Games, gadgets and future tech – what’s not to love?
A new, two-day expo focused around “digital entertainment” – that’s “video games” for the layperson – will be held by Auckland’s Vector Arena over the weekend of 28-29 September.
Digital Nationz’s biggest draw is that the convention will be the first chance Kiwis have to play with Xbox and PlayStation’s next game consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. A virtual reality headset called Oculus Rift, which has been generating massive interest internationally, will also be available for gamers to try out.
“It’s digital entertainment, and we’re kind of saying that our mission is to put the technology of tomorrow in your hands right now,” says Vector Arena’s business development manager, Peter Hall.
“Our main focus is going to be gaming, but the movies and music will come over time as well.”
Oh, and it'll feature the first ever Bot Wars championship to be held in New Zealand. Yes, we’re referring to robots fighting each other.
But Digital Nationz isn’t just about the big draws - it’s a full-on celebration of digital media, so it’ll also feature a history of video games museum, with every console ever made on display, a digital arts gallery, panel discussions, and a LAN game tournament featuring popular multiplayer game League of Legends.
For those who are more interested in tinkering, Digital Nationz will host workshops to teach expo-goers how to create their own wearable tech, or how to use a 3D printer. These workshops cost an extra $9 per session on top of the entry price.
Three full-time staff are working on the event, which the team has been working on since around March this year.
Given that the event’s being held in September, that’s a quick turnaround for an event which is expecting 8,000-10,000 people.
“But I think mentally I’ve probably been working on it with separate pieces for years,” says Hall, “but I’ve never been in a position [to] create these things that I’ve been thinking about.”
Besides, Hall has plenty of experience when it comes to both geekery and event planning: he worked at Rhythm and Vines for two years, and prior to that worked in IT.
“I’m pure, pure geek,” he says.
He’s not the only geek in town, though - it’s easy to align Digital Nationz with the other nerdy expo that’s held in Auckland around the same time of year. But Hall isn’t worried, despite the game industry’s growing presence at the Armageddon Expo.
“It’s a completely different target market,” he says. “Well, not completely different. But for me, Armageddon has an absolute passion for comic books and manga, tabletop games, card games, TV celebrities, movie celebrities.”
Digital Nationz is aimed at a more mainstream audience, Hall says, and it instead is intended to capture the “spiritual feeling” of LA’s video game trade show, E3, which showcases new and upcoming games.
Vector Arena is going about courting that audience using cinema advertising, radio ads, online advertising, and by working with local games media outlets, particularly Gameplanet. One of the event’s major partners, AUT, will also be helping Vector to market the expo.
The company was also hoping to work with TVNZU - a shame, since TVNZ earlier this week announced the closure of the youth channel at the end of August.
Digital Nationz’s website, which was developed by digital agency Tin Soldier, is already live, as is its Facebook page. Vector will also be working on an app, although Hall says the company needs to think very carefully about what form that takes.
“If you’ve got no real value in creating an app then I think all you’re doing is creating another thing to distract people,” he says.
While Hall can’t confirm the feature as yet, he says Vector Arena is working on something quite innovative for an expo like Digital Nationz.
“We’re looking at actually letting the audio stream through smartphones. Go into the app, sync up to the audio stream … and then you’ll be able to stand there and listen to the live speaker session that’s being held in the other room.”
Digital Nationz is unlikely to be a one-off. While Hall can’t say how many tickets have gone on sale, he does say that Vector Arena may have underestimated the amount of interest Digital Nationz would garner.
“It’s not a bad thing, the fact that we kind of looked at low numbers,” he says.
“We wanted to make sure we could get it off the ground. If you put the expectations really high and then you don’t deliver, I think that’s what really kills 90 percent of these events.”
Tickets for the expo went on sale today, 1 August. A two-day, adult pass costs $24, but prices will increase in September, and again if attendees buy tickets at the door.