Q&A: European events manager talks video games, trade shows and afterparties

Gareth Swann has worked in the video game industry for most of his professional career. As an event manager and brand development strategist, Swann has worked for big-name tech companies such as Bethesda, Xbox, Ubisoft, Turtle Beach and Playstation.

Swann, a native of North Wales, recently returned from the four-day EGX London expo, the UK’s biggest video game trade show. With its 80,000 attendees, the expo focuses more on the developers and people behind the games, rather than on publishers spending a lot of money to create a spectacle Swann explained.

“It’s a different kind of show to something like Gamescom and is great fun to work on because everyone is there for the love of all types of games, not just the latest AAA titles,” Swann said.

In an email interview, Swann describes the expo, how he tailors marketing and event planning to the diverse European market and recalls drinking Cognac with Busta Rhymes at an Xbox Live party.

Q. What was your job at the expo?

As Events Manager, I was involved in all aspects of event management: supplier contracting, strategy and planning, budget management etc. I worked on projects from planning stand location and construction, to partnering with other brands such as Samsung and Virgin Media to help increase exposure and reduce the cost of attendance. I also worked closely with London Southbank University’s “Games Cultures” Course Director, Siobhan Thomas, to include student volunteers in the show. The initiative was designed to bring students closer to the industry to get the first hand experience and knowledge they need upon graduation.

Q. What was the best part of EGX London?

I worked on stage managing the Go 8-Bit stage which was tons of fun. The guys at Go 8-Bit have this comedy gaming show where the audience gets to play on stage alongside the comedians on older titles like Mario Kart and Street Fighter. The presenters have to do punishments if their team loses. One of the best punishments is “snakes on a game” where the losing team captain has to play Snake on the Nokia 3310 with a ridiculously big snake hanging off of them.

It was an awesome show and fit perfectly into the tone of the EGX.

Q. What’s Europe’s market like?

Germany is typically a PC dominated market, France is PlayStation and the UK is Xbox, so as an Events Manager I try to plan my strategies around what is most relevant to those consumers (e.g. LG & Razer for Germany, Turtle Beach & Samsung for the UK).

Q. Are games marketed differently in the UK versus the rest of the world?

Games are marketed differently in every territory across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia). The UK and USA have their obvious similarities, however Europe as a whole is a very diverse audience with a huge range of cultures, attitudes and societies. You have to be aware of certain cultural sensitivities to ensure the games are received positively in the local market. For example, you may create trailers with different voiceovers or use more online techniques in markets where Steam is a more prominent platform. The majority of the marketing strategy, however, remains the same to ensure consistency across the brand.

Q. What’s the biggest project you’ve worked on?

The Halo 3 EMEA launch was definitely the biggest thing I’ve worked on. It involved multiple agencies across a huge range of disciplines. I learnt so much about how they all work individually, but also how they integrate to cause this huge cultural event to happen. We had Pharell in the IMAX Waterloo, Carmen Electra in Spain and LL Cool J in France. I was responsible for organizing the after party at 24 London.

Q. What’s been the most fun project you’ve worked on?

I remember organizing an Xbox LIVE party when we flew Busta Rhymes over to host a party in Covent Garden. I’ll never forget Busta hanging off my arm jumping up and down going mental as Dynamo performed magic tricks for him and his crew. I was just standing there thinking, “I’m at a party, drinking Cognac with Busta Rhymes, and he’s hanging off my arm screaming”  I’m just this dude from North Wales who used to absolutely love Busta as a kid, so that was crazy. But at the same time you get used to working with people like that and it kind of washes over you because you need to focus on the job in hand to ensure everything goes smoothly. I consider myself very lucky to have worked on the projects I’ve worked on.

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