Let me say this first: I love E3! It is easily the biggest event of the year for me, and I tend to treat it as my World Cup or Super Bowl. It has an amazing showcase of games to show everyone from every major developer. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are all here with their major announcements for the year, and other developers as well such as Capcom, EA, Ubisoft, and tons of indie developers. However, in the last few years there seem to have been some changes to the formula that is definitely affecting the showcase, and E3 has become more of a convention than an exposition.
Last year marked the first year that E3 was open to the public, meaning that anyone who could buy a ticket, before they ran out, could attend the show. This was big news because previously E3 was only accessible to those with some connection to the industry, whether they be developers, representatives, or press. The credential checks were, admittedly, flimsy, but it still allowed for a lot of people to attend. When it opened to the public, however, some things definitely changed, and I think this year is the first year we really got to see this new direction and what the future may hold.
Starting, of course, with the biggest attractions the press events, they have changed drastically in recent years. Every big company used to have a solid hour to an hour and a half to talk about their upcoming games that year and beyond. Now only a few are holding on to an hour. Nintendo made the first drop when they decided to do short thirty to forty-five minute "Directs," and Sony and Microsoft have really cut back their show case times in recent years. Their press events have almost become more like shows rather than press events. At this year's E3, Bethesda had a live concert by Andrew W.K. Sony also had several live performances, and Ubisoft used a lot of 3D holograms throughout their presentations.
The show has also added more attractions to the main floor that would usually never be seen at E3. This year they are doing celebrity script readings, game tournaments in several halls, game reunions, and Q&As. In E3's defense, they also have a lot of famous developers speaking about trends in gaming and tech demos. I am also aware that there have been a lot these things that have went on in the past as well as some other peculiar gimmicks like the individual game booths with "booth babes." I just can't help but notice these things feel a little out of place in a "professional" exposition.
That is really the ongoing debate that E3 has wrestled since day one; is it a professional conference or a fan convention? ESA, the people behind E3, have always tried to enforce the professional atmosphere, but when they limited the people that could attend in 2007 and 2008, they had the lowest attendance of any of their previous years. On the other hand, now that they have opened the show up to the public, there is a lot of gimmicks and shows that would never be found in a professional expo. It is that debate that has changed the show so much even for the developers and publishers. They think they have to entertain people now as well as inform the press, so they are trying to balance a press show with dinner show. That may not be necessarily a bad thing though.
Yes, E3 has changed a lot since it began and even more in the last few years, but there have been a lot of good things to come out of it. For one, the shows are definitely more entertaining. I love the old press conferences because I am a sucker for techno-babble, but there were a lot of really boring conferences. Not to mention that a lot of the hosts were developers or publisher that did not know how to interact with crowds, which lead to a lot of cringy moments in the conferences. Another, and perhaps the biggest, perk to come from these changes, is that the fans are now closer than ever to the developers and games they love, which is all I have ever wanted from the show.
E3 is changing and we just have to accept it, the good and the bad. It is still early though, and the expo and developers still have a lot to figure out, but when they do we will all be in to something truly great. For all the changes that happened, I loved this year's E3, and it is probably one of the best ones we have had in years. I look forward to seeing what next year has in store.