Having recently extolled the virtues of EGX, I came away from this year’s event feeling a little flat. This wasn’t due to the games on show but more to do with the event itself.
At this year’s expo it didn’t feel like there was enough ‘event’ to fill the space. More than ever Earl’s Court feels like the wrong venue. You can feel the advance of years in its brickwork and as a leading conference centre it is in desperate need of a refurbishment, although I understand that demolition is a more likely outcome. It’s a far cry (excuse the pun) from the cozy exclusivity of Old Billingsgate Market. And this tiredness was reflected in the quality of the booths themselves, with a few noticeable exceptions.
The layout of the main hall was the main culprit. The impressive PlayStation and Xbox spaces acted as a hub with a multitude of other booths in close orbit. Although this created a bustling atmosphere in the centre of the hall, the perimeter was empty, with swathes of unused space that looked forlorn and shabby.
This meant that Nintendo and others were confined to needlessly cramped areas that were ill-suited to the amount of visitors they attracted. Things were not much better in the upper hall where Ubisoft demoed the likes of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, The Crew and Assassin’s Creed: Unity in what felt like a large forgotten attic. The AC:Unity theatre in particular felt shoved into a corner with little more than replica guillotine to add a little Parisian flavour.
All in all, much of the expo looked a little tired. Let’s hope that EGX’s move to the superior Birmingham NEC in 2015 restores a little magic and gives everyone, particularly publishers, the motivation to improve the appearance and experience of their exhibits. Queuing is never fun at an event like this, but there’s no excuse for letting your fans just snake back and forth round these tired box old boxes that are devoid of entertainment. It’s a missed opportunity.
If this all sounds a little negative the same cannot be said about the games at the show. From Splatoon and Far Cry 4 and Bloodborne to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, there was something for all tastes.
There’s not much to say about these games that you won’t already know, but seeing them together on UK soil at long last was a thrill. EGX is a very good natured event (with one notable exception*) and the end of September is a long time for UK players to wait before seeing many of these games. It was therefore nice to see that patience transformed into enthusiasm and excitement with a overall sense of friendlessness.
Elsewhere, on the extremities of the main hall, there was some respite to be found in the delightfully calm board game lounge and the retro Replay zone. It was there, in stark contrast to the long queues at the Nintendo booth, that I discovered group of extremely chilled attendees having the time of their lives playing Smash Bros on the N64. It was in these moments that EGX shone, reminding me that an appreciation of games takes many forms and this event does its best to accommodate that.
EGX remains an excellent event, but I do hope that the change of venue provides opportunity for improvement. Developers and publishers need to put more effort into how they display their games and harness the excitement and appreciation of the audience.
A kick up the bum
…to the woman whom, having been told to wait in the queue for Alien: Isolation, berated all around her with a needless torrent of expletives. I hope her oversized rucksack gives her back-ache for eternity.
A pat on the back
…to the team at the Assassin’s Creed: Unity theatre. Having been beset with technical issues that delayed the first demo by 45 minutes, they thanked patient attendees with a limited edition art print. A very nice touch. (The game looks great too).
Games of the Show
It’s a roster you’re all familiar with but it’s hard to deny how impressive these games look:
- Alien: Isolation
- Assassin’s Creed: Unity
- Elite: Dangerous
- Far Cry 4
- Heat Signature
- Yoshi’s Woolly World