It’s all over for this year’s EB Games Expo in Sydney, I look back at the highs and the lows of the three-day gaming extravaganza.
The EB Expo has been held every year since the expo on the Gold Coast in 2011. For the last five years the EB Expo’s home has been in Sydney’s Olympic Park, timed just before the annual explosion of game releases each October.
The expo gives fans a seek preview of games that they are likely to be getting their mitts on in a matter of weeks. But they still happily queue up for an hour for those all-important bragging rights. As a video game reviewer where this happens to me rather a lot, I’ve got to say that there is something rather special about playing a game before the release.
This year Xbox supremo, Phil Spencer, kicked things off with a bit of a ho-hum keynote speak – Xbox having already put its cards on the table a while ago. Whilst Mr Spencer didn’t have anything new to say, it was great to see him in Australia connecting with fans so far away from Redmond.
On the show floor Xbox lead the charge, mainly showing off Australia-based racer Forza Horizon 3 (and why not). Shuttered away, lucky Gears fans could also sample Gears of War 4’s multiplayer mode.
Xbox were also demoing the return of Frank West in Dead Rising 4– a game that eats zany for breakfast and seems to be doing for zombie shooters what Saints Row did for crime shooters.
Ubisoft, as usual were blasting out choons with their live Just Dance 17 competition. Players could also try out the rather good sword combat game, For Honor, as well as mountaintop extreme sports game, Steep.
South Park fans could try out the infamous Nosulus Rift whilst playing the upcoming South Park: The Fractured But Whole. There were also theatre presentations for Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watchdogs 2.
Namco Bandai’s stand was dominated by Final Fantasy XV, a game that’s been a long time coming, but almost with us. There was also the opportunity to play the upcoming Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and Tekken 7.
With Warner, Activision and Capcom sharing the PlayStation booth, and the complete absence of EA Games, the show seemed a bit more subdued this year. The addition of Weta Workshop and loads of little stalls – selling everything from pop-art posters to cosplay weapons, whilst providing some interesting distractions, didn’t really make up for it.
PlayStation VR dominated PlayStation’s booth, as you’d expect, but VR needs a bit of time to play, meaning long queues and little chance to get a real go on it. For the lucky ones, Batman VR and DriveClub VR were all playable.
Tucked around the back the chilling Lantern demo for Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 was also playable in PSVR. Activision, who were demoing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, were also showing off the game’s VR element, Jackal Assault.
Popular with the kids was the latest in Activision’s more family-friendly franchise, Skylanders Imaginators. Everyone that demoed the game was given their own creation crystal to build their own Skylander for use in the game when it launches next week.
Sydney’s Five Star Games had hands-on with World Rally Championship 6 and a very exciting advance preview of next year’s Sniper Elite 4. Those more rurally inclined could check out Farming Simulator 17 at the Five Star booth, as well.
Nintendo held their popular Mario Kart competition throughout the weekend. They were also demoing their highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Bethesda had a huge compliment of demo pods loaded with the Clockwork Mansion level from next month’s Dishonoured 2. Players could experience the demo using either Emily Kaldwin or Corvo Attano. The game looks great and the demos went down well with the fans.
PC gaming was represented by the likes of Razer, Roccat, Thermaltake and Origin. Origin even had their own HTC Vive VR demonstration in one of the side halls.
Fringe fandom such as the ever-present 501st Stormtrooper Legion and the rather fascinating Sons of Obi-Wan Lightsaber school, provided interesting sideshows. Attendees could pose for photos with Stormtroopers and have their own personal lightsaber lesson.
The Mountain Dew Velodrone provided something a little different this year. Several professionally flown quad-copters took to the sky inside a specially constructed arena. Participants were tasked with taking out the drones using lazer-tag style pistols.
Unlike previous years, the huge EB Games Mega-store occupied the dome, with all the publisher’s booths in the main hall area. It’s not a move that I support, almost side-lining the publisher’s booths, which looked really good with the high dome ceiling, in favour of, well, a big shop. Don’t get me wrong, EB Games’ business is to sell game, I’d just like it to be less obvious at the EB Expo, like they were giving something back to their community.
Cosplay had a huge presence this year, with many fans dressing up as their favourite characters. As well as the return of the Just Cos’ competition, cosplayers could have a unique photograph taking by in the expo’s 360-degree photography set-up.
The EB Expo was clearly a success once again this year, drawing a huge crowd across all three days. Whilst fresh game content was a bit thin compared to last year, there was still plenty to see and do.
Even though the show is under increasing competition from newcomers PAXAUS down in Melbourne, the EB Expo remains a favourite event on my gaming calendar.