EGE 2016 – It’s back but was it better?

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Cape Town’s very own gaming expo is back! After EGE seemingly just popped into existence in the space of a month last year (not really, but that’s what it felt like due to lack of any press beforehand) and pleasantly surprised with its debut, it was time for the fledgling expo to show us what they could really do. So did this year’s event deliver on the potential of their debut? Well, yes and no.

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Since I prefer to end this on a hopeful note, let’s start with the negative aspect of the previous statement. Walking into the voluminous Hall 3 at the CTICC, I was immediately greeted by banners and a screen in the Playstation section advertising Horizon: New Dawn. This was flanked by a similar setup for Detroit: Become Human. I got all excited, thinking that I was actually going to get pre-release hands on time with these titles… until I noticed that the screens were not attached to any consoles, and were instead just looping videos.

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Yes, if you came to EGE to maybe get your mitts and eyeballs on some of major new or upcoming releases, you would be disappointed. I had heard via the grapevine that the organizers had been pushing for just this, but came up short in the end due to reasons outside their control. Logistically, I knew that the chances of a relatively small expo in Cape Town scoring preview code of big games were slim, but I still had a sour taste in my mouth when it didn’t happen.

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However, if you weren’t too fazed by a lack of the very latest AAA titles, there was plenty more to keep you entertained over the course of the 3 days that EGE went on for. The cosplayers were out in full force showing off their creations, with one particular Overwatch Widowmaker cosplayer (and no, not just for the obvious reasons, you pervs!), and a trio of ladies cosplaying as genderbent Quicksilver, Kylo Ren and Deadpool, impressing me the most out of the ones I saw. Local vendors were there to hawk their wares, from comic books to geeky trinkets to t-shirts to original artwork to massive freaking broadswords and everything in between. This also included retailers like Makro, DC3 Distribution and more selling their good as reduced prices, though these prices weren’t as crazy I would have liked for an expo like this.

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Tabletop gamers had plenty to crow about though, with one section of the hall dedicated just to show off various tabletop/board games, which folks in attendance could try their hand at under some expert tuition. Some local hardware vendors also had booths to show off the type of shiny super high spec PC hardware that most of us can only dream of owning (unless you’re wealthy. In which case, How do you feel about adopting a married 35-year old coloured man from Cape Town? Front teeth are optional).

Both ASUS and VR Arcade also had stands set up to show off the HTC Vive VR headset. I knew there would probably be huge queues for these on Saturday, so I thought I would check it out on the traditionally quieter Friday… only to be greeted by queues of uniformed schoolkids hogging both. Sigh.

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At least I was able to get some more time with the impressive Occulus Rift. And unlike the very basic on-rails roller coaster demo I tried at EGE last year, this time the Occulus was setup with a car racing rig from the folks at TGS Simulators and was playing Project Cars. And it was amazing. More to the point, it was extremely satisfying to actually turn my head towards a competitor’s car and give them the Luigi Death Stare as I overtook them.

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Also fantastic was the showing of local indie games. I had an absolute blast with VALA aka Vicious Attack Lama Apocalypse, which describes itself as “the world’s best mass llama-slaughter roguelike-lite-ish couch co-op twin-stick shooter”. There was also lots of fun to be had with ControlShift, Polygod, Mega-Zerds, critical hit BroForce and much, much more. Last year’s local indie game showing was good, but this year was brilliant and I saw many a young gamer getting hooked on these usually more accessible games (with one kid of about 6 years old just destroying all records on VALA).

EGE also stepped up its game in 2016 when it came to pure size as the expo doubled up, now also making use of Hall 4. This was predominantly to accommodate the BYOC LAN which wasn’t completely packed, but still saw a large amount of gamers playing a whole bunch of games against each other all weekend. And by “a whole bunch of games” I actually just mean DOTA. Seriously, did anybody play anything else?!

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The biggest use of all this new real estate though was for EGE’s competitive gaming section. If it could be argued that the expo may have dropped the ball a bit when it came to showing off new/upcoming AAA titles, they sure as hell made up for it with their various gaming tournaments. Comprised of a stage area sporting a massive screen as well as various cordoned off sections throughout the area, the weekend saw competitors going head to head in Call of Duty: Black Ops III, CS: GO, Halo 5, Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X, Fifa 16, Hearthstone and DOTA 2.

