In an exclusive and unmissable Q&A with Gaming and Media, Kate Chambers, Managing Director of Clarion Gaming, shares her enthusiasm about the imminent ICE Totally Gaming show. She considers Clarion’s mission to educate the sector as fully as possible, and describes gaming industry as ‘brave, entrepreneurial and with great solidarity.’
What were the challenges Clarion faced in the process of defining the activities of ICE London 2020, considering, among other data, the brand had an impressive 73 percent increase in attendance from 20,829 visitors in 2011 to 36,093 in 2019?
You are correct in your observations: in fact, we go into ICE London 2020 on the back of some significant and, most importantly, some consistent growth. The brand is experiencing the most successful period in its history. Since we moved from Earls Court to our home at ExCeL London, attendance has increased from 21,336 in 2012 (the last edition of ICE to be held at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London) to 36,093 (2019). In terms of physical size, ICE 2020 occupies 40 of the 44 halls at ExCeL London and comprises 49,500 sqm of net floor space. I wouldn’t say the challenge is to carry on growing, but to carry on improving, and there’s a big difference between the two. We are not going to pursue a growth strategy for the sake of it. This is about controlled growth, which has a greater chance of being sustainable over the mid to long-term. Great exhibitions are about getting the chemistry right, achieving the right balance and equilibrium. These are the challenges we face, as well as delivering a successful event for all of our stakeholders and customers drawn from throughout the world.
Probably, one of the highlights of the show that will impact visitors the most is the eSports tournament that will be developed in a special Esports Arena. How did this idea come about? Why do you think that eSports can be closely related to the world of gambling and be another way to monetize in the near future?
The relationship between gaming and eSports began in 2014 and started to blossom in 2015. The eSports wagering industry in 2015 was close to US$5.6 billion and this year it’s set to be US$13 billion. And that’s only registered wagering revenue! so it’s the tip of the iceberg. Revenue estimates suggest the unregulated eSports betting market could be 12 times higher than the regulated market. It just goes to show that, when different geographical markets regulate like North America, the iceberg is going to finally come into full view. At ICE London 2020, we will be unveiling the first ever exhibition-based Esports Arena and one of our core goals is to ensure there’s a consistent focus on education aimed at companies who are new to the sector. It’s Clarion’s mandate to educate the entire industry as fully as possible, and we want to embrace this to ensure attendees are connecting to eSports in the right way, to be mutually beneficial to both the eSports sector and the gaming industry.
Of course, to that we must add other achievements for 2020: enhancements to the Consumer Protection Zone, 73 new exhibitors from 37 jurisdictions, the increase in the number of companies from the payment and security sectors, key info about non-gaming amenities and hospitality-related technology, not to forget new tracks of ICE VOX conferences, the interesting courses of Totally Gaming Academy and the revelation of innovative ideas at Pitch ICE. In which way can Clarion handle so many aspects of the industry at the same time?
I have assembled a strong, professional and highly skilled team, which understands the ICE brand, the ICE vision and the responsibilities that ICE has to the global industry. That means that we are able to address and respond to the issues and opportunities that you mention. Of course, there are many, many other things that are on our list, but the key is to work in partnership with the industry and our customers and not to try and do everything in one year. We achieve that by understanding what the industry wants and what’s on their agenda, and by being brave enough and sufficiently informed to prioritize initiatives. Our Ampersand community was created to help us sense check ideas ahead of us putting them into operation and Ampersand represents a large group of critical friends that helps us to keep ICE London relevant and interesting.
You have been in the gaming industry for several years, analyzing its evolution, attending events in every continent, listening to stakeholders and effectively responding to their demands. What drives you to follow? What is your motivation? When do you find a time to rest in the midst of such dynamism and constant changes of the sector?
It very much helps if you enjoy your work and, certainly, the close to a decade that I’ve been associated with the gaming industry has been some of the most enjoyable and rewarding of my professional career. There’s a great solidarity in this industry and ICE London boasts a large community which enjoys a wide range of shared experiences. This happens despite the fact that they are drawn from over 150 nations. Although we refer to them as our stakeholders, they are a community of customers, some of whom have a relationship with ICE that stretches back to 1990, when 16 pioneer exhibitors became the first to show high stakes gaming equipment at what was then referred to as ‘the London show.’ This is a brave and entrepreneurial industry and I think those characteristics attract big personalities and people who aren’t afraid of turning conventional thinking on its head. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off people and to know that there are numerous organizations that share your philosophy. If this was a boring or dull industry, it would be difficult to sustain the high levels of enthusiasm and energy required to continue to improve. Of course, everyone needs time to relax and recharge, but I rarely, if ever, fully switch off. I’ve always got my notebook with me to write down any inspiration or ideas that come to my mind about how we can do things better or what we can do next to keep our customers engaged.
This year, in order to transmit ‘the magic of ICE’, the marketing campaign proposes to ‘Step Into the Future’. What does an industry leader like Kate Chambers expect for the future of gaming in the coming years?
I always say this, but I’m not an industry leader! I am an events professional who happens to operate in the gaming space. This isn’t a case of false modesty. It’s simply that the industry is populated by highly skilled, clever and successful individuals who have forgotten more about gaming than I will ever know! Getting back to your question about the future, what I can say is that the industry is driven by technology and, whatever the products or services that shape the industry in the future, I can guarantee that they will have been seen or launched at ICE London. That’s why, in order to encourage people to ‘Step Into the Future’, I invite all the gaming executives to register for FREE tickets at www.icelondon.uk.com and share the ICE experience with us from February 4th to 6th.