed limits are reduced, signposts “roadworks” are everywhere … but there is no one working … it almost feels like home 😀 … in fact it does feel like home.
As soon as we hit Dover the sun started shining, proving that we are heading in the right direction. And on the last gas station (it was operated by Spar) the nice guy at the counter exchanged our coins for a 20 pound note even if we were a few pennies short. But on a ferry they tired to get it all back and with the interest – their exchange rate was almost 2 Euros for 1 Pound – on a day where international course was 1.40! And then we were back on the Continent and we only missed our exit once in France – which is only one short to the world record – considering the french traffic signalisation, but at least it broke the boredom. Traveling through Belgium would be boring if their highways would not be even worse than Slovenian so I had to look out not to fall into the pits. After short and sweet Luxembourg (with fantastic highways) we finally got to the Autobahn (yes, that is Germany) without the speed limits. And then we were driving faster but were still bored – after all there is only a limited number of ways to annoy your co-travelers.
If you did not get it by now – the way back was quite boring and those 22 hours on the road seemed like … er … 22 hours on the road after a very exhausting 3-day fair after an exhausting 28-hour trip to the fair. And if you need to know after Germany comes Austria and then Slovenia. And then we went so sleep. And then was Tuesday. And yes, I got the inspiration to write this chapter from the Douglas Adams’ poem of the five wise man with four horses 😛
All in all UK Games Expo 2015 was very successful (and exhausting) for us. We got many great contacts, made great sales and met great Lara Croft – isn’t that great!? Will we be there for the UK Games Expo 2016? Let’s end with this cliffhanger to have you all excited until the next season!