Record-breaking UK Games Expo preps for even bigger future after being outbid for its main hall next year

The UK’s largest hobby gaming convention is planning a big expansion in 2025, after a surging attendance saw more than 39,000 people descend on this year’s record-breaking event.

The number of individual visitors at this year’s UK Games Expo at Birmingham NEC was up more than 26% compared to 2023, while the number of companies exhibiting at the event neared 700 – a 31% rise on last year.

That popularity led to a particularly congested Saturday at the three-day event, with large queues across the three halls, jams around the most popular booths and busiest junctions, and some demo tables fully booked for the day within minutes of the doors opening.

UK Games Expo director Richard Denning

UK Games Expo co-organiser Richard Denning told BoardGameWire that the event will expand to have about 20% more space in the trade halls next year, in addition to extra space for the large number of gaming events, tournaments and megagames that take place at the show.

The move also comes in the wake of UKGE being outbid for its biggest hall, the 14,000 sq m Hall 1, which has been booked out by an as yet unknown “larger company” for the next two years.

Denning said next year’s event would instead use the 16,700 sq m Hall 4, alongside its existing footprint in Halls 2, 3 and 3a.

He told BoardGameWire the shift would be a positive one for exhibitors, who he said prefer wider and deep frontage rather than being at the back of deep halls, adding that the new setup would help the flow of foot traffic.

He said, “We have more overall space – that was [already] something we were looking at. So about 20% more trade hall room and more event space.

“The total sq m is still in the decision stage as we work out where to do ticketing, which uses a lot of room – and before anyone else suggests it, it cannot be switched to table space mid-show for various reasons.”

He added, “Whilst [this year’s event] was busy Saturday I was surprised that it felt less congested than I had feared, to be honest. I think that lots of folk were in the [nearby Hilton hotel, which hosts open gaming] or the Viking camp at peak time.

“But we are in any event looking at aisle widths, for example – you can’t just, say, have 4m or 5m aisles, or economically that might cripple the show, but some areas may need some wider aisles.

“Overall if we have more room, that will help.”

Denning previously revealed to BoardGameWire in an extensive interview earlier this year that he hoped to expand the show beyond its core experience of publishers demoing games – citing Gen Con as an inspiration for where UKGE might be headed.

That could include events in the style of Gen Con’s True Dungeon – a hall-sized immersive dungeon crawl experience featuring life-size sets, professional actors and puzzles to solve, which Denning said was “certainly something which we would seriously like to look at doing”.

Last summer the Expo hired its first dedicated events manager, in the hope of boosting its own events offering out of the hundreds and into the thousands – although nearing Gen Con’s 20,000-plus event schedule is probably still some way off.

Caezar Al-Jassar, director of board game publisher and UK Games Expo sponsor Alley Cat Games, told BoardGameWire, “Alley Cat Games saw a 30% increase on like-for-like sales compared to the previous year which follows a similar trend to previous years.

“The quality, number of publishers and games on offer this year reached unprecedented levels and seeing the show grow like this is fantastic for everyone involved.

“As an associate sponsor of the UK Games Expo, we’ll be working closely with the directors Richard and Tony to ensure that the planned move to Halls 2 – 4 in 2025 will go as smoothly as possible.”

Tyler Lipchen, senior project manager at Panda Game Manufacturing, was an ever-present at the company’s UKGE Business and Press Zone, which provides space for designers, publishers, content creators, and other industry folk to use for meetings, pitches, playtests, or just a quiet sit down.

The Panda Game Manufacturing Press & Business Zone — Photo Credit: Panda GM

He said, “It was constantly occupied throughout the show for interviews, press demos, playtests, pitches, and meetings with distributors.

“That was our intention for the space, so we were really happy to see it being utilised, particularly for indie designers and publishers.

“Personal convention space is not always a viable option for this section of the industry, so having an area that’s dedicated to growing these small businesses is essential.”

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