I’ve been asked “How was GameStart 2017 compared to last year?” a few times by my friends, so I thought a short blog post about GameStart 2017 would be useful. This isn’t a review of the convention per se — I’m just writing down my thoughts and experience over the two days.
Things did not get off to a good start for GameStart on Day 1. The queue for non-VIP members was unusually long for some reason in the morning and early afternoon, and many of us were forced to queue at Level 1 before we could enter the convention. The venue was located at Level 4, we had to queue at Level 1 (??). I started queuing at 12pm and took almost one hour to reach the front door. I was absolutely livid at one point because I thought I was going to miss Yoko Taro’s 1pm appearance on the main stage. It turns out that he was scheduled for 2pm instead. Still, it made no sense why this elaborate queue management was necessary: once I got in, there was plenty of room inside the convention halls on Day 1 and at no point did it feel close to becoming overcrowded. Fortunately, this was totally eradicated on Day 2 and I managed to get in at 12pm with my non-VIP ticket instantly.
GameStart 2017 felt a lot smaller compared to last year, due to the conspicuous absence of Microsoft and Blizzard. It took the organisers three years since GameStart’s debut in 2014 to finally get Microsoft at the convention, and for them to suddenly vanish again in 2017 felt like another step backwards. It’s a big shame because Cuphead was just released at the end of September — it would have been a perfect opportunity for them to showcase and demo this great Microsoft-published game to the public.
Blizzard’s absence is understandable. Unlike 2016, where momentum was high after the release of the Warcraft: The Beginning movie, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft: Legion, there wasn’t really anything new for them to showcase. But for 2K Games (WWE 2K18, the new XCOM 2 expansion, NBA 2K18) and especially Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed Origins) to also go missing was quite a surprise. This left us with just Sony and Bandai Namco as the only big publishers at GameStart 2017. The Bandai Namco booth was a big draw this year due to Dragon Ball FighterZ’s impending early-2018 release, and there was a long queue on both days for the DBFZ demo. BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle’s pre-alpha demo was also at GameStart 2017 this year, tucked away in one corner next to the eSports section for SEA Major 2017.
I’ve been out of touch with fighting-game eSports for awhile now, so I didn’t really pay much attention to SEAM 2017 this year. But the usual big names like Justin Wong and Tokido were here, so if you were at GameStart 2017 just for the eSports, it should have been an enjoyable experience. Geese Howard was announced as a DLC character for Tekken 7 on the main stage, much to my amusement (“RASHO-MOOOON!”).
One thing that caught my eye this year were the board game and card game sections. Organised by Gamersaurus Rex and a few other shops, the play area was quite huge, taking up almost half the space of one of the halls. There was 40K, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Sushi Go!, and many more. I saw my favourite MTG planeswalker Vraska being heavily promoted for the newest expansion. The “game” in “GameStart” doesn’t have to strictly refer to just videogames, it’s great to see tabletop games taking a big chunk of the spotlight this year.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog since the end of last year, you should know about my absolute obsession and love for VA-11 Hall-A, one of the best indie games of 2016. There was a VA-11 Hall-A booth this year, located inside The Drinkery section of the convention where you could purchase snacks and drinks. I even encountered a Dana Zana cosplayer, and he was very kind to let me take a photo of him next to the big artwork of Jill. The Drinkery was also very strategically and smartly positioned next to the SEAM 2017 area, you could watch the matches on the big screen from across The Drinkery. There is no better way to promote a game about mixing drinks and chilling out, than to demo it in the area of the convention where you could order a drink and relax. Well done Ysbryd Games.
There were also plenty of other indie games at GameStart 2017 located at the Founders Base section, many of them are locally produced. Stifled, which is about to be released soon for PSVR, and BattleSky Brigade were the standout games for me. There was even a free retro-style game called O$P$ tucked away in the RetroCade section of GameStart. I promise I’ll find the time to play them all once they’re released.
I’ve already blogged about Yoko Taro, who was the big guest this year for GameStart, so I won’t retread too much on the same topic. The decision to spread his activities across both days was a smart one, because as one of my friends remarked on Facebook, one day is more than enough to walk all of the booths at GameStart 2017 (and hopefully you didn’t have to queue that long on Day 1).
I understand that securing more publishers and Microsoft is out of the organiser’s hands — if they don’t want to show up, then it can’t be helped. Nintendo is still out of the question because local distributors Maxsoft are notoriously well-known for being utterly clueless at promoting the 3DS and Switch. So for GameStart 2018 at least, I would like to see The Drinkery and tabletop section back again. Keep the RetroCade booth, and maybe place them next to the RetroDNA booth. The little, unique things here and there will help make up for the lack of publisher presence. Looking forward to next year as always.