As day of the 2012 EB Games Expo one burns deep into its first twilight session -- running until almost 11pm this evening -- we’ve retired to the comfort of the inner-city and a cheap hotel room. I arrived at Olympic Park just before 9:30am this morning, for the commencement of the Grand Opening, and departed surprisingly tired having left much of the gaming to, well, the keen gamers.
As I had my turn with the Wii U last night, it was only fitting to take a step back to allow beaming gamers excited to get their hands on the biggest upcoming titles the right of way -- excitement that is often lost on videogame writers.
The main hall is spacious and enjoyable to roam. Most of the booths are open, with little behind closed doors, which helps to build an upbeat atmosphere full of anticipation. Nintendo is the star attraction next to the entrance, whilst Call of Duty: Black Ops II has more playable screens than any other game. Learning from its mistakes last year, Activision has two massive booths showcasing just two games: COD and Skylanders Giants.
Ubisoft proved popular with ZombiU -- also playable in the Nintendo booth -- presented in a blood-soaked British double-decker bus. Assassin’s Creed III was a massive draw card, pulling the only line to rival COD and Halo 4. Meanwhile, the Just Dance stage provided light entertainment and kept the neighbouring GameSpot’s audience involvement to a minimum.
From an onlooker’s perspective, the wait times didn’t look atrocious. However, I didn’t actually wait in-line for anything. The Wii U and biggest games of the year were always going to command questionable queues, but I'd wager everyone got to play what they came for. That said, unlike tomorrow, today’s sessions weren’t sold out. Saturday and Sunday will put the expanded infrastructure to the test.
Most of my day was consumed by a few media appointments and interviews, aside from waiting for Gaetano to actually arrive, as he missed the entire day session. Tomorrow I’ll get to experience it more as a customer, as a gamer, which is what the EB Expo is really all about.
Just before we left today, we saw two young boys, no older than ten, competitively battling for bragging rights in Kinect Sports. They were loving life with the innocence of youth by enjoying their hobby. Last night, a little girl no older dominated Just Dance 4 at the Nintendo booth as one of just 40 “VIP” gamers selected to visit ahead of the crowds.
That was a money can't buy experience, and the joy that resonated around her was priceless.
This is what the EB Expo is all about.
It isn’t for the media and it definitely isn’t for people with the capacity to buy every new release game, but not finish them. It’s for people who genuinely love games and cherish every exclusive moment they get with their most anticipated titles while they're sill counting down the days until release.
It didn’t even struggle with noticeable gamer stench, which is a far cry from the conundrums of E3’s pavilions.
Aside from the main hall, there’s also the EB Arena and Home Grown Gaming pavilion. The former hosts regular shows demonstrating upcoming games with the flair of freestyle bikes to kick off the Friday and Saturday sessions. This morning felt like a simplified E3 presentation combined with a Royal Show finale. The latter is something I hope isn’t forgotten, as it’s the home of local gaming. It’s full of indie games, made right here in Australia, as well as fierce eSports action.
The showgrounds look amazing and handled today's heat with ease. It didn’t even struggle with noticeable gamer stench, which is a far cry from the conundrums of E3’s pavilions. The only blight to the atmosphere was constant announcements from EB over the PA. They meant well, by alerting gamers to EB Live events and that you have 5 minutes to GTFO as the session is about to end (although I’m still not sure how this was enforced), but most of the time it was inaudible and muffled against the unmistakable sound of virtual men being shot and children cheering.
Stay tuned for more from EBX across the weekend, and let us know what you think once you’ve attended.
By Ben Salter