Recently there has been much talk about Insomnia 8. The cost of going to a LAN party has, over the years gone up, and we now see the latest in the long line of popular Insomnia events, costing £70 for 4 days of LAN action. With many (including myself) commenting on the cost of the LAN, I thought I'd ask what the man behind Multiplay (organisers of Insomnia 8) thought about it.
With Game On Lan announcing a 1000 player LAN running on the same weekend as Insomnia, I ask Wizzo what he thinks about this. It certainly has gamers in a pickle on which event to attend.
[rocker] There has been a lot of talk about the cost of Insomnia 8, more than other of your previous LAN parties. Do you believe the talk of money was brought up by people that were jealous or just wanted to have a stab at you and your organisation?
[Wizzo] Well inevitably I believe an element of that is the case. It is certainly a different ballpark than your average £25 a weekend scout hut LAN party. Not saying there's anything bad with LANs of that sort, we started out doing them ourselves (and still do in Stratford). Problem is when you're running LANs this big and build up a reputation, is that you become a bigger target with more people wanting to see you fail for whatever reason. You have to develop quite a thick skin :) Still gets you down tho when things turn really harsh, as they have done in the past. But the recent outbursts about price are nothing new and seem to come up every event we run. I think you get people moaning about price whether you charge £35 or £70. It just comes down to what the individual perceives to be a fair price, which is often relative to their spending power.
[rocker] Would you say that paying £70 for enterance to a LAN party (not neccessarily Insomnia 8) is too high?
[Wizzo] I think that £70 for entrance to a LAN party is a fair price, but were I to pay that I would obvious expect a different quality of event as a result of spending that amount. In fact a lot of people who've been in the past have commented on how they think the events have been too cheap. When you compare LAN gaming to other things you could do with your time, it really is good value. Go paintballing for half a day and see how much change you get out of £100, let alone £70 :) I went a couple of weeks ago and had a harsh reuinion with how expensive that game can be :)
[rocker] This extra talk about the cost of Insomnia 8, has this put extra pressure on you and your team to lay on an event which is of very high standard without any foreseeable glitches?
[Wizzo] That goes without saying. But I don't think we need outside pressure to give us the determination to pull it off. We've never been ones to rest on our laurels and always strive to improve and make every event better than the last.
[rocker] Game On Lan. Three words that without doubt you have heard quite a bit of in the last few weeks. How do you feel about them having a large LAN party at the same time as Insomnia 8?
[Wizzo] My initial reaction was one very much of surprise and disbelief. We've always expected others to try their hand at the larger LANs in the UK, but you can forgive us for not expecting it to come into direct competition on the same weekend. To me it made very little sense to run an inaugural big LAN event in direct competition with, in effect, the only established competitor with a reputation. It has already polarised the community in many ways, and inevitably flames have kicked off in various message boards and columns. Contrary to popular belief, I knew Rasher some 3 years ago and we actually get on quite well, although we haven't been in touch for some time now. This added a bit of extra surprise on my own personal part.
[rocker] Do you feel Game On Lan's timing was deliberately set during your Insomnia 8 event?
[Wizzo] Initially yes, it was hard not to put two and two together, see them run on the same weekend as i8 and significantly undercut the price. However, I've since had a good chat with Rasher on the phone and I think they simply had no choice at the time. That doesn't change the core issue that GOLAN is running in direct competition with i8 though.
[rocker] Your venue, Newbury Race Course, do you feel you might need to move out into a different venue in the future?
[Wizzo] Well we are rapidly outgrowing the current venue at the racecourse, but conveniently they have recently opened a new, much larger, stand right next door. This fits in quite nicely with our expansion plans for the future as we could easily fit 1500 people comfortably in there, if not more. Unless there is a dramatic change in the LAN market, I don't think we'll be looking to push for much more than a 2000 gamer event until 2003 at the earliest. If we do at all that is.
[rocker] You mention 2000 gamers at a LAN event, have you already started planning Insomnia 9, and if so what sort of figures are you looking at?
[Wizzo] i9 was booked at the same time as i8. When you are planning events like these you have to start a long time in advance, if only to ensure you get the venue dates you want. At the moment i9 is planned to be the same size as i7 and i8 were, i.e. 840 total. We'd rather consolidate on that number before we take the plunge for breaking the 1000 barrier - it's no small step :)
[rocker] You have just announced that you will be hosting the prequalifier events for the World Cyber Game championships, do you feel that finally Insomnia events are going to start attracting more of the serious gamers?
