The year is 2016, and rAge has entered it’s 14th year this weekend, 7-9 October. In previous years attending the event, I’ve always opted for the Saturday, with the crowds at their peak. This year, however, I decided to make the most of an early start by arriving before the doors opened to the public on Friday morning. While most of the exhibitors were still in the process of adding the final touches to their stalls, the big guns were fully prepared to address the media and showcase their latest offerings. By the time the doors opened, at 10am, with a small crowd having gathered at each of the entrances, I already had a run at 4 or 5 games before putting on my big boy pants and getting back to work.
I use the term “work” very loosely in this case. While there were quite a few admin based objectives to get through during the course of the day, my media pass provided the necessary privileges to cover as much as possible on the day, without becoming too much of a chore. Even better still were the passes provided by Sony and Ster-Kinekor, which allowed us to jump all the queue at all PS4 games, as well as the Injustice 2 demonstration. Even without the jump, the PS4 stand is my pick for rAge 2016. While the queues were tremendously long, speaking to all those who had patiently waited their turn for an experience with PSVR, there were no regrets or disappointments. In fact, a large number of those decided to queue again to experience the PSVR headset and gaming. On the one side, you had the Batman VR game, which allowed you to experience what it would be like to be Bruce Wayne with a 5-10 minute sneak peak interaction, while on the other side you had your pick of a few fun rides, which included the extremely popular, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood VR experience. While the Batman is a lot more hands on, providing a more realistic overall feel, Until Dawn is, by far, more enthralling with its horror-themed ride through an abandoned slaughterhouse of some sort.
Interviews and Discussions
In between the gaming and experience sessions, I swapped out the controllers for my journalist cap and conducted a two interviews/discussions with teams from Sony and Dell.
Sony: Release Dates and PS4 News
I also had the opportunity to discussion some of Sony’s upcoming console release with General Manager Middle East, Africa, Turkey and India at Sony Computer Entertainment, Robert Fisser, and Ster-Kinekor Entertainment CEO, Mario dos Santos, with special focus on the PS4 Pro, PS4 Slim and PSVR. A quick look at the potential launch dates for the new releases, in order:
- PS4 Slim – Early November 2016 at R5,000 (500GB) and R6,000 (1TB)
- PS4 Pro – Late November 2016 between R6500 and R7000
- PSVR – Late January 2017 between R6,500 and R7,000
While the consoles will be ready for launch in time for this year’s holiday season, prospective buyers will have to wait until January for the release of the PSVR. Sony did, however, mention that by the time it releases, a lot of work would have been done in terms of support and updates, as well as the list of supported titles would have grown to over 50 by then. There will also be a few marketing campaigns for each of the devices at launch, including hands-on experiences with the PSVR around the release to convince buyers about its capabilities that may not often be conveyed based simply on ads or opinion.
Dell and Alienware New Releases
One of the fastest growing segments in South African gaming is that of the pre-built gaming rig and the gaming laptop. We’ve seen the likes of Asus, Acer and MSI operating heavily in this space in recent months, and Dell’s Alienware gaming units were not left behind. I had the opportunity to discuss the gaming landscape and the recently released Alienware, VR-ready range with Chris Buchanan, Client Solutions Director at Dell. Virtual Reality is an important aspect to the future of gaming and Alienware has released the new 13, 15, and 17 laptop range, the Aurora, and their flagship, the Area 51, all of which support VR, and are officially Oculus Rift certified. What I found really encouraging in the discussion was Dell and Alienware’s commitment to both price and upgradability. With Dell’s buying power when it comes to hardware, you can be sure that components will be very well priced. Just as important is the upgradability of their laptop range, which includes easily swappable parts. The laptops also include Tobii eye-tracking, which will provide a unique gaming experience.
Dell also showcased their recently released Aurora units at their stand, where event goers will be able to compete in a session of DotA 2 on the units as part of the LAN setup. Dell also sponsor the e-Sports competition that took place this weekend at The Dome, and will be awarding the winning team with Alienware units, peripherals and other gaming gear, at a total of over R700,000 worth of goods for the team.
VR, VR, and…VR
The theme at rAge 2015 may have been VR, but mostly by by means of the smartphone headsets. This year, however, VR received a huge upgrade at rAge, mostly thanks to the likes of Sony’s PSVR. There were, though, other units around The Dome, which included the HCT Vive and Oculus Rift, as developers showcased some of their latest indie game offerings. Crowds were drawn to any and all stalls offering a chance to get a hands-on experience. These hands-on experience were so popular, there were almost no lines whatsoever for the annual favourite, FIFA, with attendees opting rather spending their valuable time with a session or two of VR. Given the prices of some of the units, many of us may not be able to afford such luxuries. The PSVR being by far the cheapest when it becomes available in January, which puts Sony in a really good position to dominate the market in 2017.
When I first attended rAge back in 2011, cosplay formed more of a niche than part of the norm at the event. In previous years, there were a few obvious themes and easier to mimic styles, but 2016, once again, saw a few more detailed and elaborate outfits. While Friday may not have been the best day to view all the cosplay on offer, there was still quite a large percentage of the public who donned the costumes of their favourite characters.
While there were plenty of queues to experience VR around The Dome, another popular stand was that of Warner Bros.’ Injustice 2, which provided a 15 minute look at the gameplay and upgrades of the new game that drops in 2017. While it wasn’t a hand-on experience, the show amazed all those in attendance. This is definitely one of the games to look out for once it arrives in March.
There are many that bemoan rAge each year, for whatever personal and illogical reasoning, but for those who attend the event, there’s very little to hate. The issue, however, is having to put in the time to enjoy it, which cannot simply be done in a matter of an hour or two, but rather along the lines of 6 or 7. I spent the whole day at rAge on Friday, my longest ever session, accompanied by a other FoS writers, friends, and two newcomers, all of whom had great experiences on the day. The regular exhibitors were also there among the major gaming houses, which included Dark Carnival, BT Games, Evetech, home_coded, LEGO, Matrix Warehouse, Megarom, and many many others.
The NAG LAN was, once again, sold out within a few moments of tickets going on sale, with gamers spending more than 4 days at The Dome in some of the more extreme gaming sessions. The Telkom DGL was also in full swing by Friday morning, although wasn’t directly in the line of site of most attendees, as their were placed in the lower ground floor, away from all the noise and bustle, to focus on some serious gaming as part of the competition, which included a prize-pool of over R1m.
A big thanks to all those who hosted us in some form on the day, which includes Sony, Ster-Kinekor, Dell/Alienware, Warner Bros., Microsoft Xbox, and Asus, who provided information, goodies, food, and experiences. Sony provided us with blue media armbands, which allowed us to jump to the front of the queues at their stands, making it easier to experience their games on offer at the event if we hadn’t already done so before the crowds arrived. It would have been a huge bonus if all game exhibitors provided such VIP access, so a special thanks to Sony/Ster-Kinekor for the VIP treatment. Thanks also to the event organisers and The Lime for the accreditation for the event. We look forward to 2017.
If the Friday crowds are anything to go by, Saturday will be in the record books again in 2016, as the first wave of Saturday patrons were more than happy to wait the expected 2 hours to queue for entry.