TechSmart: Over the years the rAge expo has evolved into the biggest event on the South African technology calender, did you ever expect the expo to grow to such levels when you started?
Michael James: Not a chance. Each year, I always take a few minutes to look down on the show floor from one of the balconies and I usually end up smiling and shaking my head in wonder at it all. We started the whole event as an elaborate marketing exercise for NAG magazine and somehow have managed to grow the expo into the crazy beast that it is today - largely by accident.
Based on my disappointing experiences with different 'computer' shows over the years, growing up I always knew that there was a large gap in South Africa when it came to gaming expos. In 2000, after visiting E3 for the first time, I knew then that we just had to have something like that in this country and two years later we launched the first rAge. I think it just hit at the right time and we managed to get the formulae right and of course had the right people along to help us.
Are there any major changes for the event in the pipeline or are you content with letting it naturally grow larger year after year?
There are changes on the table for 2011 that I can't really talk about except to say that we have unfortunately hit the capacity of the current venue so are looking at alternatives. I don't think we have any choice but to allow it to grow bigger and bigger and this isn't something I'm going try and stop. ;)
Companies that join us for the rAge adventure each year usually come back the following year and of course more new companies exhibit each year so we end up growing in a natural way - organically as the marketing textbooks will tell you. The other big factor is the NAG LAN. This sells out faster and faster each year so we definitely need to add more slots for that. Keep reading NAG and checking the rAge website (www.rageexpo.co.za) for updates early next year.
The NAG LAN at rAge always draws a capacity crowd with tickets being sold out in mere hours, what changes have been made from last year's set up to accommodate the ever increasing number of gamers?
We've nipped, tucked and streamlined the exhibition side a little and moved the stage around to accommodate another line of LAN seats this year. End of the day, the physical size of the venue is the real limitation. The Coca Cola Dome management have been amazing and each year somehow find a way to squeeze in just a few more seats but there's only so much we can all do. I have no doubt that we could easily double the size of the LAN and still sell it out in record time.
The one area where we have seriously upped capacity is in the network infrastructure, we've got layer 2 switches at the end of each table this year and a fibre optic backbone connecting all the big switches. HP have really come to the party for this year's LAN and have sponsored upwards of R2.5 million worth of networking equipment for rAge 2010. We're also trying for a Guinness record with the longest non-permanent LAN in the Southern Hemisphere.
While it's impossible to accommodate everyone, do you plan on increasing the size of the LAN in future expo's?
Yes, the only real way is to hold rAge at a larger venue or put everyone in tents in the parking lot.
Regarding games that require online authentication (such as Modern Warfare 2), how will you be supporting them throughout the event?
We have one very large Internet pipe coming into the venue courtesy of WiFi DIRECT (www.wifidirect.co.za). They've also put a backup connection in place for any problems or serious demand issues. It became apparent last year that we needed Internet for online authentication so we've added Internet connectivity to the LAN this year. Do bear in mind that this is only for authentications for games and all other traffic will be blocked or throttled. To cater for all the popular patches and graphics drivers we have a bank of servers ready to go with all the latest files on them.
As far as international talent is concerned (and with talent we of course mean game developers), who are you most excited about having at rAge this year?
It's hard to pick a favourite and as it stands right now I don't have a full and final list of who is coming to the show. The important thing for me is that we're large enough to attract international developers and even international gaming teams to the show. It shows they take this market seriously and there's nothing more exciting than chatting with the guys that actually make the games. At NAG magazine we've even seen a few of our suggestions end up in games over the years because one of the producers / developers thought something we said made sense which is an exciting idea. So, the short answer is I'm not going to pick anyone specific but just applaud the effort that anyone puts in overall.
Do you think anyone will be able to beat Party Spart1e or link1n in Quake, or even come close?
Not a chance. I saw enough of what Fatal1ty (Johnathan Wendel) did to players when we hosted him at rAge a few years back to know that there's no beating a world class gamer. Like a buzzing fly, you might annoy them a little but that's about it.
Are you as excited about the possible Call Of Duty: Black Ops Zombie mode as we are?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that through some good connections and a little luck we can definitely tell you that there is a zombie mode 'something' coming with Black Ops. To explain how excited we are let me rather tell you about the time that all the non-gaming staff at the NAG office went on strike for a day in protest of us playing the original zombie mode in the office all the time when it came out. There was so much shouting and noise that they couldn't get anything done. For the gamers however, it was the best Friday of gaming we ever had. ;)
While we're on the zombie topic, we heard a little birdie chirp about a possible Dead Rising 2 event at rAge. Any inside info on that?
Not that I know about - the game will be at the show but that's about it.
The rAge expo will be taking place from the 1st to the 3rd of October 2010 at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg. Tickets will be available at the door going for R50 for a day ticket and R80 for a weekend pass while children under six can enter for free.