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Eurogamer on The Apprentice

How it happened.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Did you watch it, then? For those who didn't, last night's episode of The Apprentice was all about trying to sell mobile apps. Along with new iterations of much-loved characters Scouse Whinger, Uppity Toff and Person Who Will Obviously Win Just By Not Shouting All the Time, it starred the Eurogamer Expo.

All right, starred is a bit strong. But for a good ten minutes, the episode was shot through with a familiar shade of blue and peppered with images of the EG logo. You might even have spotted a few recognisable faces including Eurogamer staffers, family members and, of course, loyal readers.

The Expo's journey to Apprentice stardom began last summer. A chap from TV production company Talkback Thames rang up Eurogamer's business development manager, David Lilley.

He said he was calling with an interesting proposition - one so interesting that he couldn't discuss what it was, or even reveal the name of the TV show it was connected with, until a legal agreement had been signed.

"The first I heard of it was when I got an excited phone call from Lilley," says Rupert Loman, Eurogamer's co-founder and managing director.

"He said, 'I don't know what it is yet, but there's this TV show which wants to come to the Expo. It sounds like quite a big deal, because we've got to sign our lives away if we want to find out about it.' Which we did."

Talkback then informed Lilley and Loman that the show in question was about The Apprentice. All very exciting, then, but the pair were told they must continue to keep what they were working on a secret from the rest of Eurogamer.

"We codenamed it The Secret Project," says Loman. How on earth did they come up with the name? "I don't know, it just came to us. Later we started abbreviating it to SP, which we thought was particularly clever."

The Apprentice producers were keen for the new series to feature a technology-based task. Or as Lilley puts it, "They wanted a group of besuited idiots to come up with an idea for a game and sell it on the App Store the following day."

How did Eurogamer Expo 2010 look?

As it turned out, creating a playable offering within such a short timeframe would have proved too tricky. So games were out. But simpler apps - such as, say, a casually racist soundboard or one which generates the sound of a woman impersonating a dog when you hit a picture of an elephant - were in.

With the plan for the task locked down, there was nothing to do but sit back and wait. Or rather, carry on furiously organising the actual Expo at which the Apprentice teams would try to sell their apps.

As you'll know if you saw the episode, they did this mainly by wearing silly hats and bribing people with buckets of lollipops. They also delivered presentations live on the Developer Sessions stage, having been mysteriously introduced by Eurogamer TV's Johnny Minkley.

"We weren't allowed to mention the fact that it was The Apprentice," he recalls. "I was basically given a script and told to say, 'This is just a bit of random fun for Eurogamer Expo' - you know, nothing to do with that massive TV show that's exactly the same format..."

Still, not everyone at the Expo worked it out, according to Loman."Because the last series of The Apprentice was showing at the time, people were like, 'Well it can't have been The Apprentice, because they're not the candidates who are on TV.' I can exclusively reveal that The Apprentice is not filmed live."

Anyone who didn't guess what was going from the presentations surely would have had they spotted Lord Sir Alan Sugar's advisors wandering around the show floor.

"Yes, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady came along," says Lilley. "We offered them a VIP room and they said no. They preferred to sit in the press area, where everyone could see them."

No diva-style tantrums or extravagant riders, then? "No. We got them some coffee and they just sat there. They were very cool."

Eurogamer's own take on the Apprentice.

Unlike the poor old Apprentice candidates, who were clearly feeling the pressure and whose presentations ranged from overly wacky to just plain weird. Much like the products they were designed to promote, in fact. But Lilley reckons it's not as easy as it looks.

"The amount of pressure that is on them is incredible. These guys had to stand up in a room full of 500 discerning gamers with an idea they came up with in two hours, and spend five minutes presenting something which is not going to be very good. That is pretty stressful stuff. And they did make absolute w***ers of themselves."

"They just looked so tired," says an even more sympathetic Loman. "They wake up at five or six AM to do a task, work right to the end of the day, then the next day it's the boardroom, and there's no time off before the next task... No wonder they get ratty with each other.

"Everyone thinks they can do it better than the guys on TV. I'm sure in a lot of cases you can, because some crazy decisions do get made. But the pressure they're under, combined with the fact you've got hundreds of hours of filming distilled down to minutes... Anyone would probably end up saying something stupid."

With all that in mind, would 27 year-old video games website entrepreneur from Brighton Rupert Loman ever consider going on The Apprentice?

"My brother used to take the piss out of me and say I should apply for the show, but er, no," he says.

"I think it's become a bit of a circus. It probably was right from the start, but there's a lot more interesting business being done by young people in all sorts of industries. The extra exposure of being on something like The Apprentice would be quite interesting, but ultimately quite a negative thing if you're actually trying to make it in business.

"Also I don't wake up in the mornings, so I'd be disqualified immediately."

Speaking before the episode was broadcast, Loman said he was confident about the kind of reaction the Expo's involvement would get. "Our main concern is whether Eurogamer gets any kind of mention," he explained.

"That's what we most want to see, but because of BBC guidelines you can't guarantee any of this stuff. If just for a second the Eurogamer logo is up on screen in front of 10 million people, that would be pretty cool."

Well, Loman got his wish. So what's next? Which major league TV show can we expect to descend on this year's Eurogamer Expo, taking place at Earls Court between 22nd - 25th September, early bird tickets available now?

"We're thinking Britain's Got Talent," says Lilley.

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