G2E a strange trip

Normally at this time of the year, I spend several weeks discussing all the shiny new table games at the Global Gaming Expo. But nothing about 2020 seems normal, so this year, my entire report will be a single column.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that the entire show was held virtually. The second is that there were no shiny new table games to report on. On a positive note, I didn’t have to shlep down to the Sands Expo and Convention Center and walk a mile from the parking garage to the show space.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why there were so few table games on display at G2E, although I believe there were a few possibilities. The first was that many companies are currently in a cost-saving mode. Ninety percent of U.S. casinos are open, albeit it at a diminished capacity so everyone is cutting back — from the players to the casinos to the gaming suppliers.

Another possibility is that there is a great deal of emphasis on electronic table games. It costs a lot of money to build and launch an ETG, so companies are going to go with proven titles. You probably don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands to code up a brand-new game to find out that it’s a dud.

But it was not just table games that were impacted. In total, there were 73 virtual vendors. I am not sure of the exact number of exhibitors in the past, but I’d guesstimate at least 200-300 of them. In the past, I have heard some suppliers talk about how the G2E is not really worth the expense, but it is something that they essentially ‘have’ to participate in. I think going virtual allowed a lot of companies to simply bow out.

Attendance is normally around 25,000 to 30,000. I find it difficult to believe that all these people are major decision-makers on the buy side. Like most conventions of its type, G2E is a wonderful social gathering for people to meet up once a year.

Quite frankly, that is a significant part of what it is for me. I spend a few hours going to the handful of table game companies and check out the new games. Then I stop by about a dozen other booths and say hello to people that I see once or twice a year. Some of these people live right here in town and others are scattered around the globe.

This year’s G2E was more of a shopping experience for the serious buyer. It was a little like being on the website of a car dealer. If you are seriously interested in buying you can get some basic information about what they have on their lot. But, if you want to get to the details, you had to set up a virtual meeting.

On the other side, if you were just window shopping, it was hard to get a sense of what was being offered at any useful level of detail. You could go to a supplier’s site, where they would have brief descriptions of their products. You might then be able to click on a 2-5-minute video clip where they would show you the product a bit more.

But I couldn’t find any interactive presentations where you could try out a product virtually or really demo a game. If you wanted further details, you had to request a meeting with the company which would be handled virtually.

Where does that leave someone like myself? When I’m actually at the G2E, I do my very best not to interfere in any company trying to sell their games. I’m not a buyer. I am an interested party. I write about games. I analyze games. I’m an avid fan of games.

But the supply companies are there to sell their games. So, if a casino comes along and wants to see their game, I politely step aside. In the virtual version, this left me in a position where I was not going to take up a company’s time by scheduling a meeting — assuming they would have let me in the first place.

I don’t know if other more casual visitors did the same. I would imagine that part of the vetting process to schedule a meeting would weed out those that did not have purchasing authority.

In the end, I’m guessing that the virtual G2E was more ‘all business’ than in past years. While I doubt very highly there will be any push to do another virtual one if it can be avoided, it does make me wonder if the exhibitors appreciated this more business-only approach and will look to make changes going forward to keep it that way.