Last year, popular video game chain EB Games launched a gaming expo in Australia, the EB Expo, targeted at both the general public and industry. Taking place on the Gold Coast, the event was a huge success. Over three days this October, the Expo returns for a bigger and better installment set to take over Sydney's Olympic Park. We chatted to EB Marketing manager Debra McGrath about the event, the industry, Minecraft, Crash Bandicoot and much more...
Apart from the change in location, what other changes will attendees of the inaugural event last year find when they arrive in Sydney in October?
After a very successful year on the Gold Coast we realised we needed more room for the EB Expo. In Sydney, fans will be able to explore the huge 25,000 square meters precinct of gaming heaven and experience all the Australian gaming industry has to offer. The EB Expo will be Australia’s biggest ever public gaming event and will give every day consumers the chance to experience and get hands on with the best upcoming and new release products and games, rub shoulders with the industry elite, compete in e-sports tournaments and witness live presentations usually reserved exclusively for industry insiders and the media. In addition to this, we have introduced a whole pavilion dedicated to home grown gaming which will feature local developers, showcase the latest hardware technology and an abundance of unique presentations. Families have not been forgotten either with a dedicated Family Zone featuring the likes of Disney and Skylanders, amongst others.
It's double the size from last year - what challenges does this bring with it?
With any new venue, regardless of size, you are going to have unique challenges that all the planning in the world can’t foresee. At this stage honestly, the biggest challenge we have had is fitting everything in! The Australian gaming industry have really stepped up their game from the already high standard that was set last year and this year promises to reach even greater, dazzling heights!
More people get to experience this epic event. Holding the expo in Sydney also has its benefits being a central location that is easily accessible to a greater audience and is a true draw card for international developers.
What games are you personally most excited to experience/share with the public at the event?
Honestly there are a couple of top secret things that we are still working on that, if they come off, I will be personally thrilled about as I know the public will be. In saying that, the thing that keeps amazing me is the fact that the public will get to experience this year’s and some of 2013’s biggest titles months in advance. Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, Aliens: Colonial Marines and Medal of Honor: Warfighter would have to top this list. We are also looking forward to sharing the likes of new WonderBook technology and Skylanders Giants with families.
What's the most elaborate Cosplay outfit you've seen?
We’ve seen some very dedicated fans make Minecraft-inspired pixel art costumes at some of our events and been very impressed. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone go above and beyond this year.
Going back to last year, what brought on the desire to throw this event?
We have run our own internal event for nearly 15 years where our staff have had the chance to play the best pre-released games and we have had the honour of hosting such international stars as Cliffy B, Warren Spector, Randy Pitchford and Dr. Greg Zeschuk. We thought it was a bit selfish to keep this to ourselves and wanted to share this experience with our customers. It has also allowed us to create an event that showcases the greater Australian gaming community and hopefully helps improve its profile to the general Australian public.
How long was the concept in the planning, and what challenges were there of getting this off the ground, because I know people have tried in the past...
The planning for the first Expo actually started back in late 2009. We were close to having an Expo in 2010 but needed just that little more time to make it extra special. The biggest challenge has been and will always be the development cycle in games. We work with our publisher partners nearly a year in advance to try and secure the best unreleased game code and international talent to attend the show. However, the availability of both always comes down to the 11th hour based on what is actually available and approved for public view. It’s a credit to the local publishes that a lot of the code we will have at the show this year will be being played and viewed by the public for the first time in the world.
What impact did you think it made on the Australian gaming scene?
The Expo is still in infancy and if Year One is anything to go by it is going to have a very big impact. The fact that we were able to have EA’s Peter Moore speak at last year’s show (an example of an 11th hour signing), meant that the event got international coverage. This coverage will ensure that other big names in the gaming industry will consider making the trek down under to share their knowledge with the local industry. Most importantly, consumers who would never have an opportunity to get up close and personal with anyone of Mr Moore’ calibre now can.
What impact do you hope it makes moving forward?
That as many Australian gaming fans as possible get to attend and experience the Expo for themselves. At EB we love games and we are committed to improving the profile of gaming in Australia.
How much does an event like E3 influence how you put on your own event?
We are in no way trying to compete with shows like E3 and GamesCom, as these shows are designed for the media and Buyers. E3 is the game industries core announcement platform. It doesn't cater well to the average gamer wanting to get involved, with mostly media and buying teams making their way around the arena to try games. Obviously we were excited to see the announcements at E3 to know what sort of games we could most likely expect to see heading down under for our expo, but our event is unique. The EB Expo lets the true gamers experience the latest in gaming.
We really like Comic-Con but once again comparing the EB Expo to Comic-Con would be like comparing apples to tomatoes, they are vastly different. The EB Expo, at its core, is about consumers getting hands on with unreleased games. Yes there is an increasing element of pop culture at our event, which is great to see and we know fans will enjoy, but at the end of the day, the EB Expo is a gaming event.
What will make this event uniquely Australian?
The people. Australian gamers get a chance to mingle, meet and just generally hang out with people that they may have only ever met online. We already know of several clans that are planning to meet for the first time at the event.
Our Home Grown Gaming section is going to be huge, and highlight the best the Australian industry has to offer. We’ll have ESports events over the three days of the Expo on different platforms, with competitions and great prizes to find Home Grown Gaming’s Best Gamer. Our best and emerging game developers will be showing off their talent and you’ll have a chance to meet & greet them, too. Not to mention given the Australian light-hearted sense of humour and fun, the Expo will be unique to anything anywhere else!
And final one: What are your three favourite video games of all time?
California Games and Spyhunter on Commodore 64 and Crash Bandicoot on PS1.
EB Games Expo 2012 will take place from October 5th until the 7th at Sydney Olympic Park. All the details you need are here: http://www.ebexpo.com.au/