EiG Brief: To Eat, or to Play?

23 September 2008

Even before 10 a.m., Barcelona time, the I-gaming industry's men and women (many donning business-suit black) were streaming into the EiG conference hall in Barcelona where just under 1,500 attendees will gather for two more days to learn, debate and network. The weather there was cool and rainy, but the agenda topics are gearing up to be some truly hot-button issues.

Clarion Gaming's own Sue Schneider welcomed a large crowd of several hundred this afternoon and proclaimed this year's installment was the biggest in the event's seven-year history. To prove her point, she asked first-time attendees in the audience to raise their hands, and a little less then half the room all turned out to be EiG newcomers.

"It's an ongoing struggle to keep up with developments," said Mrs. Schneider, pointing to why events like EiG are so vital to the industry.

During his keynote speech, Bruno Giussani, an Internet and technology expert, offered some good news: All quantitative data points to an explosion of online users in every sector.

"What's happening online is exponential growth -- no matter what variable you take," he said.

Mr. Giussani gave a rundown on how the world has changed since the Internet's advent and touched on five trends: witnessing, sharing, conversation, collaboration and action. Each of these items has greatly evolved with technology, he said.

"The Internet makes it incredibly easy for people to come together and take action," he added.

Later in the day the phrase "we are a young industry" was mentioned quite a few times in both panel discussions. In the first of two rounds of industry leaders' debates, software suppliers like Orbis Technology, Playtech Ltd. and CryptoLogic Ltd. spoke about innovation and the future of online gaming.

"Everyone is looking to be a one-stop show and everyone is looking to diversify," said Martin Lerby, who is head of games at Bwin Interactive Entertainment's Ongame Network.

The second panel was a bit more heated and even entered the rocky territory of how recession-proof the I-gaming industry will be.

When Mrs. Schneider, panel moderator, brought up this hot topic, Gigi Levy, chief executive of 888 Holdings, turned to her and laughed: "You're seriously asking?"

"We hope that the recession would not be too deep, and we hope that people will continue to enjoy our services as much as we think they do," Mr. Levy said. "If they won't have anything to eat -- which is what some investors ask me -- no, they will not play."

Jeanette Kozlowski is a staff writer for IGamingNews and manager of Clarion Gaming's Gaming Industry Media portal. She lives in Kirkwood, Mo.