The past week was a big one for Australian gaming, capping off with the annual EB Games Expo. Taking place once again at the Sydney Showground, it marked the event’s sixth year running.
There was no shortage of guest appearances, with industry figures giving presentations across the weekend, including:
Phil Spencer (Head of Xbox)
Joe Nickolls (Dead Rising 4, Capcom)
Jason VandenBerghe (For Honor, Ubisoft)
Mike Brown (Forza Horizon 3, Playground Games)
As in previous years, the expo played host to exhibitors like Xbox, PlayStation and Ubisoft. However, EA was noticeably absent, despite the highly anticipated releases of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 in just a couple of weeks.
PlayStation had probably the largest booth, hosting a number of VR titles as well as a number of third-party titles such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Rise of the Tomb Raider. It was also really cool and surprising to see Horizon: Zero Dawn in playable form. The VR demos were hard to get into but well organised.
Nintendo also had a massive presence, but unfortunately its showpiece title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was only playable to a limited bunch. Whilst the demo (same one that was present at E3) won ‘Game of the Show’, it was only available to those that had won certain competitions prior to the show, and during the show for dressing up and a number of other minor competitions. Nintendo’s booth was always abuzz, but a lot of people would have left disappointed. Of the titles that were on show, several could only be experienced as presentations. While I find no harm in having a member of the development team showcase new features, I would have preferred it to be in addition to a hands-on demo. For example, players could have been given the chance to try out Watch Dogs 2’s new Bounty Hunter mode, or attempted a mission in Ghost Recon Wildlands.
Overall, EBX 2016 certainly had a different feel to it. For instance, all gaming exhibitors had been relocated into one hall, with the dome reserved almost entirely for pop culture stalls. These included a Harry Potter store, Weta Workshop, the 501st Legion, and an exhibit for the 2017 Sydney Brick Show.
I will admit that this might not entirely be a bad thing. As EB delves further into the world of pop culture through Zing, I understand why pop culture would have an increased presence. This being my fifth year in attendance, I have also noticed a steady increase in families that visit with every passing year. It is certainly the case that the event is continuing to shape up to be one that caters to all, rather than just gamers.
In years past, EBX put gaming at the forefront. Don’t get me wrong – it still does that. But this year marked a definite change in the way that the event plays out. While it could still do with some tweaking, I look forward to seeing EB Games Expo become the perfect blend of gaming and pop culture, offering up something for everyone to enjoy.