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EB Expo 2011 – Gold Coast

The weekend of 15th and 16th October saw the first EB Expo open for the public, held in the Gold Coast Arena the public days were tacked onto the EB Manager and Vendor conference. All the major publishers were representing at the show, not surprising given the currently overloaded release schedule for the rest of the year. As a first time show for the public it appears to have hit the nail on the head with the money hammer. Standard tickets cost $30 for one of three sessions, there were VIP ticket options, but they sold out very quickly offering some cut down waiting times to go hands on with some of the bigger titles. Having limited time to visit on the Saturday afternoon I plumped for the standard ticket that would ensure I was kicked out by four pm,  probably worth noting that the ticket was exactly that and offered nothing in the way of freebies, goodies or showbags, strange but true.

In terms of response I believe EB underestimated the turn out, one employee I chatted with in the makeshift EB store explained how they had been wiped clean out of most of their stock in the morning. Even though the ticket sales were apparently over capacity the venue felt less than crowded, partially because about 30% of the attendees were spending their time in snaking queues. The same conversation suggested that based on the uptake of tickets there would likely be follow up shows next year in Sydney and perhaps 2013 in Auckland. Interesting concept rather than sitting pretty and at the moment it could be pure conjecture so don’t hold me to it. It would be interesting to see how well the floating pre-order desks did, as they were conveniently placed all the big stands ready to snatch credit cards from eager hands.

The big exhibitors had a strong presence, the EA stand shrouded in camouflage had some enormous queues all weekend as people waited patiently to get hands on with Battlefield3 and cast their eyes over Need for Speed when they were kicked off the Battlefield consoles. Next impressive stand was Ubisoft, running Assassins Creed multiplayer constantly this ha healthy queue, but didn’t appear to be in the hours category. The stand also housed a few other titles, but the focus was certainly on Enzio and their front centre stage that didn’t stop Just Dancing the whole time I was there.

Microsoft took up a healthy chunk of the corner of the venue, the stand consisting mainly of Kinect titles and a strong dose of Forza4. Avoiding the petrol heads I managed to get some hands-off time with Kinect Star Wars and I’m glad to say I wasn’t horrified, it seemed much better than the ‘forced’ demos that had been touted at E3. Microsoft also showcased a few modes from Kinect Sports Season 2, the first game being my pick of the Kinect launch line up – so I’ll be keeping close to this one, especially as Rare as seem to have upped the ante and the initially dissappointing array of sports somehow now look more attractive.

Activision maintained a strong presence by bringing their own tank, they also kept Modern Warfare well behind locked doors and I simply did not have the time to stand an wait to see it, that said we all know it will be predictably great. The stand also showed off some of the new Spiderman game, along with a full live appearance by the web-head himself, I sadly was too far burnt by the previous Spiderman game that I really didn’t want to look closer.

Sony turned up well, with some interesting Move titles, but the main attraction was undoubtedly Uncharted3 , allowing people to play the infamous cargo plane scene, which looked really great in that Uncharted inetractive movie way.

Bethesda also had an impressive looking stand even though it was a big black cube, the inside of which was showing off E3 footage of Skyrim while the outside offered hands on with Rage.

Amongst the other contenders Warner were well attended for sneak peeks at Batman Arkham City and my potential ‘Sleeper Hit of the Season’ : Lord of the Rings – War in the North. this game fronted the stand and didn’t get an awful lot of looking by the visitors, developers Snowblind have taken a little used area of Tolkien and turned it into a slick action game. Mark my words and watch this space.

There were other exhibitors spread between Game Distributors and some Hardware Distributors, a few larger than life characters were wheeled out for photo opportunities as well as Saints Row3 cornering the market in bikini girls. I was more entertained by seeing life-size Sackboy going for it on in front of another Kinect Dancing game.

Overall, a good venue for gamers and I would be keen to see the show develop. In comparison to the Armageddon show there isn’t any Manga or second rate celebrity appearances getting in the way, and apart from a few bizarre cosplay efforts feels mostly grown up.

I would say it’s a success for EB and surely a great money spinner, but they should really look at giving the attendees some kind of goody bag in exchange for their dollars.