Weve played the games, but how was the actual EB Expo itself?

Australia isn’t the most well known country for gaming expos. We have the occasional event such as Supanova or Armageddon slotting games into their line-up, but none have really filled the gap left behind since eGames bowed out in 2009. This has essentially paved the way for EB Games to step in and bring back all the hype with a wild gaming expo focusing purely on the consumption of video games.

Strategically timed at the start of the holiday rush, EB Games Expo was a huge event for video game fans designed to get us eager for the onslaught of games soon to be released, and it certainly worked. Held on the sunny (read: stormy) Gold Coast, it didn’t take much convincing to get me down there with the promise of many publishers showing off their upcoming wares.

All the big name publishers were there with all the games you’d expect. Blockbusters titles were playable such as Mass Effect 3, Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City and of course The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Then there was the long list of other unreleased games to play – Saints Row 3, Street Fighter x Tekken, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Soul Calibur V, Super Mario 3D Land, Sonic Generations – just to name a few. There were too many to list, and definitely too many to play as I struggled to keep up with the sheer amount of games to play and watch.

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Nintendo had a big presence at the event as Liam has shown us. With their own large booth easily found, Skyward Sword, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land and Kid Icarus: Uprising were all playable at the event. A decent showing indeed, but I couldn’t quite grasp why the rest of the booth was fitted out with already released titles. Sure Nintendo don’t have a huge amount of upcoming titles to show off but seeing people come to an expo to play New Super Mario Bros. Wii was pretty strange. Still, everyone was rolling out the red carpet even if it did involve a few lacklustre displays such as the private screening of Bethesda’s Skyrim comprised of already released footage.

Most notable games played by yours truly would definitely be Super Mario 3D Land and Saints Row: The Third both gunning for my Game of Show. Sure the big hits like Mass Effect 3 and Uncharted 3 were spectacular, but just as expected. Super Mario 3D Land is one of the first games I’ve seen properly utilise the 3D mechanic properly in a game and looks to finally justify my purchase of a 3DS. Saints Row: The Third was just a hoot. I couldn’t stop laughing as I watched four simultaneous screens of complete chaos all happening at once. They were definitely right to heavily police the 15+ age restriction on that booth.

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With so many great games available hands-on playtime needed to be picked and prioritised carefully and while I’d like to say it’s simply due to the number of AAA titles playable, unfortunately long lines and waiting times were a crux in really getting through this event. Sure it was easy to dodge the confusingly long line for games such as Halo Anniversary, but even smaller titles like Street Fighter x Tekken usually had a big crowd waiting around to play. Then there were booths like Electronic Arts who had a huge line just to get in the booth to only then wait in another line for the likes of Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3.

Lines definitely were a problem at EB Games Expo but it was probably the only really noticeable one. There was plenty to see, play and experience and doing so was usually pretty easy. Apparently there was a big line at the start, but when I arrived around midday with a pre-bought wristband there were no lines visible for the entrance or the ATM which is definitely an achievement.

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With so much content and big main stage productions the event needed a good amount of space to function, but they may have actually outdone themselves with the Gold Coast Exhibition centre as the show floor was huge with plenty of open space to get around. This didn’t stop a few lines stretching right across corridors and blocking passages but getting around was generally easy.

Apart from hitting the floor and playing games EB Expo had some other things going on too. The main stage was a massive arena holding a few different events, from the wild opening and closing events with motocross bikes leaping across the stage, to the no-more-sedate EA presentation with Peter Moore repping it hard backed up with pyrotechnics and fireworks. I’m not making that up. The whole thing was much more of a ‘spectacular event’ than just a gaming expo – an attitude well expected from EB Games. House DJ’s were even mixing some funky beats to play throughout the hall and while it did make me feel a bit like I was in a store, it helped keep the mood up for sure.

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While the event was packed with genuinely interested gamers, the corporate vibe behind the event definitely couldn’t be ignored. While this whole event is a great experience for gamers and something we’re happy to have, the “buy buy buy” attitude of EB Games was well apparent with stores and corporate marketing everywhere, even with some staff members literally patrolling the floor with portable “PRE-ORDER HERE” stalls trying to get in while the hype was hot. I was lucky to walk out without emptying my wallet, much luckier than the many constantly crowded in a long line to get into the actual EB Games store booth, where many old special editions are collectors items were being sold at a rapid rate.

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All up EB Games Expo was a great weekend. From playing games to meeting friends and attending the after parties, it was quite an affair beyond simply getting a solid taste and the upcoming holiday game line-up. Sure the feeling of giving in to the corporate tantalisation of EB Games was ever-looming but I was too busy bouncing from one booth to the other and playing games to care.