Clarion Gaming’s ICE Conference plays an important role in setting up key agenda, discussion and debate concerning all industry stakeholders at the start of year.
ICE 2016 will return to the London Excel Arena (2-4 February), SBC speaks to Clarion Gaming Head of Content Ewa Bakun to discuss the conference’s format and context following a year mass industry consolidation.
SBC: Ewa great to catch up again! Can you please introduce ICE 2016’s key agenda and discussion?
Ewa Bakun: Thanks SBC for your continued coverage of ICE over the last few years. Here we are again, gearing up for the 2016 show when ExCeL will turn into a gaming technopolis, as per our creative this year. We chose the technopolis to reflect the futuristic theme of the show and the amazing technology developments that dictate the industry’s growth, and the show’s focus.
From the content perspective, that means exploring developments such as Virtual Reality in gaming; innovation in devices, like Apple Watch; accessing new player demographics through eSports; machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict player behaviour; omni-channel gaming; harnessing the latest tools to prevent growing data breaches and understanding the impact of the Millennials on the industry.
SBC: 2015 has been a year of mass industry consolidation, how has this effected the planning of the show in terms of the events core themes and topics?
EB: Industry consolidation led to some level of consolidation on the showfloor, of course. When it comes to planning the content, it added an extra overarching context to the conferences and seminars, without influencing the detail of what they will discuss. The conferences and seminars we’ve scheduled for ICE are very targeted and focused on specific areas within gaming, such as data, cybercrime & security, regulation, mobile, game design, land-based gaming, tribal gaming and sportsbetting, which are all subject to very in-depth analysis. I think the consolidation climate is only putting more pressure on companies to excel in their performance when it comes to all of the areas we’ll be exploring at ICE, which makes the conferences more relevant and important to attend.
SBC: ICE is the biggest industry EXPO, in a sector that has seen significant change in 2015 how does your team create a balanced agenda, which will cater business enterprises of all sizes?
EB: As I mentioned above, it is not an easy task to cater to the learning needs of all of the 25k ICE visitors. We try to do that by creating a very comprehensive programme of 8 premium conferences, free-to-attend seminars, often organised by our key partners and short briefings, usually focused on a specific geographic region, like Africa, Latin America or Asia.
Content creation for ICE is preceded by extensive research that we start as early as June when we speak to around 200 industry professionals who help us set the theme for ICE and for all of the different types of content we plan. We also organise advisory board meetings, one in the United States and one in Europe, where around 40 people meet to brainstorm industry challenges and opportunities over two days. We thus get a lot of insight into what’s going on. Clarion production team is also on the phone and meeting at conferences constantly to make sure nothing misses our attention.
SBC: Working closely with industry stakeholders, what concerns do you feel are becoming more imminent for businesses and organisations operating within the sector?
EB: We have just talked about industry consolidation and that’s certainly one trend that’s on people’s minds and that is putting some pressure on companies to perform better to deliver value to owners and shareholders.
In general, I would say there are probably more opportunities than concerns and perhaps one overarching concern is how to keep abreast of all of the different opportunities available and which one to focus on. There is a lot of media buzz around certain trends, such as eSports, Virtual Reality, sportsbetting in Africa or the Millennials, but how do you evaluate their value to your business and how do you exploit these opportunities, while still protecting and growing your existing revenue streams?
Regulations and compliance, I would say, continue putting pressure on organisations. With the lack of standardisation across regulatory frameworks in Europe, new AML and data protection regulations and more vicious cybercrime attacks – these are probably the areas that keep the operators on alert.
SBC: You have mentioned the ongoing changes facing industry enterprises, however as event organisers how do you think your ‘ICE product’ will develop as a EXPO in years to come?
EB: Every year we evaluate the key themes for the upcoming ICE so it’s hard to be specific for 2017, 2018 and onwards, in particular with the industry developing so dynamically and with such an amazing pace. Technology just really evolves faster and faster, and the opportunities this evolution offers will continue to dominate at ICE.
The show grows in numbers every year and we’re certainly hoping to continue that trend, in particular as we try to attract visitors from new countries and new business sectors. We’re certainly seeing more growth coming from international markets and maybe also from some more mainstream technology companies that are already warming up to gaming.
SBC: Finally for attending delegates, are there any particular speakers sessions or workshops that you want to highlight?
EB: It’s very difficult to single anyone out, from around 200 speakers at ICE. I always look forward to startups talking and launching, so Pitch ICE, organised in partnership with GamCrowd, certainly guarantees lots of novelty from companies most probably haven’t heard before. The new CEO of the Uk Gambling Commission, Sarah Harrison will open WrB it will be interesting to find out her main areas of focus for the next few years. eSports has been the talk of the industry for the last few months; first partnerships have taken place so it will be interesting to hear their results from the likes of Fnatic and Dafabet. Victor Rocha from Pechanga.net will again host the US Tribal Gaming seminar, in partnership and with the support of the National Indian Gaming Assoction, which is always a hub for anyone particularly interested in opportunities, still un-explored by global gaming, in the Indian country.
Ewa Bakun – Head Of Content – Clarion Gaming