ICE: Interesting Conversations… Everywhere!

WOW! How good was ICE this year! I mean seriously… 10 stops on the District line and then four on the DLR! Ok, so perhaps this isn’t how a trade show should be judged, but for those of us based east of London it’s never been much fun schlepping all the way west to Earls Court. And then there’s Excel as the venue: a brilliantly rectangular aircraft hangar that makes ‘walking the grid’ an achievable dream compared to the wonky pirate ship that was Earls Court. Obviously the giants of the industry still can’t help themselves buying the largest plot of land and distracting you from the lack of anything to actually talk about with flashing lights and girls in spandex, but it’s the first time in a long while I can confidently say I saw every company exhibiting at the show.
As the only journalist who actively shuns actual appointments I don’t tend to go where I probably should, instead drifting randomly like a pen-wielding bumblebee on a breezy day. Obviously this still often leads to the big boys with their city-like stands, but it also means I can find myself floating off to the distant corners of the show, talking to the oft-ignored/unseen companies on the periphery who so often end up being the ones with the more interesting new concepts, products or services. PIMS-SCA is sitting quietly at one end of the hanger, but in conversation has a fascinating history involving insuring some massive brands (Carling, Coca-Cola, etc.) against their more ambitious promotions (you know, just in case some lucky spud actually wins one of these things). They are now looking to encourage online companies to offer larger prizes with the safety net PIMS provide sitting under them. It’s an interesting proposal that could do away with the wait involved with progressive jackpots, and if there isn’t an article about it elsewhere in this issue you can expect one soon. See? This trip has practically paid for itself already!

Being here solely to check out the online sector I feel a bit like a vegetarian in a steak house. I desperately want to be in the sexy meaty area that flashes and pings and looks a bit like Las Vegas, but instead I’m stuck in the mushroom risotto world of ‘safe and secure online payment solutions’. When you do walk through the exciting Vegas area (which disappointingly turns out to be more noise than content) you emerge the other side into a world of slot buttons, change machines and casino staff uniforms. Suddenly online payment solutions seem quite sexy.
Wandering past the SHFL Entertainment stand (Shuffle Master to you old schoolers) I can’t resist sitting for a demo of some new table games. In a delightful moment of sheer irony, the dealer demoing the game suddenly becomes so sick of the automated table shuffler that she just grabs the cards and gives them a bloody good old fashioned shuffle while no one is looking. One day we’ll have replaced her with robots and the world will be a sadder place. Or something.  

As you know I do like to try and capture as many of the promotional girls on camera as possible (for you the reader; this isn’t about me). The danger inherent in hunting for these opportunities is that many of the European female attendees appear to see the trade show as an opportunity to release their inner slut with a relaxed (and often sensual) take on business attire. The end result often leads to being dressed like a 17-year-old down the discothèque looking for a good time. I’m just about to ask one girl to throw me a sexy pose over an automated roulette table when I realise she is the Marketing Director for a rather large global company. Great legs though.
I also appear to be suffering from a form of dyslexia where I’m unable to look at the word ‘turnkey’ without reading it as ‘turkey’. This means I inevitably keep running into companies offering (as I see it) ‘turkey sports betting solutions’ which simply makes no sense. I’m also now starving and can almost smell cranberry sauce. Or I’m about to have a stroke. One of the two.
Meanwhile, back at the business end of ICE, I strike up conversations with the likes of Offsidegaming – exhibiting at the show for the very first time – and Picklive, another ICE newbie about to re-launch on the back of an award-winning year and six months of redesign.

I’m never one to shun an opportunity to stand still for long periods of time at a trade show, especially when ladies want to give me pads and pens that will otherwise have to be shipped back to some distant headquarters, immediately introducing an unexpected courier expense. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve got a bag full of pens, but they’re not for me; I’ve taken them to help the industry. You’re welcome.  

During one stationary/stationery stop I am lifted into the air and thrown across the room by a giant. That’s not at all true, but I do get chatting to an enormous man called Eduard de Hass, the Head of Business Development for emaster. ‘Tall’ doesn’t do the man justice; he’d give Chewbacca a crick in his neck. Fortunately Eduard sits down so I can look him in the throat.
Eduard demos the rather smart Emaster skin-builder to me, showing how a poker room can be created and launched from scratch in a matter of hours (or minutes if you think purple, lime and taupe go well together). He also reveals a new take on speed poker they are looking at for Enet Poker that tries to introduce a bit of strategy to the speed-junky’s favourite poker variant. Yes you can still fold everything other than pocket aces, but if you keep folding in late position, you’ll find yourself in early position more often than players who are prepared to mix up their game. Love the button? Well you aren’t going to see much of it unless you start playing those suited connectors. Clever eh!
I’d best stop soon for fear of actually producing a valid show report, but I have to say I’m a big fan of Excel as a venue, and for the first time in a while I left feeling that ICE was a pretty damn fine show (probably because for once I didn’t get hopelessly lost trying to get from one stand to the next). I was also home in under an hour. Boom!

The ‘What’s in a Name’ Game?
Somewhere in the world there’s an agency that mugs gambling companies for hundreds of thousands of euros by coming up with ‘awesome’ tag lines using the word ‘Game’. Can you match the company with the ‘ingenious’ tagline?

1: More than just a game
2: Gaming in Style
3: The Gaming pro
4: Ahead of the game
5: Feel the game
6: We speak gaming
7: The best game in town
8: Game innovation
9: New generation games
10: Ahead of the game
11: Beyond iGaming
12: Innovations in gaming computing
13: Games through innovation
14: Together we are the game
15: We speak gaming anytime. Anywhere
16: The essence of gaming
17: Grade A barn-reared birds from East Anglia

A: iSoftBet
C: Sheriff Gaming
D: Play’n Go
E: Espresso Games
F: Merkur Games
G: Quixant
H: Microgaming
I: Advantech
J: Reflex Gaming
K: R. Franco
L: Spielo G2
M: Technogaming
N: Cosy Games
O: Tab Austria Better
P: Spielo International  
Q: Fine Chicken Co.