GameOn Expo 2024 Review

GameOn Expo

March 15-17, 2024

Phoenix Convention Center


GameOn Expo has been a Valley institution for nearly a decade and only continues to grow leaps and bounds, especially in 2024 with two major developments: a move to the North Building of the Phoenix Convention Center and a welcome change to better weather conditions.


Security was slow moving and not nearly ample for the massive crowds on Friday completely wrapped around the building, a fact the event organizers quickly addressed with Saturday and Sunday attendees experiencing a much shorter and smoother experience with increased staff and additional detectors.


Heading downstairs, the ample extra real estate has been optimized. My initial entry area encountered all the board/card/RPG game area, which had miniature painting workshops, indie games and lots of opportunities to play with family, friends and fans. Heading towards the stage, plenty of free play consoles from NES to PS5 and rarely seen decks like TG16 and Sega Saturn were available to sample while massive tournaments touted Smash Bros, Mario Kart and Tetris competitions to an array of cheers, jeers and of course the occasional onslaught of socially inept screeching.


Classic pinball and arcade cabs courtesy of Cobra, Starfighters, Ready Player One and more including absolute custom gems like the DuckTales, Sydney Hunter and Killer Queen cabs plus the gorgeous see-through Golden Axe and some newer ones I enjoyed like Jaws Premium, Hot Wheels and The Godfather pinballs.


IZW brought the wrestling action front and center with local legends like Bryn Thorne, Evan Daniels, Chuy Gonzales and Damien Desire and introduced the first-rate wrestling scene in the Valley; some of the talent even decided to get in the spirit and cosplayed fan favorites like Cammy and Link. Ted Dibiase was quite literally ringside, and I was tempted to get an autograph and photo op but unfortunately, he raised his rates in a less than Christ-like manner; he looked great but acting like he was in Lex Luger shape but know he’s trying to avoid the Lex Express straight to prison after stealing millions from needy families so kind of grateful I didn’t support.


The celebrity guest area was at its maximum capacity brimming with reunions from massive franchises like Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid Mortal Kombat and more; it’s always great to see a multitude of talents spanning the now 50 years of gaming.


A huge Artists Alley as always with lots of vendors from all over the US and hometown favorites; I perused but successfully walked away from the weekend without having spent a dime, thought plenty of rare games, comics and collectibles enticed.


Didn’t get a chance to attend any of the musical acts but Mega Ran was great in the ring and on the mic announcing for IZW; same goes for the panels. I was very bummed to have missed Johny Millennium’s as well as Radical Reggie, The Immortal John Hancock and John Blue Riggs but was able to catch up with all individually at their tables or out in the crowd.


Having attended every GameOn since its inception, I miss the smaller, close-knit environment of the early years at the Mesa Convention Center but so grateful and happy that it is still holding strong and that all the hard work of John Lester, Neil Kotler and their crew have put in to make sure Phoenix remains a top destination for gaming culture.