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EGX 2016: The GAMR Review: A Strong Show But Where Were Microsoft and Nintendo?

Game Expos are a mecca for gamers all over the world. In recent years EGX has gotten bigger and is trying to position itself as a big player in the gaming expo calendar. The thing going against it though is that it happens very late in the year with all the big games coming out within a few weeks of the show. This, however does not stop thousands of people flocking to the show over the course of the 4 days. For the second consecutive year, EGX is being held at its new home at the NEC in Birmingham. It once called Earls Court in London home (RIP to the much loved venue) and some say Earls Court was a better fit. From personal experience I would say this is true but this year EGX has ironed out the kinks from its previous freshman NEC event.

The most notable difference from last year is the rise of the Indie developer space. As you walk into the show you are thrust into the ‘Rezzed Zone’ which is by far the most engaging and creative part of EGX. Indie developers are so keen to speak to you about their creations and you can’t help but be on their team as you play their games. The level of creativity is outstanding and the crowds do seem more clued into what it meant to be an ‘Indie Dev’ this year more than ever. We tried our hands on all most all the Indie games on show and we have to say this was a very rewarding experience.

The Beautiful Windlands!
One of the highlights of the whole expo was ‘Windlands’ a VR game that’s set to launch alongside PlayStation VR. The game is a first person experience where you swing through the plush environments much like how a ‘Spider Man’ VR could work. Alongside that other Indie highlights included ‘Super Rude Bear Resurrection’, ‘Snake Pass’, ‘Yooka-Laylee’, Shu and more.

Of course the AAA games were here too, with the new Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare pulling a decent crowd as well as the new Gran Turismo title. VR is definitely the theme this year, PlayStation VR had a big push prior to its launch in a few weeks, with all demo slots booked up, it’s certainly a good omen for the new PlayStation venture. ‘Rovr VR’, ‘Vive’ and ‘Oculus’ were also going strong with people lapping up the new way to play videogames throughout the expo. PlayStation VR is the only real consumer option as ‘Rovr’ is a great party piece to have at an expo but will not translate to the home space due in part to its current limitations as hardware. The Oculus and Vive however will likely only be limited by their cost, with potentially thousands required to get the tech, the hardware to use it with and of course games! We weren’t sold on any VR other than PlayStations offering, as the tech is still not there for other super immersive experiences.

PlayStation had a massive glowing blue stand with a stage and a lot of demo games being shown off. They demoed games live on stage and got the crowd pumped with giveaways and competitions. In previous years Microsoft were duelling it out with Sony for the crowd's affection but this year the Microsoft presence is minimal at best, there were a few consoles that had some AAA demos on (Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2) but no stage and no marketing whatsoever. This is particularly strange seeing as they just launched the Xbox One S and have a real opportunity to capitalize on some of Sony’s recent missteps with the PlayStation Pro confusion, but nope, they didn’t bother showing up at all.

As for Nintendo, well, there are some T-shirts on sale by merch dealers but there was actually otherwise NO NINTENDO official presence at all! Madness, not one game, no giveaways, nothing. Do they know they need goodwill for the launch of a new gaming system next year? Much like Microsoft in previous years, Nintendo have been at EGX, but this year, not a sausage. Why is this? I haven’t the foggiest. Do they not think the show is important enough? The crowds are here in their thousands, people are hungry to play and have loose wallets. This could be a big problem for EGX going forward, if hardware and software developers don’t think it is important showing up then what is the draw? Not all people want Indie games, most people want the AAA experience from their favourite platform. As a core PlayStation gamer I am cool with it, but what about the kids who come to see Mario and Splatoon? There is effectively very little for them to play this year.
EGX has been fun but there is still a lot of room for improvement to safeguard its future. The crowds are getting bigger (sold out all weekend) but the turnout from big developers and hardware folks is a little concerning. EGX needs to finds its USP, it can’t just be the UK’s biggest gaming show (void because it is the only commercial one aimed at all gamers). The GAMR team had a great time this year, hands down better than last year’s effort and Indie games stole the show.

I now need to have a lie down away flashing lights and screens for a good while to soak it all in.

Read more about the games we played, developers we interviewed and much more on our EGX2016 feed.

Jake Buchanan | @HDD_Heart   

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