Firstlook is an annual video game convention in The Netherlands organized by Blammo Media, where the latest video games and hardware are showcased. The event has consistently grown in attendance over the last five years, jumping from 1,500 visitors in 2008 to more than 20,000 this year.
Having attended the last four events, I immediately noticed how big of a convention it has now become, although whether this is entirely good or bad is up for a question. During the earlier years, Firstlook was very casual and friendly, especially for those those who hate waiting in queue, and the number of visitors and participating publishers were limited. In recent years, however, the variety of exhibitions has certainly grown, but with that also the time wasted on waiting in line. I also noticed this last year, when the event was relocated to a bigger location yet not enough publishers had set up shop to meet the demand of a bigger crowd. Still, with the longest lines taking around an hour to 1.5 hour at the most, I didn’t have much to complain about (especially in comparison to stories I’ve heard about queues at Gamescon). One thing did make this year different through:
When you’re covering a gaming convention as an Internet meme researcher, of course, you have to visit *Nintendo*’s exhibition. With their lineup having all the popular titles outside of Smash Bros, including Pokemon, Sonic, Mario and some others, the presentation didn’t leave me disappointed. According to the employees at the stand, the turnout was so high on Saturday that they had to bring in additional fences to prevent any chaos on Sunday.
| [Priorities above everything though,
making this is what I started with]
| [A nice gift for the people who brought a DS with Pokemon
Black/White or Black 2/White 2: A free shiny Girantina]
- Pokemon X/Y was a standard demo version I have seen available on other cons as well on the internet. The starters are semi-random, and I got Froakie, Sylveon and Helioptile. You come accross the various familiar and new aspects of the game: rollerscates, riding Pokemon, wild Pokemon and trainer battles; finishing off with a nice battle giving you control over a Mewtwo that can evolve into Mega Mewtwo. The 3D feature of the 3DS really shines in the Pokemon battles. While walking around it doesn’t add much, it adds just the right amount of dept in the battles.
- People who played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES, like myself, will get some nice nostalgia from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. The field is an exact copy of the first game, while the dungeons are completely new and make good use of the new game feature that allows Link to enter and move alongside walls. The puzzles are fun and the nostalgia is constant. Only downside is that due to the stereoscopic 3D that keeps gameplay in the old 2D overview, the 3D function of the 3DS doesn’t add much.
- Sonic: Lost World offers a combination of old and new gameplay. The tube shape worlds take some getting used to, but they’re a nice idea overall, and in combination with some famililiar features from past Sonic games generate a nice combo. But although the game has a good variety in gameplay, the style of the levels and the lack of boosting made it miss that “gotta go fast” element on occasion.
- And as this year is The Year of Luigi, I of course I did the only correct thing that any right-minded adult male my age with responsibilities would do at a convention while he should be doing his job instead: I took a picture.
Microsoft‘s main focus this year was of course the Xbox One and their console-exclusive titles, namely Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, and Killer Instinct on display, although I didn’t get a chance to play them all, which was a bit of a shame. Both Forza and Dead Rising are the latest installations of popular franchises that have lived through its predecessor XBox 360, so they offered a good comparison between gameplay and graphics on the two consoles. There was a funny moment when a friend of mine tried to check out the dashboard while playing, only to make the screen going black, which wasn’t supposed to happen obviously. Gameplay wise though, the controller for the Xbox One is undoubtedly an improvement from the Xbox 360 controller. The triggers and bumpers are more fluid, with the rumble feature being the icing on the cake; the thumb sticks have a much smaller dead zone and they’re just more comfortable for your thumbs; the D-pad finally got upgraded with a four-directional setup instead of an annoying, inaccurate circle.
I also spoke to a Microsoft employee from the Sales department there. Apparently he just got back from his vacation slightly after it was announced the Xbox One wouldn’t be released into Europe until April 2014 due to production issues. According to him the sending out of mails regarding the later release for pre-orders and the replies that followed certainly gave the necessary stress at work. We also exchanged some opinions regarding the Kinect 2.0, the events surrounding it, and the improvement since the first Kinect.
Likewise to Microsoft, Sony‘s main focus was the Playstation 4. And likewise to the competition, they offered a collection of console exclusives. Being unfamiliar with gaming on the Playstation though, it’s difficult for me to tell in where the controller has gotten better. On the area of graphics Sony certainly didn’t fail to deliver though, with Gran Turismo 5 and Assassin’s Creed IV really shining on the screen.
The PC-related stands mostly focussed on showing off their latest hardware, while keeping it gaming related to a series of special events and contests. Over the rest of the event you had a nice level of people. It felt busy like it should at an event, with people truly showing interest in the games; but it didn’t feel too busy yet, and wasn’t crowded to a point where moving became near-impossible at all. The mainstage itself had some nice variety of events, switching between tournaments, to showing off the PS4, to simple goodie hunts; and the crew surely managed to keep the audience entertained.
In the ancient battle of Sony vs. Microsoft, what Sony did right unlike Microsoft, was that they still showed new games on the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita, instead of only showing the new console. The entire Microsoft stand consisted of just the Xbox One. The lines for the new consoles were both massive and somewhat equal over the day, but due to Sony’s larger variety they win in the overall amount of visitors to their stand. That is of course if you don’t count Call of Duty: Ghosts as a Microsoft stand regardless of it being a Xbox exclusive, because the line for that game added to the Xbox One made Microsoft dominate.
Electronic Arts undoubtly offered the biggest multiplayer experience, linking 32 computers with Battlefield 4 on the highest graphics and then make them play a match. Ubisoft on the other hand easily won the entertainment award, with their constant playing of music, appealing to the audience, dance competitions, and an Edward Kenway cosplayer and dancing booth babes. Warner Bros. mostly focussed on the DC Comics universe, with Injustice: Gods Among Us and Batman: Arkham Origins.
Unfortunately, I can’t offer any pictures of cosplay, simply because it was hardly present. It’s unfortunate when you compare it to other cons, but can be explained with the lower amount of visitors to Firstlook. Over the day I spotted groups cosplaying Final Fantasy, Bioshock Infinite, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, some costumes I didn’t recognise, and a collection of simple cosplay being mostly just hats and shirts related to popular characters. With my own camera not delivering the best quality pictures with the lighting in the building, and plenty of more professional photographers undoublty taking pictures of the small amount of cosplayers, I will update this gallery once I find pictures elsewhere and properly credit the authors.
Rick Hofsink (a.k.a RandomMan) is a college student currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in chemistry in the Netherlands. He is also an active researcher and senior moderator of Know Your Meme. For more information, check out his profile.