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UK Games Expo 2021 announces summer dates for return of in-person convention

Betting large on eight-week delay.
UK Games Expo 2019
Image: UK Games Expo via Facebook

The UK Game Expo announced over the weekend that it will be hosting a physical show at the NEC in Birmingham from July 31st to August 1st this year. The nature of the event and safety precautions that will be in place have yet to be formally decided.

The country’s largest annual hobby convention normally takes place at the end of May but hopes the eight-week delay “increases the chances of being able to run a physical show” by giving the country more time to control and suppress infection rates, along with increasing its vaccination rollout.

“We have spoken to our sponsors, partners and a great many of our exhibitors to make sure this date works for them and to bring you the best possible range and experience of games and gaming,” the update read.

While the infection rate in the UK has recently begun to fall, it remains well above figures reported at any point in 2020. Additionally, death tolls from COVID-19 continue to rise and above more than 1,600 daily, with more than 100,000 total deaths now recorded as the result of coronavirus, according to government reporting.

Regardless of changing conditions, UKGE wants to hold “as close to a 'normal' UKGE as possible” and has plans for two versions of a physical event - something akin to 2019’s pre-COVID structure and a “socially distanced event”. It claims the latter would widen halls and walkways in the trade show, introduce live demonstration and show rules to increase safety, and limit the number of daily ticket sales to keep congestion to a minimum.

UKGE admits it cannot decide what path it will take until the event date draws nearer. Consequently, public purchasing of tickets won’t open until after Easter. Those who elected to have their 2020 ticket roll over have one of two options: pay the difference between the more expensive “socially distanced ticket” or continue to roll that purchase forward into 2022.

The expo said it has begun reaching out to exhibitors with information and updates and will continue to maintain those conversations as plans for UKGE 2021 progress.

UKGE held Virtually Expo in 2020 as an alternative to the twice-delayed, then cancelled physical event. Approximately 20,000 individual viewers participated in coordinated livestreams, video demonstrations and industry chats.

The other tabletop and board game conventions in UKGE’s league also plan to hold some form of an in-person convention in 2021. Both Gen Con and Essen Spiel announced dates last year after cancelling their own physical shows, and PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia (organised by Dicebreaker parent ReedPop) will also return, taking place this December. All three mentioned any plans being pursuant on changing health and safety conditions and could be altered in the future.

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