Just as the warm weather disappears from these shores, we have the joys of EGX 2023 to warm ourselves up with over at London’s iconic Excel Centre.
Now, I will prefix this little feature with a couple of caveats. Yes, as members of the press, we are lucky enough to get full weekend passes from the lovely folks at Eurogamer, and due to other commitments, I was only able to attend the event on one day (Sunday). As a seasoned EGX veteran, my viewpoint is very different from that of my fiancee, who is a semi-gaming novice and has only experienced EGX post-pandemic.
Our day starts bright and early as we are not blessed (or flushed with cash enough) to live near the Excel, so we head into lovely London and get to the venue quickly thanks to the delightful Elizabeth Line.
Arriving at the Excel, you wouldn’t know EGX was on. At least four other exhibitions were on at the same time, including the National Wedding Exhibition and some form of beauty exhibition. I digress. Anyway, onto the thing you clicked this article for: EGX 2023.
To summarise EGX 2023 in one word: disappointing. (Roll Curb Your Enthusiasm credits)
The Main Event
No, in all seriousness, as I mentioned previously, I am a veteran of EGX, having been to pretty much every show since 2011. Walking into this show, I was not filled with the wonderment that accompanied me when I went to the shows back at Earl’s Court or the NEC in Birmingham. No fault on EGX’s part; most big boys don’t bother coming to this event anymore as you won’t find any big PlayStation or Xbox signs anywhere. The only real players that bothered to show up were Sega, Nintendo and Square Enix. Ubisoft did sneak their way in by bringing a Switch demo of the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, which was a blast, but you could easily walk past it and have no idea it was there.
The big stand of Nintendo brought with them Super Mario Wonder, which comes out this Friday. A cynic would say they came to drum up any last-minute pre-orders, but I must say it was a blast to play ahead of that release, especially with my gaming novice fiancee.
Sega also brought games that were, at most, releasing in the next month or so: Sonic Superstars, Persona 5 Tactica and Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. Understandably, these games had mega queues.
The strangest site I saw at EGX 2023 was that there was a massive queue for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Open Beta, which is a game anyone can play on any platform at home for free. A small Forza Motorsport stand let you have two laps on the Catalyna circuit in a proper racing rig, which was fun to play.
Also, strangely, Specsavers had a stand with the new Sonic game, where you played the opening level unimpeded and then a second time round with a blurred screen covering the monitor and also headphones that simulated tinnitus, not really what I fancied on a Sunday afternoon.
This begs the question of what else fills the space. The room is full of indie games you likely have never heard of. I understand this move, especially since the Rezzed show, which celebrated this corner of gaming, has not had a live show since 2021. I would say there should be an even split between the two, but the indie games dwarf the big studios. I did enjoy playing games that I would not in a million years pick up in my local game store and the ability to chat with the dev teams of these indie games, which was a nice little touch.
The event’s headline sponsor, TikTok, also had a sizable zone at the event, which on first look, seemed empty and promising to check out. However, we were not allowed in as, apparently, it was reserved for creators only and had to be invite-only, which seemed strange for quite a big space.
So, what else filled the gaps in the vast halls of the Excel? Well, there was a lovely pizza van giving away free slices of pepperoni pizza to promote the new Five Nights at Freddy’s movie, with a cardboard stand to take pictures with and a booth for the Exorcist: Believer film.
The retail zone was a slight disappointment as there were no stalls selling gaming clothing merch like last year, but if you love anime/manga and graded Pokemon cards, you were in luck. There was also a stall selling interesting-looking lingerie/leather strands for women, which I felt was inappropriate given the number of kids walking the hall.
You also had the various stages, which had developer sessions, meet and greets and the EGX theatre. Overall, the best way I can sum up my day at EGX is a quote from someone I heard in the line for Forza: “It’s quieter in here than it is out there”, which shows how bereft of life and atmosphere EGX has become.
It’s time for me to go big picture here, and feel free to disagree, discuss and whatever it is nowadays about what I am going to say, but I feel EGX either needs to be put in a box and replaced by a new show, or it shifts gears to what it used to be in the good old days.
I remember my dad taking me on the nearly hour-long tube ride from Oakwood in North London to Earl’s Court, walking out of the station and seeing the venue in all its glory, and that by coming to this event, you were seeing things that no one else will get a chance to.
It was a special time I got to spend with my dad (who stopped playing games after the Sega Mega Drive), but still, we both had a great time meeting new people and getting free merch from almost every stall there was. The place was heaving with people and felt like a community coming together.
Over the years, I went down to Earl’s Court either with my dad or when it moved to NEC in Birmingham with a few gaming chums. We had an amazing time checking out demos for games almost a year away from release or exclusive gameplay walkthroughs (Batman: Arkham Knight comes to mind) and returning home with incredible stories to tell.
Post-pandemic, I had a new gaming friend to take in my now fiancee who, when she went for the first time in 2021, was amazed at what was on offer, and she had the same reaction last year, but after we made the journey out of London, even she said how disappointed she felt at the showing this year.
What I think has gone wrong with EGX is that because all the major players now have their intermittent shows throughout the year with things like the State of Play for PlayStation, etc., there isn’t a draw for them to show things off at these kinds of events. Still, it boggles the mind how they secured Sam Lake to chat about Alan Wake II on Friday, but there was no demo for people to play, even though the game is only two weeks from coming out during a busy release window, but I digress.
Maybe EGX is a relic of its time, or maybe I have just gotten old and cynical and lost my sense of childlike wonder with the event.
Anyway, on to EGX 2024…..I guess.