Last weekend we were back in Coventry for Multiplay’s Insomnia 52. The summer event is traditionally the busiest, with more companies attending the exhibition and more visitors, both the all weekend gamers as well as those on a day pass.
And busy it was, with the Friday opening day feeling like a usual Saturday. Many familiar faces from regular shows popped by the stand, as well as a surprisingly high number of day passes. And it only got busier on Saturday and Sunday, with day passes apparently selling out and at some points over 11,000 visitors were at the event.
On our stand we had some of our new gaming systems on display, with the Hobby Owl mini system running a couple of our machines with the other two running off a system that was dubbed ‘the Beast’ – two separate machines in the Cooler Master HAF Stacker chassis (with an additional unit one top for good measure) that garnered a lot of attention.
We also had stock of the Devastator bundle that Cooler Master had been demoing in Spring, as well as some new ranges from ASUS, the Echelon and Strix sets. Both are fairly similar in terms of spec and features with the Echelon gear having a blue digital camouflage pattern and slightly lower price point, while the Strix is all orange and has an animal theme, the headset having the eye of (I think) an owl on each earcup.
The layout for i52 was slightly altered from i51, with the main stage now moved to the centre of the pitch instead of in one of the lower rooms. That room I believe became an extra LAN hall, while the huge pavilion erected on the pitch that housed the stage also contained some of the stands typically found in the exhibition hall, such as the retro games and board game stores, the retro gaming area, Xbox Lounge and some of the game demos. The demo version of the new Gauntlet was here, and I only got to play it for a minute before needing to get back to the stand but it seemed pretty cool.
Back in the main exhibition, we had more vendors running stands than I think the event has seen before. Directly behind us, our friends at Cooler Master had an enormous display showing off much of their range of gaming cases as well as lots of the peripherals. Upcoming from them is a new version of the popular Sirus 5.1 headset, dubbed the Sirus C. This has the same 5.1 surround features as the existing Sirus, but with console compatibility. Also on show was the new Novatouch keyboard, their first to use Topre mechanical switches instead of the more common Cherry MX.
Next door to us were Gigabyte, showing off a number of their current gaming laptops as well as some gaming desktop systems built around their motherboards and graphics cards. Nearby MSI were also showing off their high end gaming laptops, as well as having some driving simulator systems set up.
Elsewhere, ASUS had their traditional cabinet of awesome, full of high end graphics cards and motherboards that have me dreaming of a ridiculously expensive computer build.
Inwin were on hand with some new case designs, the 707 mid and full tower cases, which use mostly the same chassis as the GR One but with a more conventional front and top panel, the GT One which is basically a smaller version of the GR One and the new frame cases. The D Frame mini is a smaller ITX case that kind of looks like a racing car’s roll cage, and the pretty crazy S frame that mounts the motherboard with the I/O panel pointing upwards.
Some new models from Ducky on display were the upcoming Mini and Legend models. We’ve known about the Mini for a while, a smaller keyboard that has just the primary section of the keyboard without either a number pad or cursor keys that is due pretty soon, but the Legend was new to me and is due towards the end of the year. Expected at a lower price point than the Shine models, the Legend has a new design chassis with an aluminium top. and will be available with the usual selection of switches. Initial stock will just have a blue backlight but at least a red version like the one on display is due in the future.
Shogun Bros. were also attending again this summer, and showed off both their new keyboard and headset. The Cross Blade keyboard is a TKL format keyboard with the Shogun Bros’ signature bright orange on the backplate. The keyboard is still a way off, but the Ensense headset is due later this year. Also featuring a lot of bright orange, it has virtual 7.1 surround and built in vibration to act like a joypad’s force feedback while gaming.
Also in the exhibition were a number of games. Jagex were back with an updated version of Transformers Universe that was even more polished that before and is now in open beta so anyone can play it online – if only I had a little more free time so that I could get into it!
2K Games had a huge stand set up to show off their two biggest upcoming releases, Evolve and Borderlands the Pre-Sequel. As others have said Borderlands plays pretty much like Borderlands 2 but with a jetpack, which is perfectly fine as Borderlands 2 was great. Evolve sadly I still didn’t get a chance to play because I didn’t have the time to wait in line, but the demo screens were showing off more gameplay and it looks fantastic.
The Indie Zone as ever was showing off a number of new and upcoming games, including several being published by Worms creator Team17. Of the ones I played, the highlight would have to be The Escapists, a pixel art style game that has you play as a prisoner trying to escape.
The Razer bus was again in attendance, and was quite busy all weekend due to Youtuber Syndicate being in attendance with them.
Once again, there was a large amount of Minecraft content at the event, with the now standard free play areas and design your own sections taking up a large amount of the exhibition halls. I sometimes hear some older gamers complaining about the direction the show has gone in over the last couple of years, but I can see the logic behind embracing the (generally) younger gamers who make up the Minecraft fandom – after all we were all young once and one game will inevitably lead to another.
The Summer show was great fun overall, even though we sadly still didn’t make it back to the pub quiz, but there’s always next time and it’s only a few short months until we do it all again at i53!
As always, my full gallery of photos taken at the event can be found on our Facebook gallery.