[Wizzo] We've never had a problem attracting serious gamers. We had Sujoy and blokey battling it out in the Q3 DM tourney at i7 and 4K were there to take the CS Crown. The i-series will alwyas host "for fun" tournaments with nothing more than a trophy, certificate, medal, a photo on our website and the honour for winning. However, we have been looking at the trend of pro-gaming, and are looking at ways to use the i-series as a platform for this. At the same time we're trying to do this without jeopardising the friendly, social atmosphere of the LANs. When big money gets involved the attitude changes somewhat.
[rocker] Do you feel gaming in the UK will tend towards making money and the fun element will disappear amongst the top players?
[Wizzo] Not really. When you look at any other sport the top players often still enjoy what they do. I doubt any of the current top players got into gaming because they thought they could make money out of it. Pro gaming has just been a nice recent development with a great deal of potential to do what they enjoy doing every day, and get paid to boot. The fact that Sujoy, Blokey and 4K came to i7, knowing full well there weren't any prizes up for grabs, is a testament to that.
[rocker] In the past live coverage of your LANs have been limited, from a personal point of view, many of my writers weren't able to connect to the internet, is there any future possibility that Insomnia events will have internet connections for gamers?
[Wizzo] There is indeed. i8 won't have a substantial internet connections, probably ISDN or at the very least 56k. However, we are in negotiations with our new sponsor about the future, and that is looking promising for much better connections. Unfortunately I can't divulge any more details on our new sponsor yet, as part of the deal is they tell us when we can tell everyone else :) Until now cost has been the major limiting factor. For example an outlay of some £20k a year for a leased line, just for 2 megabits. Somewhat prohibitive. Although those who like to shout from the hills about how much money MPUK are rolling in, would have you believe we could easily afford it, which is certainly not the case.
[rocker] You mention sponsors, are we looking at the commercialsation of LAN parties, or do you believe it is required to provide gamers with more facilities and a better LAN experiance?
[Wizzo] I think the commercialisation of LANs has already happened. They are ideal platforms for many companies to promote their products/services. I see LANs becoming as much expo events as LAN parties in the future, but we're treading carefully as it's the LAN experience that we want to always remain the key. People keep asking us for more services at our LANs, like trade stalls for hardware and software, I think all these additions create a better event, and don't detract from the experience at all. And of course certain services are only possible through sponsorship, like leased lines.
[rocker] Do you feel Multiplay is at a situation where their experiance in arranging large LAN parties has made them face the choice between running LAN parties secondary to their job/education or taking it up as a full time profession?
[Wizzo] It's definitely at that position. I recently left my medical studies, after having completed 4 years, to try and take the LANs forward as a full-time job. Trying to continue a double-life of walking the wards during the day (and evening, and night often), and organising these large LAN parties proved just too much and a choice had to be made. At the end of the day my love of gaming and organising these events got the better of my love of medicine. I've had plenty of support from the family tho. Multiplay has been a family business since June '99. Although even with this help, it was impossible to continue a very hard degree and try and keep up the Multiplay side of things at the same time. Quite a decision I admit, but time will tell if I've made the right one and I'll have to live with it either way.
[rocker] Do you see the cost of future Insomnia LAN parties going up?
[Wizzo] Well that depends very much on the venue and other costs. But I don't see us increasing past £70 in the near future without a very good reason. A lot of people won't believe this but I'm often the one fighting to keep the cost down wherever possible. Sometimes it's just impossible to do and keep afloat tho. If there's an opportunity to cut costs and bring the price down you can bet I'll jump on it.
[rocker] Finally, how much do you think LAN events do for the gaming community?
[Wizzo] I think LAN events are a great opportunity for gamers from around the country and beyond to meet up and have a great few days actually playing in the same room. They are as much social gatherings as they are about the low ping gaming. Entire communities can get together at an event the size of the i-series, as we're experiencing with the latest influx of planetarion players. No matter how good home connections get, nothing can beat being in the same room as your fellow gamers. In this way I think LANs are great tools for strengthening the community.