EB Expo is Australia’s premier gaming exhibition with over 35,000 attendees in recent years turning up to Sydney’s convention centre to check out the latest in games and hardware, however this year EB made the controversial decision of hosting the expo in its original 2011 location, the Gold Coast. With a smaller venue and smaller crowds, could the expo hold a candle to the years gone by?
I’m just going to answer this straight out, yes, the expo was wild, it wasn’t without it’s hiccups, but on the whole, it was what it was, a showcasing of the latest and greatest in gaming, albeit still noticeably lacking the same spectacle and grandeur of the Sydney shows.
The Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre floor was packed with things to see and do, if you didn’t mind spending over an hour waiting in the line to see any of it. I’ll stop being salty momentarily but firstly I need to talk about the queues. The line to get into the convention centre itself stretched down the entire immensely long lobby, and then continued outside for another 100 odd metres.
And once you get in it’s fine, right? Nope. Every single major game had a huge queue, I spent an hour and a half in line to get in my 15-minute Call of Duty World War 2 demo. Even the store had a queue to get in, you’d think with a much smaller attendance than previous years this wouldn’t have been an issue, but I guess not.
Ok salt over, let’s talk about the games. There weren’t many major new IP’s to really get your hands on, looking at the big ones on show, there was Far Cry 5, Forza 7, Call of Duty uuh 15? You get the idea, most of the big names were just iterations on their series, this is not a major complaint, I still had a great time playing them and some we’re phenomenal technical shows, like how gorgeous Forza 7 is on the Xbox One X, it’s just a reflection on the state of the industry I guess.
There was a good variety however with developers and publishers bringing a wide range of games for all age groups, however the front runners were clear. Microsoft was there to push Forza 7 as hard as possible, there we’re a number of racing games present, with project cars 2 and Gran Turismo sport in VR making appearances, but Forza simply dominated, with Microsoft even bringing dropping an actual Porsche track car at the entrance to the hall.
Nintendo, as expected, had the Switch front and centre, with Super Mario Odyssey, Pokken Tournament, and Mario Kart being the main shows, and surprisingly, Skyrim for Switch was shunted off into a little corner away from everything else.
Scattered around the show floor were various competitions to win gear or games, with the biggest being an incredibly well marketed Far Cry 5 fishing competition; a Forza 7 race to win an ‘ultimate racing setup’ including a headset, steering wheel, and a gaming seat with mounts for a monitor and the wheel; and the overwatch truck which offered the best player a trip to Blizzcon in November.
In terms of the smaller booths there were some really interesting ones, like the Age of Empires Definitive Edition section of the xbox area which was just four laptops on a low table with some stools around it, I’m not sure why but I found that hilarious.
There was also a very lonely cricket booth which was sad and very empty compared to the rest of the show, I almost wanted to go play enthusiastically to make the guys running the booth feel a bit better, I’m sure it’s a great game, but eh, not my thing, nor the interest of many attending the convention it seems, but hey, maybe it’ll find an audience within the general public.
There was a retro gaming area which was legitimately insanely fun, it had a huge range of consoles from any number of eras, from Dreamcast’s to Commodore 64’s to Gamecube’s, it had everything. Sega rally 2 on Dreamcast? Incredible.
There was also a large arcade area with pinball and time crisis, and pool and ice hockey for those who want to get physical.
Then there was a board game section with all sorts of games, including about 15 different monopoly’s from mass effect to game of thrones, and jigsaw puzzles and card games. This is not just a video game convention, EB Expo had every type of game imaginable.
The rest of the floor was taken up with a huge number of booths with all sorts of goods on sale, from cosplay gear like clothing, weapons, and contacts, to collectable figurines, and even a candy store. And my favourite, a little food truck giving away free popcorn.
A large area of the floor space off to the side was taken up by the EB store, it was massive, and packed, with an PA system constantly yelling about how good the deals were, and it seems they were as good as advertised judging by, as I said before, the insane hour-long queue.
The biggest, busiest, loudest, wildest stage however was, by far, the Just Dance stage, it went off, constantly. The dancers we’re incessantly pulling people on stage to participate and it was a section of pure joy. While faces scowled in lines for the games through the show floor, the just dance stage was nothing but simple fun.
Some interesting notes to make was the VR areas, the only VR present was for Skyrim and Gran Turismo, and while both had huge lines, the areas we’re very small and their presence wasn’t hugely advertised, after getting a taste of Gran Turismo however it’s not hard to see why. The tech is still in its very early days, and while it was incredibly immersive and a whole lot of fun, the graphical ability of the ps4 is just not up to scratch the handle it and the experience suffered majorly because of it, I can see this being huge once the power of the consoles catches up, I just hope it doesn’t die out before then.
There was also the obligatory cosplay, and while the level of cosplay was incredible, and there were some really talented artists around, there was a surprising lack of it around as a whole. Comic-Con was on just a week before and that had cosplay in spades, so it was a bit of a surprise seeing such a lack of it at EB, but regardless, it was still at a very high level of quality and was great to see.
Eb expo was an awesome experience, and despite the wait times, it was great seeing what gaming has to offer for the coming months, and it’s always nice to see a community coming together to share something they love. I can’t wait to go back next year.