And boy were they rewarded for their efforts, as EGE and their various sponsors front a small mountain of cash prizes. The Call of Duty comp saw F3AR walking away with R20,000 in prize money, the Halo 5 tourney handed over R16,000 to Vinco Gaming, Street Fighter V scored Apollo R10,000… And well, I can keep listing all the prizes and winner, but the TL;DR of it is: There was big money to be made at EGE this weekend past.

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And the organizers lived up to those big budgets when it came to the quality of their productions. The big matches weren’t just live streamed on the screens in the Hall but also online for those who weren’t lucky enough to be in attendance. The CS:GO finals were even held in one of CTICC auditoriums to give it an even more big budget feel. And the crowds certainly appreciated every moment as they cheered on their favourites as they won and groaned in dismay when they got knocked out.

And if you weren’t playing games, watching games being played, buying things to play games, buying things worn/used by people who play games, then you could also listen to a number of panels hosted across the course of the weekend ranging from everything from local developers talking about growing the indie scene to the introduction of new eyewear specifically designed for people living in the digital age. And of course there were the delicious grub to be had at the numerous food trucks (hmmmm… burritos) as well as the various kiosk scattered throughout the hall (anybody get the recipe for those incredible choc brownies they were selling?!).

Bottom line is that while EGE 2016 may not have delivered as highly on some gaming aspects as I would have hoped, overall it was a big step in the right direction. There was enough of everything to make sure that everybody had something to do and see, but especially if you’re into your competitive gaming. Now if you’ll, excuse me. I need to track down some more of those brownings. The craving has spoken.

Here’s another perspective – from Umar Bastra:

Going into the event I was excited to see how it had grown from its debut last year. There’s been much excitement surrounding the expo and with the promise of an expanded eSports presence, it was looking to be a bigger, better experience. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, EGE managed to deliver yet another fantastic event.

While it’s in no way on the level of say, rAge in Johannesburg, it’s becoming more apparent that the organizers are working hard to make EGE the premier gaming expo in Cape Town and it’s great to see them edging ever so closer to that realization. The expo was extended to the adjacent hall in order to provide the eSports and LAN section with its own space. There was a huge chunk of the hall dedicated to the LAN area where people could setup their PCs to play games. There were sleeping bags and air mattresses abound, and speaking to some of the people there, the general feeling and vibe was pretty good and everyone seemed like they were having a good time.

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The rest of the eSports area had little stations set up with various games and competitions that people could partake in. The added space was great for spectating and it was fun to just stand there and watch a few Street Fighter matches while everyone was cheering for the players. There was a stage set up as well for the eSports event where professional teams went to head to head. Overall, the new section was well done, and even though the space wasn’t fully utilized, it was a welcomed addition and it ultimately allowed for the expo side of things to expand.

It was immediately apparent that there was a lot more going on compared to last year.  The most notable (to me in any case), and possibly most exciting attraction was the fact that there were two playable demos for unreleased games there. Now, I know that’s not a monumentally big number, but it’s practically unheard of to have something like that here in Cape Town and it makes me extremely excited to see what they’ll do in the future. So I obviously ran straight to those stands, pushing little kids out of the way (I’m just kidding, kind of) for the chance to play Gravity Rush 2 and Gran Turismo Sport.  As a fan of Gravity Rush, it was damn exciting to play the sequel that is only going to be released in December.

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There were quite a few stands running GT Sport where people could compete for the best lap time with a PS4 up for grabs. I have to say though, Gran Turismo Sport was not as impressive as I’d hoped it would be, but there’s still some time to polish up the final product.  Aside from that, there were more shops to check out (one which was selling rocking anime and gaming themed t-shirts) and other activities to try out from a cool little King of Fighters 97 competition tucked away in the corner to the HTC Vive VR demos. I had a great time trying everything out and just walking around, visiting all the exhibitors.

By the day’s end, I walked out of the expo fairly satisfied and happy. There’s still a lot to improve on, but it’s impressive how much the event has grown in just one year. Things are looking really good for EGE and if they continue to grow and improve this way then they will undoubtedly have a bright future ahead of them.

Last Updated: August 1, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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