Gamestop Expo to stay tied to manager's conference for foreseeable future

The Gamestop Expo, the company's San Antonio-based trade show which opened to paying attendees and PowerUp Rewards members, will stay tied to the annual Gamestop manager's conference for the foreseeable future.

The Gamestop Expo, the company's San Antonio-based trade show which opened to paying attendees and PowerUp Rewards members this year, will stay tied to the annual Gamestop manager's conference for the foreseeable future.

For years, Gamestop has invited its store managers to a gathering where they could get hands-on experience with upcoming titles, sharing information they could use to help make recommendations and sales when they returned to their respective retail locations. This year, for the first time, Gamestop allowed anyone to attend the event with a $35 (or $100 for VIP) entry fee — which could be waved with PowerUp Rewards points.

Gamestop CEO Paul Raines explained that deciding to open the show was "a big call," inspired by the growth of the company's loyalty program and the success of similar shows from their affiliates overseas.

"I went to Australia last year in October, and the Aussies, imitating our French team, started selling tickets to their show," Raines explained. "Australia is a gaming crazy country, but there's not any shows in Australia. So our team did a show, and sold 10,000 tickets. So publishers said, 'Wow, this is fantastic.' So I came back from Australia and started kicking it around.

"At the same time, our PowerUp community has exceeded all expectations that we ever dreamed of. It's at 20 million — that's probably triple what I thought it could probably reach. When we saw the amount of customers we had, it allows us to be focused really on, 'Could we invite just customers that live within 100 miles of San Antonio to a show?' And that's where we started, and the reaction was great."

The appeal of the show is certainly very broad — nearly every major publisher was in attendance, showing demos for upcoming games that were either press-exclusive or barred behind hours-long lines at bigger shows like E3 and Gamescom. However, that very publisher support is what would make doing the show several times a year difficult for the retailer.

"It would be very hard to do this separate from our manager's meeting," Raines said. "The reason is, publisher support will be difficult if we can't aggregate all these people into one place at one time."

Still, Raines isn't ruling out the possibility of expanding the show beyond its current southwest home.

"If you said to me, five years in the future, could you see Gamestop Expos around the country multiple times a year? Maybe," Raines said. "Could be. Depends on the partners. The beauty is, we could market — we know everybody who's a gamer and what games they like to play, how many hours they play, in the city of, say, Orlando. And we can reach out to them and invite them to come. The other thing we could do is invite people to stores to watch broadcasts live. There's lots of that entertainment-gaming activity we think we could do."

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