August Bank Holiday has come around yet again, and in Birmingham that means one thing if you're a gamer: Insomnia. The name is synonymous with a fun weekend filled with games, drawing around 70,000 customers across the 4 days of each event. What exactly is the customer experience like at Insomnia though? Well, lets find out.
Insomnia's ticket pricings never really change too much, and they tend to reflect an accurate value for how much is on offer. A day ticket will cost you about £26 on the Saturday and Sunday, the busiest days of the convention, and give you standard access to the convention from 10:30am – 6pm. This is a fairly good amount of time, but if you're only visiting one one day, you might struggle to see everything Insomnia has to offer. Insomnia holds very big conventions, and i63 was no different. If you came to play some of the more popular games like Fifa or Fortnite, you'll be queueing for a while. However, if you're interested in meeting Youtubers, watching eSports, or maybe playing some Indie/Retro games, that is definitely more than possible on a standard day ticket. You can also purchase Early Bird tickets which allow entry from 9am, or Weekend tickets that cover Saturday and Sunday. These tickets will typically cost more than a standard day ticket of course, but for an extra benefit.
However, with Insomnia's roots as a large LAN event, ignoring the BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) and Camping options cannot be done. Both of these tickets are reasonably expensive, but of course allow you to bring your own computer/console to the convention and camp there, an affair that often involves very late nights playing games with strangers. Something most of us do at home, but doing it at Insomnia seems to be a great way to not only meet new people, but have much more intense and memorable experiences by playing with people sat right next to you, as opposed to just talking over Discord. If you're a fan of LAN events, or even if the concept of BYOC intrigues you, you should definitely try it out. Whilst I didn't participate in BYOC & Camping this year, it seems to be a brilliant experience.
Myself, I attended as a press pass holder. Over the course of my time there, I had the chance to fully explore and appreciate everything i63 had to offer. Saturday and Sunday are of course the busiest days, so expect big queues. However with that said, Saturday and Sunday this time around seemed a bit more quiet. I would partly put this down to better positioning of large attractions. The stalls that often draw big crowds were spread out well to avoid the excessive clutter along the aisles that were something of a hindrance at Insomnia 62. Even if you can only attend for one day though, Insomnia is an experience you should definitely see for yourself.
Convention Size & Variety of Attractions
Insomnia 63 was big. Very big. Don't get me wrong, Insomnia conventions are always grand affairs, and the convention is known for its large exhibitions, but Insomnia 63 felt like a return to form in terms of spectacle and size. Insomnia 62 felt smaller than the previous convention, possibly due to the layout of the stands, but Insomnia 63 managed to strike a great balance between size and spreading out the main attractions.
Fortnite was quite prevalent again at Insomnia 63, however did not fill up the main exhibition area as it did last year. Of course there's nothing wrong with Fortnite being prevalent at the convention, it is currently one of the biggest and most popular games ever, its just nice to see some variety, and variety was indeed very present. Call of Duty was ever popular in the 18+ Retro section, with more classic titles like Mortal Kombat, Smash Bros and others available to play on much older consoles in the public retro area. PUBG made an apperance on both the eSports stage and on the main exhibition floor, which was nice to see if you've been out of the loop on the game since Fortnite's eclipse of the game. Team Fortress 2, CS:GO, and Street Fighter held big spots on the main player stage, with Overwatch, League of Legends and Fifa 19 being popular games to play at some of the main stalls.
There was also a nice variety of pre-release games to play. The aforementioned Fifa 19 was of course very popular, along with the stellar-looking Spiderman game coming to PS4 next month. The Divison 2 and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey were hidden behind closed doors, but offered a tantalizing taste of what was to come with these two very popular games from Ubisoft.
MEET & GREETS
Of course, it wouldn't be Insomnia without Meet & Greet opportunities. Some truly massive creators made a return to Insomnia 63, including Syndicate, ImAllexx, and Pyrocynical, along with new apperances from creators like WillNE, Durv, James Marriott and more. Many youtubers and streamers were present at Insomnia 63, all covering very wide and different audiences. If one of your favourite content creators frequents Insomnia, its one of the best places to meet and talk to them in a casual atmosphere. Queues can be somewhat long, especially for larger creators like Pyrocynical and Syndicate, but are more than worth it if you're a fan of the creator you're queueing to meet.
VENDORS & RETAILERS
Of course, vendors and stalls are a large part of the Insomnia experience. Insomnia 63 was no different, with many stalls scattered around the convention offering a large variety of buying choices for yourself, as well as gifts you could purchase for family and friends. There are many of the typical things you would expect to find, such as gaming peripherals, pop figures and t-shirts. There are some more extravagant options though, such as large handmade metal figurines, collectable comic books, engraved bullets and dogtags, along with many other weird and wonderful things.
If you're looking for a new mousepad, or maybe a new headset or keyboard, Insomnia is one of the best places to go. Not only do many large vendors such as Razer have large discounts at the show, but there are also many different options from various brands like Steelseries, Logitech, MSI, Razer, along with retailers like Overclockers and GAME selling a variety of goods at reasonable prices.
If you're a fan of japanese anime & manga culture, you will definitely find things you will like at Insomnia. Many stalls are scattered around the convention floor offering a wide variety of products based on japanese culture and popular anime and mangas, from well-known series' such as Death Note to other obscure and little-known mangas and anime, and from figurines to apparel and everything inbetween, if you're a fan of the culture in any way, shape, or form, then you'll definitely find something for you.
Esports is still a fascinating thing to see for almost any gamer. Players that have dedicated thousands of hours into learning the kinks and quirks of a single game, playing at the highest skill level against evenly-matched players. Esports events always draw a big crowd at Insomnia, and i63 was no different. The main stage saw the likes of Street Fighter, PUBG, and CS:GO tournaments, with some of the best players in the world playing for a cash prize. The side-stage also saw the Insomnia 63 TF2 tournament, which considering the small size of the area drew massive crowds for matches between the likes of Se7en, Ora Elektro, SVIFT and more. The event was also streamed on Twitch, with the tournament being one of the biggest TF2 LAN events in Europe. The stream drew thousands of viewers to watch the gameplay online, along with the live crowd following the game at the event.
Having myself sat down to watch a few games of the TF2 LAN, along with watching some of the proceedings on the main stage, Insomnia truly does stand out as one of the best places to be if you're a fan of Esports. The main stage is a wonderful arena to watch some of the best players in the world, positioned right next to the bar and with a great view of the screen and the players from almost anywhere on the tournament floor, it rivals the arenas of some of the most popular and well-attended tournaments with ease. Even the smaller and more intimate Team Fortress 2 stage, which was modest in its presentation, proved to be truly entertaining to watch whilst sat with like-minded players and fans of the extremely popular game.
Yet again, Insomnia 63 proved to be a wonderful experience. This was my third Insomnia I've attended, and each one seems to get better. The atmosphere is wonderful, everyone there is in a great mood and is there to have fun, play games, meet creators and generally just have a good time.
Insomnia is truly a shining gem in the world of conventions, it aims to leave customers happy and satisfied regardless of how much time or money they spend inside the convention. The intended audience is broad and touches almost every genre of pop culture, from movie fans to anime enthusiasts, this convention isn't just for gamers, it truly is a place for almost anyone, and you'll definitely have a great time if you decide to attend.
Insomina 64 will be taking place next year over the Easter bank holiday, and I won't miss it for the world.