Gaming retailers from across Asia-Pacific flew into Australia last week to get up close and personal with the latest and greatest upcoming games to be released by Activision.
The two-day Activate Asia event, held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney, saw 105 Australian delegates coming together to get the low-down on 12 new titles due to be released in the following year.
On day two, it was the turn of 112 retailers from Japan, China, Korea, India and across the region to see the action at first hand.
“We have to split it into separate days because the two groups ask such different questions,” Activision vice-president and managing director of Asia-Pacific, John Watts, said. “Because we are an American company and make Westernised games, the Australian retailers can take them at face value and decide whether they like them or not.
“It is much more in depth with those from Asian countries because of localisation issues. They might want language options or characters and backgrounds altered to fit with a particular culture.
“We then have to discuss how many copies they want to order before going back to the developers to find out if the alterations can be made and whether it is worth their time for the numbers ordered.”
This year’s event was the second annual Activate Asia — the first was held in Singapore but the venue had to be changed this time around because of the SARS outbreak earlier this year.
“We couldn’t risk the people who were due to demonstrate the games not turning up so we made an early decision to change the location,” Watts said.
Despite the change, he estimated delegate numbers were up by about 20 per cent on the inaugural show.
The concept for Activate originated in the UK five years ago as a way of bringing together retailers and distributors from all over Europe. Watts attended a couple of times before deciding to bring the idea to this part of the world.
“It’s a great way to highlight and position upcoming products,” he said. “It gives our partners a chance to see the games and have them demonstrated by the developers before coming to a decision on how many they want to take.”
Activision does 80 per cent of its Australian business direct to mass merchants, with the remainder distributed to Harvey Norman branches and independent retailers through Queensland-based All Interactive.
According to Watts, the interactive market amassed total revenues of $823 million in Australia last year, just $10 million short of the figure recorded by the national box office.
And he is confident the online gaming war between Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox, which is due to start at the back end of this year, will help push the industry ahead of the movie business as well as fuelling broadband growth.