Replay Expo used to be one of the biggest retro gaming events in the country and myself and several friends have made the trip to Blackpool for the last couple of years to spend a weekend playing classic games from yesteryear.
A bit of tradition at every retro event…beating StreetFighter 2
The change of name reflects a change of focus for the event. While there is still a heavy focus on retro gaming which is now just one section called “Re.Play” alongside,
“Cos.Play” – costume competitions, talks, traders and lots of people all dressed up!
“Now.Play” – this area focuses on new and upcoming games, hardware and accessory releases.
“Pro.Play” – an eSports event (EGL 8) featuring competitive tournaments.
This considerably bigger event also meant a change of venue to EventCity next to the Trafford Centre in Manchester.
So let’s get it out of the way….The first day got off to a terrible start.
Doors were scheduled to open at 11.00. We arrived around 10ish and as with previous years there was already a large queue full of people eager to get in first. In previous years once the doors have opened the early crowd get in pretty quickly and everyone else who turns up just after 11.00 then get in just as quickly as a “second wave”.
Unfortunately 11.00 came and went and the doors weren’t opened. The queues started getting larger and no-one really knew what was going on. I checked the EuroGamer twitter account and Facebook page but couldn’t find anything out. Eventually I managed to find a staff member and was told a power cut had caused a 30 minute delay. However, it was much closer to 12.00 by the time the doors were opened and the once organised queue started to collapse as people tried to get in.
I decided it best to not get involved with this and as we’d been standing in the cold for a couple of hours went to get a cup of tea. Half an hour later people were still trying to get in and it was 12.50 by the time I actually made it inside.
The organisers added an extra two hours onto the event in an attempt to compensate but this wasn’t great for anyone who had a train booked and as it turned out some of areas such as the pinball still closed at the regular time.
On top of this the presentations were all cancelled as there issues with the PA system.
I was also rather miffed at the catering. Regardless of the time of day it was a big queue to stand in to get some food and as my with my visit to EuroGamer the local mobile network struggled to cope so staying in touch with friends proved hard work.
Not very well illustrated but…queues
But……now that’s out the way.
The event was as usual very entertaining and everyone I was there with all said how much of a great time they had.
I didn’t spend all that much time in the Now.Play section. Having been to EuroGamer a week or so beforehand I didn’t really feel the need. I did give PES 2013 another go as well as NBA2K13. Initially I wondered why you’d need this section considering there are dedicated events like EuroGamer but my opinion did change afterwards. Not everyone wants to go to events in London. The location was a serious consideration when booking my tickets to EuroGamer so if you live in the north of the country I can understand that even more so.Having a small part of the event used to preview some of the newer games is generally a good thing and the larger venue meant it wasn’t at the expense of the other areas.
The Pro.Play section was a link up with EGL (European Gaming League) which had a very different vibe due to it’s competitive nature. Not really my scene so I largely avoided it but you had to go through the section to get to the catering but it certainly showed the more serious side of gaming. It felt very much like an event within an event. I didn’t see all that many people who were involved with EGL doing anything in the Re.Play section (they weren’t difficult to spot).
The Cos.Play section was pretty cool. At any big gaming event there are always people dressed up as their favourite characters so embracing that as a part of the event was a smart move, especially as it adds a real sense of fun to the whole atmosphere.
The Re.Play area was exactly what you’d expect. Just about every gaming platform you’d care to think about as well as pinball machines and classic arcade machines.
Awful picture of Space Harrier..but there was a queue!
This year I somehow managed to avoid spending a small fortune on anything but as usual there was a great variety of stands selling their wares.
Two new additions this year which were pretty good were Retro Request Zone and the mobile site.
In the Retro Request Zone if you wanted to play a specific game on a specific system a member of staff would go find it from their collection and bring it to you! A great idea as there are limits on the amount of games they can have out at any one time.
The mobile site could be found at www.playexpo.net/mobile.
The site allowed you to find your way around, discover what was going on in each zone as well as browse the list of games available at the previously mentioned request zone. The only downside to this was the fact I could barely use it. The mobile network just wasn’t up to it on the day and I couldn’t use the site.
If I could add a suggestion for next year I’d love some kind of match up service. The ability to find people to play against on favourite games would be interesting. There tournaments that are run over the weekend but if it’s not one of your favourite games you’re out of luck.
So in summary while the event got off to a bad start it made up for it in every other area. Everything that has been good about the previous events is still there with some nice touches to improve the experience.
It’s highly likely I’ll be back again next year!
There is a great post-event round up on the PlayExpo site with reviews, videos and pictures.