Originally from Westmeath, Ferdi spent time living near the famous San Jose Convention centre in California. Next March, when up to 20,000 people attend GamerCon in Dublin, Roberts is hoping to summon the same spirit of community and celebration that San Jose has seen over the years.
“Before we had even announced details, over a quarter of the tickets had been sold,” Roberts says. “The Irish games community is so passionate, but there’s been nothing like GamerCon in place to bring them together.”
It’s no surprise that tickets are in such high demand — one of the event sponsors is GameStop, who have an extraordinary numbers of active gamers on their registered lists.
“Ireland has the largest percentage of its population under the age of 35 in Europe, something like 1.6m people between the age of 15-35,” Roberts says. “GameStop’s registered user list of people who buy games on a reasonable active level, every couple of months or so, is at 500,000. We estimate there are about a million gamers in Ireland.”
Now that details have officially been announced (you can find them at Gamer-con.com) Roberts can expect those tickets to go even faster. GamerCon is aiming to hit every gaming demographic possible, bringing the diverse Irish community together under one roof, from younger ‘mini-Minecrafters’ to people interested in pro-gaming and eSports, to older gamers with a dedicated interested in retro gaming.
There are expected to be over 800 player positions in the ‘GamerZone’ with a chance to play the latest games before they are released, while people are being highly encouraged to cosplay.
To top it all off, on the main stage Roberts is bringing some of the biggest names in YouTube and Twitch gaming to engage with the fans, including Uberdanger and JeromoseASF, with more in the works.
What has really impressed Roberts so far, however, is the communal spirit of the community here in Ireland.
“Before we had even put out the call for help, over 200 people had signed up to help organise the event,” he said. “Now that we’re officially putting out the call for volunteers, we expect to get a lot of interest from the community.”
People can get involved in different ways, Roberts says.
“If you’re a builder and prefer to engage on the tech side, then you could help out with technical setup and floor space,” he says. “Or if you have a particular genre or game you like, maybe you could become a guide for that area of the convention. It’s a good chance for people to really get involved and earn some experience in the industry.”
A big event like this doesn’t happen without sponsors and GamerCon has already nailed down some of the biggest names in gaming. GameStop, Sony, Microsoft and Alienware are all on board, as are peripheral kings Razer. The Irish eSports scene will also be well represented, but this is one area where Roberts think there is plenty of room for growth.
“There are some eSport teams in Ireland but the scene is still very nascent,” he says. “Long term, our goal is to establish an eSports league in Europe.”
And that’s not the only European expansion Irish-born GamerCon will be looking to enact. Next month, details are expected to be announced for a London GamerCon too — meaning Ireland has a chance to start something really big in the European gaming community and lead the way for the larger community.
“The number of 20,000 we are expecting for this is partly modelled on sales figures, but that expectation is reinforced by the enthusiasm we’ve met with since announcing GamerCon,” says Roberts.
“The success of this is in the community’s hands.”
Knowing the Irish gaming community, Roberts and GamerCon have nothing to worry about. Ireland has long been overdue a proper celebration of gaming culture and passion. On March 18 and 19, expect the Irish fans to turn up in force and make the event a proper party.