Since its inception, Insomnia has gone from strength to strength. From a small LAN event to a convention that draws in exhibitors and customers on both a national and international level, this convention is a serious thing in the industry, and one of the best places to be if you are interested in gaming in any way. With the ridiculous success of Insomnia 61 last Summer, I had high expectations. Insomnia 61 was packed to the brim with a massive variety of content to browse and get involved with. Friday came, and it was time to get down to the NEC and see exactly what was on offer at Insomnia 62.
Insomnia's ticket prices are fairly reasonable. Perhaps a tad more expensive than some other conventions, but there is generally a lot more on offer here. A typical day ticket costs roughly £26 on the peak days, Saturday & Sunday, and gives you access to all general access areas of the event. You can get yourself involved in the Table Top games section, meet your favourite Youtubers, watch & play Fortnite at the PS4 stand, enjoy competitive eSports over at the player stage and so much more. Standard ticket holders can enter the event at 10:30am and stay until closing at 6pm, so you'll have a decent chunk of time. The value for weekend tickets is also quite good, allowing you standard entry on the Saturday and Sunday for a cheaper price than two individual day tickets. Both of these options also have Early Bird access, which allows entry at 9am, though I can't speak on the exact price of those.
BYOC & Camping tickets are also reasonably expensive, but form the true hardcore gaming experience that Insomnia aims to deliver. Bring your own computer and camp out at the NEC for the full 4 day event, playing games online with friends and strangers at the event, and really immersing yourself in the community feel that Insomnia does so well. These tickets are for the dedicated gamer who loves the atmosphere of Insomnia, and whilst I didn't participate in BYOC & Camping myself, I imagine it is quite the amazing experience.
Personally, as a press pass holder, I had a lot of time to explore and enjoy the event. The only complaint I would be able to come up with is that, if you had purchased just a single day ticket for the Saturday or Sunday, you're going to spend a lot of time queueing if you want to play some of the more popular games. Fortnite was a massive attraction at Insomnia 62, and the queues never failed to be anything less than gigantic, and this was the same for certain meet & greet events. If you only purchased a ticket for one day, you might struggle to see all of the things you'd like to in the time you have, but we'll explore that more in the following section.
CONVENTION SIZE & VARIETY OF ATTRACTIONS
Initially, I must admit, I was a tad disappointed. Insomnia 62 was a bit smaller than Insomnia 61. This might have been because of the time of the year, I would imagine that the Summer event draws more exhibitors and customers than the Easter one. Even though the event was smaller, there was still a fairly good variety of attractions.
Fortnite seemed to dominate the convention, being available to play at 3 or 4 of the major stalls and drawing massive crowds, meaning you'd have to queue for quite a while to play the game. Again, this isn't a problem if you're there every day or have time to burn, but if you're on a standard day ticket or you're short on time, you're going to miss out on some of the attractions.
The deeper you go into the convention, the more variety there is. You'll find many retro games, including older Call of Duty titles over at the Retro Zone, something which is guaranteed to make you feel old if you grew up on the Xbox 360. Tabletop games, cosplay, amateur competitive gaming, professional eSports, indie titles and more mean there is something for everyone at Insomnia, and whilst it might not necessarily be the first thing you see, there is still quite the variety at the convention, and a great chance to get involved in games you may never have played before, or jump back onto titles you haven't played in years.
Meet & Greet panels were also a big attraction this year. Yogscast returned with their own booth, as did TheSyndicateProject, and the Fan Fiber booth hosted growing and popular youtubers such as ImAllexx, Pyrocynical and GameGrumps, all of whom drew massive crowds every day. Unlike Insomnia61, it didn't seem that meeting any of these people required any additional meet & greet charge, which is always nice to see.
GAMING – WHAT IS ON OFFER?
