By Kervyn Cloete
I’m not an emotional man. I rarely get seriously angry at anything. But if you happened to be seated beside me in my car this past Friday night, you would have heard me screaming out some choice obscenities that would have made Satan himself blush a darker shade of crimson.
You see, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was running horribly late for the MWeb Gamezone launch of Battlefield 3 in South Africa. This event had recently stirred up a hornet’s nest of activity and excitement in the local Cape Town gaming community upon its announcement. This was mainly due to the fact that game launches down here in my neck of the woods, were rarer than a Sea Point “lady of the night” with her own front teeth.
Through a lucky draw competition that took place on various social media platforms, MWeb Gamezone had selected 30 lucky gamers, as well as approximately 15 or so members of the local gaming press to attend this launch, held in their local offices. The demand for invites had been furious, with a few desperate people hoping a spot opened up due to a no show.
So it was with great relief and a lot of muttered promises to deities of various religious orders, that I made it into the lobby of the MWeb building just in time to join the last few groups of gamers being led by a burly red-helmeted man (calm your dirty thoughts, you Mills & Boon readers) into the launch area.
Said area was setup with 16 46” inch LCD screens connected to 8 Xbox 360’s and Alienware laptops respectively. The latter, with their eye-catching Tron inspired red lighting, immediately attracting the attention and grubby paw marks of most of the crowd. Snacks and drinks were situated liberally around the area to be enjoyed by those few not currently busy wiping drool off the keyboards.
Soon, Nathier Kasu – MWeb Digital manager- and Desmond Kurz – Online Gaming manager of MWeb Gamezone – opened proceedings with a few announcements. And immediately you got the impression that this was more than just a press demo of a big new game title. This was MWeb showing undeniably that they had a passionate drive to support local gaming.
It became clear that this launch would be the first of many such events, and was just spearheading a number of gaming initiatives that they were hoping to officially announce in the coming weeks. The biggest of these being that they would be trying to determine the best Battlefield clan in the country through a number of sponsored competitions, and then sending said clan to take on the rest of the world’s best. They would even be arranging “noob” servers, to help those new to the online gaming scene to learn the digital ropes first, before being thrown to the spawn-camping, tea-bagging wolves.
And in an announcement that earned many a smiling face in the crowd, they revealed that currently MWeb is setting gaming traffic on their network – not peer-to-peer, FTP or even HTTP – to be the highest priority. Gaming traffic, as far they can determine it to be so, will receive the most bandwidth allocation, irrespective of the time of day.
Unfortunately, all of these initiatives and announcements were currently only for the PC platform, but MWeb are hard at work with Microsoft and Sony to be able to provide a similar service to console gamers. And we’ve already seen the first fruits of this labour, with MWeb recently announcing that they would be hosting dedicated Gears of War 3 servers for Xbox 360. A true first for South Africa.
Before unleashing the hordes, local Xbox Ambassador Glenn Alexander and EA Community Ambassador Bryan Banfield, spoke a bit more about some of their own current initiatives at building the Cape Town gaming scene, hopefully to the eventual point where it can rival the Gauteng one. These included the insanely popular and fun, weekly CPT Gaming Meetups that takes place every Thursday at Neighbourhood in Cape Town. Glenn also hinted at some new plans that he has for a big monthly event, the details of which will be announced later this week.
And with that it was time to blow stuff up.
As gamers migrated to their platform of choice, it was a surprisingly low key affair, as everybody quietly got themselves setup. But soon the air was filled with the sounds of staccato gun fire, the thumping booms of explosions, the glorious shouts of victory, and the gut wrenching scream of yet another person discovering that they fly the in-game helicopters and fighter jets, about as well as Helen Keller. On drugs. With one hand tied behind her back.
As we all went about the bloody (but sometimes embarrassing) business of war, two lovely young lasses meandered through the crowd, dishing out liquid sustenance in the form of Red Bull. Three other MWeb staff members, inspired by Halloween to dress up as Nosferatu (no glittery, coifed douchebags here), walked the crowd rewarding gaming prowess with R150 Kalahari.com vouchers. MWeb staff also dished out the obligatory swag bags, filled with some amazing goodies. Some lucky few getting a special gift in theirs. I’ll give you a clue: It starts with “B” and ends in “Attlefield 3”.
Seeing the game running on some of the Alienware laptops at Ultra setting, surely was a thing of beauty, and kudos to the organizers for showing off what few gamers could afford to do themselves. In between rounds of having my face shot off by a random 14 year old American boy with hand-eye co-ordination bordering on the supernatural, I also had the privilege of being able to see a side by side comparison of two Xboxes, running with and without the HD texture pack installed, respectively. This feature has been getting a lot of press lately, and left some Xbox owners without hard drives thinking that they would be getting a sub-par product as result of not being able to install the pack.
But the reality was actually quite surprising. To use an analogy, if the HD pack installed version was the gorgeous sun kissed and bikini clad form of Adriana Lima, then I was expecting to be greeted by Susan Boyle in sweat-stained negligee for its lower res counterpart. Instead we got Carla Gugino in a tight black dress – not quite as flashy and showing some age, but sure as hell still good for a good ogling.
As the evening winded down, I spent some time chatting further with the MWeb Gamezone staff and soon the source of all this passion became abundantly clear, as it was revealed that they were all ardent gamers themselves. They completely understood local gamers’ frustrations and concerns, as they experienced the same thing, and as such, were trying their best to solve these problems and give local gaming the
attention it justly deserves. Friday night’s launch was the first and very successful step in their plan to do just that.
Thanks to the MWeb team, EA South Africa, Dion Wired, Samsung SA, Red Bull, Kalahari.com, Glenn Alexander, Bryan Banfield and whomever that God-sent lady was that brought those yummy pizzas, for an outstanding event.
Last Updated: October 31, 2011