Unless you’ve been living in extreme isolation in extreme for the past six months, you’ll undoubtedly know that Sony and Microsoft are gearing up to launch their next-gen consoles at the end of this year. Happily, the Eurogamer Expo has secured their appearance just weeks before they’re due to go on sale, alongside key releases for the still active current gen.
Nintendo will also be there in force, with games for their Wii U and 3DS consoles to keep the faithful happy. Smaller developers and publishers are always a big draw at the show and this year is no exception. Here we look at five good reasons to attend the Expo and why there’s more to the show than getting those pads in your hands.
1: Next-gen. Now.
Specific titles remained unconfirmed at this stage, but with just weeks to release by the time the Eurogamer Expo rumbles into life, you can be the sure Sony, Microsoft and the major publishers will want their big hitters on show.
For the PlayStation 4 this means Killzone: Shadowfall, inFamous: Second Son, Driveclub and Knack from Sony’s first party studios should be playable and with Gamescom not far off, expect to hear of more titles from the rest of their teams – they have 12 studios working exclusively for them and apart from those working on current gen titles, they have been suspiciously quiet. They also enjoy a good relationship with many independent studios who work exclusively for them, Ready at Dawn for example, have The Order: 1886 in development, but it’s unlikely to appear this soon. Quantic Dream meanwhile, has not announced anything concrete for the PlayStation 4, no doubt unwilling to draw attention away from their impending PS3 release of Beyond: Two Souls.
Aside from those games, Sony has put a lot of faith in the indie development scene, more of which below.
Microsoft have suffered a rather torrid time of late with their Xbox One console having had most of its controversial and previously essential new ideas rolled back, so much so that now, both it and the PlayStation 4 are virtually indistinguishable. It is in their games however, that Microsoft has put their faith, with major exclusives like Titanfall from Respawn (the ex-Infinity Ward staff, responsible for creating Call of Duty), Quantum Break from Remedy (Alan Wake), Ryse: Son of Rome (Crytek), Sunset Overdrive (Insomniac Studios), Dead Rising 3 (Capcom) and from their own studios the likes of Forza Motorsport 5, Killer Instinct and Kinect Sports Rivals. Most of these should appear in one form or another.
Also already confirmed to appear in playable form are some of the major releases from the big publishers – Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, Need for Speed: Rivals (EA), The Crew, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft) and Wolfenstein The New Order (Bethesda). Expect this list to grow as we approach the Expo weekend.
2: The Current Gen – Still Alive
While it is their new console, Nintendo’s Wii U is not strictly next-gen and they continue to do their own thing, so they will no doubt have a heavy floor presence. It’s approaching its second Christmas and Nintendo will want to not only promote the software the console already has, but some of the major titles it will have on the shelves in time for Christmas.
It has struggled to gain sales around the world, with Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata admitting that lack of major software titles is a bigger issue than pricing. While some of their biggest releases are at least a year away, in the meantime however, we still have The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Mario Kart 8 (Spring 2014) to look forward to, plus exclusives like Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101. Other stalwart first party titles like Wii Party U and Wii Fit U should also make an appearance, perfect for the families that usually attend on the Sunday.
The PS3 and Xbox 360 will still be heavily supported this Christmas and into the new year and titles already confirmed to appear at the Expo are Batman: Arkham Origins, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dark Souls II, PES 2014 and Rocksmith, plus many of the biggest next-gen tiles will also get a current gen version. Expect many of these to make the show with many more to be confirmed.
The independent developers and publishers have become one of the major events at the expo and this year looks like being one of the best. Mike Bithell’s recently announced Volume will be playable for the first time here and with its Metal Gear Solid influences clear, this should be prove to a popular title. Other games already confirmed include Assault Android Cactus (a twin stick shooter and Steam Greenlight title), I Get this Call Every Day (one man’s tale of bad callers to a customer service line), Fist of Awesome ( a 2-D wildlife beat-em-up…no really) and many, many others.
All three console holders have made indie a corner stone of their products as well. In Sony’s case, to such a degree they had eight indie developers and their games on stage with them at E3. While unconfirmed at this stage, titles like Jonathon Blow’s The Witness, Honeyslug’s Hohokum, HumanNature Studios’ Doki Doki Universe, Young Horses’ Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Supergiant Games’ Transistor amongst many others could well appear.
While Microsoft has just have Capy Games’ rogue-like Below and another version of Minecraft to show off, their recent about-face on self-publication and reducing the hurdles for smaller developers, many more titles are expected. Nintendo too have reached out to the indies, especially in lieu of the their own sparse release schedule and while titles like Knytt Underground and Giana Sisters have already appeared on Sony’s platforms, they also have another 16 titles heading to their e-Shop including Ittle Dew by Ludosity, Cubemen 2 by Nnooo and Festival of Magic by Snowcastle Games. It remains to be seen if any of these will appear, we are hopeful that Nintendo will devote some space to them.
While the big console and PC tiles are always a big draw, we can’t emphasise enough just how good these games are and while not everything will be to everyone’s taste, unique and engaging titles are always there to be discovered. Even better, the developer themselves are usually on-hand and are quite happy to chat about their games.
4: The Developers, Talk!
Proving that developers are people too, with a few more brains than the rest of us perhaps, the Developer Sessions have become an increasingly essential part of the Expo, with the most popular often over-subscribed with people queuing for hours beforehand to secure a seat. Personal highlights for me last year were hearing Peter Molyneux enthuse about his social-experiment Curiosity and about gaming in general and seeing Dishonored devs Christophe Carrier (Lead Level Designer & Audio Director) and Dinga Bakaba (Assistant Producer & Game Designer) talking at length and demoing the game live.
Last year’s line-up also included Hideo Kojima demoing Metal Gear Solid 5 plus shows featuring Far Cry 3, Halo 4, DayZ, DmC Devil May Cry, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed III and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Sadly, this year’s line-up remains firmly under wraps, but on first entering the show be sure to pick up your free guide to check what is sure to be a stellar set of talks (and a handy map of where everything actually is!). A word of advice – it’s never too early to queue for the most popular ones!
Once a niche past time, cosplay has become massively popular at the Expo, with a yearly competition now becoming even more organised. This year for the first time, cosplayers will have a stage to parade their costumes on, with prize giving to be judged by “cosplay veterans”. They have also promised a photo booth, plus “talks and presentations”, with shows taking place across all four days of the Expo.
Last year make-up artists were on hand to create a horde of zombies who were all too willing to play the roles; many versions of Lara Croft; the ever popular Deadpool; many RPG characters including Tidus from final Fantasy X and Sora from Kingdom Hearts. However, for pre dedication the chap who turned up in a larger-then-life-size Clap-Trap from Borderlands certainly deserves a mention. And our sympathy. He can’t have arrived on the Tube in that…
Be sure to check out the cosplayers on your travels – don’t be afraid to have a chat and they are all usually quite willing to have their picture taken.
They certainly deserve planet of respect for the effort they put in and their presence always enlivens the floor.
If you haven’t picked up your tickets yet, best hurry as both Saturday and Sunday have completely sold out, with the all-day ticket only available for Thursday and the afternoon Tickets available for Friday. Hopefully see you there!