Wish You Were Here: an EA E3 AU recap

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3) is a three day, non-stop event full of developers and publishers showcasing their lineup for the next two years. It’s full of gameplay footage, cinematic trailers and gamers everywhere throwing their wallets around like a giant money fight.

Unfortunately for me, it’s also hosted in LA. I’m approximately $2000 and 12,066 kms away from where all the fun is. However, there is one conference I can attend, and it’s great for the local fans and the publishers alike.

For the last three years, the EA team in Sydney has organised a community event where they invite fans to watch the EA presentation. You can mingle with fellow gamers and get excited about the new trailers and chat with the people who help make these games.

This year’s EA E3 AU event was held in the very cool bowling bar, The Standard Bowl. With a 4-lane mini bowling alley up the back, bleachers along the side and enough room for 200 people, it was standing room only.

Simon Smith-Wright, Regional Marketing Director at EA Australia was at the event:

We knew we had to beef up the impact of E3 and even Gamescom and we’re thousands of miles away from where the action is and we kind of felt like, “How do we share the experience of E3?”. It was about three years ago that one of the geniuses in the Community team, Liz Alexander, said “Why don’t we do a little mini E3 event?” and that’s where it all kind of began.

And a little mini E3 event is exactly what it feels like. Once everyone has gotten settled in and the atmosphere is just right, the presentation starts with a trailer of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Johnny Cash and applause from the crowd in the bar.

As the games roll on and Need for Speed races through the audience, you can hear people in the crowd (mainly my boyfriend who was sitting next to me) gasping “Holy shit! Look how detailed it is!” when it comes to customising cars. It even revved my engine a little bit. The gameplay footage is the most impressive. As a pre-alpha build, the damage, the sounds and lighting is still stunning.

The brilliant thing about the way the EA E3 AU event was set up, is that it was immersive. While the screen with the conference wasn’t enormous (it was hanging over the bowling alley), with your attention fixed on it and the sound of the presenters and audience coming from around you, it felt like you were a part of the physical audience at E3.

When the surprisingly sincere Unravel appeared on screen with a nervous presenter telling the crowd about how this humanised ball of yarn is a metaphor for life and love and the string connects people and places appeared on screen; you could have heard a pin drop.

The game that got the biggest reaction (and was the general theme of the night) was Star Wars: Battlefront. With Star Wars cosplayers in the audience (only a few showed up, but a very intimidating Darth Vader was there and a fantastic Tusken Raider won the Cosplay competition), lightsabers scattered around and Star Wars memorabilia decorating The Standard Bowl, it was a subtle reminder that EA has a very big game on the way.

The footage captured by the PlayStation 4 in-game recorder is gorgeous. The various game modes will appeal to players of all kinds and even people who aren’t fans of Star Wars will probably enjoy the game. I
made grabby hands at the screen through most of the presentation. All aboard the hype train! The final footage of Star Wars: Battlefront had raised the mood of the room again. Everyone was excitedly discussing their favourite game with people they may have only met that night.

Smith-Wright explains why he thinks having these kinds of mini-conferences is important:

We have the opportunity to connect players with players. There’s something quite cool when you bring multiple fans together. Nothing beats talking to you or to someone else about what they think.

As the night dwindles down after an exciting few hours, people exit the venue with their brains full of exciting new trailers and their credit cards probably a little scared of the next 12 months (November will be a scary time). My boyfriend said that he’d never been to something like that before and he was excited that EA had events like EA E3 AU in Sydney where fans can connect with other fans and the community managers and talk about their passions and feel closer to the big events.

That’s where the significance of these kinds of events can’t be overstated. Australia is so far away from E3 or Gamescom (held in Europe) and staying awake until 6am for three nights can be such a drain. Events like EA E3 AU are slowly becoming more and more popular and that’s a positive thing in the Australian gaming community – bring on the next one!

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