Have you ever dreamed of visiting your own E3 Expo, or Microsoft Xbox panel? I know I have…
These events aren’t just a place for game fans to hear about the latest and greatest titles hitting their favorite consoles. The best Expos give you a chance to immerse yourself in the games that are on your wait-list long before anyone else.
So, what happens when the world goes into lockdown, and physical events are put on hold?
Well, we go virtual of course.
During 2020, when Devolverland Expo appeared, E3, as well as every other expo you might think of, got canceled thanks to the pandemic. Most companies responded to this problem by posting videos online and hosting virtual demonstrations.
Devolver Digital decided to do something a little different.
They figured, why have a virtual expo when you can create your own game to show off upcoming titles instead?
The Devolverland Expo “marketing simulator” was such a weird, yet incredible idea, that I couldn’t help but check it out.
An Interesting Take on Interactive Advertising
Let me start by making something clear, Devolverland Expo is a digital marketing experience. It’s an opportunity for anyone interested in the Devolver games to check out aspects of some upcoming titles in a unique environment. But it’s also a fun experience in its own right.
This is the only virtual expo I’ve seen so far that has 22 achievements on Steam. Seriously, you get achievements for things like solving puzzles and getting your own T-shirt launcher.
Your faceless protagonist in this game wakes up within an abandoned convention center. The annual Devolver digital game expo is canceled (just like in real life). However, you’re not going to let that stop you. By fiddling with the electronics, and avoiding the security systems, you sneak into the expo to see the secrets within.
Honestly, this is probably the most brilliant way I’ve ever seen game advertising done. Yes, it’s a brilliant way for the Devolver team to plug upcoming games like Carrion and Shadow Warrior 3. You even get some trailers that you can watch inside of the game.
However, the experience is brimming with fun things to do as well. You put your skills to the test, finding secrets and unlocking hidden details about the games you’re most interested in.
The game feels so much more impressive when you consider how quiet the developer and publishers were about creating this new experience. They didn’t make a big song and dance about an admittedly genius advertising move. Devolver just dropped their game on Steam—seemingly out of nowhere.
The result has been some really sensational reviews.
After all, what better way is there to make ads feel less like ads, then to show them to you when you’re on the quest for achievements?
A Unique Idea with Surprising Depth
Devolverland Expo is very first-person-shooter in style. You get your own T-shirt cannon. However, I’d also call it something of a puzzler too. There are mysteries to solve, and challenges to overcome. Plus, I recommend keeping a close eye out for any collectibles you find on your travels. Books, cups, and plastic bags all have their own relevance.
Part of me went into this experience wanting to be annoyed by the shameless self-promotional marketing scheme. Yet, the creative inside of me just couldn’t help but be impressed.
Personally, I love watching announcements about upcoming games and DLC on YouTube. At least with this title, I felt like I was getting an extra dose of fun out of the transaction.
When other companies were turning to video as the only solution to an environment that could no longer support in-person events, Devolver dared to be different and it paid off. You get a bit of the convention experience that you crave from these big announcements (minus the crowds).
Plus, it helps that the trailers for many of the upcoming games look pretty good too. Serious Sam 4 makes an appearance. Plus, there’s a hilarious stream of fake game announcements, cut with shots of the show host becoming just a bit crazier with each one.
Characters have their own guest appearances as you learn about their games, and Phil Spencer (from Xbox) appears alongside a monster from the Carrion game to showcase what’s next.
All the while, you use your T-shirt cannon gun to knock down stacks of cans, fight off security robots, and cause general mischief. That’s what conventions are for, right?
Is This the Future of Game Expos?
For a while now, Devolver Digital has earned a great reputation for its wacky approach to unique live-stream events. Now, the company is taking its innovative strategy for marketing to the next level. Frankly, you just can’t help but be swept up by the experience.
Whether you’re snatching up secret items, collecting gameplay demo videos, or just checking out what’s on the horizon in the gaming scene, Devolverland Expo makes you feel like you’re really part of the action. This is clearly something that the company has put some significant effort into as well.
I don’t think the experience would be anywhere near as great if it felt like it had been thrown together in a few minutes. Every part of the Expo hall feels immersive and well-done. The presentation stages for the games are stunning. The design makes you want to keep discovering new ads.
Sure, there probably would have been a lot more to discover in this landscape if the developers had had more time, but you still get a lot of well-designed experiences to check out. You can slide into a playground-style booth for the Fall Guys game. Plus, the booths themselves are stunning–probably much better that you would get in real life.
On average, it’ll take you about an hour to “complete” this game. That includes spending a little time to watch some of the trailers that are available here. One thing to keep in mind is that although the Devolverland Expo game is safe for kids, not all of the trailers will be.
The Best Marketing Experience Around Right Now
Obviously, I would have loved the option to play a bit of some of the games that the team was showcasing here. Not all of them, just the ones that are pretty close to release. Unfortunately, the brand wasn’t in a position to offer that.
It also might have been fun if you could have invited your friends into the game alongside you. After all, we might not be able to visit expos or friends in person, but we’re all getting a bit more comfortable with virtual experiences. I imagine it would have been fun to chat with some pals about the trailers on display.
Overall, however, I’d recommend giving this game a go. It’s an hour of fun that gives you some insights into upcoming games. Plus, you get to see behind the scenes of Devolver’s brilliant brand personality.
You can always follow up on your virtual expo with some team-friendly games with your crew. Give Unfortunate Spacemen a try, for instance.
You can play Devolverland Expo for free here.