The lights are on
Next month, fans of retro gaming from across the globe will converge on Las Vegas for the annual Classic Gaming Expo. The event – now in its 15th year – is a haven for collectors, players, and anyone who’s interested in old-school arcade, handheld, and console gaming. We spoke with Scott Schreiber, one of the event’s co-directors, to learn more about how this year’s CGE could be the biggest one yet.
Classic Gaming Expo was founded in 1999 by John Hardie, Sean Kelly, and Joe Santulli. In addition to the expo, the trio founded the Videogame History Museum, which features a traveling exhibition that’s shown at events like E3 and GDC. The museum’s success meant that they had less and less time to work on planning and coordinating CGE. This year, Schreiber, along with the cohosts of his popular gaming podcast Retrogaming Roundup, Mike James and Mike Kennedy, approached the founders and offered to take over the show. They struck a deal, where Hardie, Kelly, and Santulli retain ownership of the show and operate the museum’s presence at the show, as well as the charity-auction portion. Schreiber and his staff are now responsible for organizing and staffing the show, and he sounds as if he couldn’t be more excited.
Schreiber says he’s been attending the event for a decade now, and that he feels a deep responsibility to adhere to what makes it such a great show. He says he gave his staff a mandate from the outset. “First thing, we have to honor two promises,” he told them. “One, that we stay true to the character of CGE – I go to these expos all over the country, but this is my favorite. I love this expo. We have to preserve the character of CGE – we don't want to go changing this too much, in term of who and what it is. And secondly, we want to honor the commitments and family that CGE has always represented. That's one thing, once you've been to CGE, you're going to come back. It's got an awesome customer-retention rate, because when you go there it feels like a big family reunion.”
In past expos, there was the perception that there was almost too much room. “Why not fill the space?” Schreiber recalls asking. That’s what he and his team have set out to do with this year’s show. Previously, the exhibition area was in one big room, where the vendors shared space with the arcade games and bands. The vendors will still shut down at six, but the arcades will remain open until midnight each night of the show.
This year, there will be 30 vendors, compared to the 22-24 in past years. Previous expos had a dozen consoles set up for play – there will be more than 50 this year, including an LCD and LED arcade for handheld games; a Commodore club; and six Steel Battalion battlestations set up. Schreiber says attendees will be able to check out obscure and rare systems that they may have only read about previously. Fans of arcade games will have their hands full, too. This year, there will be more than 90 arcade and pinball machines on display, which is about three times as many as in past expos. Players will be able to participate in competitions on-site, too.
There will be a variety of panels and guests this year as well, including Atari programmer Howard Scott Warshaw (E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark); Intellivision programmers Keith Robinson and Stephen Roney ("If you're a fan of Intellevision, this is the year to go,” Schreiber says); EA Sports founder Don Traeger (Skate or Die); programmer Rebecca Heineman (The Bard’s Tale, Doom, Tempest 2000), and more.
The show is from September 12-14 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A discounted three-day pass is available up to the eve of the show, and it costs $34. Otherwise, passes are available at the door for $39. If you’re a Nevada resident, you can purchase a day pass for $15, too. There’s also a guaranteed discount room rate available for people who register before August 11. For more information on Classic Gaming Expo 2014, visit the official site.
For some of the sights from the show a few years back, take a look at our gallery.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.