The past couple of EGX shows have been a bit of a flop.
The organisers may have called the October 2021 expo a ‘successful in-person event’ in an announcement which has since been deleted from their website. But a lot of attendees didn’t see it that way, and the #EGXrefund hashtag started trending on the first day of the show.
I could see where these people were coming from. There were far fewer games on display than in previous years and most of them were already available for purchase. There were none of the usual stands for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and Twitch, and the triple-AAA area was noticeably empty. There was very little going on in the way of developer sessions and several slots were filled with EGX team members playing a game.
After feeling disappointed by the expo, I held out hope that the Rezzed event in early 2022 would make up for it. This had always been my favourite show in the gaming calendar thanks to its focus on indie titles and smaller developers. I was sad when I discovered the organisers had taken the decision to scrap the brand and replace it with two EGX expos: one in Birmingham in March and the other in London in September.
Those looking forward to the change of location were then let down again when the spring event was cancelled at the end of January 2022, many expressing their anger at having already booked travel and accommodation. The organisers turned their attention to the autumn London show and released tickets for this in May. But with the expo due to take place in two weeks’ time and only Saturday early entrance having sold out so far (at the time of writing), it seems as though only die-hard attendees are rushing to secure their place.
I can totally understand how difficult it must have been to organise an event in the wake of a pandemic. I’m guessing that venue prices had increased as owners tried to make up for some of the profit they’d lost during lockdown. On top of this, both gamers and developers must have been hesitant about returning to in-person shows while COVID-19 was still hanging about. And even if they’d wanted to attend, flight cancellations and airport chaos in the UK would have made it difficult for them to travel from abroad.
It’s because of these challenges that I decided to purchase tickets for this month’s expo for Pete and I last week. As much as I felt let down by the October 2021 event and organiser’s lack of acknowledgement of the complaints received from attendees afterwards, maybe they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they’ll be able to pull off an amazing show this time around and we’ll all be astounded… but I can’t deny there’s a selfish part of me which wants to be there just to see what happens.
I decided to check whether the line-up had been announced yet while making our booking. Last year, the organisers had tweeted a weird pre-apology a week in advance and then shared the limited schedule three days before the start of the expo. Had they learned anything from this action which had greatly annoyed attendees? I was pleased to see a long list of titles displayed on the Playable Games & Experiences page of their website, but something struck me as odd when I scrolled through the names.
I’ve written before about the quality of EGX and Rezzed line-ups. Attendees like myself go to find out about upcoming projects; but since 2017, the number of games on display which are already available for purchase or have appeared at previous shows has increased. It seemed to me that an awful lot of titles on the list for the latest expo were releases which came out several years ago. With my data analysis hat on, I put the skills picked up during my apprenticeship to use with some very simple visualisations.
Over two-thirds of the games listed on the EGX website (as of 05 September 2022) are already released in full or early access. The equivalent is us spending almost £16 of our £24 early entry weekday tickets on these titles. Their average age is just under four years, the oldest being published in May 2003, and the majority have a ‘Very Positive’ rating on the Steam website with an average review score of 82%. Finally, around 45% of the unreleased games at the event have been submitted by the Transfuzer teams.
The Wayback Machine reveals some interesting details for the EGX website in 2017. According to the FAQs from back then, it was ‘the UK’s biggest video games event’ where ‘you’ll find the most anticipated console and PC games, all playable weeks or months before they’re released’. There were several partners listed on the homepage including Amazon, Xbox, PlayStation and Twitch. As for the developer sessions, actor Andy Serkis spoke about Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier while Lorne Lanning shared updates about Oddworld: Soulstorm, with plenty more on the agenda.
This is different to the website of today. The show now advertises itself as ‘a four-day celebration of all things gaming’. The only mention about upcoming releases is a comment about ‘exploring new indie titles in the Rezzed Zone’. There are no partners shown on the homepage other than Virgin Media. The developer sessions are now promoted as ‘panels’ and far fewer big names are due to be in attendance, with a panel about Sea of Thieves singled out for specific attention.
Have the organisers decided to take EGX in a new direction, making it more similar to the Insomnia Gaming Festival? I’ve been to this expo a few times in the past and it has always struck me as being more about the social aspects of gaming than other events. There are competitions and tournaments, eSports stages, content creator meet-and-greets and a cosplay zone, and that’s not to mention the Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) area. EGX still has a bigger focus on the games themselves but has also now introduced some of these areas.
I guess I’ll discover the answer to that question above when we go to the show in two weeks’ time. Maybe I’ll get swept up in the atmosphere and buzz of the crowd and will then understand the EGX organiser’s future vision. And while we’re at it, let’s stay positive: perhaps I’ll even find a few upcoming games for my wishlist too. I’m disappointed about the lack of unreleased projects due to be on display, but it just means I’ll have to search a little harder for the hidden gems.
I’ll be back again on the Friday to volunteer on the stand for SpecialEffect. Why not pop along and find out about the work they do to help people with physical disabilities to play video games? You can even try out some of their equipment for yourself, including modified controllers and eye-gaze software. Keep an eye out for information about GameBlast23 too, an annual streaming marathon which takes place every February and raises awareness for the charity.
Are you going to EGX this month? If so, what are you most (or least) looking forward to?