Comic book aficionados go Comic-Con, bikers attend Sturgis, film buffs attend Cannes, and motorheads attend Goodwood. Whatever your passion or interest, you’re certain to have at least one massive event to commemorate it on your bucket list.
E3 is normally – or at least was – that event for gamers. While E3 is officially a trade fair, it has evolved into a gaming festival over the years: the media gathers to report on the most anticipated games, while fans visit to get their hands on the latest releases and mingle with like-minded people. It’s only possible to characterise it as a gamer’s utopia. Where else might the ordinary individual get a sneak peek at the forthcoming Borderlands before it hits stores? To finally meet their favourite Twitch streamer? Or maybe you’ll run across the 13 Reasons Why cast?
However, because to the Covid-19 epidemic, the event has shifted to being totally online in recent years, rather than having an in-person exhibition with online conferences. Organizer ESA revealed earlier this week that there would be no in-person E3 this year – in fact, it’s uncertain whether an E3 will be held at all, digital or otherwise.
Given the current state of the world, it makes sense, but it’s beginning to seem like this isn’t just a Covid defensive mechanism. Instead, it seems to be a method of putting E3 to pasture gently and discreetly. I can’t help but be saddened by the fact that E3 looks to be dying.
A location where you feel at home
I’ve only attended to one E3 conference: E3 2019. The event had been on my bucket list since boyhood, as it had been for many other gamers, and I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint. The excitement at the LA Convention Center was palpable, and the possibilities felt limitless. You can’t help but get engrossed in it. “This is why I do this work,” I kept thinking to myself as I walked around the massive exhibits and saw developers I’d always respected. When Halo Infinite was revealed, I’m not ashamed to confess I sobbed.
But it wasn’t only the excitement of the news beat or the prestige of being among renowned colleagues that made E3 memorable; it was the sense of belonging: these were my people. Parents lugging loads of free goodies for their buzzing children, teenagers gleefully reeling after getting their hands on the game they’ve been waiting for all day, someone cosplaying as Kratos eating a huge pretzel This yearly trek is well-deserved by fans.
That isn’t to suggest that fans should have to be there to feel a part of the festivities.
Going to LA isn’t for everyone, and the epidemic has emphasised how E3, which is rooted in its physical location, has grown somewhat out of touch in an always-on, digital world. That has only been underlined by Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest, which can be streamed from anywhere.
Summer Game Fest vs. E3
Summer Game Fest, on the other hand, seems disconnected in comparison to E3. Summer Game Fest serves as an umbrella event for the publisher’s separate conferences, while E3 is a series of condensed days of activities and conferences. That means announcements are more dispersed, and it doesn’t seem like a unified event, particularly in 2021, when several conferences were grouped together under the E3 2021 or Summer Game Fest banners – or both.
“E3 may be an engrossing experience for gamers at home or at the expo if the digital experience is improved. In sum, the E3 should no longer be marketed as an in-person event.”
While some may prefer E3, there’s no disputing that Summer Game Fest is more accessible, particularly in these uncertain times (despite the abundance of commercials and sponsorship). Summer Game Fest is entirely digital, streaming conferences globally while also offering fans playable downloadable or streamable demos to try out at home and teaming up with publishers for in-game events. Whereas E3 is primarily an in-person event with conferences streamed, Summer Game Fest is entirely digital, streaming conferences globally while also offering fans playable downloadable or streamable demos to try out at home and teaming up with publishers for in-game events.
The latter is crucial in this case. Summer Game Fest allows gamers from all over the world to participate in the event from the comfort of their own homes, which has never been more vital than it is now. In comparison, E3’s latest digital offering just hasn’t been up to par, making it more outdated as both domestic and international travel becomes more difficult.
In order for E3 to regain relevance, it would need to resemble Keighley’s event, at least in its digital incarnation. The E3 app and website should be more than just a schedule and map reference, including interactive activities, contests, and the opportunity to watch conferences live from anywhere. It might also feature sneak peeks and interviews to encourage viewers to interact with the material, turning E3 become a brand to be engaged with rather than merely an event. Summer Game Fest does an excellent job of connecting its conferences and content, whether via social media hashtags, celebrity endorsements, or in-game activities. Geoff Keighley has his finger on the industry’s pulse, and it shows.
However, the lack of an in-person component of Summer Game Fest (apart from its Kickoff Live concert) is noticeable, and here is where E3 really excels. This is likely due to the fact that E3 is primarily promoted as an in-person event, with a fairground-style extravaganza for players to explore. That sense of being in a hall with thousands of people who are as eager as you are can’t exactly be reproduced online. That’s only one aspect of E3, albeit it’s one that’s been emphasised a little too much. E3 has the makings of a great hybrid event, with conferences televised worldwide and gamers getting access to (though restricted) samples through publishers at home. To flourish in a post-Covid world, the complete product must be wrapped in a neater bow.
Perhaps E3 might go even farther, becoming an in-game event or (dare I say it) a metaverse experience, enabling people unable to attend the in-person event to feel the conference’s weight and magnitude without ever leaving their homes. Imagine going to E3 in Animal Crossing and stopping by a booth to get a sneak glimpse of a new Nintendo game. It’s not beyond the boundaries of possibilities nowadays.
E3 may be an engrossing experience for gamers at home or at the expo if the digital experience is improved. In summary, the E3 should no longer be marketed as an in-person event. The ESA might be on to a winner by concentrating on a hybrid approach, with a digital product for worldwide reach but a convention for those who want to experience it firsthand. Fans would be able to gather in person or online to celebrate gaming, with the in-person aspect providing something that Summer Game Fest now lacks.
Summer Game Fest, on the other hand, could be able to fill that need after the epidemic is finished. And, considering the lack of favour with E3 organisers ESA (remember the data breach in 2019 that exposed personal information of individuals working at the event? ), it may be a viable alternative.
It’s the icing on the cake
The pandemic was merely the last nail in the coffin for E3, which had been on its last legs for a few years.
Sony has skipped E3 in recent years in favor of staging its own events, and since the cancellation of E3 2020, other companies have followed suit, either participating in Summer Game Fest or doing it alone.
It’s very logical. After all, having your own conference – even if it’s under the umbrella of Summer Game Fest – enables you to control your message and personalize your event to your preferences. But, more crucially, it gives major announcements some breathing room. Rather than concentrating on a few major announcements from a larger gathering, fans and the media might concentrate on crucial announcements from a publisher’s conference.
However, although this benefits publishers and developers, I can’t help but believe that it dilutes the sense of occasion. E3 is a rollercoaster of announcements and a cornerstone of the gaming year, but spreading them out across months may cause enthusiasm to fade and make conferences difficult to keep track of for the ordinary individual – particularly with Summer Game Fest’s agenda stretching for months. Even I have trouble remembering what is and isn’t a Summer Game Fest event.
Finally, if E3 takes its dying breath, we’ll need a replacement event: an event where people can come together to celebrate gaming, both in-person and online. Sturgis, Cannes, and Comic-Con are all important to gamers. Geoff Keighley is in a position to usher in E3’s replacement if he so desires, but I can’t help but hope that the ESA will finally get its act together and stage the updated E3 that fans deserve.
Subtly charming pop culture geek. Amateur analyst. Freelance tv buff. Coffee lover