I have been fortunate enough to visit the show every year since 2009. In that time I have seen it grow from a small-ish event held in the bowels of Old Billingsgate Market to its current position as the four-day highlight of the UK games event calendar.
Back in 2009 the expo was well attended but the dimly lit brick archways of Old Billingsgate made it feel more like a game-themed night club than an expo. It was a delightfully intimate experience with short queues and little of the marketing bluster usually associated with such events. It was the kind of event where you could stumble across a single Mass Effect 2 demo station or play Heavy Rain sitting on beanbag with your friends. Blissful stuff but now long gone. By comparison I queued for the best part of an hour at last year’s event just to go hands-on with Assassin’s Creed Black Flag.
Last week I wrote about gamer satisfaction and the ‘promise of the new’. And that’s what EGX is all about. It’s a marketing led showcase for the coming year. In my review of 2013’s Expo the focus was on the next generation of consoles, despite there being few games at the show demonstrating their power. My prediction was that next-gen could wait a while, or at least until TitanFall arrived. I was half right; the PS4 and Xbox One have sold well, but the situation with exclusively next-gen software remains shady.
It’s also sobering to look back these events and consider the fate of some heavily promoted games. In 2013 the Watch_Dogs booth drew long lines with attendees excited by the promise of a revolution in open-world gaming. Batman: Arkham Origins was still something to look forward to and TitanFall was, of course, going to change everything. Looking back, it’s hard not feel a little underwhelmed with how things turned out. This year there will no doubt be more games that will impress, but in a year from now will be nothing more than curios. I’ll always feel sorry for all those who queued for hours to play Medal of Honor, back in 2012.
In some respects EGX suffers from being one of the last events in the year. The show floor is littered with E3 and Gamescom hand-me downs. And while this will be the first time many UK players get to see these games it means that event has never had a marquee title to base itself around.
But over time the show is doing more and more to distinguish itself. This year there is an impressive roster of developer sessions, with talks from Bioware’s Neil Thompson, David Braben and Mike Bithell among others. Nintendo are holding Streetpass and Mario Kart 8 events and there is a mouth-watering selection of indies in attendance. Add in the ever-present careers fair and cosplay championship and you have an expo that appeals to a wide demographic and is building its reputation on much more than the obvious selection of Triple A demos.
With each passing year EGX becomes our PAX, our Gamescom and with each year it becomes an increasingly important part in the calendars of UK games enthusiasts. Let’s hope that it also becomes increasingly important for developers and publishers. It would be great for EGX to have more exclusive announcements and more surprises. Something that makes EGX something worthy of international focus.
Until then, enjoy the show. There are some great games to see this year as we’ll be posting our thoughts over the weekend.