It was fun and games all the way when CHIPS held its fifth annual Christmas Conference.

The country’s largest independent video games chain celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year and the conference, held at Ramside Hall, County Durham, attracted big names in the video games industry such as Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and Electronic Arts.

More than 100 delegates gathered for a six-hour games fest, where they heard presentations from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, which all unveiled the latest consoles and games which will be out in time for Christmas.

The highlight of the Nintendo presentation included footage of the latest console, the Nintendo Wii, which will be out on December 8. Sony and Microsoft also revealed new titles out soon.

The delegates, who included franchisees, store managers and CHIPS company staff, were then set loose at the stands.

Activision, Computer Bookshops, Gem, Electronic Arts, Focus, Mad Catz, Pinnacle, PowerPlay, PerfectPlay, Sony and Team Playstation had all brought along their latest products which will be on the shelves for Christmas.

Award sponsors included Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony, Centresoft, Faragher Jones and Darlington-based Accountants CP Waites.

Microsoft had a surprise in store for Joint MDs Nik Agar and Don McCabe who founded CHIPS 20 years ago. Simon Bray, UK Retail Business Manager, and Steve Douglass, Product Representation Manager, presented the pair with an inscribed award to mark the event and a unique Xbox 360 face-plate signed by the Microsoft team.

One of the other main highlights of the day was the CHIPS Annual Awards. Each winner won an engraved trophy, inscribed store plaque and £250 prize money. Each award was sponsored by a publisher of CHIPS associate and the winners were:

Best Window Display – sponsored by Sony
CHIPS Orpington – Dave Jarvis

Newcomer of the Year – sponsored by Centresoft
CHIPS Glasgow West End – Franchisee Ken Clark

Store of the Year – sponsored by Faragher Jones
CHIPS Stockton – Franchisee Ibby Hussain, who scooped an award
for the second year running

Employee of the Year – sponsored by Xbox 360
Gordon Brandon – CHIPS Accounts Manager

Franchisee of the Year – sponsored by CP Waites
Jon Doyle of CHIPS Lytham St Annes

After the day’s conference, everyone was treated to a full Christmas dinner, party and Christmas stockings sponsored by Nintendo.

A full games room was set up so guests to try their hand at all the new games about to be released and it was packed all night.

“Once again the CHIPS Conference was bigger and better than ever before,” said Joint MD Don McCabe. “We are delighted all the big manufacturers and publishers attended. Usually events are held in Birmingham and London but we always host our conference in the North-east,” said CHIPS Joint MD Don McCabe.

“It can be tricky persuading them all to travel North on a Sunday but once they have attended they can see the benefits. The aim of the conference is to show our franchisees and staff what will be hot for Christmas and they were delighted to get their hands on the games and they played into the early hours of the morning.”

Fellow Joint MD Nik Agar said: “We have had nothing but praise from all the publishers who attended and we hope to see them all again next year. This conference is the highlight of our year. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and gained great product knowledge which they can now pass on to our customers.”

CHIPS has 30 outlets across the country from Glasgow to Portslade, near Brighton. Each shop buys sells and trades, new and secondhand consoles, games, DVDs and accessories.

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