Whilst we've already touched briefly on some of the variety of games available, lets take a better look at exactly what was on offer:
Triple-A releases weren't as prevalent at i62 as they were at i61, though they were still very present. New Mario Kart titles & Rocket League were very popular over at the Nintendo Switch booth, with Fortnite, as stated earlier, dominating some of the more popular and larger stands. Overwatch had a presence at the event, though nowhere near as much as i61, and went fairly unnoticed by most over more popular titles. PSVR stands were also fairly popular, especially for those that hadn't yet experienced VR.
I couldn't help but notice some bigger titles missing from the conventions, namely the recently released Farcry 5 and the hugely popular Rainbow Six Siege. These are both titles from Ubisoft, who didn't seem to have any presence at Insomnia 62, which is unfortunate. The Farcry 5 booth at i61 brought in many people, and Rainbow Six Siege is an insanely popular title, recently passing 25 Million players and was recently seeing a big push to draw in new players. I'm a massive R6S fan, and it would have been great to see it at Insomnia 62.
Tournaments definitely had a presence at Insomnia 62, with the Player Stage and Call of Duty world league drawing in large crowds. Overwatch, CS:GO, League of Legends and more were played at the competitive level for the crowds at the event, with the Arena Clash area Belong being packed full of gamers every day playing Rocket League, Overwatch, Fortnite & Street Fighter.
If you're a fan of competitive eSports on either a professional or amateur level, Insomnia definitely has something for you.
Indie Games seemed to be slightly tucked away at this Insomnia. Being placed just behind the Razer booth, they were somewhat overshadowed but still managed to draw a fair bit of interest from the attendees. Games like Gang Beasts, Medieval and more seemed to garner quite a bit of interest from gamers, with the developers of the projects milling around, more than willing to answer questions and talk to those playing their game. The Indie section is always an interesting, friendly environment to be in, and whilst this section felt a little bit tucked away this time around, the atmosphere was still great around these booths.
Retro Gaming again returned to Insomnia with resounding success. Huge banks of old TVs and Monitors held the original Xbox, Gamecube, Dreamcast, PS1, and more. Arcade Machines were also available to play around the Retro area, including bespoke machines that you could actually buy for your own home, if you were so inclined. The age-restricted area of the Retro zone saw Call of Duty dominating the screens, with 5v5 LAN matches being extremely popular. Modern Warfare 1, MW2, World at War, Black Ops 1 and even Left 4 Dead were on show here, bringing in a huge amount of people that just couldn't stay away from the old classics. I'm not the biggest Call of Duty fan, but the fun to be had in this area was undeniable.
MEET & GREET AREAS
Meeting your favourite Youtubers is often a big draw for Insomnia. Whilst Gaming is of course the focus of the event, commentary/reaction youtubers like ImAllexx and Pyrocynical still managed to draw huge crowds at the Fan Fiber booth. Game Grumps were also hosted at the same booth, and the two men with over 4 million subscribers drew massive crowds of adoring fans. Yogscast and TheSyndicateProject also had their own booths, providing a chance for many fans to meet the Youtube idols they have been watching for years. Whilst I don't watch them anymore, I used to be a massive fan of both of the aforementioned, and the chance to meet them would be a great opportunity for any fan.
So, the question still remains, how was it? Whilst I was initially disappointed at the size and surface-level variety of Insomnia 62, the deeper you get into the convention, the more you realize that there is actually still heaps of content and attractiosn to explore. The atmosphere and sense of community at the event was better than ever. Everybody is there for the same core reason, and whilst different people may be attracted to different types of exhibits, the Insomnia 62 community is undeniably one of the best and most friendly communities out there.
Tickets are of fairly decent value, though I think you may have struggled to get around the whole venue on just a standard day ticket, especially on the Saturday, where the event felt to be almost at capacity. You can of course expect to spend a decent amount of cash inside the convention, food is expensive and many of the things you'd find at Insomnia are things you'd struggle to find elsewhere, but as I'd always say, you don't go to a convention to not spend money.
Overall, Insomnia 62 was great. I would definitely recommend it to anyone that hasn't yet attended one and is passionate about everything gaming. Insomnia 63 takes place on the 24th to the 27th of August this year. I will definitely be attending, and frankly, I can't wait.