Multiple times a year, the UK plays host to a progressively expansive festival known as Insomnia Gaming Festival. As of August bank holiday weekend, the event has now reached its 65th show, taking place at the National Exhibition Centre located in Birmingham, England. Starting off as a celebration for the PC gaming community, the festival has exploded exponentially into the console gaming market and features a wide array of weekend activities such as a BYOC (bring your own computer) hall which allows gamers to camp for the weekend with their computer setup and game to their hearts content, daily tournaments, hands-on with upcoming titles, retro gaming with a variety of shopping stalls and exhibitions across its main expo floor.
This year saw the added extension of the Ubisoft Experience, a paid attachment to the expo which focused solely on Ubisoft products with such experiences as a behind-doors look at Watch Dogs: Legion, an Assassin’s Creed VR maze, a Splinter Cell escape room, a main stage with exclusive interviews with industry officials such as creators of the Tom Clancy series, and hands-on demos of previous and upcoming titles such as Roller Champions. Unfortunately, the event was lackluster and often quite confusing. No clear directions were delivered on when showings of Watch Dogs: Legion would be taking place and other attractions were neither clearly designated or explained. However, it succeeded in being a celebration for everything Ubisoft and boasted many props and set pieces from their catalogue of titles. It’s also worth noting that all prices of admission were donated to Special Effect, a charity dedicated to helping gamers with disabilities. Through the coming shows, if this is a trend to be had, Ubisoft have the capability to turn this into an event of their own with more efficient planning and direction.
It’s becoming increasingly more evident that VR is shifting into a massive focus for these events with PlayStation and HTC Vive being a huge presence within the show floor. Appointments were taken for certain VR experiences which became fully booked within the opening hours of the show, highlighting how popular the technology has become. It’s disappointing that less room was designated to indie developers, who only had a small segment of the floor whereas previous shows had a clear display of more love for smaller games. With the inclusion of more AAA titles, more VR experiences and an increasingly large amount of tournament zones, it’s becoming clear that Insomnia is finding a wider audience.
Perhaps the biggest segment of the show floor was Nintendo, which hosted a variety of games such as upcoming releases as Pokémon Sword & Shield and Luigi’s Mansion 3. Visiting a Nintendo stand to demo one of their titles gave you a stamp card, which could be completed by demoing each title and getting the card stamped at the end. By doing this you could enter into a daily competition to win a Nintendo Switch for those who completed the card, creating an excellent incentive for everyone to try each of Nintendo’s titles. A tournament zone gave people the chance to experience an Esports style setup and the chance to be able to play on Nintendo’s main stage in a professional setting. This was clearly an exhibition that thrived on interactivity and knowing its target audience, being gamers, would enjoy a hands-on approach. It was also nice to see the compact Switch Lite model on display, which hits shelves later this year, ready for the Christmas period.
Nighttime entertainment is also provided in the event for an additional charge. Friday’s play host to the show famous Pub Quiz which is an energetic gathering of gamers of all tastes who come together to compete and party. Other events include Hero Blast, a laser tag tower defence game involving 10 vs 10 players battling out to come out on top and The Dark Room, a live-action text adventure game which thrives upon audience participation in a rowdy and electric event. The Esports stage also provided after-hours tournaments and coverage, with a full weekend schedule of entertainment.
Throughout the weekend many game companies showcased their upcoming releases over the next few months, offering demos and exclusive gameplay not yet revealed. This proved the perfect opportunity to play exciting titles such as Borderlands 3 and Watch Dogs: Legion, which over the next few weeks we will cover and govern our thoughts of our time with each title. It was clear that this year, that this festival is here to stay in the UK as one of the country’s biggest with a bigger sense of style and a deafening confidence which rang true until the event closed.
Stay tuned for behind closed doors previews over the coming weeks for titles such as Watch Dogs Legion, Iron Man VR, Borderlands 3 and a wide array of other titles.