If you’ve watched E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) these last few years, you can probably guess that things haven’t been going all too well for them. What used to be the biggest event in gaming is beginning to look a lot like a shell of its former self.
E3‘s current state seems almost unimaginable given that we’re approaching a new generation of gaming. It’s unfortunate to see Sony drop out once again, but it isn’t like anyone can blame them for skipping again. The showcases and conferences themselves felt underwhelming, and it was only made worse with how the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) conducted themselves during 2019. Between the recent scandals of “strongly disagreeing” with the UK’s report about loot boxes and the leaking E3 attendees’ private information, I doubt there’s even a spark of hope (or trust) that they can turn things around.
Simply put, E3 doesn’t feel relevant in the digital age. Why wait until June to get gaming news when devs can just put a video out on Youtube whenever they want? It might be rather harsh to say, but the ESA needs to realize that their current outlook on the future of the industry isn’t helping themselves in the long run, especially if a major player like Sony considers the other trade more profitable to attend.
Is There Any Hope Left for E3?
So let’s say that the ESA recognizes E3‘s shortcomings and tries to salvage what they can without Sony. What is their best course of action? Currently, the ESA hopes to turn E3 into something like Gamescom, which is almost like a festival. They hope to add an additional 10,000 attendees to the LA Convention Center and to rebrand E3 as a “fan, media, and influencer festival”.
Several months ago, GameDaily.biz covered the ESA‘s proposal to overhaul the show with “queuetainment”. What is this exactly? Well, think of it as “marketing to those waiting in line” as a way to keep the consumer engaged while they wait in line to play the demos. There are also plans to adapt Disneyland‘s FastPass system where users can register for a demo time window and come back at a later time to avoid having to wait in line. I suppose if you have a captive audience in line, best to keep them entertained while they wait to get their hands on said game.
When you go to E3, what do you want to see? Or rather… what do you expect to see? Games, right? Well, according to their plans, the ESA believes what you want to see are things like the Lakers coming to play a basketball video game in front of fans and having other influencers and other celebrities showcase said games. They hope that they can create “exclusive/appointment only activations for select attendees who will create buzz or FOMO (fear of missing out)”.
Losing Your Identity
So does any of that excite you to go to E3 this year? Feel free to laugh if it doesn’t. E3 should be the event that showcases the must-have games of the coming year.
Daniel Ahmad posted some numbers on Twitter, showing who goes to these trade shows and gaming exhibitions around the world. And the fact that E3 is looking to try and compete against them is absolutely mind-boggling.
Biggest gaming exhibitions / trade shows of by number of entries:
Gamescom 2019: 373k
ChinaJoy 2019: 365k
Brazil Games Show 2018: 325k
Taipei Game Show 2019: 320k
Paris Games Week 2018: 316k
Tokyo Game Show 2019: 262k
G-Star Korea 2018: 235k
E3 2019: 66k
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) September 16, 2019
When looking at these numbers, one must ask, “How can those other shows and exhibitions have so many attendants to what E3 got last year?” Well, one obvious answer is the cost of entry. Where some shows might cost a mere $20-$30 to attend, E3 charges a good $100-$250 for a ticket.
But the even bigger issue is how it feels like E3 is drifting too far away from being a media showcase. At least with the other shows, you have alternate locations or places to separate the media from your average attendee, but E3 just mashes the two groups together for two consecutive days.
Overall, the ESA‘s plan to elevate E3 as a festival for gamers feels like an unstable powder keg that’s ready to blow at any moment. Their current approach makes it seem like they really don’t know what they’re doing — this year might truly mark the end of the show’s relevance.
There is only one option left for E3 if they wish to have a successful showcase in 2020:
Promote Nintendo and Microsoft as If This Is Their Last Event
It might sound like I’m suggesting that ESA should spite Sony by heavily promoting the other two of the Big Three. That’s certainly true, but let’s really look at this. If E3 should be the place for the biggest announcements in gaming, then the showrunners should be working tooth and nail to promote the hell out its attendees, shouldn’t they?
