Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sony Gamer's Day 2013 in Saudi Arabia

So despite the disastrous first try in 2012, Sony decided to take another shot at their Gamer Day convention in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The event once again took place at the Riyadh Exhibition Center (RICEC), and this time all four exhibition halls were used for a grand total of 15,000 square meters of floor space. The event organizers didn't spare any expenses this time. On top of that, they hired a security company and imposed a proper ticketing system at approximately 20$ to attend per day in order to lessen the flow of rabble that plagued last year’s event.

When my friend and I arrived at the event location, we were orderly ushered into a line that led into the exhibition hall. We discovered that half the rented floor space was actually used as an area to properly check in attendees, which worked wonders for keeping things organized.

After receiving our passes and free PSN Plus monthly trials, we finally entered the convention area. The layout wasn’t terribly different from last year, but not having to wade through a sea of people was an improvement.

On display was the usual smattering of demos for upcoming games. The first I tried out was Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Having completely ignored the DMC-style hack n’slash genre for the better part of this console generation, I didn’t find anything particularly worth noting about the gameplay. There were a few amusing touches though, like clearing obstacles by sticking zombies into vehicles. This leads to grin-inducing bit near the end where you destroy a strip club by having a zombie drive a truck straight through the roof between a pair of giant stocking-clad legs followed by your character standing under a shower of panties. I wasn’t able to finish off the boss because I couldn’t do anything beyond stunning him with a charge attack.

The other group of games that caught my eye was an entire corner of the convention reserved for Namco Bandai releases, including the upcoming Young Justice Legacy game which Namco Bandai will be publishing for Little Orbit outside the US. There was also the upcoming but unaffiliated Ben 10 game which was probably placed there because they couldn’t find a better location for it. The rest of the demos were comprised of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z and Dark Souls 2. Someone decided that the demo character for Dark Souls 2 should be equipped with an incredibly unwieldy zweihander, so that any poor fool not familiar with the unforgiving intricacies of the series will just flail around and die horribly at the first enemy encounter (or maybe that just happened to me and I’m being a bitter sore loser about it).

The real stars of the show of course were the playable PS4 demos of Knack, Drive Club and The Playroom, the latter of which was enclosed in a separate room and had the longest waiting line in the entire convention. I got to try out Knack for a bit, but unfortunately I was tossed right into where the previous player left off so all I ended up doing was some generic platforming with no hint of the game’s Katamari-inspired growth gimmick. On that note, I should mention that apart from games that had very small or non-existent lines like Yaiba, demo times were still much too short.

I also tried out Tearaway for the Vita, which relied almost entirely on the handheld’s touchscreens to get anything done like drawing a paper crown (a segment I regretted not trying to do something more obscene with). I did like the camera gimmick that projected my face as an all-seeing deity upon the game world so I could play out my fantasy of being the Eye of Sauron or that creepy baby-faced sun from Teletubbies.

Since there weren’t any kid-unfriendly games that needed to be enclosed behind walls, the increased space allowed for a dedicated panel area (that doubled as the game tournament venue) and an indie developer booth, which were both missing from last year. What was missing from this year though were big name celebrity guests.

Speaking of tournaments, they actually happened this time but not without a few sloppy management hiccups. The Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tournament had the in-game spectator audio and commentary blasted over all the convention floor speakers from some unfathomable reason, while the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 tournament happened quietly in the Namco Bandai corner and caused it be closed off to the people who wanted to try the other games. The sheer backwardness with which Sony KSA is handling a simple tournament setup that TGXPO got right the first time two whole years ago is bad enough without them indirectly telling non-Call of Duty tournaments how irrelevant they are.

The first two days were generally the same, but once again I couldn't attend the third day due to car troubles.

On the whole, this convention fared much better than the last thanks to some honest-to-God planning this time. While the increased floor space and pricey entrance fee definitely played a role in reducing the amount of chaos, it’s still unknown if they would have been enough had there been an actual celebrity guest or two. This is probably the biggest challenge that conventions here need to overcome before we can brag to the rest of the world about our local flavor of nerd gatherings.


  1. Hey! Cool coverage on the event! I love reading about what gaming's like in different corners of the world. I kind of hope some more good indie developers show up because of these conventions.

    I hope next year's Gamer's Day goes as smooth as it did this time, and once again, thanks for the coverage!