The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has long been held as the mecca of gaming events around the world each year. Since the very first E3 back in 1995, it has been the place for game developers to show off what they have been working on the past year, meet other developers, and invite the media to cover all the biggest gaming news the industry has to offer. While E3 was never the only outlet for companies to share their news, since its inception, E3 has grown to become the largest event, becoming the time for the biggest names to show off and make the biggest announcements while everyone is gathered together. Taking place each June, E3 takes place right in the middle of the year, also making it a good time to promote products coming out for the Fall, but also to tease new products or services which may come out beyond this time.
E3 has long been the place for companies to share their biggest announcements, but in the past few years, this has started to wane. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is the changing landscape of technology and how the ways of communicating have changed. In the past, before the internet became mainstream, the way news was disseminated was different. Exhibitors would come to trade shows such as E3 to share their new announcements and products, and they would then rely on professional press to record, review, and disseminate the information to consumers through traditional media channels such as magazines, newspapers, and television broadcast. Now, with the advent of the internet, companies can directly disseminate their own messages through online channels such as their own websites, social media, and through media such as press releases, social media posts, and video broadcasts. With the advent of online influencers taking prominence over and becoming just as important as professional press, consumers have stopped listening to just the media for information, but their favorite influencers as well. YouTube stars like iJustine, Lamarr Wilson and Pewdiepie, Twitch streamers such as Dr. Disrespect, have all become go-to channels for gaming fans to discover new games through their gameplay, and also to make informed decisions. The general gaming public is also more likely to trust some of these influencers more than professional gaming publications, since they appear more personal and personable than the lesser known writers at publications like IGN, Polygon, and GameSpot. This has not directly affected media coverage or attendance to E3, but it has affected how consumers have come to expect to get their media and when. With more and more influencers reviewing games more and more throughout the year, there has been less of a reason to invite as many professional journalists and have them come to a central event in person.
Another central reason E3 has become less prominent recently, is companies starting to host separate events to dissemninate information to target audiences. Since 2011, E3 exhibitors have realized that E3 is no onger the end all, be all event for gaming. In 2011, Nintendo started this trend by hosting its first digital media event, titled Nintendo Direct. In the Nintendo DIrect, hosted online to viewers around the world separately from E3, Nintendo proudly claimed that they were going to use the platform to communicate with fans, “Directly!” By utilizing Nintendo’s website and YouTube to stream presentations, Nintendo was utilizing a new platform to dissemninate information directly to its fans, completrly bypassing initial media review, and allowing Nintendo to completely cntrol the message and presentation. In the Nintendo DIrect, Nintendo announces exciting new products, games, and services, and also uses it to announce more information about upcoming projects, such as release dates and availability. E3 and a handful of other trade shows used to be the best place to share information with consumers, but now Nintendo has realized it is no longer necessary. Nintendo has now given itself the capability to announce new information to consumers at any time of year, multiple times of year, at the time that works best for the company, and can control the message in doing so, letting fans have the privilege of being the first to know when new products come out. Nintendo still values E3, saving some of its biggest announcements of the year, and reserving a large amiunt of floor space for the event. However, it is no longer the only place to share all of its biggest announcements. Now it can do so, and share other smaller announcements, together at other times during the year, in a way that works best for the company.
Other companies have stafrted to realize the same, and have also started to host their own separate events outside of E3. One barrier that companies have realized they wre facing was that E3, being a closed event, meaning the public is not able to attend. In the past, gamers used to dream of coming to E3 to play all of the latest games and try out new products, but only media were allowed, thus making it a prestigious event in the minds of consumers. Electronic Arts saw the opportunity to share the excitement with the gamiung public, and decided to bypass E3 and host its own separate event outside of E3, called EA Play. With this event, EA decided to follow Nintendo’s lead, and host their own public event, where gamers could attend and interact with the new products at the same time as the media, thus eliminating the need for information to be shared by the media, and simultaneously allowing EA to control its message more, as well. EA Play has been a huge success, with the event being largely overbooked each year, and has shown the effectiveness of brands hosting their own events in today’s climate. SInce hosting EA Play outside of E3, although EA plans its event to cooincide with the special week of E3, EA no longer has an actual presence on the E3 show floor. Other companies such as Ubisoft and Activision have also followed suit, hosting their own presentations and events for fans at E3, and bypassing the media to directly target these consumers.
WIth the success of events such as EA Play leading large companies to abandon the restrictions of the E3 event itself, E3 has been left with less and less attendance. This has become a large problem for the organizers, as less attendance to the event means less funding to host the event each year. So the organizers of E3, in a move seen by some as desparate, but many as exciting, have decided to open E3 to the public. In a convention center already crowded with over 10,000 unique professional individuals registered each year, the expo halls were already very crowded. However, in an effort to retain its prominence as the premiere event for gaming, and to reinforce in gamers minds that it is also the premiere event for gamers, E3 has decided to open its doors to 15,000 members f the public. The beginning of this push to shift its image from media-centric to gamer-centric, came in the form of E3 Live, a new public event that aimed to give gamers a taste of what E3 offered in the LA Live square. I personally attended this event, and was somewhat disappointed. The event only offered a handful of companies, with a few notable experiences, like a new LEGO videogame and VR experiences, but I was still left missing what I really wanted out of E3. The reason gamers envy E3 is to experience the exciting new game and products offered only behind closed doors, and it felt as though E3 Live played it much too safe, offering no experience as important or exciting as what was still behind closed doors. I would have been just fine staying home, and that is not what you want to hear as the host of an event.
Thankfully, next year they opened the doors to the public for the first time. Of course, with 15,000 extra attendees, it was very crowded. I attended, which you can read about here. However, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. There was some disorganization because of media and fans mixing too much. So in 2018, E3 has learned and created a new approach, further evolving the rules. Whereas previously, the show ran from 10am to 5pm all 3 days, with fans being able to attend at the same time as media, in 2018, likely in response to complaints, E3 has taken a new approach and changed the schedule. Now, at E3 in 2018, the show will run from 10am-7pm all 3 days, and will host the first two hours for media only. This allows media the time without extra fans before the show, which will be much appreciated by them, with less crowds and fans taking up their deserved spots for demos. However, some exhibitors have taken issue with the extra two hours being added. Presumably, the extra two hours are added so the public doesn’t lose any time compared to before, which is good for the public, but according to a Nintendo employee who regularly runs the shows, it will add extra logistical issues and stress to 3 days that are already the longest days of the year.
One way to improve this is to just keep the schedule the same as last year, but lessen the time the public gets at the show. However, it is likely there are many factors which influenced this decision.
Overall, the fact that E3 has changed over the past few years is undeniable. It makes sense that the Entertainment Software Organization who runs the show is accommodating the public more to keep the show relevant, and it is definitely a win for fans. However, with ticket prices for a 3 day pass at $250, it begs the question of the shows worth. Surely the show will still sell out, as the amount of gaming fans is enormous and the show still offers good value, and maybe it will cause more companies to come back now that E3 is open to the public. but I foresee that more and more companies, may also see the value in the benefits of hosting heir own show and leave the exhibiting table itself. Now make no mistake: I believe the week of E3 will remain a mainstay for a long time, as will the name referring to it. The k E3 is cognized by gamers as holiday of sorts, and gamers have come to expect the great announcements from all companies we see each year. It’s too much good marketing and press to give up. But as more companies leave the show floor and host their own exhibits and presentations elsewhere, I do believe when we talk about E3 in the future, it may become more about the week of events, and not the show itself.
What do you think? Is the E3 show here to stay? Or do you agree that the industry is ever so gradually moving away from the show for more freedom? Leave us a comment below.