The first of the year inspire a future-oriented perspective, but the approach of the last edition of the Ice fair in London (scheduled from tomorrow, February 6th, to the 8th), which has seen me involved for more than ten years now, all this gives me some nostalgia; for this reason I would like to take a look at both the past and the future, looking at the evolution of the event, especially on the issue of sustainability and social and corporate responsibility.
My first Ice dates back to 2010, when the fair still took place at Earls Court, in central London, enjoying easy and almost direct access to everything that the British capital could offer, as a multicultural and cosmopolitan metropolis, not knowing then neither his future move to the edge of the city nor the subsequent one from the city itself beyond the borders of the European Union. The fair, with the space occupying perhaps just a third of that of the two ExCeL halls we are forced to use today, had only just begun to observe the growth of the online sector, with the largest areas reserved for physical gaming brands, including many of them no longer exist. There were many excesses by exhibitors that today would no longer be compliant to the standards of the code of conduct introduced by Ice in 2019, especially in the area of inclusiveness: there were few conversations about responsible gaming or damage prevention and the word “sustainability” was completely nonexistent. Thirteen years later, having made the move to the east of the city and its subsequent double (or triple) growth, despite the predictions of an immediate failure of the fair moved away from the London core, we deny my memory from 2010 with the 2023 analysis of social listening.
The Commetric agency, which collected the data during the last edition of Ice, tells us that the five most widespread and discussed subjects via social networks were: responsible gaming, regulation, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, safety and data protection. Unfortunately, I don't have the data for 2010 (did Twitter exist at that time?), but I bet that these topics had little diffusion at that time, with the possible exception of regulation. We are talking about a time perspective of over ten years, which has obviously influenced this evolution of the subjects and of the fair itself, which sometimes reflects the sector and often anticipates the spread of some trends. The introduction of the code of conduct forcing both exhibitors and visitors to think about diversity and inclusion, the existence of the Consumer Protection Zone installed in 2018 and now a central initiative for the fair, seminars, campaigns and networking events dedicated to the promotion of minority groups (both gender and race, physical ability, sexuality and neuro diversity) are examples of the initiatives that have emerged over the years as a response to the evolution of the sector, but also to stimulate the progress in these areas.
Starting from 2023 and Commetric's analysis, what will be the subjects of the future, especially in a new version of the Ice in its Spanish venue? The location of Ice in the Uk has undoubtedly had an impact on many aspects of Ice, such as the emergence and success of the Consumer Protection Zone, which has taken advantage of technological innovation in response to regulatory needs before the White Paper. The new venue certainly allows us to redesign the fair, and therefore also to reinvent the initiatives dedicated to responsible gaming and social responsibility in the sector. With the continuous evolution of discussions more and more going towards prevention, we are already asking ourselves whether consumer protection (which assumes the need to protect from harm instead of developing healthy and sustainable behaviors) is an appropriate definition or whether must also change to reflect the industry's desire to support sustainable gaming.
And with innovations in regtech and fintech, what are some experiences outside of the gaming industry that we could embrace? These are some of the questions able to influence the direction of Ice. In any case, the global aim of Ice remains and, indeed, intensifies with the return to the European Union and the greater opening, given the linguistic association, to Latin America, the region most mentioned for its opportunities for growth and expansion. It will be an opportunity, on the one hand, to extend the scope and diffusion of the responsibility issues now well rooted in the mentality of the most advanced markets and, on the other, to enrich the conversations with points of view and experiences coming from multiple markets and especially those outside the "usual suspects" of the Anglo-Saxon and European markets.