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ECTS a ghost town?

Europe's biggest trade show, and nobody is home

ECTS has been in decline for a few years now, but the big name exhibitors are looking particularly thin on the ground in the run up to this year's event. Sony and Nintendo are both running their own shows elsewhere in London, while today C&VG has confirmed that Microsoft will also be a no-show, meaning that none of the console manufacturers will be at Europe's biggest computer games trade show. A sorry state of affairs indeed. An Xbox spokesman insisted that "we're not pulling out : we were never in", although our understanding is that Microsoft did in fact have a large stand reserved for the show at one point.

Last year's ECTS was the last one in the halls of Olympia, and the last one for many big name publishers and manufacturers
Nintendo, one of the many no-shows this year

Many of the big name independent publishers are also going to be missing the show. Traditional stay-at-homes Infogrames and Activision are absent again along with former booth-meisters Eidos, while both Hasbro and Mattel have been swallowed by bigger publishers since appearing at last year's show. Electronic Arts are again holding their own extravagant press-only party at their European headquarters in Chertsey, and it proved such a hit last year that Capcom Europe will be joining them there this year instead of attending ECTS itself.

Other publishers shunning the main show include Virgin and Take 2, our top picks for Publisher of the Show at last year's event. Another addition to the growing list of absent friends is Vivendi Universal Interactive, the company formerly known as Sierra, who today confirmed to us that they won't be turning up either. Staff favourite Cryo is also a no-show, along with Acclaim, who have been distributing the French company's games here in the UK since Cryo retreated back to the continent following a run of dismal sales. 3DO aren't likely to be around either, so that's no Army Men, no Might and definitely no Magic by the sounds of things. Meanwhile THQ will be holding their own private event for the press at another location nearby.

So who does that leave? Well, UbiSoft look likely to be the biggest publisher at ECTS this year, with a sizeable stand just inside the main entrance and a wide range of PC, console and hand-held games expected to be on show. But it's beginning to look like the Germans will be dominating the show in 2001 - Cossacks publisher CDV are promising to have "a very big line-up on show" this year, and FishTank are also preparing a killer selection of games, which we hope will include the likes of Aquanox, Etherlords, Arx Fatalis and Call of Cthulhu.

Representing the home team will be Midas and Rage, while Carmageddon creators SCi are expected to have a tiny stand hidden away in the developers area. Meanwhile French newcomers Wanadoo will be joining with their UK distributor Koch Media to show off a variety of titles, probably including Gremlins and their Fifth Element flying car game. Novalogic will be showing off their helicopter sim Comanche 4, while fellow Americans Blizzard have a modest presence in the developers area and are already promising another big announcement for ECTS this year, following the unveiling of Warcraft III at the 1999 show.

Overall though it's looking like a deathly quiet year, with all of the console manufacturers and most of the big publishers staying away, leaving the floor open to smaller publishers as well as developers and hardware companies like NVIDIA and Guillemot. Whether the show can carry on haemorrhaging exhibitors like this for much longer remains to be seen, but it's not looking promising for ECTS. Every year they announce that more people are visiting the show and more exhibitors are taking part, but if none of the big players bother to turn up it's soon going to become something of a sideshow.