Pokemon Go

Who needs Pokemon Go? Ani-Com and Games Hong Kong fair draws thousands of virtual reality and comics fans

Companies from Lego to Hasbro optimistic about sales and boosting brands

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 10:54pm

The 18th Ani-Com and Games Hong Kong fair welcomed thousands of eager fans of virtual reality diversions, local cartoons, and Japanese comics and fictional works as it threw open its doors on Friday.

Jordan Ko, 35, heading up the line to enter the fair, said he had been waiting since noon Thursday – 22 hours before the fair opened at 10am Friday.

“I wanted to come early to avoid the long queue so that I can go home early to get some sleep,” he said. This was Ko’s third year at the festival.

Yet the early bird, armed with a budget of around HK$5,000, had his sights set on purchasing special editions of Hong Kong comics instead of widely celebrated VR games.

“I’ve been reading local cartoons for more than a decade,” he said. “We Hongkongers should support our own comics.”

For Dick Cheung, 14, who was right behind Ko and joined the queue at 1pm Thursday, exploring works of Japanese light fiction and attending the authors’ autograph session were what he most looked forward to.

Hong Kong animation, comic and video game enthusiasts gear up for Ani-Com

“I’m more than thrilled and excited at the moment,” the form four student said. “My parents didn’t oppose my staying up all night waiting as it’s summer vacation now.”

This year’s fair featured many new and popular VR games as well as long-celebrated Japanese comics and other works of fiction. But some veteran attendees said fewer people had lined up this year.

Alan Ren, a self-employed businessman from Guangzhou and VR games enthusiast, started waiting at 4pm Thursday and was among the first 20 visitors in line.

“I came here at the same time as last year’s Ani-Com fair,” he said. “But there were already more than 100 people in front of me last year.”

Edwin Fang, eleventh in line and also from the mainland, said fair organisers should have made refreshments available for those who camped out overnight.

“The fair has been held for many years,” he said. “They should at least offer us some bottled water, right?”

Although he found the long wait difficult, Fang said it was still worthwhile. “I asked my office for two days’ leave just for the VR games,” he said. “They’re only available in Hong Kong.”

While Pokemon Go is sweeping the city, the game’s developer Niantic had no booth at the fair, an organiser spokeswoman said. The event featured 600 booths in total.

While many were immersed in VR games, thousands of others could not wait to buy comics products and meet cosplayers who brought their beloved animation characters to life.

An attendee surnamed Ng, 25, and his friend surnamed Tang, 16, arrived at 8am Friday to buy merchandise from Japan.

“We heard that limited products, like anime idol cushions and albums, were sold out in half an hour last year.”

Others like Yari Wong and Riko Ho, both 18, came to the fair fuelled by a keen interest in cosplay – the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book or video game. The two took it up just months ago.

“You get the chance to try pretty clothes and dress up like your favourite characters,” Ho explained. She and Wong said they spent nearly two hours on their makeup and costumes before arriving on Friday.

Kenny Sham Ho-ki, senior marketing manager for Lego, said his company expected a 10 to 15 per cent increase in its sales following the fair.

“Despite the downward economy, we do not fear a decrease in sales,” he said, noting a Lego display of Hong Kong’s past and present was the company’s highlight at the event.

Nina Zhu, head of marketing for Google Play in Hong Kong, said a larger booth was set up this year compared to the company’s past participation at the fair.

“It shows Google Play’s growing commitment to and investment in the Hong Kong market,” she said. The company’s booth featured a VR cardboard viewer and mobile apps.

Hasbro Hong Kong brand manager Thomas Ho Wai-man expressed confidence that his company would see good sales figures this year. Hasbro showcased Marvel comics as well as Transformers toys and models at its booth.

Hong Kong start-up releases first locally-made virtual reality games

“We use the fair as a platform to promote and build our brand instead of boosting sales of toys and models,” he said. “We’re not under much pressure.”

Yet some attendees showed no hesitation in spending money.

We use the fair as a platform to promote and build our brand
Thomas Ho Wai-man, Hasbro rep

A 40-something devotee of toys and models surnamed Liu told the Post he had spent more than HK$4,000 on three boxes of goods from Hot Toys, one of the biggest toy companies participating in the fair.

“I don’t really have a budget on how much to spend,” he said. “I’m just wandering around to see if there’s anything I’m interested in.”

Elsewhere at the fair, a trio of Marvel fans spent more than HK$10,000 on toys and models. One of them, surnamed Wong, said he had budgeted around HK$5,000 for the event. The three collectively bought five bags of toys on the fair’s first day.

Ani-Com and Games Hong Kong is to run five days until August 2 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.