To put it in a very melodramatic fashion: if Sony sees E3 as a waste of time and resources, ESA should be acting like a jealous girlfriend and hook up with the guy who Sony hates in an attempt to make them sorry for splitting up from them. Does that normally work out in the end for the jealous girlfriend? No, and that’s why it’s so funny that this might be how they keep E3 relevant.
So Why Microsoft?
So why would we talk about Microsoft specifically here and not necessarily Nintendo? Surely the Switch is just as, if not more, popular than the Xbox One, right? While Nintendo is going to still attend E3, it isn’t like people go to the show just to watch the Direct. If all you want to see is the games coming out and don’t really care about the other games on other platforms, you can just watch the Direct from home.
So what about Microsoft? For one, Microsoft has not gone down that same rabbit hole as Nintendo or Sony yet. They do have “Inside Xbox” but they don’t air as frequently as the Nintendo Direct or Sony‘s State of Play. When Microsoft chooses to have their big showcases of upcoming games, there are only two places where they do their announcements: their own Inside Xbox Live Show such as X019 in London, and, of course, E3.
If the ESA wants this year’s E3 to be their biggest yet, they would need to roll out the red carpet for Microsoft and treat them like royalty, to make it feel as though you need to be at E3 to witness all of Microsoft‘s (and Nintendo‘s) grand announcements. Forget trying to “influence” people with celebrities and athletes; people just want to see games that will have them throwing their wallets at the devs.
The Timeline Where E3 Makes Its Return
The one thing would make E3 relevant again would be for Microsoft to outperform Sony this holiday season. It sounds insane, but really think about it for a moment. If Sony is doing their own thing, while Microsoft goes to E3 and has a big showing and sells more Series X consoles than the PS5, it could be the very thing to convince Sony to come back to the show.
But would they actually come back if the Xbox Series X outsells the PS5? Hard to say, but if it were the other way around, and the PS5 outpaces Microsoft‘s next console, it would confirm that Sony made the correct choice when they ditched E3.
The Final Hope of E3?
So, should the ESA throw all their eggs into the Microsoft basket? That’s difficult to say. As wonderful as it would be for Microsoft to bail E3 out of its slump, there’s still one factor we haven’t yet considered: Microsoft itself.
It isn’t like E3‘s organizers go up to everyone and say, “You better have something good this year or we won’t invite you back next year!” That being said, they’re probably feeling pretty desperate these days.
Last year many thought Microsoft was going to take advantage of Sony‘s absence, and… they sort of didn’t. While that was understandable considering how many saw that showcase as “the final year of the 8th generation of gaming,” there are no more excuses this year. There are no high expectations for the Series X in comparison to the PlayStation 5, so they have to turn that momentum around and have their E3 showcase go above and beyond.
They need the strongest line up imaginable, give people a reason to get the Series X at launch, instead of giving Sony a massive headstart again.
The future of E3 is on the shoulders of Microsoft. And if the Series X doesn’t come out of the gates swinging, E3 is seemingly done for. Even if the Series X sells more than the PlayStation 5 and becomes the bigger console (if the best possible case scenario were to somehow happen), would this really change the current landscape? Probably not. In fact, it’s likely that ESA‘s inability to improve E3 is the real reason Sony will probably continue to do their own thing.
Above all else, the ESA has to reestablish trust. When you play your consumers for fools, the smarter of us will catch on and call you out on it. Why support a show when those who run it want you to support loot boxes and forget that they leaked the information of 2,000 people?
Trust is a simple thing to break and difficult to rebuild. Best not make the same mistake twice, as E3 probably won’t survive that. While 2019 might have been the beginning of the end for E3, the choices they make could make or break the show, and it would be a shame if they continue on their current path.
In the end, if they choose to support influencers and celebrities over those who go attend E3 to showcase their upcoming games, don’t be shocked if more choose to follow Sony’s example.
Thank You For Reading
So what do you think? Should the ESA rethink their plans for E3 2020? Should they be pushing the companies that attend E3 like Microsoft and Nintendo as much as possible? And if they were to do all of this, will E3 still have a chance to remain relevant in this age of digital and social media? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more articles about the gaming industry and all other things in the gaming world. Take care.