Despite the organisers claiming it to be a ‘successful in-person’ event, the #EGXrefund hashtag on Twitter at the time said otherwise. The halls at the ExCeL in London were empty, the subjects for the developer sessions were lacklustre and there were no stands hosted by the big publishers.
The show in September 2022 felt disorganised. Attendees who’d paid for tickets to get them into the expo an hour early were made to wait in the entrance hall for 30 minutes and lost half of their additional time. Although there were more stands, several spots contained unpowered monitors or were totally empty and the PC LAN area featured a number of error messages.
After these experiences, Pete and I were dubious about returning to EGX this year. We’ve purchased early entry tickets for as long as I can remember but decided to go for normal ones and planned to arrive an hour late. We’d ended up leaving the two previous shows after a few hours because there hadn’t been enough to hold our interest, so we knew there was no point in rushing to London.
I was curious to see if the organisers had taken the feedback provided by attendees on board and whether the 2023 event would be different. Their regular marketing emails over the past two weeks had certainly made it seem that way but was it all just advertising? And after a disappointing WASD x IGN last month and our decision to not go back in 2024, would we choose to do the same with EGX? Read on to find out about our experience at the expo last Thursday and whether we can see ourselves returning next year.
Following the trend seen in 2022, it was clear that there were once again more attendees and the venue felt busier as soon as we entered. While it was still nowhere near as busy as the pre-COVID shows, it was good to see more people walking around. There was better placement of the stands so the routes around the halls felt better flowing and dimming the lights slightly was a nice touch we appreciated. It helped create an atmosphere which was buzzy but not too overwhelming.
I’m pleased to say there were more games on display this time. Some we’d already seen at WASD x IGN in September such as OutOfTheBit’s Full Void, and others I’d already played including the excellent Lucy Dreaming by Tall Story Games. Our favourite from the event was Death of the Reprobate by Joe Richardson. We really enjoyed Four Last Things and The Procession to Calvary, so we’re looking forward to the final instalment of this Renaissance point-and-click triptych.
The highlight of the expo for me however was having the opportunity to see Peter Molyneux take part in a Fable II retrospective 15-years after its release. The second title in the series is one of my favourites and so seeing the creator himself talk about it was an amazing experience. I now have so much more respect for the development team after hearing about some of the systems they implemented and I have a strong urge to go back and revisit the game. There’ll be more about this coming in a post tomorrow.
Although the lack of a SpecialEffect stand at the show this year was disappointing, it was great to see Partnerships Coordinator Liam Lawler on the Rezzed sessions stand to talk about the importance of accessibility in gaming. It was a nice reminder of why we support the charity and gave us a little boost of motivation on our journey towards GameBlast24 in February. If you’re interested in finding out what we’ve got planned for the next event, check out this overview and keep your eyes peeled for more information soon.
I pointed to the revised placement of the stands and dimmed lighting as being positive contributing factors to the atmosphere above. On the flipside though, we couldn’t help feeling as though these changes had been implemented to help disguise the empty areas which still existed. With a third of the space dedicated to indie games, another third to the PC LAN and tabletop areas and the last to the tournament and community stages, there wasn’t enough to keep us occupied for more than three hours.
While there were additional games on display, there were few which actually appealed to us. I’d already played Lucy Dreaming as mentioned above. I’d experienced a demo for Loco Motive by Robust Games at the digital LudoNarraCon back in May; and we were always going to pick up Death of the Reprobate after playing the first two titles. The only other project which caught my attention was Strange Shift Studio’s Chasing the Unseen in the Leftfield Collection, a game about climbing colossal creatures and exploring otherworldly landscapes.
There also seemed to be less space dedicated to each indie game. Whereas there may have been two or four seats for each of them in previous years, for most there was now only one. This did have the effect of creating a nice, busy atmosphere in the Rezzed area but it also meant you had to queue for pretty much everything. The first day of the expo is always the quietest so I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who attended on the Saturday: how much of your time did you spend waiting in line?
I’ve heard through a contact who used to work at the ExCeL that there have been a lot of changes with the way it’s managed over the past year, as well as big increases in its pricing. I also know from volunteering at EGX that those exhibiting are asked to pay for stand space, monitor rental and electricity, and wonder if this is pricing out many smaller developers. If you can exhibit from the comfort of your own office at digital events such as the Steam Next Fest, it’s a good reason to not pay those fees along with travel and accommodation expenses.
In the words of Pete: ‘It was alright.’ It would be unfair of me if I didn’t say that this year’s EGX was an improvement over the 2021 and 2022 shows. There may have not been that many games I actually wanted to play but I completely understand that this is down to personal preference and, as I’ve written before, quieter adventures aren’t necessarily suited to such expos anyway. Having the opportunity to see a developer I’ve always admired talk about one of my favourite titles also helped raise my opinion of the event.
What I will add though is that I think the expo is undergoing an identity crisis. Instead of continuing its strong focus on video games, it now seems a mishmash of everything the organisers can arrange to throw at it – indie titles, bigger-budget releases, tabletop and roleplaying games, eSports stages, tournaments, cosplay and community panels. It feels like they aren’t entirely sure which direction to take it in now so they’re doing this to see what sticks, but it comes across as confusing and less targeted.
Super pass tickets have increased from £75 to £80 and they’re still not worth it. It’s difficult to see how an attendee can get four days of entertainment out of the show or even be able to afford it when hotels in the area cost at least several hundred. If you’re solely interested in video games and don’t care about the other activities listed above or taking part in the tournaments, I just don’t think there’s going to be enough there to keep you occupied throughout the entire event.
Pete and I had already decided not to go back to WASD unless I’m volunteering there for SpecialEffect. However, we’re a bit more on the fence when it comes to EGX. On one hand, it’s now one of the only gaming expos that take place around London now so we’re not exactly spoilt for choice; but on the other, it hasn’t impressed us since its post-COVID return. We’ll likely not book a ticket in advance as we’ve done before and will instead wait for the lineup to be announced so we can see if there’s anything we’re interested in.
Were you at EGX over the weekend? If so, what did you think of it and did you add any games to your wishlist?