In the UK, we get a few short, but sweet, Summer months to enjoy. These weekends are stereotypically filled to the brim with BBQs in back gardens, open aired cinemas, trips to the swimming pool and giant summer blockbuster movies.
Then, as if overnight, social media takes a swoop towards an Autumn of overwhelming hype and excitement that can be just as physically exhausting to watch pass by as it is to participate. All those conventions you have been thinking about going to; every Twitch streamer, YouTube content creator, retro lover and all-round gamer are screaming their heads off about them. They’re all happening, right now, in a two month span.
The excitement surrounding the big players of the games industry convention event world all hit it off with an apparent bang – Gamescom, the largest in Germany, probably saw the highest footfall figures and the most blisters of all. With the US taking the lead with the sheer quantity of events (splitting up conventions such as PAX into regional events) and the brand new first year of Twitchcon turning heads, it sometimes makes you panic as to how one individual based in the UK could possibly get their hands on one of the upcoming AAA releases, or even just get to see brand new releases.
Then, like a glorious blue beacon across the gaming horizon, EGX arrives.
Previously known as Eurogamer Expo, previously the event didn’t have such a strong hold on the international games convention circuit; I remember one of my older visits to the Old Billingsgate venue saw a limited number of developers, playable games and sessions. Of course, at its heart, Eurogamer Expo was a fantastic opportunity for gamers of all ages and from all areas to come together to enjoy and make the most of limited opportunities to play games prior to release, even if the games list was limited. Figures may have been small, but had gamers known of the event at the time, perhaps more advertising in gaming social spaces, they would have ultimately attended and provided necessary hype.
Skip forward a few years, to our present day of 2015 and the weeks just passed, rebranded EGX steps up to the play attracting a staggering 75,000 attendees (according to feedback, 40% of these were first timers), over 200 game titles and franchises on the floor, four days worth of sessions spanning a variety of games industry subjects and including games industry experts, a full cosplay branded area and stage with sessions, an entire YouTube stage with YouTube personalities and a bustling careers fair. It almost feels as though the dominant international players such as E3, Gamescom, PAX and others almost closed the door on the smaller UK cousin – only to have the EGX event team storm in like Destiny’s guardians and show that it is an event worth recognising.
For developers, EGX is conveniently timed just prior to a season of spending and merry gift purchasing; with no other event this large or with this many hands on opportunities, EGX is a huge hand in the purchasing decisions of over 91% of visitors (EGX Visitor feedback, from GamesIndustry.Biz article).
With exclusives such as playing Total War: Warhammer being the publicly playable opportunity internationally and PlayStation VR (p/k/a Project Morpheus), Tom Clancy’s The Division, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide and Rock Band 4 being the first UK opportunity to get hands on, it’s safe to say this is a huge pivotal turning point for EGX; the industry are finally grasping the positive possibilities of using the contender for their games and as a key part of their PR and marketing schedule. Plus, you don’t need hiking boots or a sherpa to navigate Birmingham NEC quite as much as you do Gamescom. Even Gamer Network’s head Rupert Loman is excited about the growth potential of the event and finally hitting that heavy weight title.
The event isn’t just a pivotal locale for big budget games to throw their weight around – the ever growing and inspiring indie games area has changed over the years from developers chatting easily amongst each other and playing each others games, to a bustling, thriving area where devs are constantly rushing around in the midst of indie interviews, making new contacts and having their own Rezzed stage for sessions. EGX has provided an incredibly public forum for independent games that, unless you are already indoctrinated into the indie world or perhaps visit sister event Rezzed every year, is easily overlooked for triple AAA titles.
It’s not to say that the impact from an event like EGX, from purchasing power, social media engagement and more helps a triple AAA title positively, but the power of 75,000 attendees potentially visiting an indie game which may or may not be greenlit, or reach the funding on Kickstarter, will do wonders for the growth of our independent games industry. When you combine this with sister event Rezzed which houses a more focused dynamic towards indie titles (and may I add, located at the extremely beautiful Tobacco Dock in London), the support and encouragement by Gamer Network across the company as a whole, promotes incredible growth within what sometimes feels like a very segregated independent games industry. Being able to showcase both the triple AAA titles and the indies in the same venue, enables your average gamer to frolick delightfully through a whole variety of titles that they’d never have a chance to do the rest of the year. Did they know that they wanted to play, or whether they would enjoy big titles such as Star Wars Battlefront or Just Cause 3? Did they also know they could enjoy fabulous independent games such as Knee Deep, or Bears Can’t Drift or Dinorawr? Well they certainly have the opportunity to, with 4 full days dedicated to giving out what gamers want.
That’s not saying there aren’t criticisms for improvements – obviously the more exclusives available, the more intriguing and more popular the event will be. Perhaps having more VR units across the board so that PlayStation VR and NVIDIA and others don’t run out of slots at 9am every morning, would be a fantastic idea to encourage VR interest. Ensuring the GAME galleon has more available merchandise per square foot considering how large their unit was but how little stock they seemed to have and lastly, maybe changing the name Damn Fine Catering to Mediocre, And As Expected Catering could be perhaps a little more appropriate. Aside from these little nitpicks, and the annual ‘queue’ situation which happens at every game convention known across the globe, the positives hugely outweigh any negatives.
Would we recommend that you visit EGX at your next opportunity? Definitely. I wouldn’t even hesitate to get my own tickets when they’re available. Why? Because this is ultimately the best place in the UK for opportunities surrounding current and new games – heck, even OLD games, such as Neo-Geo, N64, SNES, PlayStation, GameCube and others were there at the event, with plenty of seats and chances to play your friends at some incredibly classic games. The social atmosphere, the excitement, thrives within the NEC for the 4 days EGX is on and aside from a little game convention flu (which obliterated me for about 10 days) there is so much to see and do you will not be left wanting.
Also, I got to meet Pikachu. That’s pretty bad ass.
As per our tradition here at The Games Diary, there will be a Top 10 Games of EGX posted shortly. Keep your eyes and ears peeled, as this delightful short list of games is certainly worth a look (perhaps even a wishlist add!).