Video game conventions and tradeshows have been present for decades. However, the biggest video game event currently is the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Now considered the holy grail of gaming events. E3 is where the biggest publishers come to announce their games and news. However, the future of the event is uncertain. Dwindling attendance numbers, high costs and publishers doing their own events could all amount to the goliath falling.
A reason that E3 may not be around in the near distance future is that it seems publishers are branching off and doing their own events. Sony is one of the two big heads at E3 and for the past three years they have thrown their own annual event – as well as attending E3. The “PlayStation Experience”, is considered an event for the hardcore fans. There are substantial announcements made but E3 is generally considered the place to reveal gargantuan things such as new consoles. E3 is the goldmine because it gets the most coverage. Recently this has begun to change. The latest iteration of the PlayStation 4 was revealed at a completely off schedule event and the reveal for The Last of Us Part 2 was unveiled at PSX. Surely announcements of those magnitudes would have a bigger impact if they were made public at E3. Perhaps Sony have realised that they don’t need to rely on E3 to get their products across. But what about those publishers that don’t have consoles or the presence like the titan that is Sony.
For example, Electronic Arts (EA) decided to drop out of the formulaic approach to E3. They hosted their own event called EA Play. It happened at the same time as E3 but did several things that made it unique. Firstly, they hosted two events, running simultaneously and in conjunction. A show in Los Angeles and the other in London. The presentations at each location were hosted at the same time and the feed would swap back and forth, splitting the content between them. Additionally, EA made their event open to the public, for free – something E3 has never done. In an interview with MCV (Christopher Dring, 2016) EVP of EA Studios, Patrick Söderlund commented about the event “EA Play was designed with our players at the centre”. Continuing with “EA Play was designed with our players at the centre”. Fans have begged E3 to become a consumer event and it seems that the publisher (EA) dropping out has made the ESA think twice. For the first time in its 21-year history, E3 has made an event for consumers. E3 Live. This is a free event for consumers right next door to the main convention centre.
Equally important to the potential fall of E3 and other tradeshows is how online-centric society is. This is something that Nintendo have appeared to nail on the head. Companies could cut a lot of costs if they decided to skip the big press conferences and do something similar to Nintendo Direct. By far one of the biggest costs for publishers at E3 is the booths. In an article for EnGadget (Jessica Conditt, 2013) Semiformal Studio divulged how much it cost them to get a booth. For a “600 square foot space on the E3 show floor” […] they “ended up spending $100,000 on the entire show.” Now imagine the price of booths from the likes of Sony or Xbox. Costs could be cut if a well produced video where the content can be controlled and reshot if needed, then the video could be released online the appropriate outlets to maximise views. The former vice chairman of Activision Blizzard commented (Laura Parker, 2016); “To my eye, E3 is being overtaken by much better channels to gamers and the online-ness”. We know that more people are able to watch at home so why not just livestream the video?
Despite video gaming being considered an “unsociable hobby”, there is actually an overwhelming aspect to it all. For instance, how do you choose what games to play? How do you beat a boss or a level you have been stuck on? At times way before my own, children would gather in playgrounds and talk about secrets or news they heard. These aspects only work if there is socialness and this is how E3 and all gaming trade shows work. Millions of people sit in anticipation, speculating what will be at the show. It is this that truly fuels E3. Statistics gathered by the ESA. Reporting that a recording breaking “7 million tweets” were made this year about the event (Rich Taylor, 2016). Just imagine that each of those tweets made it to two people. That is huge coverage. Tens of thousands of people attend the event every year and tens of millions watch the vast coverage. Clearly, there are people who are interested in the event and industry people are not going to turn down the opportunity to sell their products. Ubisoft know exactly how cringy their conferences are, but it gets people talking and hype generated. The phrase any publicity is good publicity seems to specifically suit them.
Not specifically tied to E3, but these types of events humanize the businessmen and women in the industry. The press conferences are amazing to see because it means that we can tie a face to companies that we support. Opposed to a faceless, nameless suit. Publishers know that millions of people tune in every year and if the “faces” of the brand make an appearance, then audiences can get a feel of who is running the company and if they truly have gamers best interest at heart.
For the foreseeable future, E3 will still be around with no drastically major differences. If publishers’ wisened up and take the Nintendo route, we could see the end of awkward press conferences – whilst still having a trusting face to their brands. Undoubtedly powerhouse Sony will continue PlayStation Experience as it acts as an additional outlet for content but is largely focused on those deep fans. Smaller publishers may continue to hold their own conferences and events but they will continue to be during the E3 time period. As this helps with attendance numbers due to people being in the area. Finally, the facts that there is an event at a similar time every year means that networking and social aspects can be anticipated and help the hype develop.
Christopher Dring. (2016). Going alone: Why EA has abandoned the E3 show floor. Available: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/going-alone-why-ea-has-abandoned-the-e3-show-floor/0168223. Last accessed 14th December 2016.
Rich Taylor. (2016). E3 2016: Reaching Even Greater Heights.Available: http://www.theesa.com/article/e3-2016-reaching-even-greater-heights/. Last accessed 14th December 2016.
Laura Parker. (2016). E3, Fading Catnip for Video Gamers, Tries a New Approach. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/technology/personaltech/e3-fading-catnip-for-video-gamers-tries-a-new-approach.html?partner=bloomberg. Last accessed 14th December 2016.
Jessica Conditt. (2013). Breaking down the cost of an E3 booth.Available: https://www.engadget.com/2013/07/16/breaking-down-the-cost-of-an-e3-booth/. Last accessed 14th December 2016.