Something was strange on the show floor of Computex. I didn't quite notice it, at first. But it kept building, and building, just under the level of consciousness, until I walked out of Acer's booth full of gaming laptops and monitors on Thursday and thought, wait a minute. Why is every damn computer in this convention center running Mass Effect: Andromeda?
There hasn't been much talk about Mass Effect: Andromeda since some of the fallout around its release, except the news a few weeks ago that developer Bioware Montreal is transitioning into a support role for Andromeda and other EA games. Its sci-fi scenery is beautiful in spots, but it's not stunning like Battlefield 1, or one of the most demanding PC games. It's not a brand new game lighting up the charts, or a massive phenomenon like Overwatch. So why did practically every single booth on the Computex show floor have systems running Mass Effect: Andromeda?
Once this thought hit me, I realized I'd seen Andromeda in Nvidia's display area, MSI's booth, Asus's booth, Acer's booth, in Gigabyte's suite, and caught glimpses of it a few other times on the show floor. It was always from the opening mission of the game, as anyone who's played Andromeda can glean from these photos I've taken over the past week.
Tuning in to the abundance of Andromeda at Computex felt a bit like putting on the sunglasses in They Live. I couldn't stop seeing it. It certainly wasn't the only game I saw; there was plenty of Overwatch, Dota 2, and League of Legends, and the occasional Ghost Recon Wildlands or Gears of War 4. But man, was there a lot of Mass Effect Andromeda.
There had to be a reason. But was it a sinister reason? It was time for a little detective work. I took off my press badge and put on my PI badge, by which I mean I put my press badge in my pocket and did nothing else because private investigators don't wear badges. My first clue was in the photographs I took: everywhere Andromeda was playing, Nvidia hardware was present. It had to mean something. But what?
I took a hard left through the crowd (fools, all of them, oblivious to the mystery hanging in the air) and headed down the aisle towards Asus's booth.
As soon as I approached the Asus booth, I saw a PR rep actually playing Mass Effect: Andromeda on a gaming laptop. My god, I'd struck gold. This was my man. A mark ready to give up his secrets. I hit him with a classic detective tip: immediately explaining why I was grilling him and politely asking if he knew anything about the games installed on the laptops.
It was no good. He was clean. Didn't know a thing about why Mass Effect was on the system, but I could see he thought it was pretty funny so many PCs happened to be running the same game. He had no idea how this discovery would soon taunt him. His innocence destroyed, I went hunting for a new source.
I walked to MSI's booth next, because it was right next to Asus's, and that was all the energy I was willing to devote to this investigation. There I ran into another helpful rep who I'd met the day before. He was also standing next to a computer running Mass Effect: Andromeda. This had to be a sign. I braced him for answers, but he wouldn't crack, insisting there was no particular reason Andromeda was installed on this PC. Even when I pressed him for more info, he wouldn't admit there was a conspiracy. According to him, they mostly ran games they happened to be giving away with their graphics cards, which is why Ghost Recon Wildlands and For Honor occupied a few screens in the booth. It was an answer, but not the one I was looking for.
After hitting two dead ends, a great detective would find a clever way to make the source spill the beans. That meant Nvidia. But I'm not a great detective, so I gave up instead.
Instead of hard facts, I developed a theory based on little evidence, to solve a mystery that didn't really need a resolution anyway because it's not like Mass Effect: Andromeda has murdered anyone that I know of. As I've established, I'm not much of a detective.
But I think I have a pretty good working theory. All of the systems I saw Andromeda on were running Nvidia hardware. Nvidia worked with Bioware to add HDR and Ansel support to Mass Effect. Ghost Recon Wildlands similarly benefitted from Nvidia's GameWorks graphics effects. On Gears of War 4, another game I saw at a few booths, Nvidia helped with DirectX 12. Aha.
Andromeda isn't all over the show floor because it's the hottest game in town, but because it has the bells and whistles to be a good showpiece for Nvidia hardware. As conspiracies go, this one's not so grand. But at least it makes sense, because for awhile I felt like I was living in a world where everyone forgot Mass Effect: Andromeda had so recently been the industry's punching bag. If you loved Andromeda, I recommend paying a visit to Computex. You can play it on as many PCs as you want. And there's almost certainly no nefarious reason for that at all.