E3 has been an industry staple for twenty-five years. It has been a gathering place for the biggest games, the best surprises, and all the glitz and glamour of a $160 billion dollar industry. This year, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic the industry trade show was canceled. As someone who has attended E3, and been glued to press conferences and live streams for two decades, I have come to the conclusion that there is no reason for E3 to come back next year.
The Shambling Corpse of a Conference
Last year, Sony skipped E3. It has been multiple years since Nintendo had a press conference. Microsoft has a separate event across the street at the Microsoft Theater that leeches off of the presses’ presence at E3. EA too has left the event in favor of their own event blocks away. If the biggest publishers in the world aren’t willing to commit to E3, then why should we as the fans? The answer is that we shouldn’t. E3 is notorious for contributing to developer crunch, large studio spending for booth space, and for what? For six minutes of fame amid a hundred competing publishers, developers, games, and consoles.
There is no room for anything to breathe at E3. Independent games get buried under the megaton announcements. Announcements that inevitably turn out to be either so far in the future as to be irrelevant or CG ‘concept videos’ that look nothing like the final product. Final Fantasy VII Remake came out this year after being announced in 2015 with a concept video shown as far back as 2005. The people who buy and play these games gain nothing from having products hyped up years before they ever see fruition. It is a waste of resources that could be going to making the game better.
Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing
E3 is an overcrowded, overly expensive ($250 for a ticket) event that is not consumer-friendly at all despite their attempt to pivot to that. Game expos like PAX are designed around a fun consumer experience. There are panels, a show floor that maximizes attendees ability to play the games. E3 is for the press. It is to disseminate information not to provide an experience for attendees. However, if the goal is just to get your game in front of people, the internet is much better suited to that. Live streams where fans can talk to the developers directly or through Reddit AMAs are great ways to get information. Press will still come to the various publishers and studios for coverage at a fraction of the cost of E3 booth space. These funds could be put to much better use paying the people that are actually making the game.
Video Games Deserve Better Than E3
Last year, Geoff Keighly showed what a video game conference should be. Video games aren’t about flashy trailers and hype videos. PR plans are about those things. Video games are about playing them. The Games Festival was a 48 hour game experience where gamers could play unreleased games. Video game conventions should be about fans playing games. This was an innovative solution that brought the experience home for players and enabled and empowered them to immediately play the games they were excited for.
This served the audience so much better than another CGI trailer, as impressive as Blur Studios is it is the game that we want. So why limit game demos to the convention floor? Games shown behind closed doors are one thing. Those are carefully designed and often on the very edge of breaking and are not for mass audience consumption. However, for games that attendees can play on the show floor, make them available for the week of E3. Limited time, hype building measures based on people playing the games.
E3 is a relic of a bygone analog era. It has failed to evolve and as a result, companies have moved on from E3. It had a good run. I’ll never forget seeing Final Fantasy XIII show up at Microsoft’s press conference. Or giant enemy crabs. But E3 has run its course. E3 faded away this year, and it does not need to return next year.
Would you like a counterpoint? Check out the other side of the Joust in Here Is Why E3 Should Come Back Better Than Ever by contributing writer Jesse Gregoire