James Pinnell, Colin Robinson, and I recently returned from the International Digital Entertainment Festival (iDEF) 2009, where we were promised a feast of gaming, electronics, and exclusives.
Dubbed as one of the largest gaming expos in the southern hemisphere, I felt myself wanting far more than the meager rations that were on offer. Certainly there were a few unreleased titles worthy of a trip home to change my pants, but if iDEF is all that Australia can muster in way of an international gaming exhibition, I have to wonder at the current state of our profession.
As mentioned on the LimitDown podcast, the initial problem at iDEF was the lack of developers. Forget the small size of the exhibition – we really couldn’t have asked for anything more at an Australian conference – it was simply depressing to realize that only two or three developers had actually bothered to present their upcoming titles to the community.
And I say “upcoming” with an air of sarcasm.
Ubisoft: stand up and take a bow. They were the only developer that actually put any effort into their stall, and the public adored them for it. Honourable mentions must go to AFA Interactive for delivering Fairytale Fights and A Boy and His Blob, but I felt truly offended that 2K Games would simply pump out two games that have already been given worldwide releases. When we walked into the enclosed, MA15+ booth that contained Borderlands and NBA 2K10, we simply shook our heads and realized that if we wanted to play those titles, we could simply go back to the hotel.
But that’s enough of the depressing stuff for now, because Ubisoft deserves to be applauded for their efforts. Assassin’s Creed 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Avatar, Red Steel 2, and Just Dance; were all unreleased titles that were allowed trial runs by the public.
James and I smash out some Fairytale Fights
While we weren’t able to get a hands-on experience with the new Sam Fisher title, a member of the Ubisoft team was seated at the game for the entire convention, and explained in detail the new features, weapons, and missions that gamers will be able to experience by February 2010.
While Assassin’s Creed 2 and Avatar had plenty of issues that will need to be ironed out before their releases, it was comforting to know that Ubisoft had enough faith in their products to present them candidly before not only the media, but the fans as well.
We spoke honestly about each of the developers at iDEF in the podcast, mentioning that the entire expo could have been covered in five or six hours, but what we didn’t expound upon was how insufficient the whole experience seemed. For instance, my most anticipated event for the entire weekend was a developers panel that was set to take place on the Friday afternoon. What happened? They cancelled it. That’s right, only two members of the panel even bothered to show up, so they had to scrap the entire feature. Instead, we were treated to several mind-numbingly boring presentations from company representatives.
Portable projector for Wii, Xbox 360, and iPhone
Thankfully, the weekend found its feet after day one, and the audience was entertained with plenty of gaming action, including a Street Fighter 4 tournament and the E-Games Masters.
Still, I couldn’t avert my attention from the fact that several booths served no purpose whatsoever, while others remained entirely empty. What could have been filled with independent Australian developers, Aussie gaming magazines, or upcoming titles, was instead stuffed with beanbags, televisions, and already released games like H.A.W.X., DiRT 2, and Rock Band. At times, it seemed that iDEF was more akin to an interstate LAN party than an international gaming convention.
Despite these flaws, some of which were incredibly difficult to swallow, I still feel that iDEF was worth the trip. Being able to preview games like Assassin’s Creed 2, Red Steel 2, and Avatar – my new most anticipated December release – gave me the slightest hope that Australian conventions have a chance of becoming successful. While I won’t be holding my breath for an E3 or Eurogamer-style expo just yet, I have faith and plenty of optimism, that with time and effort, Australia will be able to flex its gaming muscles through an internationally renowned convention.