Date: January 23rd-25th 2007.
January in London still means cold winds and the faint possibility of a dusting of snow, despite the best efforts of global warming.
And so we're back at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre for the annual ATEI show.
One thing I noticed immediately after getting off the tube was the lack of people around. OK I'd been delayed a bit by traffic but in previous years there was a river of bodies all flowing in the direction of the Exhibition Centre. Today, though, seemed like any other day at Earls Court station. Compare the picture above with last year.
Once inside that impression was confirmed as the usually packed aisles were bereft of visitors. It definitely wasn't a ghost town but the change was stark.
One possible reason was this year's IMA show in Düsseldorf the previous week. Last year IMA was cancelled making ATEI the only major European show. But this year it was back.
Another possible reason is the decline of the AWP (slot machines) market in the UK pub trade as serious players move to licensed betting offices for the higher prize levels, deserting their previous homes in pubs and bars.
Whatever the cause, it was nice as a visitor to be able to play some of the games without having to queue and to be able to talk to exhibitors.
ATEI is just as large as before, occupying the front half of the hall and the upstairs area too with some of the big names making the trip up one floor.
And ATEI is just one of the exhibitions in the Exhibition Centre. Occupying the back of the hall and the Earls Court 2 Exhibition centre is the International Casino Exhibition or ICE.
ICE has grown over the years and now takes up as much space as it's companion. Given the nature of the UK market though, there is something of a crossover between the two markets in the form of AWP or slots. Both halls are full of them, the differences being the stake and prize levels as well as the play styles and display configurations.
For pinball fans, though, there are meager pickings these days.
Electrocoin had the only mechanical games with three new Stern Family Guy games and one Pirates Of The Caribbean. Gary Stern was there to help promote his products and answer the occasional question about the new games. We'll have more details about Family Guy shortly over in the Games section.
Behind the pinballs were two of Stern's redemption games Simpsons Kooky Carnival.
But there were no innovative or new pinball-related products on display.
Global VR's UltraPin was here but disappointed with the number of bundled games reduced even further. Originally it would have 12 games included, then by the Preview Show it had tumbled to 6 with another 6 being available as an upgrade pack. Now we are told it only comes with 5 games and another 4 can be purchased. The machine above had all 9 installed.
TAB had their Virtual Pinball as usual but there was no time to investigate to see of they've added another title to their range or video pinball, shooting and arcade games.
There were also the occasional novelty mini-pinball games too dispensing gumballs or other confectionary and toy capsules.
In general the show lacked any jaw-dropping innovations and seemed to be much the same as in previous years. For pinball fans, the only news was the showing of Family Guy and we'll have more about that coming up soon in our Family Guy section.
Finally, you can watch our unique Three Minute Tour to get a feel of ATEI with some special footage of Family Guy in action.
© Pinball News 2006