I do the same thing every year. I seem to have this nasty habit of leaving things until the last minute…
I wasn’t planning on going to EB Expo this year. October has shaped up to be a busy month for me, with an awards ceremony for my day job in Melbourne, plus heading back to Melbourne 2 weeks later for PAX Australia, another convention just seemed a bit much for me. But, as the event drew closer, and I found myself with some extra money, I figured I’d at least grab a ticket for the Saturday night session, and I could at least catch the Good Game live show.
And, of course, that one ticket changed into the whole day. I did a similar thing last year, the catalyst being the thought of standing in humungous lines for half the day, and I would like to at least see half of the convention not from behind a “45 minute wait” sign (I should add, those kinds of signs were missing this year, which was in a way a blessing, as not being reminded of how much of the day you’re wasting can be beneficial.)
So, Saturday morning, I headed down to Homebush for a day of some killer upcoming new releases, and some great panels and shows.
I have to admit, it’s refreshing to see how EB Expo has really evolved in the past few years from, essentially, a giant marketing exercise to possibly Australia’s premier gaming convention. Granted, it still has some of that corporate feel attached to a few attractions, but it’s great that this year EB Games has seemed to concentrate on making the event less of a trade show, and more of a fan-focused event. This has resulted in a much better atmosphere all around.
EBX has also included quite a few presentations from a few of the big names in the gaming industry, giving those of us who aren’t lucky enough to go to an event as grand as E3 the chance to experience the buzz and sizzle of a big presentation usually reserved for the media.
I managed to take in the Bethesda presentation, which showcased the upcoming Survival Horror title from Shinji Mikami, The Evil Within. The half-hour show came complete with a few real life monsters, which were more there to help promote the upcoming maze attraction at Movie World up on the Gold Coast. Later in the day I managed to get into the smaller ‘Teaser’ maze they had created, which was quite effective at scaring the pants off you, even if it was only 90 seconds long. I also managed to get a quick hands-on with a demo for the evil within, and while it’s definitely a title I’ll be picking up, I might wait until I get hold of a PS4 for the full experience.
Wandering around the main expo arena, I caught up with the Xbox both, trying a few new and upcoming titles, one of which being the latest in the Forzza Horizon series, which looked incredibly sleek, and was very comfortable to play. Most of the bigger Xbox releases, including the much hyped Sunset Overdrive, came complete with extended lines, which I’d be more inclined to join if I was at the Expo for a longer time.
2K were on hand to showcase a few upcoming releases, including the long- anticipated “Evolve” and of course, the latest Borderlands installment. I was slow to try the first two Borderlands games, having only just recently picked them up for the PS3, a had tons of fun with them, so I was eager to try Borderlands The Pre-sequel, and sat down to a 20 minute demo, which was over before I knew it. A great game, and one I’ve picked up on release day.
Ubisoft had quite a large presence at EBX this year, showcasing the likes Farcry 4, the Crew, Just Dance, and…um…there was one more…what was it again…oh yeah, Assassins Creed number 427. (Seriously Ubi, can you stop now?)
Nintendo had a decent booth, with Smash Bros comps for the literally just-released 3DS version, Displays for the ‘New’ 3DS and Amiibo figures, and demos for Splatoon, Captain Toad, Hyrule Warriors, and of course, Mario Kart 8. Nintendo are know for putting fun over flashy, and didn’t disappoint here.
Warner Brothers had Lego Batman 3, Shadow Of Mordor, Dying Light and Mortal Kombat X on show, as well as a cool display for Batman Arkham Knight.
Other companies included Razor, Logitech and Turtle Beach showing off various shiny new peripherals such as Mice, Keyboards and Headphones. ASUS which ran Game design workshops in conjunction with AIE, as well as a rather brief and basic demonstration on overclocking, which could have been a lot more detailed and helpful (to be fair there was only 2-3 people interested,) but it did light a small interest in upgrading my PC, which I might do a separate blog or You Tube video on in the future.
Across from the main expo building, League of Legends were on full power, covering one of their major championship streams, and Origin PC were being all flashy with their sleek looking PC setups, and the Battlefield tank was also on show.
Over in the Freeplay area, a few consoles from the next gen and previous gen were set up with some favorites, But the highlight of the area was the Retro Garden. the guys from Weird and retro had outdone themselves with their legendary Retro Garden, with everything from the Atari 2600 through to the retail display cabinet for the Dreamcast. I even caught up with an old friend – the Amiga 500.
EB Expo’s program of panels has also grown a bit this year, and included a Cosplay competition, Q and A’s from developers, community folk and of course the Good Game guys. I was able to get along to the Trivia comp, which was good fun, even if I got a lot the answers wrong. the weird and Retro panel gave people a good look at the various consoles and computers that a lot of older gamers grew up with. I also briefly managed to get a look at John Robertson’s comedy show, which I wish I could have stayed and watched all of, but it was too close to the Good Game late show, so I had to leave. It would be good if EBX would move this show a little earlier, as the humor is a little similar to that of the Good Game late show.
Which was probably the highlight of the day for me. ABC’s Good Game team have really established themselves as Australia’s most popular Gaming show on Commercial Television (okay, it’s the only Gaming show on Commercial television) and the massive crowd waiting in line was proof. This was the ‘Mature Edition’ of their live shows at EBX, and came complete with a cavalcade of talent from the ABC stable, including the Chasers Andrew Hansen, Utopia star Luke McGregor, The Roast comic Nich Richardson, Giggle and Hoot host Jimmy Giggle, and of course Good Game regular Dave Callan. presented as a quiz show, similar to that of the classic ABC hit “Spicks and Specks”, Good Game Live was hilarious from start to finish, and has definitely become a compulsory fixture of the entire expo.
It goes without saying, although you can get a few highlights in one day, the whole 3 days is really recommended to get as much of the expo as one can, since queue times can really drain your day. There were a few features I missed that I would have liked to have done, including seeing the Robot Wars on display, plus the League of Legends shows would have been good to have watched for a while.
The EB “mega store” still could do with a revamp, with various game memorabilia marked cheap and just thrown in a pile. Select new release games and some hardware are also on sale (to be fair that included new consoles available over the counter,) however overall it comes across as a bit chaotic. A “pre-owned” game section wouldn’t hurt either.
Overall It’s hard to fault EB Expo with only one day and, if I can get organized, I’d love to make the full weekend next year, as EB Expo has definitely become a great fixture on the Australian Convention calendar. It does still carry some of that marketing event atmosphere, which obviously can’t be helped since it is organized by the Gaming Retail giant, however a few tweaks could help give the event more of that ‘fan-focused’ atmosphere that’s really proving beneficial for the overall event (all day tickets instead of “sessions” might help lose some of that commercialized feel.) However I hope it manages to remain at Sydney for some time to come as it has a great potential to expand on this already massive event.