rAge Expo 2013

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This year, 2013, was the third time I’ve attended the rAge Expo (now in its 11th year) at the Coca-Cola Dome in North Gate, Johannesburg. In just such a short period I’ve noticed quite a change in the amount of people attending the “gaming” expo, which has certainly increased. A few other mental notes I made was how diverse the crowd has become, moving away from your typical gamer to the average man (sometimes whole families) on the street, and also the type of stalls that have popped up; no longer just based solely on selling some or other type of game. The Dome was expecting to host an approximate 30,000+ people at the 3-day event, which was definitely something to look forward to.

With the increased numbers, there would be increased queues, which started from the time people entered the venue’s parking. Despite offering sales online, and for the same price, South Africans it seems still prefer to purchase tickets at the gate. As I moseyed passed a notably longer line than I’ve seen previously, you had to feel some pity for the crowds in what was some crazy heat over the weekend.

One of the first areas I had on my list to check out (as I assume the same for many others) was that of the soon to be released Xbox One and PS4. Fans were treated to a demo experience of the console itself, as well as a few titles that will be releasing on those platforms later this year. Based on the large queues and crowd of eager onlookers, South Africa should expect good sales for these consoles when they hit the market in December this year.

The most popular game at the event seemed to be that of FIFA 14, with quite a number of rigs setup for the game across the venue; all of which had a reasonable crowd gathering around as they awaited their turn to play. I can understand the popularity of the FIFA franchise over the years, but what I can’t make sense of is how a record-breaking game such as GTA V didn’t feature much anywhere in the venue. Even with its age restriction, I would have assumed some sort of tribute would have been on showcase with the amount of accolades it has received in the weeks building up to rAge.

One of my favourite exhibitor sections from 2012 was the local artist and comic book area, which also didn’t feature in 2013. Instead, there were large locations demarked for quite a few different types of board and card games, which, too, drew quite a lot of crowd participation. I’m all for popular sources of entertainment making an appearance, but would also have loved to have to see more of the local content in terms of creativity and innovation. There were touches of this on show with a few local developers and gaming houses making an appearance at the NAG home_coded & Make Games SA stand.

With South Africa’s video game market grown to a value of R1.7 billion, which excludes digital downloads and online purchases, there’s no doubt that rAge will continue to grow with the market. The local gaming industry has also started to expand of late, and while not nearly as big as the US or UK, some of the local developers’ work on show was something to take note of. Further encouragement of this segment is required, and should play more of a role in years to come.

As in previous, the NAG LAN drew a large audience of participants, and, again, tickets were sold out well in advance of the event. Prizes for winners’ of competitions has seen quite a big jump, not just for those competing in the NAG LAN. Competitions to test your coding skills and win R100,000, gaming rigs of up to R30,000, scholarships for animation courses valued at R70,000, and plenty of other games and prizes to be won; not to mention a few items thrown into the crowd every now and then.

rAge 2013 has definitely lived up to the organisers’ expectations in terms of drawing crowds, although nothing official as yet. Although the amount of queuing has also increased as a result, this only bodes well for the future of the event, and we can expect an even greater showcase in 2014, where FoS will covering the event once again.

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