This year there was no need for spotty teenagers to try and sneak into ECTS, pretending to be the CEO of McGames Warehouse in Slough. Fortunately Sony and their unfailing loyalty to their customers decided to corral them all into a consumer show. Saves us having to deal with them back in the confines of the trade bit – the only drawback being, most of the publishers spent money on the consumer bit and put the minimum of effort into the trade side. Let's just say things were turned on their head a bit, as we all tried to sneak into the consumer show – oh the shame of it.
Outside the show, Sony provided a huge half-pipe featuring BMXers and skaters for that urban sports feel. Ticket entry was staggered into two five-hour sessions, which was inspired as it kept queues for games down to a minimum. On the way out everyone could exchange a voucher for a PlayStation goody bag which included a copy of Official PS2 magazine, a t-shirt and a host of demos.
Sony was hoping to offer punters an immersive experience, allowing them to get their clammy paws on games way before they hit the shelves. Sounds like a good idea to me, but did it give me what I wanted? Read on to find out.
Everything was bathed in a PS2 blue light, which was quite soothing, well if you ignored the cacophony all around. All in all a dozen publishers showed off their wares and it was literally a case of a kid in a candy store. The first eye-opener was EA's Lord of the Rings, which looked lovely once you could get a look round the queue of nerds with long, greasy hair waiting to play it.
Dancing game with a kitsch twist, Space Channel 5, was also featured and I have to say looked a bit jaggy for my taste, so I'll be getting the Japanese import for my Dreamcast. But for PS2 devotees, it has to be on your wish list.
Auto Modellista from Capcom managed to steal the show and actually lived up to its screenshots – a rare thing indeed. On the events stage, visitors could take part in a big screen challenge and test their mettle on this gorgeous cel-shaded driving game for prizes and the respect of their peers.
The disco dollies of the games industry, Konami, once again proved that gaming doesn't have to be all about bed sores, fat arses and a permanent slouch. It enticed the bedroom dwellers to find their inner Fred Astaire on Dancing Stage and gave football fans a taste Pro Evolution Soccer 2.
Speaking to a games producer who was looking over his pods, he seemed very pleased with the consumer show, although we both agreed that it would be nice to see an event that included all formats. At the end of the day, he was happy because the kids were playing his game and that's what it's all about.
The hype promised us a look at live page three girls (that's girls famous for appearing topless in the national tabloid press here in England, on page three as it happens), WWF girls and celebrities. We were also promised break dancers, the Konami dancers showing us how Dancing Stage should be done and various DJ's and celebrities. I didn't see any, but then I expect these were all saved for Saturday, the biggest consumer day. But if I was a paying punter, arriving on a Friday only to find the best was saved until the next day, I'd have been disappointed.
I think Sony needs to stop playing it cool and bring in the dancing girls, whilst giving PlayStation fans a chance to have their photo taken with Lara Croft, Solid Snake and the like. Sony needs to lighten up and quit taking itself so seriously – I mean, games are fun and nerds are so easily pleased that a guy in a Rayman suit could seriously make their day.