Resort event shows that play is big business
For one Blackpool entrepreneur it turns out play can pay '“ as an exhibition concept born in the resort seven years ago has now become an international enterprise.
Andy Brown, managing director of resort-based Replay Events, planted the first seeds of success when he created PLAY Expo Blackpool in 2010.
Now it goes as far as Amsterdam and Jakarta.
His background in video games had convinced him that there could be a gap in the market for an exhibition based around retro gaming, as much-loved games became overshadowed by next-generation video offerings.
He also looked at comic con events and felt that, if exhibitions were celebrating memories of film franchises, the same formula could apply to retro games. His instinct proved spot-on and the first event, staged at the Norbreck Castle, attracted 1,500 people over two days.
Families wishing to prove that those who play together stay together immediately loved the chance to challenge each other to iconic games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario, while nostalgic journeys into the past made this family event as popular with parents as with children.
The event was such a hit that it outgrew the venue, leading to another event – PLAY Expo Manchester – having to be created. This quickly attracted 25,000 visitors, becoming the flagship exhibition in the UK, while the Blackpool event visitor numbers grew to around 5,000, attracting many from outside the resort.
The success of these two events has led to the PLAY Expo spreading, with 11 events now in the schedule for 2018, and another 10 at which the Replay Events team provide support, equipment and content.
A new event in Bristol, will take the team to the south west.
The growth of the PLAY Expo brand has created many employment opportunities, with 30 people working on the Manchester event alone.
PLAY Expo Blackpool is still close to Andy Brown’s heart and it will be heading back to the resort in February half term, having moved from its usual summer dates.
Andy Brown said: “Play is so important in today’s world and we all need a distraction from the trappings of modern life. Play is just as beneficial for adults as it is for children, but we sometimes forget that.
“We find that parents love to show their children how much fun they had when they were their age, playing the retro games that we have within our exhibition and nostalgia gives our event a unique feel and mood.
“Memories really are worth their weight in gold.”
As well as having a host of retro games and family game challenges, the February show will host the launch of the new Dizzy game, ‘Wonderful Dizzy’, and there will be a Cosplay masquerade, with people dressed in outlandish costumes and a classic seaside arcade with almost 100 arcade games and pinball tables.
New for this year will be an areas dedicated to classic PC games where gamers can relive some vintage fun from Half Life to Deus Ex and Diablo 2 to Rollercoaster Tycoon and Starcaraft.
There will also be a chance to meet designers of classic games.