Changing Times: Is E3 Becoming Obsolete?
Emil ponders the changing landscape of the industry and video game marketing to ask the question: are we moving past E3?
The internet has changed a lot in our society since its inception; the old industries have changed their ways and there are some completely new industries as well. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before it would also seriously start changing how the PR and hype machine of the video game industry works. I think few would argue that E3 has, since it started in Atlanta, been the biggest outburst of hype and PR for games in any given year.
It makes sense for an entertainment industry to have a big flashy spectacle of an event to promote what they have coming for the next year or two. I used to believe that this would always be so. I didn’t really believe E3 would disappear, not even during its drastic downsizing a few years back. Since then I have worked in a couple of industries and seen what the internet has done there. In the end it is quite expensive for businesses to move people around, in many cases it is cheaper and more efficient to let them stay close to their hometown if at all possible.
When I first became aware of E3 at all, it was this mythical and mysterious gaming wonderland, a party that I had wait for a month to read about in a magazine. I remember poring over the screenshots and re-reading impressions of the coolest games multiple times. Going to the store to buy the E3 issue during my summer holiday still carries fond memories for me. What will Duke Nukem Forever look like this year? Nowadays, there is no separation, we can have a pretty well working illusion of actually participating in the event even if we are thousands of kilometres away. There are very few or no delays, we get to see pretty much exactly the same things as the outlets who visits the convention center does.
This time around though the presentations have really gotten me thinking. The big three were little more than a YouTube playlist of trailers, especially Sony who barely bothered with a presenter or showing any upcoming features like the rumored overhaul of their PlayStation Plus program. They had no programmers presenting what makes their games special and there were no stage demos to be seen. Xbox and Nintendo were a little better in this regard; Xbox even had some stage demos and talk that were reminiscent of the old E3 press conferences with its chest beating and rallying.
It is not that I think the content is bad, really; I got quite excited about God of War and other games during the conferences. But I can’t help wondering that once you ditch the whole stage presentation, do you need a stage at all? Of course there is prestige and it shouldn’t be underestimated but that will only carry you so far in a world of business realities and bottom lines.
The big publishers are also shifting away from this, EA are doing their own thing and Activision Blizzard have not had a real presence in years. So perhaps, just as we don’t have to travel everywhere to attend business meetings or can get a full degree via an online curriculum, it makes sense that the physical presence of E3 eventually diminishes.
This is not necessarily a bad thing – I enjoy the conferences quite a lot and I think most of us still do. In the end I suspect we don’t really care as long as we get the news and we get to see the new flashy trailers and get an opportunity to dream of what will come next. The industry does probably still need some outlet for news in the early to mid year to ramp up hype for the winter holidays.
However it might not have to be in June or in L.A; perhaps more will do as EA has and put out demo stations in cities over the world and maybe the stages becomes totally unnecessary with time. And the gaming wonderland? Well nowadays I kind of feel that events like PAX have taken over that mantle a little bit; true, they cater more to smaller developers, but they keep growing for every year.
Finally, I would just like to say that the thing I would miss the most if the stage presentations went away would be the Ubisoft presentations. They might not always have the things I am most interested in and their event is not entirely unlike a fever dream at times, but boy do they let their enthusiasm and sheer joy for the medium shine through that entire crazy thing.