Date: 12th January, 2023

The first European show for the coin-op trade’s 2023 season took place at the ExCel London Exhibition Centre in London’s Docklands, as the EAG International Expo returned.

The ExCel Exhibition Centre in London's Docklands
The ExCel London Exhibition Centre in London’s Docklands

Held in halls S1, S2 and S3 on the south side of the building, the Entertainment, Attractions & Gaming (EAG) show has been held at the ExCel since 2010. Prior to that, the coin-op trade show had been part of the larger ATEI (Amusement Trades Exhibition International) event held at London’s Earls Court.

ATEI included gaming and gambling companies, but those aspects of the business grew so large they pushed the smaller coin-op side first upstairs onto the balcony and then finally out the door, forcing a split into two separate shows – EAG for coin-op amusements and low-stakes gaming, and ICE for more serious gambling.

The Docklands area outside the ExCel London Exhibition Centre
The Docklands area outside the ExCel London Exhibition Centre

ICE takes place in the same ExCel Exhibition Centre four weeks after EAG, at the start of February. However, as we shall see, gaming is a major part of EAG too, as is an associated part of both the amusements and gaming businesses – cashless payments.

The entrance to EAG International Expo 2023
The entrance to EAG International Expo 2023

Entry to EAG was free, with registration available both in advance through the show’s website and on-the-door. Once inside it was a familiar sight with many of the regular exhibitors back, alongside a smattering of newer faces. The show began at 10am on Tuesday 10th January, running for three days until 4pm on Thursday 12th.

An overview of the EAG International  Expo 2023 show floor
An overview of the EAG International Expo 2023 show floor
(As with all pictures on the website, click to enlarge)

For pinball fans it was perhaps a little disappointing this year, although Stern Pinball still put on a good display of their recent titles and there was a first-time pinball exhibitor also showing their new game.

Stern were represented by their UK distributor Electrocoin.

The Electrocoin stand
The Electrocoin stand

Electrocoin offer a wide range of coin-op amusement and gaming machines, but owner John Stergides’ passion has always been pinball. With Led Zeppelin, Queen and James Bond all being UK-based themes, and the international premiere of the recent Roger Sharpe pinball movie also taking place in London, there have been multiple opportunities in the country for pinball to come under the spotlight.

Naturally, Stern’s 007 James Bond title was being displayed in both Pro and Premium versions, although the most recently announced variant – the 60th Anniversary Special Edition – wasn’t on show. The two Bonds were joined by a Jurassic Park, a Godzilla and a Rush.

The five Stern Pinball machines on the Electrocoin stand
The five Stern Pinball machines on the Electrocoin stand

For many, this was their first opportunity to play either of the 007 James Bond machines. All the games were popular, but despite that, there was usually only a short wait for one of them to become available to play.

The five Stern Pinball machines got plenty of play
The five Stern Pinball machines got plenty of play

As is now common at these shows, there was a dedicated Stern Insider Connected leaderboard for the machines. Scores on the two 007 James Bond games were combined, which was perhaps a little unfair as the Pro model played much easier than the Premium and was where all the top scores were achieved.

Stern's Insider Connected EAG leaderboard
Stern’s Insider Connected EAG leaderboard

Stern Pinball was represented by Gary Stern, John Buscaglia and Doug Skor. On the day we visited (Wednesday) they were only rarely found on the stand, presumably having meetings in one of the conference rooms upstairs.

Stern’s distributor, Electrocoin, were also promoting their pinball rental/purchase scheme for operators where a new Stern game can be rented for a fixed period and then either returned at the end of the term or bought for the initial list price minus all the rental payments.

Electrocoin's rental plan for new Stern machines
Electrocoin’s rental plan for new Stern machines

Unlike last year, Stern weren’t the only pinball manufacturers represented at EAG.

Bitronic had a stand where they were showing a range of the products they make.

The Bitronic stand
The Bitronic stand

Of particular interest to us was their Super Hoop pinball, designed by Quezal Pinball and sold in the UK by Pinball Heaven. There were two units on the stand – one was available to play while the other was a demonstration machine to show how the game is constructed.

The two Super Hoop games
The two Super Hoop games
The playable Super Hoop machine
The playable Super Hoop machine

The second machine illustrated how little needs to go into a pinball cabinet using modern technology. The base cabinet is basically empty and there’s not a whole lot going on under the playfield either.

Inside the Super Hoop game
Inside the Super Hoop game

Although Super Hoop is Bitronic’s only pinball, the did have two new Pin Shot games, which use mechanical flipper ‘hands’ to play an air-hockey-like game of football.

The Pin Shot game from Bitronic
The Pin Shot game from Bitronic

After an exhaustive search, the only other pinball at EAG was found at the bottom of a rack at one of the many redemption prize vendors.

That's more in our price range
That’s more in our price range

So, let’s take a quick look around the rest of the show.

Some of the many arcade and FEC games at the show
Some of the many arcade and FEC games at the show

There is an on-going trend to fight back against in-home Xbox and Playstation gaming by building bigger and more flashy dedicated hardware, with sit-down racing games especially popular. Naturally, almost every edge has to be covered in rainbow colour-changing RGB LEDs.

Two seats of Storm Rider 2  from Sega
Two seats of Storm Rider 2 from Sega
Dead Heat Unleashed from Bandai Namco and Fast & Furious Arcade by Raw Thrills
Dead Heat Unleashed from Bandai Namco and Fast & Furious Arcade by Raw Thrills

Continuing the theme of games you simply couldn’t get at home, Bay Tek’s Big Bass Wheel concept has been enhanced with LED displays now forming the spinning wheel in this impressive four-player model from Team Play.

Carnival Wheel by Team Play
Carnival Wheel by Team Play

As we said earlier, although big prize slot machines are reserved for the ICE show in four weeks’ time, the number of both physical and video slot machines does seem to be growing at EAG along with all the payment systems designed to support them.

The Gauselmann subsidiaries GeWeTe and Blueprint Technologies had a huge stand at the back of the hall with their video gaming machines and cash-handling systems.

The GeWeTe and Blueprint Technologies stand
The GeWeTe and Blueprint Technologies stand

In the centre of the hall is the coffee lounge, giving attendees (and their feet) a break from walking the aisles. After seeing the prices last year, we made sure we were well-refreshed before visiting the show this time.

Take a break...
Take a break…

Members of the amusements organisation BACTA had the option of using a reserved members-only lounge instead, while the bar on the left side of the hall was the most popular meeting venue.

The BACTA lounge
The BACTA lounge

Last year, continuing Covid prevention measures meant exhibitors from a number of European countries were not able to attend EAG. Most were back this year, and while visitor numbers appeared to be slightly higher too, the show hall was far from busy.

One of the main aisles on the afternoon of the busiest day
One of the main aisles on the afternoon of the busiest day

Certainly there was no problem getting to play any game you chose which is good for guests but maybe not so good for exhibitors.

The rather anti-social Media Zone
The rather anti-social Media Zone

As a visitor though, we were able to get some quality time on some of the newest titles – both pinball and video games. It was notable though how the games we enjoyed and repeat-played the most were the old-fashioned classics such as pushers and mechanical slot machines which continue to be fun even though you can’t win any prizes.

There's always plenty of fun to be had at EAG
There’s always plenty of fun to be had at EAG

Finally, here’s our exclusive Seventeen Minute Tour all around the EAG 2023 floor. We hope you enjoy it and enjoyed reading our review of this year’s show.

Our exclusive Seventeen Minute Tour of EAG 2023

We’ll be back at the ExCel in January 2024 for the next EAG International Expo show.

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