E3 is dying and that’s probably OK
It’s time for E3 to face the music. Psst, it’s the Funeral March.
Well, everyone, the writing is on the wall. The majestic event that we know as E3 is dying. It’s not happening as a massive, industry-changing event, but more like someone slowly letting air out of a balloon. As someone that attended the event both before and after they opened it up to the public, it’s time to acknowledge that the ESA has been parading the corpse of E3 around a la Weekend at Bernie’s.
Some of my favorite industry memories have happened at E3, including after the show opened up to fans. However, with the ESA doxxing the media’s personal emails and addresses, most of the media want as little to do with the ESA and the event as possible. Streaming technologies are growing and the need to be at E3 in person is waning. The ESA honestly doesn’t have much left to hold onto.
Now, don’t get me wrong. While I think that inviting the public to E3 wasn’t the best decision, I did like seeing people getting the chance to take it in. The problem is, even without the public, E3 is a packed mess that is relatively useless if you have to wait in lines. With the ESA planning to re-brand E3 as a celebrity and influencer event this year, it will further alienate both the media and fans that want to attend the event.
I’m happy to watch press conferences on Twitch, Mixer, or YouTube and make notes and post hot takes on Twitter from the comfort of my own home. I don’t mind swinging by a Best Buy or a Microsoft store to see some of the latest games well before release. More importantly, the allure of going to these events is all about exclusivity and engagement. If that isn’t happening, why even bother?
Two out of three console devs already ditched E3
Sony is backing out of E3 in a year where they will be revealing a console, not that they didn’t do the same last year. Nintendo hasn’t had a real presence at E3 in a handful of years and their Nintendo Directs generate way more buzz than any trade show would. EA’s offsite event is an evolution of what they’ve done in the past but serves to showcase their products without the distraction of a loud and disruptive show floor.
I actually spent a lot of time at EA’s final booth at E3. While they showed off their latest Battlefront game, the audio from their presentation was muddled by Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward’s video from the booth next door. Their booth was in a very low light area but central on the floor, so everyone entering that hall was walking through it. It’s not uncommon to step off of the show floor to decompress for a moment. When you do, it’s not rare to see people working the booths doing the same. Imagine being a company paying for prime access to get the word out about their products but attendees are getting smothered in their booth.
With the ESA doing their best to try to sell the idea that the LA Lakers playing NBA 2K20 will drive an amazing amount of hype and engagement, that’s not what this show has been about. Sure, it was a neat surprise for Keanu to show up at Microsoft’s press conference, but fans aren’t going to pack into a booth to see him play some new game and it does nothing for the media. Paid influencers and celebrities aren’t going to be delivering the intended message to their audiences and the ESA is going to learn that the hard way this year. They have in some ways been a part of the event, but pushing them to the forefront helps no one. Look at the Game Awards. It’s cool and flashy, but hardly something discussed outside of awards season.
E3 is about to be an event without a clear identity
If you want a good example of an event that is more attendee friendly, PAX is the best example. These are shows built around fans that also slightly tailor themselves to media and influencers. If E3 wanted to stay relevant, the real options would be to either completely mimic how PAX does it or go back to the polar opposite. Their current game plan is r/fellowkids material. I’m not sure that many people are going to travel all the way to Los Angeles for a chance to meet Ninja and I’m pretty sure Dr. Disrespect isn’t even allowed in the LA Convention Center after shooting videos in the bathrooms.
E3 used to be an event that was filled with so much blink-and-you-miss-it information. If it isn’t going to be that and it isn’t going to be a fan event with reasonable access, then it really doesn’t need to exist anymore. Times are changing and E3 needs to figure out its identity.
- The best-selling games of the decade include GTA 5 and a whole bunch of Call of Duty
- Cyberpunk 2077 is being delayed almost 6 months and that’s a good thing
- I spent a month playing Project xCloud and it kicked ass
- The Epic Games Store has topped 100 million users and will continue to offer free games through 2020
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